Dog­gone good food

Din­ing Out­with

The Press - Zest - - Reviews -

The red dog is dead. Its ghost haunts a pop­u­lar restau­rant in West­port. If you lis­ten care­fully, you can al­most hear its howl above the wind and the rain and the happy clat­ter of cut­lery.

When the restau­rant opened, on Wake­field St, it was to have been known as The Red Dog, an at­tempt to as­so­ci­ate it with the ghost town of coal min­ing days at Denniston.

Denniston has be­come fash­ion­able lately, thanks to the rol­lick­ing Denniston Rose nov­els by Jenny Pat­trick and the re­cent open­ing of an un­der­ground min­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for tourists. Like most coal towns, it had pubs out of pro­por­tion to pop­u­la­tion. The last pub to close was The Red Dog.

So The Red Dog was the cho­sen name for the West­port es­tab­lish­ment. But the choice was dogged by dis­cov­ery that a Red Dog ex­isted else­where. Per­haps mind­ful of the Black­ball pub’s has­sles over the name Hil­ton, the West­port pro­pri­etors made the change. Denniston Dog it is.

We had tried to get a ta­ble there on our last trip but found it fully booked. This time we ar­rive early. And just as well. As if West­port has nowhere else to eat, the crowds pour in. As we fin­ished, and be­fore I can pay the bill, our ta­ble has been gob­bled up by a pair of busi­ness con­sul­tant types. This prompts a mo­ment of sheer im­petu­os­ity, and, be­fore leav­ing I make a reser­va­tion for to­mor­row night.

Let it be said The Denniston Dog has one fault. Our seat­ing is of the style known as ‘‘pro­ducer chairs’’, in ref­er­ence to film pro­duc­ers bark­ing like red dogs at sundry ac­tors and tech­ni­cians from them. These chairs con­sist of strips of can­vas sus­pended from wooden frames. Trou­ble is, film pro­duc­ers tend to be portly and can­vas is prone to sag. This makes the chairs un­com­fort­able and the seat­ing po­si­tion low and it is like eat­ing off a shelf.

I or­der tur­bot, a favourite fish. It is soft and firm and tasty. The Denniston Dog chef may have a heavy hand with the potato dish the slabs of fish rest on but you don’t have to eat it all. The cau­li­flower and broc­coli have ex­actly the right de­gree of crisp­ness. The sauce which I am­think­ing must be a beurre blanc or if not a close rel­a­tive, is per­fect.

The next night we find our lit­tle ta­ble wait­ing for us ( like a faith­ful dog, red or other­wise). I or­der the seafood chow­der and it passes ev­ery test. Then, damn the el­e­gance of it, I or­der lamb shanks. Plu­ral. That’s $28, when a sin­gle one costs $24. Such econ­omy. And such a feed. I am a lover of lamb shanks from days when dad killed a sheep each week and we broth­ers fought over them (the shanks, not the sheep). The quan­tity of this dish al­most de­feats me but the taste and tex­ture keep me go­ing; onions, red wine, herbs – on gar­lic mash with a sea­sonal side of fresh cau­li­flower and car­rots.

Mar­garet was city-raised and de­vel­oped a taste for fish and chips, so takes the fish of the day: hoki, panfried and del­i­cate, with wedges and ‘‘a very good salad’’. It looks ho- hum but she says it is de­li­cious.

The beer and wine se­lec­tion is good. The ser­vice is ex­cep­tional so the the juicy bone award goes to a restau­rant that bodes to be one of West­port’s main tourist at­trac­tions. Along with Denniston.

Ca­nine capers: From The Red Dog to Denniston Dog.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.