Rating: * *
Where:219 Don Mckinnon Drive
Ph: (09) 447 3237
Wine list:Adequate
Vegetarians:A token entree and main
Watch out for: The spelling
Bottom line: Stretched

How to make a pot of tea: put tea leaves (all right, bags if you really must) in a teapot and pour boiling water over them. There are many refinements (preheat the pot, let brew, stand five minutes), but nothing changes the essential sacred order: tea first, water second.

Certainly, when a diner orders tea, you do not deliver water at the temperature of the stuff the dentist tells you to rinse out with, and some teabags in their pretty envelopes on a saucer on the side.

There is one chap at Paper Moon in Albany who knows this now because he had it explained to him, with just enough force to be unambiguous, by me, the Professor and the Professor's Mum. All at the same time.

We asked him if he would mind having another go, which so flustered him that he returned with two pots of tea, made the right way, but lidless.

When we wondered where the lids were, he blanched and seemed to contemplate a career change. But after a few minutes he found them and scampered away with an almost audible sigh of relief.

Alas, he had forgotten that we'd asked for three pieces of the Turkish Delight plainly visible in the jar by the cash register. So the Professor fetched them herself. This excited the suspicious attention of a waitress who, I fancy, thought the Professor was trying to nick them. They appear on the bill as four biscotti, which may be intended as a lesson to her to keep her hands out of the jar.

The Albany tea ceremony, which is how I've decided to remember this, was all of a piece with the genially chaotic tone of our evening at Paper Moon. We had booked for six but were shown to a table for four, elbow-knockingly laid for six.

To their credit the staff sorted that out both cheerfully and pronto but, at least one pair of hands short, they were hopelessly swamped by a steady stream of quick-turnaround diners (the place is on the doorstep of the cinemas).

They would rush off to get something and then forget about it. Before long they adopted the classic survival strategy of moving through the room with a downcast gaze so as not to catch a supplicating eye.

But an incidental pleasure was provided by the specials blackboard which had the most hilariously creative spelling we have yet encountered on a menu ("sundride" tomatoes; the faintly biological "broccilli"; "fettachini"; and a magnificent piece of chalky hyphenation that gave us "toma-" on one line and "toe cream" on the next).

Distracted by the entertainment, I realise I have forgotten to mention the food, which may be for the best.

A small and visibly harried kitchen crew managed to keep the meals coming out, but the food was of only moderate - or lesser - quality.

One of two steaks was poorly cut and gristly, at least some of the snapper was overcooked, and the presentation was unremarkable.

It is, in essence, pub food with pretensions. At least the mains came with a few veges, and the desserts were reportedly excellent.

We've had good brunches at Paper Moon's Mairangi Bay branch but this was a substantial, if highly entertaining, disappointment.