Friday, June 10, 2011

Auckland's Best Restaurants, August 1980

Ah, how’s this for a Friday treat? Hard on the heels of the Metro Restaurant of the Year Awards (winners and full annotated list in this month’s issue) one of my ex-colleagues at Mediaworks, Ms. Mary Will, sent me an incredible Auckland restaurant list that she’s obviously had in her top drawer for quite some time.
The list is dated August 14, 1980 and headed ‘TO HELP SOLVE THAT PROBLEM OF “WHERE DO WE EAT?”’. Yes, it’s a definitive list of Auckland’s restaurants from 30 years ago. Mary kept the list from her days working at Ogilvy & Mather, where eating and drinking were apparently important parts of agency life.

Auckland Restaurant List Aug 1980

First thing to say is that (unless I’m mistaken) there are only two restaurants listed that are still around today – Number 5 and Antoine’s. I’m overdue to visit Number 5 (it’s situated sort of behind the Langham) and I had a most … interesting meal at Antoine’s in Parnell recently. The food is very good and the service is incredible, but man those prices … late $40s for a main, GST exclusive! Ha, and they don’t have EFTPOS. This and the décor suggest that maybe they were so happy to make the attached list, they decided not to change one single thing about the restaurant for the next 31 years. Incredible.

Incidentally, Number 5 and Antoine’s are both in Metro’s Top 50 this year, the latter with the same owner as in 1980. So who am I to make fun of the pan-flute top 40 compilation that accompanies the meal?

Other highlights from the 1980 list: fancy a romantic meal at ‘Deerstalker’? Or would you prefer one of the doctors: ‘Dr Livingstone’ or ‘Dr Dudding’- what had the medical profession done by the end of the 70s to so associate themselves with fine cuisine?

Some of the annotations are pretty good: ‘Aashiayana’ on K Road is apparently Indian – fair enough, but on what grounds is the city’s sole Mexican restaurant named ‘Steak & I’? Come to that, there’s another Indian place and this one’s called ‘Trooper Coopers’. Wha?

Animals made of precious metals never go out of fashion – take the ‘Bronze Goat’ or ‘L’Escargot D’Or’. What exactly could you expect at ‘The Ponsonby Fire Station’? Was it an actual fire station, or a stand-alone restaurant? If it was the latter, did they receive a lot of urgent calls from people in the surrounding suburbs, asking them to come and put things out?

At the end of the list you’ll see the names of Auckland’s three nightclubs: Melba, Mirage and Jilly’s – all in the very central city. Would it really be worth getting one of the city’s six taxis all the way to Courthouse Lane once you’d finished eating at Chez Daniel in Mount Eden? You bet it was. Everyone knew those girls at Melba were up for it.

Any other observations, memories or questions arising out of the list? Feel free to leave them in the ‘comments’ section below. Or come like my page on facebook so you can see when I post something new. Mary’s promised to send me one of her liquid lunch receipts from 1983, which sounds spec-TAC-ular.