Adddress: 97 Victoria Rd, Devonport
Phone: (09) 445 2037
Rating out of 10: Food: 8, Service: 8, Value: 9, Ambience: 8

"Ha," said the big sister. "I bet you haven't reviewed this one."

And she was right, of course.

Big sisters usually are. But who knew it was there? Evidently not the people in the cafe next door - more fool them.

The Victoria Road Bistro has been open since September. Owners and operators Jason Selbie and Julia Chen have put themselves on the line here, with blackboards describing their philosophy of food and drink, all largely local and fresh, and prepared with care.


It's not a large place but it has been well designed, with tables far enough apart to allow for privacy, newsprint-patterned table cloths, stripped wood and brick walls, and well-planned lighting.

And a piano. When asked if anyone played it, Julia blushed and said, "I do" - and so she did, in between serving meals. She entertained us with a more than competent Fur Elise and other pieces not so easily recognisable, at least by us.

But on to the food. The summer menu is not long but covers all the basics nicely, including the labels Beginnings, Middle and Endings to avoid possible confusion.

I began with the beetroot car-paccio, accompanied by feta, walnuts, rocket and truffle oil, and it was pretty darn good. A judicious sprinkle of good balsamic vinegar might have lifted it to greater heights.

Bill was saving himself for dessert so passed on the starter, although I noticed he helped himself pretty liberally to the beetroot.

His main of steak frites, with the scotch fillet extremely rare, was exactly to his liking, and the chips were soft and crunchy in all the right places. The horseradish creme was a little bland, but a nice touch.

My duck pappardelle was laden with almost gamey duck, pulled from the bone. A sauce of portobello mushrooms and parmesan made for a hearty meal, and the flavours were magnificent.

Dessert time. The baked New York cheesecake with lemon and berries was worth waiting for. Wisely, two spoons were provided (and used).

It was a quiet midweek night, and Jason and Julia divided the work between them.

I'm not sure how much piano-playing Julia is able to fit in on busy nights - we'll be going back to find out.

Our meal: $128.70 for one starter, two mains, one dessert, three beers and three glasses of wine.

Wine list: An almost-entirely New Zealand list, apart from some of the champagne. Some unusual finds included Locharburn sauvignon blanc from Central Otago, which was delicious. The beer list is also local and extensive.

Verdict: At last, a decent bistro dining option in Devonport, and not before time. Well worth a visit for food and music.