Phone: (09) 217 2871
We spent: $174 for two
Rating: 14 — Good
Before you look at the menu, before you order a drink, before you even leave your house, I have one piece of advice: Go to the loo.
Teddy's is the new restaurant in the old MooChowChow space. They've shifted the bar, strung up some plants and redecorated with pale slatted timber panelling but the Everest-like ascent to the bathroom remains.
The stairwell is narrow, the pitch is treacherous and it ends in a discombobulating full-length mirror. Assuming you haven't accidentally smacked into said mirror, you should swerve hard left, then hard right, then haul yourself over a lintel and into a space so small that one of the stalls can't be accessed if someone is washing their hands.
My friend was wearing black suede stiletto-heeled ankle boots. She negotiated that stairwell like she'd won an Oscar and her descent was a triumph of physics and poise. But later, when she needed to go again, she said: "Can we just go home?"
One thing that has changed for the better is the seating. Proper chairs and proper bookable tables mean you can linger over a bistro-style menu that doesn't demand you share (but doesn't mind if you do).
Black bread panzanella salad ($16) was the sole vegetarian offering from the "small" section and we ordered with trepidation, because while Megan doesn't eat meat, she doesn't really like black bread. I don't really like panzanella. Fortunately, neither of these things arrived.
Traditionally, panzanella is made from tomato-soaked stale bread that is sometimes supplemented with onions and basil. At Teddy's, tooth-shatteringly crisp charred white bread croutons were mixed with kale, radicchio and ricotta. Quartered tomatoes were appropriately mushy, but in a too-long-in-the-fridge kind of way. Syrupy-sweet vincotto only just saved the entirety.
Word about town is that Teddy's does a great cocktail. We asked for a list, but there was,
apparently none. "We can make any of the classics," said our waitperson. The drinks menu did include a limoncello spritz which should, under no circumstances, be feted as the new Aperol. It tasted like a liquid cough lozenge.
The mains menu is a kind of "modern bistro best of". So there's dry-aged sirloin and fries ($32) and venison fillet with beets and red cabbage ($34). The pork belly has been swapped for a short rib and the chicken schnitzel sounded delightful but "confit" gets me every time and so I asked for the confit chicken leg with shallots, porcini veloute and bacon jam ($29).
If Max Gimblett worked with bacon jam and jus, it might look a bit like this, with the food contained in a sticky, swishy wall-worthy circle. It looked elegant and enticing and while I ate it all, I'm not in a rush to order it again. The chicken (mostly drumstick) was dryish, and the porcini not as obvious as I'd hoped for.
Megan's celeriac gnocchi ($26) was really heavy, but she declared that no bad thing, "It's like that gnocchi you used to get when we first got gnocchi." Filling and flavoursome, it came in a light broth studded with mushrooms and whole chestnuts. I have never met a whole chestnut I didn't love and I had severe food envy.
We'd supplemented our order with a small farmer's market worth of vege. Roasted brussels sprouts with hazelnuts ($10), roasted cauliflower with spiced yoghurt and pine nuts ($12) and chargrilled broccolini with anchovy, goat's cheese and lemon ($10) were interpreted literally. Perhaps too literally. A single artless anchovy curled around a piped blob of cheese like some kind of escaped creature.
The thing with Teddy's is that the food is fine, thanks. The thing with Ponsonby Rd is that it is a dining destination. In this neck of the woods, you can't afford to be bland. By now, I was ordering dessert out of a sense of duty, not desire but the deep-fried apple pie was actually amazing. It tasted (and I mean this in a good way) like the old-school version made famous at McDonald's, only it was flakier and twice the size.
Megan wanted to wash her half down with a cup of English breakfast. Sorry, said the waitperson, we don't have tea. I can only assume they are trying to save their customers an extra trip up that stairway.