Address:350A Hibiscus Coast Highway, Orewa
Phone: 09 427 6462
Rating out of 10: Food: 7, Service: 5, Value: 6, Ambience: 5

Mick's is about as neighbourly as a restaurant can get. Service is casual to the point of slapdash; ambience super-relaxed. But for those who know the drill and are into big slices of carefully chosen premium meat cooked and slightly smoked on a lidded barbecue known as "the big green egg", Mick's is obviously heaven.

We arrived during one of El Nino's summer storms to be met by a waiter who showed us first to our reserved table, then decided that, no, we had to be planted in the corner. She then proceeded to take half that table away and give it to another party. Indeed, our friend had to rescue his chair, which was about to be replaced by some totally non-
cushioned plastic number.

Never mind, we were here for the food, after all, but sadly our designated waiter was on her first night - which meant trouble. First she failed to explain the menu, tell us how it worked, or point out the specials board, which slowed things down. Then she took a very long time to bring us first, the wine list, and then our wine. After about 10 minutes we even had to ask for the bottle of water that was waiting for us on the counter.

But all was soon forgotten as our wine and a small sharing platter arrived, consisting of rows of thin-sliced chorizo sausage, tasty salami and beef carpaccio, plus small dishes of fat white anchovies, gherkins and a bread roll. Unfortunately our other starter was a dish of marinated courgettes with barbecued chorizo, which meant we rather overdid the chorizo: something a more experienced waiter would have pointed out.


By then Mick's was bursting with big tables of locals obviously having a fantastic time. Usually, we were told, many people sit at the picnic tables in the outside courtyard, but with the rain pelting down there was no chance. However, as we left, we ran into a couple of blokes tucking into a delicious-looking meat selection that we hadn't noticed on the menu. They were sitting in the covered alley that runs between Mick's and some other local stores. Mick had kindly wheeled out the big egg out so they could stay toasty warm - and I presume, watch their food emerge from the barbie. As I said, this is neighbourhood dining at its most neighbourly.

But back to our meals. By now it had become obvious to the small team of regular waiters that we were getting behind and they chipped in to deliver our main courses. The selection was short and sweet: kingfish and swordfish from the blackboard menu, plus lamb loin, scotch fillet of beef, pork loin and locally made "wild" pork sausages on the regular menu. Actually those sausages turned out to be the highlight of our meal - and accentuated the problems with the rest of our selections. Yes, our cuts of meat were so generous only Brian could finish his. Each piece was tender and beautifully cooked with a faint smoky finish.

But somehow none achieved the wow factor. Unlike those gutsy, delicious sausages, they were slightly under-seasoned and the accompanying tomato sauce, mustards and a pallid horseradish sauce didn't come near to doing the job. So on to the desserts. Sadly we were
too late for the special poached fresh cherries, so settled for the double chocolate icecream and a slice of the homemade almond and apricot pie.

While the pie was large and exceptional, the icecreams arrived in their manufacturer's
cardboard tubs, lids still firmly in place.

By then Mick was out of the kitchen and relaxing with some of his guests.

He took over the business from his father and obviously has a huge local following who
come here for the meat and relaxed 70s-style atmosphere - although the prices, at $28.50 for the lamb rump and scotch fillet (admittedly there's a large serving of salad thrown in) are definitely 2016 vintage.

Our meal: $263 for a small shared platter and a dish of roasted chorizo with courgettes; four main courses, seven glasses of wine, plus desserts.

Wine list: Although Mick's offers a reasonable choice of French wines, only local wines are available by the glass.

Verdict: Delicious cuts of finest meat, cooked in a barbecue, accompanied by a wine list focusing on one local winery, but let down by a dingy atmosphere and over-casual wait staff.