Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feeding Doug the Builder

Taking an out of town guest to dinner requires a careful balancing act. You want to impress them, sure, but you want them to fell comfortable and happy too. It's all very well taking your mate from Hamilton to Prego for pizza, but if he asks for a stuffed crust and the waiter is anything but cool and accommodating, your friend's going to wish he'd stayed in with takeaways.

For the impending arrival of my good mate Dougie the Builder, I booked us in at Jervois Steak House. It's flash, and can seem a little pricey, but the food is perfect and the staff are faultless. Dougie ate the best steak of his life and our excellent sommelier didn't bat an eyelid when he arrived at our table to find my dining partner half way through a proud story about how he managed to obtain the personalised license plate RSOUL.

Forgive me a moment of steak porn. JSH's signature prime rib has to be ordered 24 hours in advance. The night before you arrive, they take an entire scotch fillet, sear it, then place it in a temperature-controlled oven at 60 degrees for 18 hours, which converts the fat into something melted, heavenly, and deeply satisfying. When you arrive the next evening, they slice your steak off, give it a two minute blast under high heat and then serve it up to you with a dollop of horse radish. For that you'll pay just $39.50.

You also get to order sides. Recently my girlfriend and I ate at JSH and totally choked on the sides: from memory we got some rocket, a plate of mushrooms and some cauliflower cheese. Luckily Dougie knows what goes with steak – so last night we went with onion rings, mashed potatoes and green beans. “I fucking love green beans”, Dougie told the waiter thoughtfully when he arrived to take our empty dishes away.

The prime rib at Jervois Steak House passes two key tests for a dream meal: are you still thinking about it days afterwards? Is there any chance that you could make it yourself at home? The answers we're looking for are an emphatic 'yes' and 'no', in that order. If you've eaten anything at an Auckland restaurant recently that could pass these two tests, I'd be very pleased to hear about it.

Post Script
We've been back to JSH a couple of times since this review and the Prime Rib was well below the standard described above. Hopefully a couple of aberrations, but I wanted to qualify this glowing review as I'd hate for you to turn up and be disappointed. If you've eaten the rib recently and can update me on the current standard, please email me at