Address: 23 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
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.

Go twice.

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.

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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.