Sunday, July 22, 2012


I'm not a great fan of casinos and certainly not Sky City.
Apart from the odious base of its business and business practices it is, architecturally speaking, extremely ugly. Right from he start I saw it as a hypodermic syringe poking up into the sky. There is hardly anywhere you can go in the central city and inner suburbs (even some outer suburbs) without seeing the horrible thing.

One of the charming things I remember reading about Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was that he hated the Eiffel Tower seeing it as an ugly intrusion on the Parisian skyline.

When challenged as to why he lunched in the tower each day he replied something like " its the only part of Paris I can dine without having to look at the fucking thing!"

Eiffel Tower

Sky Tower
Mind you, old Henri was a short little geezer so might have had something against tall structures.

That said and off my chest I experienced one of the good offerings from Sky City the other night.

So as not to appear as a complete bastard let me say that: I have been to great performances at the theatre in Sky City; have listened to some wonderful music in the casino; enjoy tapas and a glass of good Spanish wine at Bellota; and Al Brown's Depot is well worth a visit or two.

The other night The Old Girl and I met up with old friend Geoff and we went to The Grill which is in the Sky City complex

Let me start by saying I don't know much about Sean Connelly but he is definitely doing something right.

There are not too many places where you go out to dine and can tick virtually all the boxes.
Usually there are things that let you down but you kind of  let it go because you liked some other things.

This place from start to finish is the go.

When we arrived, not knowing what the offerings were or what to expect, we were impressed.
We were welcomed  straight away ( 3 of us).

It was explained that there would be a short wait (I'm always suspicious of this) and directed to the bar. Normally I would just flag it but the bar set up was interesting so we waited.

The bar is on the left of the entrance and you can sit at it. Behind the bar is a very high shelf of wines where the bar manager (a young woman) has to climb a ladder to access the top-most wines. (sorry Richard (of RBB) and TSB, she wears trousers).

The wine list is comprehensive and interesting. Well worth a wait of 20 minutes for a table.

The woman at the bar was French, entertaining and knowledgeable about the wines.

When conducted to our table the waitress was friendly, attentive and knew her stuff.

The food offerings were superb.

Presentation was great, particularly if someone orders steak tartare which is elaborately prepared at the table (personally I'd rather gnaw my own arm off than order this dish).

Overall what I really liked was the knowledgeable, helpful and not fawning staff. I felt that this is where the best of NZ comes to the fore. Staff that: know their stuff; enjoy what they are doing; do it with humour and panache; don't do it just to get a tip.

And, when we paid the bill we didn't have to suffer that embarrassing procedure when paying by eftpos of having to answer NO when the machine holds up the transaction by asking if we want to add a tip.

Well done Sean Connelly and the Grill. You have got it sorted.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


..... nothing wrong with that, its a blend that has been proven for centuries ..... for sparkling wine.

Most Champagnes are a blend of predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with the addition of some other varietals like Pinot Meunier in smaller percentages. The 'house' style of the Champagne is usually defined by whether Pinot Noir or Chardonnay dominates in the mix.

To date though, apart from a few exceptions, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay haven't been blended together as a non-sparkling wine.

An exception

I like to experiment with my wines and often mix different varietals together to see what the outcome will be like.
Pinot Noir is my current preferred red wine type and Chardonnay is my current preferred white wine type. I have never however blended them.

Yesterday, on arriving home 'up North' I had a half full bottle of Chardonnay with me, a Thornbury 2010 taken from the fridge at our Auckland apartment.
While preparing dinner I thought that a glass of red would be good so looked in the freezer and pulled out a third full bottle of Omihi Hills 2008 Pinot Noir and a third full bottle of Brookfields 2010 Chardonnay. I gave them a quick 30 second blast in the microwave and got on with the food preparation. Picking up the Thornbury I thought that it could do with rapid chilling so decided to pour the rest of the Brookfields Chardonnay into it to have a blend of Chardonnays that would be slightly cooler than the original Thornbury. As both the Omihi Hills Pinot Noir and the Brookfields Chardonnay bottles were still slightly frosted even after microwaving, I of course poured the Omihi Hills Pinot Noir into the Thornbury Chardonnay. Bugger! I thought and then I tried it. The colour was a deep rose and the nose was indefinable - a strong unusual dense fruit character  not usually found in either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
The flavour - brilliant. No wussy Rose this. This is meaty, rich, strong and refreshing (chilled). A young man's Rose.