Ale house fan unmoved
The Wanaka Speight’s Ale House opened in December and, having had good experiences at most other Speight’s ale houses around the South Island, my partner and I were eager to check it out. We shared the chicken liver and bacon pate, served with toasted wholemeal crisps ($16.90), as an entree. It was very nice – the pate was creamy and the crisps, similar to pieces of toasted wholemeal pita bread, contained seeds and had a very tasty nutty flavour. For my main, I chose grilled lamb rump with pan roasted potatoes, minted crushed peas and a red wine jus ($34.90). The lamb was beautifully cooked and very tender, but the jus was a tad strong and overpowering for my liking. There was a very generous amount of lamb and potato but I could have done with a few more vegetables. Peas and a small salad garnish were the only greens. My partner chose a Speight’s ale house classic – black cherry chicken – chicken breast stuffed with a cream cheese and cashew nut mix, wrapped in bacon and served on kumara mash with a black cherry whisky sauce ($27.90). I have had this dish at other Speight’s ale houses and always find it hard to go past, but I am glad I did on this occasion. The chicken was a bit tough and there was a lack of cherries, which I think makes this dish. It was swimming in a jus similar to the one served with the lamb and, again, it was a bit strong. It would have been easier to eat if the bacon rind had been removed, too. There were more vegetables with this dish though – broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and carrot. For dessert, we shared the Clutha rhubarb crumble with ice-cream. It was a meal in itself and delicious. To drink, my partner tried the Mt Difficulty Rose and I had a St Hallett Gamekeeper’s Shiraz. There was also an interesting range of nonalcoholic drinks. The service was generally fine and efficient. We were enjoying sitting in the sun on the deck, but were told we would miss out on a table if we did not go inside right away and then we were surrounded by empty tables for our entire meal. Side plates with our entree and being informed of the dessert special would have been appreciated, as would the removal of the remnants of someone else’s lipstick on our wine glasses. The Wanaka Speight’s Ale House is in a great location – on Ardmore St across the road from the lake and beside Bullock Creek. There are several different places to sit – on the deck in the sun or shade, in the bar, or the restaurant. It has been decorated really well, with plenty of interesting items which created talking points. I detest televisions in a restaurant and unfortunately for me there is a very large one playing music videos on the restaurant wall at the Wanaka Speight’s Ale House. As I said, I have had good experiences at most Speight’s ale houses and have always thought you could rely on them for good, consistent food, albeit nothing fancy. I certainly would not go so far as to say you could not rely on the Wanaka Speight’s Ale House for this, but I think there is room for improvement. I would definitely give it another go and have heard good reports from other people, so perhaps there were just some early teething problems the evening we dined there.
Good location: The new Speight’s Ale House in Wanaka.
Classic dish: Black cherry chicken.