Per­son­al­ity, please

Teddy’s should ei­ther smarten up or loosen up.

Metro Magazine NZ - - Restaurants - TEXT — ALICE HARBOURNE

First there was Rosie, Coco and Odette, and now there’s Au­gus­tus, Hugo, Madame Ge­orge and Teddy. Auck­land’s din­ing scene in­creas­ingly sounds like a royal wed­ding guest list, or the worst group of peo­ple to bump into on an OE.

The lat­est proper noun on the block, new Pon­sonby Rd bistro Teddy’s, opened in early April. It’s taken over the colonial villa that for the pre­vi­ous seven years housed Mark Wall­bank’s con­tem­po­rary Thai restau- rant, MooChowChow. Like Wall­bank, new own­ers Rob Hill and Oliver Scutts are hospo-savvy: Hill was be­hind the launch of Brit­o­mart’s 1885, while Scutts owns Three Lamps wine bar Annabel’s, as well as a rosé wine brand.

From the out­side, Teddy’s makes very lit­tle im­pact.

Gone is the twinkly red of MooChowChow at night; in its place is a con­ser­va­tive grey awning. In­side, there’s now a big­ger bar to the left of the main en­trance and a neat semi-pri­vate din­ing area to the right. The slightly paint-by-numbers dé­cor fea­tures lots of ver­ti­cal wooden cladding, luxe flo­ral cush­ions and a smat­ter­ing of state­ment light fit­tings. It’d be pleas­antly for­get­table if it wasn’t for a few nig­gling de­sign flaws, like the ar­bi­trar­ily small gaps be­tween ta­bles, barely a thigh apart de­spite am­ple space around them. It makes nip­ping to the loo — up a stair- case so steep you need to as­sign a buddy and pack ra­tions — even more of an or­deal.

The toi­let sitch was an­noy­ing at MooChowChow; why didn’t they seize the op­por­tu­nity to fix it? If you’re a per­son with dis­abil­i­ties, you have to ask to use the down­stairs staff loo, which is, frankly, shit.

Auck­land de­sign firm Stu­dio South has done a nice job with the brand­ing. The web­site, menu and sig­nage are adorned with Tintin-es­que line draw­ings de­pict­ing aloof char­ac­ters var­i­ously drink­ing and — would you be­lieve — smok­ing. I know, it’s 2018. Shouldn’t they be va­p­ing?

Lead­ing the kitchen is for­mer Mekong Baby and Molten chef Ben Con­very. On pa­per, his con­cise share-ifyou-feel-like-it menu swerves medi­ocrity with po­etic touches. Duck-liver par­fait is served with rhubarb rel­ish; lamb ribs with fer­mented leeks; deep-fried ap­ple pie with ched­dar-cheese ice cream.

The trea­cly, unc­tu­ous lamb ribs were ined­i­ble after three bites — too salty — and the fer­mented leeks a measly gar­nish barely worth list­ing. The con­fit chicken — two per­fectly golden up­turned legs pre­sented atop a porcini volouté sauce — was dis­ap­point­ingly dry, with a one-note rich­ness the would-be acidic el­e­ments (shal­lots and ba­con “jam”) failed to coun­ter­act.

I won­der how many Auck­land chefs bear beet­root-slic­ing bat­tle scars? It must be a lot: those earthy lit­tle discs of nat­u­ral tie-dye are bloody ev­ery­where. At Teddy’s they’re em­ployed to com­ple­ment sweetly cured Span­ish mack­erel, salty cu­cum­ber, bit­ter en­dive and creamy but­ter­milk curd. It’s one of the bet­ter dishes, though like the sides (broc­coli next to a dol­lop of goats’ cheese, sprouts with an un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous blob of beurre noisette),

there's an un­der­whelm­ing stark­ness to the ex­e­cu­tion.

Don't get me wrong, some­times juicy chicken schnitzel and a sim­ple slaw, or deep-fried ap­ple pie redo­lent with cin­na­mon and child­hood mem­o­ries — both of which Teddy's nails — is enough. But does Teddy's know that? The dé­cor, the in­ten­sity of the seat­ing ar­range­ments and the for­mal ser­vice style sug­gest oth­er­wise.

There's a de­cent list of lo­cal craft beers and a short and mostly thought­ful wine list, though there's only one rosé (Scutts', which the wait­ers in­sisted we try).

The bar phys­i­cally dominates the space, yet there's no for­mal cock­tail list.

So who is Teddy? If the Coco of nearby Coco's Cantina is an ec­cen­tric woman who'll have you dancing by the end of the night, Teddy is the guy whose name you've for­got­ten, de­spite be­ing trapped in a bor­ing con­ver­sa­tion with him.

It's not too late for Teddy's to gain a per­son­al­ity. The own­ers could go two ways: smarten up and take din­ers' com­fort more se­ri­ously, or loosen the tie com­pletely. Per­haps then they'd bet­ter em­body their bo­hemian, hand-drawn mas­cots.

LEFT— The bar is big, but Teddy’s has no for­mal cock­tail list.ABOVE— Cured Span­ish mack­erel, salted cu­cum­ber, but­ter­milk curd, baby beets.

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