[Photographs: David Straight]
Auckland has needed a Chinese restaurant that doesn’t have fluorescent lighting for a long time – so when the Blue Breeze Inn opened, we were hopeful. The fitout is fabulous, China by way of a tropical resort, lots of dark timber and colourful prints and mad lighting and bold tiling in the toilets. Waiters wear Hawaiian shirts, there is a great selection of craft beers and the music is great – it’s genuinely a fun place to be. Service is good – bouncy, fast to get you a drink, though sometimes a bit absent minded.
But the hard thing about a joint like this is that the food has to be at least as good as what you’d find on Dominion Road – it has to, to justify the price – and even better, it should twist the classics a little and surprise you. BBI does this in a few dishes – as with the fabulous Momofuku-style pork buns ($8) and a brilliantly deconstructed mar po tofu ($26) that uses shredded slow-cooked pork and delicate tofu and plenty of numbing spice. We love the cucumber pickle with smashed garlic ($6) – simple, but great. The twice-cooked crispy-skinned duck ($26) is addictive: tender duck, crispy, salty skin and a chilli-soy-ginger dressing – you smudge the skin into the sauce and get an explosion of salt and chilli. It is excellent, punchy – exactly what this restaurant should be doing.
Other things are less assured, or just inconvenient – we liked the paddle crab in chilli sauce, but we had to ask for a finger bowl, and while it’s a Chinese restaurant, we really do need a crab cracker. But the single fact is there is a bit much to eat that is disappointing here. Big, sandy tua tua in a weak sauce. Tasteless bang bang chicken; xiao long bao soup dumplings that fall apart and lose their soup; dry, chewy steamed greens with a gloopy slug of oyster sauce; boring blue cod with a ginger and black bean dressing and improperly cooked “fragrant” aubergines where the spice feels like an afterthought. As we say: it’s fun – just stick to the mar po tofu. SFG
HOURS Lunch, Tuesday to Sunday; dinner, seven days.
ADDRESS 146 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, ph 360 0303. bluebreezeinn.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS You get an hour’s free parking in the Ponsonby Central carpark out the back.