Sunday, September 21, 2014

Neil Finn

Shockingly, in the 4-plus years we’ve lived in Wellington, we’ve never been to Ortega Fish Shack. We decided to put this right as a prelude to our evening’s entertainment. I’m told that they do a killer steak, but given that it’s a fish restaurant, we both decided to stick with the fish. We can get steak at The Larder or other places anytime. I had scallops with pork belly to start, followed by a gurnard fillet on papardelle. Nicola had the sake-cured salmon and the terakihi. All very well prepared and presented, and I think we’ll be back (when we can fit it in around all our other commitments).

Then a quick stroll up Courtenay Place to the Opera House, in time to catch support act Bic Runga. Bic is world famous in New Zealand, but has been away from the recording scene for a while. She played guitar, and half-way through her set she employed an assistant on the piano, who looked suspiciously like Neil Finn – largely because it was.

After running through her half-dozen songs, she was off and it was time for the main act. Neil Finn has a new album out this year, his first solo effort for 13 years (he’s been recording with Crowded House, collaborations and other projects in between, and also touring with Crowded House and other bands). We were prepared – I’d bought the album a couple of months ago, so we were familiar with all the new tunes. He managed to squeeze most of the album in, between playing hits and favourites from his extremely rich back catalogue, including Split Enz, Crowded House, Finn Brothers and earlier solo career. After a good long set, they left the stage.

But the crowd wanted more, as they always do, and so the band came back on to play an encore. I’ve heard encores before. Usually the band comes out and plays one or two songs, maybe comes out a second time and plays two more.

They played six. Opening with Split Enz classic “I Got You”, then more from the back catalogue.

Off they went again, and the crowd, somewhat optimistically I thought, still clapped, stamped and cheered for more. But the house lights stayed down, and Neil came out and sat down at the piano, gave us a song solo, then picked up his guitar and gave us three more on his own. Then the rest of the band wandered on, took up their positions, and gave us another three songs, finishing on “Better Be Home Soon”. Eventually, at around twenty to twelve, we rolled out onto the street in search of a cab home.

Friday, September 19, 2014


On the eve of the Scottish referendum, we went to see a Scottish play. No, not The Scottish Play, but one set in modern-day Edinburgh; called Boys, by Ella Hickson.

We went along as one of Nicola’s colleagues was in the play – she was also in The Cat’s Meow a few months ago. They’d organised a works outing to go see the play, so we met up and went out for dinner at Café Pasha beforehand, where we ate indifferent Turkish food. We then walked down to Gryphon Theatre, which was thankfully not far as the evening had turned decidedly rainy.

The play takes place in 24 hours at the end of the summer term in a student flat in Edinburgh, during a dustmen’s strike. The flat is shared by four boys, and two of their girlfriends are also in the play. As is usual in such pieces, there is a lot of development, lies, revelations and changes in the relationships of the characters as the day progresses.

By the end of the play some of the plotlines have been resolved, but many are just left hanging as the characters cannot realistically tie everything up into a neat little package. We never learn what happened to Benny’s brother; Do Sophie and Mack split up? Where will Timp live? What will Cam do now? It’s all a bit messy, a lot like life – there are no simple solutions. What started off as looking like a simple story about student life has broken down into a more meaningful examination of the loss of youth, and the compromises that make up adult life.

If that all sounds a bit dark and moody – well, some parts of it were. Other parts were laugh-out-loud funny, but the finale was a bit sombre. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

All Blacks vs. Springboks

The Southern Hemisphere rugby competition, known as The Rugby Championship, is now well underway. New Zealand drew and beat Australia over two successive weeks to retain the Bledisloe Cup. The draw was the All Blacks' first not-a-win in 18 games, and stopped them from breaking the world record for successive wins. They're still unbeaten in 20 games, and are chasing a record last set in 1990 of 23 unbeaten games.

Last week they defeated the Pumas 28-9 in a rain-sodden game in Napier, and this week they faced the Springboks. This was always going to be a tough match, and the weather forecast was for more rain. We had seats in the covered section, although with Wellington wind and rain, "covered" is really a moot point as the rain often comes in horizontally - which section is "covered" is dependent on the wind direction. Thankfully, after some drizzle to begin with, the rain held off until much later in the night.

As expected, this was a tough match, and the Springboks successfully prevented the All Blacks from playing their preferred fast-moving running game. They were solid in defence as well, and there was really no way for the backs to break through the defensive line, despite repeated attempts. At half-time the All Blacks were tryless, and trailing the one try scored by the Springboks, at 7 points to 6.

In the second half, a cross-field kick from Aaron Cruden managed to break the Springbok defence, and captain Richie McCaw was in position to receive the final pass and score in the corner. After the inevitable TMO check the try was awarded.

Richie runs in the try

A further drop-goal from the Springboks, and a Beauden Barrett penalty in the 66th minute were the only other scores. At one point it looked like Barrett had broken free of the defensive line, but play was called back for an earlier infringement, so he had no opportunity to show his blistering pace. The game ended at 14-10 to the All Blacks.

The All Blacks have now played all their home games and are top of the Championship table. They now go on tour to play their remaining games in South Africa and Argentina.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Mikado

We parked on Allen St and walked around the corner to Zibibbo, my current favourite restaurant in Wellington (if you hadn’t guessed that already), there to meet with Macbeth some of Nicola’s work colleagues, and others, for a pre-theatre dinner.

And thence to the Opera House, there for me to lose my Gilbert & Sullivan virginity. That’s right, I have never been to, or seen in any other medium, a G&S opera. The touring production of The Mikado reached Wellington for its final shows last week, and we’d booked tickets some time ago to see it.

If you know the story, you won’t need me to explain. And if you don’t, there’s always the intertubes. Whether this was a good production or otherwise I am sadly ill-equipped  to judge – I’ll need to see it again to decide that (expect an update to this blog in about 20 years). Nicola knows all the songs but for me, as a first-timer, it was a bit difficult to make out all the words so I probably lost out on some of the nuances in the libretto. (Get me with my technical talk!) Anyway, it all seemed to be good fun, and the conflict was resolved in the end, and (spoiler alert) everyone lived happily ever after.

So that was my introduction to Gilbert & Sullivan. Whatever next? Unfortunately their website doesn’t inform us what their next production will be, so you, like me, will just have to wait and see.

Results Are In

The final results for Wellington On A Plate’s Burger Wellington competition have been published. The winner is…Charley Noble’s Shooting Charley. You may remember me having a go at them earlier for putting their standard burger out as their entry. Well, they jazzed it up with a slice of pineapple, branded the top and served it with a shot of rum (and, probably, an “aaarr, matey!” as well). This, apparently, was enough to sway the judges that this was the best burger. I am sceptical.

In the “Best Burger/Beer Match category, Café Medici from Martinborough won with their Holy Cow Burger. I didn’t get to Martinborough during WOAP, but it looks like a tasty burger. Maybe they’ll still be offering it when next we cross the mountains – spring is on its way so we’ll be heading over the Rimutaka Hill Road at some point soon, no doubt.

In other news, the results of the Battle Of The Brains quiz night have been made semi-public. Frankly, the organisation of this event has been a bit rubbish this year, and this appears to have carried over into the scoring, as 4 teams scored more than 120 points (the maximum). Our entry, What We Do In The Shadow Limits, ended up at 18th on this dodgy ranking. Whilst many are there for the beer and general enjoyment of the evening, if you muck about with the raison d’être of the evening then people will stop going, and it will be self-defeating. It was noticeable that there were fewer tables than last year, and the year before that they were turning people away. There’s some food for thought for the organisers.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Here's Looking At You, Kid

On Sunday we went to Coco At The Roxy to sample their Burger Wellington entry, Here's Looking At You, Kid. As the name implies, this is a goat burger, and is normally accompanied by sumac pickled onions, preserved lemon chutney and panelle and buttermilk aioli.

It looked like this:

It smelled like this: (scratch'n'sniff):

It tasted like this (cut out and chew):

Yes, they'd run out. They did, however, offer an alternative burger of beef cheeks, so I had that instead. It was very tasty, and good chips too. I washed it down with a Tuatara Delicious Neck - a beer brewed specifically to promote the film What We Do In The Shadows.

It looked like this:

Unfortunately, I had to score this a 1/10 (there is no 0/10 on the website) for not showing up.

And so ends this year's Burger Wellington competition - not with a bang, but with a whimper - at least as far as my participation in it is concerned. The top 5 entries from the public vote now go forward to be judged by a panel of tasters. May the best burger win! When it's announced, I'll probably visit the winning restaurant to sample it.