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I said to the Professor: "We are like a Swat team." She didn't reply. She was staring at the innards of a profiterole with the expression of someone who has found something suspicious on the sole of her shoe and is deciding whether or not to sniff it.
Undaunted, I ploughed on. "We swoop in, scan, shoot and shoot through." She made a "yes, dear" sort of noise as she attempted to scrape away a layer of icing as thick as Dolly Parton's mascara.
The comparison occurred to me as we approached the end of a meal so bad that I was glad I was at least being paid to eat it. The Prof looked up from the profiterole.
"Well, it saves us from having to cook," she said, a comment I thought remarkably rich, since she cooks about twice a year and both times it's spinach-and-feta pie.
I sat back and surveyed the room. It's long and thin and leads to what is surely one of the best restaurant views in the city. The Junction Eatery is the sole tenant of a new open space called Kaimataara o Wai Manawa, which overlooks the stream and bush known in English as Le Roys Gully. You have the sense of being a bird, floating above the bush. Rangitoto looms, magnificently on guard, on the horizon.
The place has had mixed reviews on Facebook. Among the five-star ones is that of owner Chris Jones, bestowed fully four months before it opened in February, which is nothing if not enterprising. Jones also owns the nearby daytime-only Bungalo, and TJE does the breakfast-brunch standards, too. But the night-time operation, helmed by Brazilian chef Eder Marinho, who used to be at Petit Bocal in Sandringham, misses the mark by a substantial margin.
The menu is in two sections, "Sharing is caring" and "Dinner time!" (I know; that's what I thought). The former are marked "for two or more people" and the latter, a waitress said, were all meal-size. When did entrees become unfashionable? Just asking.
We improvised entrees by sharing, in a very caring fashion indeed, tempura prawns, which arrived, geometrically stacked on the plate. This was easy because they were all, alarmingly, ramrod-straight. Careful dissection revealed that they were not, as I initially suspected, the noxious surimi, but real prawn. Quite how you get a prawn to lie like a corpse in a coffin I don't know, but I thought it improbable that they had come straight from the dock. And the "sweet chilli dip" was vaguely pink mayo.
Along with these were three pieces of bruschetta made from superb bread (a
rye sourdough, perhaps) that had, inexplicably, been toasted on one side only. And the toppings were bizarre: pairing prosciutto with blue cheese takes fusion far too far; poor-quality mozzarella needs better-quality tomato to hide behind; and grilled mushrooms? What is this? Breakfast?
A dish described as "fresh tarakihi" was two slabs of battered and deep-fried fish. (I mentioned as I paid the bill that I had never seen battered fish served without the word "battered", or better still, the phrase "fish 'n' chips" on the menu and to her credit, the hostess took it off the bill.)
That left a steak, cooked marginally beyond the requested medium-rare, but that was because it was cut too thin. It was as bare and cheerless as a convent cloister - the red wine jus looked like a stain on the plate - and came with "rustic" roast spuds, which unless the word "rustic" means tepid and soggy probably referred to the fact that they weren't peeled. And if you're going to use the words "garden salad" on a menu, you have to do more than take a handful of mesclun out of a cellophane bag.
I implored the Professor to forgo dessert, but she told me it was the only reason she came out with me and charged into a frozen yoghurt concoction topped with a profiterole. I think I have mentioned before that the Professor's profiteroles are among the most sublime outside Europe and I knew this wasn't going to end well. All she said when she had completed her excavations was that she quite liked frozen yoghurt.
"Oh, well," I said as we headed for the bridge, "at least it saved me from cooking".
"Never mind" she replied. "I'll cook tomorrow night. I'll do spinach-and-feta pie."
Sharing is Caring: $10-$35; Dinner time!: $19.50-$33
Verdict: A dismal dinner but that view is to die for.