The Conservatory
East 1, 1-17 Jellicoe St
Wynyard Quarter

It's all about a casual, laid-back and relaxed environment, according to the menu, and it certainly shows. The Conservatory is that place in the North Wharf complex that has the hanging basket-style seats hanging around outside it and the inside is pretty cool, too. Plenty of greenery, comfy couches, cowhide rugs on the -- occasionally uneven -- floor; if it was any more laid-back it would be horizontal.

Sadly, the service takes relaxed attitude a bit far. It's table service, so we were directed to a seat and told we'd be served presently. It was a throat-cuttingly long 15 minutes before the drinks arrived and the woman waiting on us was happy to give us another five minutes when it turned out the wine I wanted wasn't available. I hurriedly ordered something else because I'm not sure I could have coped with another delay.

The drinks selection is good; it's a Lion bar, so the tap options are Macs and the like, and the nod to craft beer stretches as far as Crafty Beggars and Little Creatures by the bottle. The cocktail list is reasonable and the wine list has lovely surprises on it, offering a nice refuge from the more mainstream offerings.

The Conservatory is proud of its food and it's a pretty decent menu, with plenty of options. The tuna carpaccio was lovely and keenly priced. There are the inevitable sharing plates, but it's not a slavishly tapas-focused bar.


I was looking askance at the price of the pizzas until I saw one emerge from the kitchen and I could see why they cost up to $35: they're huge, roughly the size of a truck hubcap and packed with toppings. I immediately got menu envy until I realised that not even a fat bugger like me could possibly finish one on my own.

Overall, then, it was a reasonably successful visit; sensibly priced, with a good atmosphere (even on a bleak weeknight), good food and nice wine. If only they could serve a drink in less than quarter of an hour, I'd be there much more regularly.

Don Kavanagh