Cracker by Damian Christie


Dinner and a Show (Everybody’s Bar & Bistro/New Order)

Show first:

 Let’s just put it out there to start with. New Order weren’t very good.

 That’s going to sound like heresy to some, and I’m sure others will emphatically state that they thought they were bloody fantastic and they had the best night ever.  Of course it’s possible to have a great night and enjoy seeing the band you love simply because you love them, not because they’re doing a particularly good job.  Or, as was the case with the couple in front of me who were giving each other vigorous head massages, you might’ve had some extra help.

 I mean, I said the same thing about the Pixies when they came a couple of years back – I went to both Powerstation and Vector gigs then, and was really glad to see them, but also completely underwhelmed – and people couldn’t believe I was being serious. 

 So let’s put a few facts in there.  Barney’s voice was completely shaky and not-particularly-in-tune for the first bit of the show.  He kept fiddling with his headphone-monitors, I wonder if they weren’t working properly.  But still, that wouldn’t excuse his total lack of vocal energy.  ‘Regret’ trundled along well enough.  I saw some friends leaving early, disgusted.  “You didn’t see us here”, they said. 

 When they performed pretty much my favourite tune ever, ‘Ceremony’, early on, I found a wave of excitement.  Which was tampered by Barney forgetting the words to the second verse and instead just repeating the final verse twice.  I mean, it’s only their debut single. They’ve only been performing it since 1981.

 Everything else ticked along, but that was kinda it.  Ticked along.  And I felt like I was ticking off a box, “New Order, tick”. I’d missed them in 2002 – the much discussed line-up change at the Big Day Out which saw them playing the last set to everyone’s wonder saw me cursing in a car back to the CBD to open up the nightclub I was managing in time for the post BDO crowds.  Sorta wish I hadn’t, in retrospect. No-one ever arrived at that nightclub until 3am.

 If I was thinking “New Order, tick”, Barney was probably thinking “Monday night, Auckland, tick.”  He looked at his watch during the Blue Monday encore.  And then during the final song of the night, Love Will Tear Us Apart, added rather stupid stadium-rock-esque yelps into the chorus.  Ian Curtis, grave, rolling etc.

 For pure energy and I suppose authenticity, I actually far preferred Peter Hook’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ Powerstation appearance in 2010.  He’s coming again in April, hauling out another Joy Division album as an excuse.  I would, but I’ve already got a tick in that column, and I’m going to start being a lot more careful before throwing money in the direction of ageing rockers trying to eek out a living on past glories.


 The stereotype-breakingly lovely mother-in-law was across from Waiheke on babysitting duties giving us our first night out as a couple in some time, so we decided to head out for dinner first.  I was keen to check out the new development of Imperial Lane, which runs between Queen Street and Fort Lane.  Roxy, the fine dining establishment there is closed on Sunday and Monday, and we wanted something a bit more casual anyway, so we went to Everybody’s Bar and Bistro. 

 First, I fricken love what they’ve done with the fit-out.  Decaying urban meets faded 1920s – aged mirrors, upholstered ceilings with exposed brick and concrete.  Auckland just became a better place to live.  It’s the sort of place I would take a friend who was back from the UK and wouldn’t shut up about how much better it is there.  It reminded me of the better parts of Melbourne, or a Lower East Side restaurant in Manhattan. There's an inside bit with lush booths, and an open air atrium, which feels like a little secret in the city.

 Someone told me that they famously don’t employ New Zealanders there (or it could be Roxy, I’m not sure), because they’re just not up to it.  Well there were a few kiwis on last night, and a few non-kiwis – we were served by a handful of different people during dinner.  And everyone seemed remarkably well informed as to where the food originated from, how it was prepared, and what we would think about it.  Signs were good.

 Unfortunately, they weren’t that great at the getting-stuff-to-and-from-the-table bit, which some might say is even more important.  There was an awful lot of faffing and announcing what was going to happen.  “I’m going to bring you your water, and then I will begin the bread service.”  Ten minutes later, we’d got a glass of water and been told a free bit of bread – produced in Newmarket by the wife of the owner, served with butter made in our own kitchen, unsalted other than the sea salt we sprinkle on it (making it salted, I guess) – was imminent, but we hadn’t had our drinks delivered. 

 This sort of continued, trying to catch the eye of the staff to order another drink, having to call out to remind them we hadn’t any cutlery for our entrees, or perhaps they could clear our empty plates when they left with our drink order, and we still hadn’t received the salt and pepper we’d asked for, but maybe we didn’t need as we’d eaten half our mains by that stage.  Despite having a show to get to we weren’t in any particular hurry, so the delays were real rather than situational.

 I’ve worked in enough restaurants that this stuff irks me a bit.  Don’t deliver drinks to our table and not take the dirty plates back to the kitchen with you at the same time, unless there’s a really good reason not to.  It makes things faster.  It makes people not even realise until later how brilliant the service is because it has gone unnoticed, it’s that swish. 

 The food, for the most part, was great.  Or should I say, the owner’s wife in Newmarket knows how to make a good loaf of bread.  The “pig’s head”, which is actually the pig’s face meat removed and reconstituted into a sort of warm, fleshy terrine, served on mash and with wispy crispy bits of pig ear, was the best pork meal I’ve had in years.  Better than any pork belly, as rich and tender as a good confit duck (which they also do), really impressive, as was the Matawhero Chardonnay I ate it with.

 On the other hand, I don’t know why the waiter trumpeted the oysters, some deep sea variety that were small, grey and disappointing.  Out of season, I’d say from their condition.  Not the kitchen’s fault necessarily, but don’t put them on the menu, and certainly don’t recommend them to the table with an enthusiastic smack of your lips.  The kingfish sashimi – unlike the way Al Brown does it at Depot, nice and simple with apple, toasted fennel and an oyster cream – disappears into a watery mess, buried beneath pink grapefruit, a pile of micro greens and barley of some description.  It wasn’t bad, just lost. A bit like the cutlery.

I will however, be back.  Just with lower expectations, and possibly an annoying friend from the UK. I suspect on a good night, with the right staff, it could be one of the best places in town.

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