Wowee, a double-banger! That’s right, this latest installment includes a restaurant AND a bar. However, I would use the term “review” very loosely with this post, because most vivid memories of the night were slowly gone by the following morning. Nights out in Tauranga can do that to you.
Without skipping merrily too far down memory lane I remember a time far more naïve in the “Royce Life” when I first took a girl (my current awesome long-term partner/de-facto/girlfriend-of-ages Amber) to Amphora. I remember an ominous walk back and forth, up and down Tauranga’s Strand, checking out menus and peeking inside to assess the “vibe” of different places – this, of course, is long before I had any street-sense and thought to book ahead. This walk was ominous because it is a pre-dinner ritual Amber and I have gone through many times since, and the decision-making never seems to get any easier. This is mostly because neither of us wants to be inadvertently responsible for any dud service, over-cooked steak or other potential disappointment. The kicker, in this instance, is that we’re both pretty easily pleased. Amber obviously is… she’s been with me for over 5 years (insert drum sound for punch line here).
Anyhow, Saturday night’s dinner at Amphora was a huge success for anyone ordering steak – and I was one of these lucky patrons. Cooked to perfection (medium rare) and accompanied by enough greenery to leave you feeling good about eating out. I ordered the Surf ‘n Turf and it was fantastic. (My prawns were OK and I did hear reports of prawn salad taking a millennium to eat due to the prawns not being de-shelled). The specials board probably hasn’t changed at all since that inaugural Strand stroll five years ago. I’m pretty sure they’ve utilised some method of sign-writing that employs the use of a permanent paint/ink that, on applying and setting, appears exactly like chalk. I have no proof but I swear “Lamb Shanks” appears in the exact same pastel yellow I remember seeing through less-worn eyes years ago.
With 10-12 of us the wait-staff handled things reasonably well. They took their sweet time to serve us initially but must have; A) assumed we were OK for drinks by the copious amount of wine bottles jostling for table space and, B) not asked us for our food order as only 2/3 of the table was occupied. In all honesty most of us were well “on our way” and the quality of Amphora’s service was not a priority. As always though – good food at a reasonable price and friendly, unpretentious Tauranga hospitality. And NO corkage fee!!
Cornerstone, I found out a few days before the Friday-night, epicly-long journey down to Tauranga, has become known as “Cougarstone” to locals. My hazy memory of this bar last Saturday can neither confirm nor deny rumours that Cornerstone is full of “Cougars” but I’m sure it must be founded in some level of truth because, as soon as I mentioned the bar to any Taurangians last weekend, I got a knowing nod, an “ohhhh…. You mean,’Cougarstone’” and then the obligatory nervous laugh. “Cougar” is a word bandied about haphazardly nowadays and I’d prefer it remain a noun for a large wild cat personally.
What I can tell you about Cornerstone Pub is that it did all the small things a pub should. It had the mandatory weekend covers band (playing some covers very well and barely getting away with others), the inevitable sticky floor that comes from drunken dancers claiming their stake of the dance floor, the usual sighting of a long-ago friend that you don’t approach because you’ve forgotten their name and the arduous elbowing-walk that allows travel to and from the bar. Pretty standard really.
Apart from that I can confirm that a taxi from the Strand to the bottom of Whakamaramara Road costs almost $60, Salt ‘n Vinegar chips taste exponentially better at 3am, Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” album gets better by similar proportions whilst eating S&V chips and that the one last beer before sleep is the killer. Curse those chips for making me thristy!