Address: 339 Karangahape Rd, Auckland

Why Lucky Lucky Dumplings? Well, for a start, you'll be lucky to find it. The website gives a K Rd address but the entrance is behind a red door that you have to walk an unnerving distance down Boardman Lane to find.

The door was open at 5.50pm so I climbed the stairs but was unlucky to be confronted by someone who looked at his watch and offered to escort me back down. "I'll lock the door, actually, because a few people have been coming up," he said, in a tone that seemed to lament their impertinence. (They open at 6.)

So I skulked in the lane in the cold, trying not to look like a pimp or a dope dealer and wondering when the meaning of the word "hospitality" changed.

When we were finally lucky enough to have gained admission, we sat down and the waitress handed me a card instructing me to "please vacate your table" after 90 minutes. This was by way of welcome. As you can imagine, I was feeling very lucky indeed.
Lucky Lucky Dumplings occupies the main room of the Las Vegas Club, a legendary K Rd strip joint, which I never visited, though the decor is, presumably, strip-club original: metres of red curtains, tufted-leather banquettes, with red lanterns adding the Oriental flavour implied by the name.


It has the feel of a very cool, slightly boho bar and I like their taste in music, even if the sound system is not up to the enthusiastic volume setting, but to call the food second-rate would, I think, be to overstate its merits.

Perhaps it used to be better: the original chef was Yukio Ozeki, who came from making magic at Ebisu in Britomart, but he has now departed to his own start-up in Ponsonby. These days it purports to be pitched at the hood's "starving cool creatives" and it's certainly not pricey but the suggestion that it will "entice food lovers from all across Auckland" is closer to hubris than hype.

If the waterlogged and woebegone prawn dumplings were handmade in-house, they should sack the maker; the mushroom bao, flat buns folded over a few slices of mushroom and nothing else may have been an obscure joke, though no one was smiling.
"Tempura popcorn" turned out to be tasteless tempura cauliflower, though the fried chicken - small, crispy, bony thighs - was true to name, but the only attempt at saucing was a table-top bottle of sriracha or somesuch and some mayo from a jar. We could find no crab in the crab fried rice, which was redolent of some industrial process, perhaps solvent manufacture.

Yes, it's cheap(ish), but you don't have to be lucky to find cheap eats in that part of town and all that I have tried are much better than this careless and offhand nosh.
It may make a chic drinking hole for cool people, creative or otherwise, but if you like good food you will be out of luck.

Dishes: $7-$15

VERDICT: Cheap food doesn't have to be this bad.