The lack of attention to detail in the restaurant business always amazes me. The little touches are so often missing: a pepper grinder per table, say; providing chilled water by default; setting the music sound at lower than headbanger level.
Taking bookings or having a menu online after six weeks of operation would be just too much trouble, innit?
Did no one in a restaurant serving "small plates" ever think about what to do when a table of four ordered a dish that comes with three morsels. If not, why not?
Good news: Citizen Q, the cafe that occupies half the foyer at Q Theatre just up from the Town Hall, is evidence that the city is not entirely devoid of intelligent life.
The menu is online - and it's the same one in the restaurant, rather than one headed "summer" at the end of August. You can even scan a QR code and see the menu in your native language, which I fancy is really cool if you're French or Korean and trying to make sense of the phrase "bangers 'n' mash". You can pre-order wine and a platter of finger food, so you don't have to wait in line at the interval. This is what is known as customer service.
Having booked at Q for the last night of Michael Hurst's screamingly funny updating of Lysistrata we decided to eat in-house, in part to save parking twice. I was no stranger to the place: I had met a mate there for coffee several times, and was impressed by its Caesar salad (this is not a phrase I have often written).
I can't remember there ever having been a decent cafe in an Auckland theatre and Citizen Q is definitely decent. It doesn't need to be more than that - it's not a place for destination dining - but making a theatre a destination where you can dine seems to me something of a no-brainer.
It makes life easier for the audience and it gives an enterprise in the perennially cash-strapped arts scene the chance to lever a little more dosh out of the pockets of people who have already walked in the door.
Citizen Q is a good place for a bite, secure in the knowledge that your theatre seat is about 20 seconds' walk away. Eight entrees, six mains, three salads and a burger make for an adequate choice that will satisfy appetites for anything from bruschetta to beef eye fillet. I was impressed with a mushroom risotto, topped with a single crisp arancino of excellently assertive blue cheese. The Professor's pumpkin salad was an assemblage of ingredients (feta, pumpkin, baby spinach) rather than a dish but the look of dishes landing on other tables suggested there were plenty of better options and a dessert of baked apple, just like Mum used to make, was a cracker.
Best of all, the profits at Citizen Q go to support the performances in the theatres beyond. Makes it worth the trip, even if you were silly enough to miss Lysistrata.
Verdict: Solid performance from an ensemble that actually gives a damn.
Small plates $15; Mains $18.50-$27; salads $18.50-$21; desserts $13