Phone: (09) 930 7360
Cost: $287 for four
Rating out of 10: Food: 6.5 Service: 7 Value: 6 Ambience: 6.5
Summer is a two-scoop icecream at the beach. Chocolate. Hokey pokey. Parmesan? It was 8pm at the Mission Bay Pavilion and that icecream was taking a distinctly adult turn.
I was intrigued. And then disappointed. The parmesan gelato was a melted puddle. It pooled on a chicken liver and marsala "brulee" bereft of anything that would texturally define it as brulee. Kudos to the kitchen for sending out four pieces of brioche for our table of four, but their door-stop proportions engulfed the parfait. It was an inelegant $18.
Want icecream at the beach? Save room for a walk and a cone on the sand. Meanwhile, go directly to a perfect plate of octopus and watermelon ($21).
The melon had, I think, been compressed before it hit the grill. Densely sweet against densely savoury, with a tangy kick of fresh tomato and a salty feta accent, it was a balancing act that never faltered.
I wish I could say the good continued to outweigh the bad but one of our party ordered the beer-battered fish ($27). "Flaccid batter," I typed into my phone. And then: "Tired coleslaw." Want fish and chips at the beach? You know the drill.
Mission Bay Pavilion is a brand new building that sits beside the landmark Stonehouse that overlooks this beautiful eastern bay. The latter is the last remnant of an Anglican mission school constructed in the 1850s. According to the Pavilion's menu, boys from Melanesian islands "laughed and learned here for decades". (There is no mention of the school's closure after a dysentery outbreak that killed 14 of those boys — not all history is palatable.)
Aesthetically, the exterior of the new Pavilion has a modern, bach feel. I loved the slatted timber screening and the clever echo of historic stonework in the contemporary gabions. I did not like the interior's puce banquettes and laminated tabletops — more workplace cafeteria than beachside chic.
Obviously your average workplace cafeteria does not stretch to squid ink spaghetti ($32). This generous main with whole clams, cuttlefish, mussels and more, swung the pendulum back to "really good". The pasta was cooked to exactly the right degree of sticky bite and there was plenty of fresh tomato.
That star of the summer vegetable garden made repeated appearances. Blanched and peeled cherry tomatoes popped like grapes on plate of roasted aubergine and pureed courgette ($19). They featured again on a teardrop-swished plate of Clevedon buffalo mozzarella and pureed aubergine ($16 — the plate an Orla Kiely design made lickable) and once more, roasted alongside a steak.
The wagyu bavette ($34) was from the flank of the beast, explained our waitperson, and it was served seared, sliced and tasty, with chips (ordinary) and confit mushrooms (extraordinary).
I had the pork neck ($35) and it was fine. What I really enjoyed was the accompanying cavolo nero. The Tuscan kale had been cooked down to an agreeably irony sludge and slightly sweetened with raisins. It wasn't pretty, but I felt healthier with every mouthful.
Unfortunately, our seesaw of a night was about to hit rock bottom. We ordered the tiramisu ($14) and I don't know where to start, except to maybe recommend that you don't. Tiramisu is in the taste bud of the beholder, but this taster thought the ladyfinger layer was a long time coming and she would have liked more liquor.
Maybe she should have just had a cone on the beach.