Is there a rule in this country that tourist attractions must give a bad impression of our food? At the Auckland Art Gallery cafe recently, after waiting in line for 20 minutes because the layout makes it impossible to retool the queuing system at busy times, I ordered a cheese-and-ham baguette.
I accepted their offer to toast it but the fact that it had been in the sandwich press at all could be discerned only by laying it against my cheek. And they can't make a decent cup of tea. Meanwhile, visitors to Auckland Museum are stuck with a branch of the Columbus Coffee franchise.
Cornwall Park is one of the brightest jewels in suburban Auckland's crown. A bunch of us have been picnicking there on New Year's Day since the beginning of the millennium and we dine very well in a pot-luck fashion.
I used to take my dear old mum to the handsome old kiosk for cream tea, but it's under renovation now. A bistro is promised and until then there's this cafe to the northeast.
On the strength of a Sunday lunchtime visit, I can't assess everything on offer, but I can safely say that what the Professor and I had was perfectly dreadful.
For the benefit of those who haven't been for a while, it is located in a Paul Izzard designed building near the Greenlane entrance. In charge of both venues is Andrew Bell, of the reliably patchy Andiamo, and James Kenny runs the kitchen. A sister publication describes him as having "worked in London, Paris and Melbourne", where I sincerely hope he was not in charge of cooking beef short rib.
Having decided to eat what Mum used to call "our dinner midday", I ordered this item, the most substantial on the menu, where it is described as "48-hour beef short rib".
Quite what it had spent 48 hours doing I have no idea, but perhaps it was sitting on a saucer next to a tea urn. It was so undercooked - verging on rare next to the bone - that virtually none of its fat had rendered. I ate the lean and returned the rest as a sickening gloop, like the remains of a liposuction procedure.
I'd had to ask them to cook the fries for another five minutes, so perhaps the house motto is "less is more", but with beef short rib that just doesn't work.
The Professor, a woman of abstemious appetite, asked only for the tofu wrap. She accepted the waitress' suggestion that she have it toasted but it came untoasted: the flatbread was old and dry and the stingy serve of tofu bore no trace of the jerk-rub promised. It cost $12.
We were unwilling to risk a cup of tea.
In all, about half the food we ordered was returned uneaten. Whether anyone noticed, I don't know. But when the bistro opens, I'll be approaching it with great caution.
Verdict: Great location - shame about the food.
Prices from $6 for toast and jam to $24 for beef short rib.