I've always been jealous of those who get to write restaurant reviews. It must be cool walking into a restaurant knowing that the fate of the entire place depends on you and what happens to you over the next couple of hours.

The food, the service, the general ambience - they are all at your mercy. Plus, I bet sometimes restaurant critics even get paid for eating, which would be awesome. Even if they don't, then surely their meal must be tax-deductible, which is almost as good.

As fate would have it, my shot at joining the esteemed clique of restaurant reviewers came to me recently, because of a nail. Not a nail of the fingernail variety but of the construction variety, the variety that gets into the tyre of your vehicle when you live and drive in a suburb where every third house is a renovation site.

Once I'd figured out what the thumpy-thumpy-thumpy thing was as I drove, I made plans to rectify this problem, and it was these plans that led to my ultimately inauspicious beginnings as a restaurant critic.


My local guys for tyre stuff (to use my technical term for such automotive matters) is the Grey Lynn branch of Tyreworx, on Surrey Crescent. Despite the annoying x at the end of their name, these guys have been pretty darn good to me over the years, when it comes to tyre stuff. They said they'd need 20 minutes or so, so I left my car with them.

As I walked away, with time to kill on a weekday morning, I realised two things: I was hungry because I hadn't managed breakfast yet; and there was a cafe - Jafa, on Richmond Rd - nearby, where I could solve the first thing I had realised. And as I took my life in my hands and crossed the road outside the panelbeaters on the corner, I realised a third thing: this was my chance to join the esteemed ranks of the restaurants critics of Auckland. I would review my breakfast and, therefore, make it tax deductible.

Thus it was, with my mental notebook at the ready, in full critic mode, that I entered the cafe known as Jafa. The layout is split-level, with a slightly urban-industrial feel to the place. The place was busy, but not overly busy, with plenty of spare tables on both levels.

I made my way to the top level, where they make the coffee and sell yummy things from a glass case, and waited to be shown to a table.

And I waited a bit longer.

And then I waited some more.

And then I started to feel like I was less waiting and more kind of, well, lurking and everyone who wasn't a staff member was looking at me suspiciously. So to do something that looked more purposeful than lurking, I picked up a menu and perused it, as I lurked. And the stubborn, hardened critic part of my brain kicked in as I perused/lurked, vowing that I would not seek the attention of a staff member, that it was they who must come to me, standing there, menu in hand.

But no one did, so I sat down at a table for two by the door.

I was confused. How was it possible that they had not recognised a powerful and influential restaurant critic was in the house? I had even decided what I was going to eat - the eggs benedict with Canadian bacon. I was even going to go deep on my review and ask them why Canadian bacon: why not New Zealand bacon?

But that was proving difficult as no one serving was coming anywhere near me.
Actually that's not entirely true, because two staff members served the table next to me and even stopped for a bit of a chat, which was nice of them. And then they walked away, leaving me at my sad, lonely table, with my menu.

As I watched staff members buzz about the now emptying cafe, cleaning tables and so forth, I started to wonder if something was wrong with me. Was it because I was wearing my trackpants? But there were heaps of ladies-in-Lycra there, so it couldn't be a sartorial thing. Maybe next time I should wear Lycra leggings and see what happens. No, that's a terrible thought, I shuddered.

My mind was a blur, until I realised 20 minutes had gone by and it was time to go and get the car. And, naturally, the moment I stood up, a staff member appeared at my table asking if I needed anything. I said no, and then left, taking the ashes of my restaurant reviewing career with me.

But on the upside, Tyreworx fixed my tyre for free, so they get five Griffin Stars.