Address: 604 Remuera Rd, Remuera Phone: (09) 283-0377 Online: thecornerremuera.co.nz Share plates $9-$18; mains $18-$32; sides $7-$9; desserts $10-$12.
The Corner gives good first impressions. Previously a rather blokey boozer, it was warm and welcoming last Saturday, thanks to not one but two open fires.
Four television screens, full of footy, prompted a brief shudder from the Professor who, she will forgive me for saying, is not a dedicated follower of sport. But once we'd taken our seats to eat, there was no screen in her line of sight, anyway.
We arrived with no expectations of a transcendent experience: this is, after all, a pub. You might call it a gastropub, though to their credit they don't use that term to describe themselves. The French can speak of "la gastronomie" without sounding like wallies; in English, words that begin with "gastro-" (I'm thinking "gastroscope", "gastroenteritis" and "gastrostomy") should never be used to talk about food that has not already been eaten.
What they do call themselves is a restaurant and a bar: it's there, right under the name on the front windows. They were doing a pretty good job of the second bit, but the first part eluded them altogether.
Well, perhaps not altogether: there's a dedicated dining area with candle-lit wooden tables and they deliver to the table, but it's hard to think of anything else about the place that deserved the descriptor "restaurant".
I'm thinking here mainly of the food, because I quite liked the service. The Professor thought the way the waitress went about her work in silence was slightly spooky, but I prefer silence to being asked by a teenager I have never met how my day has been so far.
I do think she should have relented when she returned from the kitchen after taking the fish back, along with our message to the chef that it seemed to be in the early stages of putrefaction. It was such a scraggy fillet that perhaps chef didn't fancy trying it, as we had suggested. The waitress wasn't breaking her vow of silence to say, and chef never appeared, although the fish wasn't on the bill.
The mains had been preceded by a taco filled with "Southern-style beef", a tablespoonful of tepid, grey matchsticks of meat, piled on a smear of alleged guacamole and topped with some salsa from a jar, all half-rolled in a soft taco as cold as clay. Some halloumi and polenta fritters were actually deep-fried croquettes of polenta, in which I could find no trace whatsoever of halloumi, although it may have been blitzed in. If it was the Zany Zeus brand the menu promised, someone ought to talk to the chef about treating excellent ingredients with some respect.
What have I missed? A bland trevally ceviche that came, unaccountably, with hideously oily and cold "tortilla chips"; a stock standard scotch-fillet steak frites ruined by carelessly dumping a handful of undressed rocket from a bag on the side, and crowning the steak with three big, coarse, grease-laden onion rings, which I had not had the wit to tell them to hold. There is a name for a restaurant that thinks steak frites can be improved with deep-fried onion rings: a pub.
We were about to answer the call of duty and try a dessert when the room was invaded by an army of nine-year-olds, who were, I imagine celebrating a birthday.
"Forget it," said the Professor. "We're out of here. The rugby's on soon. I don't want to miss the start."