Public a top spot
Public can’t really fail atmosphere-wise on it’s prime Steamer Wharf site overlooking Lake Wakatipu. In its last incarnation as a fine dining establishment, the site was well utilised, but if Wai’s fine dining was slightly closeted, Public has thrown the doors open and really maxed out the site’s potential. The outside tables look to be in hot demand as we grab the last one, and in a location this good we only venture inside once, to pay the bill. From our table we can see inside though, and everything looks buzzy and busy – all good signs for a newish restaurant.
Our waitress was good – not much chat, but obviously had a really good grasp of the menu, and the ingredients that made up each dish. We weren’t made to feel overly welcome – may have been my heavily tattooed and dreadlocked dining companions, but we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.
The menu is designed to share, so kicked straight into the big dishes, as the boys and I were pretty hungry. We went for the braised beef cheeks with roasted cauliflower and raisins ($22), as no-one had had beef cheeks before, as well as coconut fried chicken with carrot and chilli sauce ($22). Also hitting our table was cider roasted pork belly with caramelised pears ($24), and salt baked beets with watercress sheep feta and almonds ($18). The beef cheeks were great – a slightly different texture than cuts taken off the body, but the resurgence of traditional cuts, where nothing is wasted, is good to see. This dish inspired me to buy some beef cheeks from the great Fresh Choice supermarket butchery. They’re tasty slowcooked too. Everyone’s favourite was the coconut fried chicken for a number of reasons, the key one being that it was a decent-sized serve. Basically we all left still hungry. Three main course equivalents for three was a miscalculation on the quantity front, and we were on limited time so didn’t order more after the first and only round of ordering. I think this could have been explained better by the waitress. The food was tasty, inspiring, but there just wasn’t enough for us.
Public is buzzing. A few factors go into this. The big one is probably location, and lots of locals want to check out the new kid on the block. Public’s vibe is a great fit for a prime location, but there’s a few factors to consider if you think quantity is an important part of a dining experience, and hate leaving a meal still hungry, no matter how good it tasted. Anything that is designed to share, or is not a traditional main dish, usually needs guidance from wait staff and we got no hint that three fairly large blokes might need a bit more than we ordered.
Maxed: Great atmosphere at Public Kitchen and Bar’s prime waterfront location.