Steve Braunias is on a mission to eat at each of the 54 food joints on Lincoln Rd in west Auckland. • Episode 36 (and food joints 47 and 48): Hell Pizza, Brumby’s Bakery

The man who ate Lincoln Rd is all good with gluten. It gets such bad press but it brings enormous joy to millions of people every day. It writes the songs that make the whole world sing. It's bigger than Jesus.

Lincoln Rd, that empire of gluttony, is built on gluten, as well as fat, sugar, oil, and chicken; gluten is its foundation, its boiler room, its happy place. And so it was that I had a smile on my dial on Wednesday when I whistled up a full load of gluten at Hell Pizza and the newest food joint on the street, Brumby's Bakery.

Hell Pizza! God that used to be an exciting place. The theme was a lot of fun, with its endless variations on sin and that, and the pizzas tasted different than other pizzas. They tasted like someone really wanted to make the best pizza in New Zealand.

The franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and there are 64 stores throughout New Zealand. The endless variations are now merely one of the lower orders of wit: puns. There's only so much you can do with a narrow branding idea and a few lame promotions are inevitable. While I was chowing down at the Lincoln Rd premises, staff put up new posters advertising lamb's brains pizza - it's a Halloween thing. Zombies. Whatever.


Hell is old. Hell is comfortable, familiar, just another armchair in the furniture of food joints. But it still does pretty damned good pizza. You can't beat turf and surf for lunch, so I ordered an old favorite, a snack-sized Lust - that's the one with five kinds of meat on it - and made my debut with a side of prawn horns. Cost, $15.50.

The pizza was juicy and delicious. Their sweet chili sauce is king. As for the prawn horns, they're among the very best things I've eaten on Lincoln Rd this year. Hell introduced the horns in about 2010; I feel as though I've wasted the past six years, but at least I've finally discovered these fabulous little delicacies which are so amusingly shaped.

I pondered the miracle qualities of gluten as I plodded my way towards Brumby's Bakery. Give us this day our daily bread, I prayed, with gluten in it. Where there's baked goods, there's gluten, its capable little proteins stretching this way and that to give shape and texture to buns and crusts and such...But gluten is only as good as the hands that caress it, and I found Brumby's pretty underwhelming.

It's the latest food joint on Lincoln Rd in the new stripmall close to the motorway exit. I ordered a $3 chocolate lamington; it was too small, and too dry. I ordered a $3.20 fresh cream doughnut; it was awesome, very nicely turned out, but it needed more than two dots of jam. Jam to a doughnut is as tomato sauce to fish and chips. It ought not be given in mean little rations.

Brumby's has seven stores nationwide. I asked around on social media, and people raved about it. "Tried the one in Porirua. The bee-sting bun was delicious," said Jono. Tess contributed one of the best sentences I've read all year: "I once bought a sally lunn iced bun in Blenheim." Her rating: "Five stars." Tom gave the cinnamon scrolls 9/10, and Carlie sent in a photo of the apparently first-rate hedgehog slice. "My grandad," said Naly, "loves their bread."

My own response is a bit more tentative. Brumby's Bakery, 301 Lincoln Rd: 7/10. As for Hell Pizza, 155 Lincoln Rd: 8.7/10.