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Arizona Bar & Grill

Cnr Grey & Featherston Streets
New Zealand
Phone: (04) 495 7867
Date of Visit: 06 September 2006


Arizona Bar and Grill is a bit of a Wellington landmark, in so much as it has been around for as long as I can remember. Located in the ground floor of the Hotel Intercontinental, Arizona has long been a lunch option and watering hole for the suit and tie crowd. It offers a sort of Tex-Mex grill-style cuisine, with a smattering of "Cajun," but is also a lively night spot on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during sporting events. The premises itself is fairly modern, with all exterior walls consisting of floor to ceiling panes of glass, offering a view of the street from inside, one which I assume is not reciprocated from the outside, but does offer a feeling of a bright and spacious dining room.

Dťcor consists of assorted "Americana" items carrying a strong western theme, i.e., a poster advertising "Buffalo Bills Wild West Show" and a cigar store indian standing sentry at the main entrance and two large television screens showing the latest baseball match. (Which were studiously ignored by all present. as baseball doesnít carry much of a following here in New Zealand.)

A few members expressed the view that it felt like a Cafť, although it is probably fair to point out that our visit was conducted during the middle of the day, with the obligatory soccermom-types and executive-types in attendance. Also, I didnít see any "Too cool for you" barristas, or an oversized espresso machine, gurgling away like some Cold War-Žrš Soviet diesel generator. Arizona is what it is: Itís a Bar and Grill playing cowboys and indians. Is there anything wrong with this? I think not.

What we were there for was the steak. Arizona offers all the regular options: Rib fillet, Scotch Fillet, Sirloin, Tenderloin. No big surprises here, but all good solid offerings in the 300gm to 400gm range.

Ordering the New York cut (read "thick") Sirloin, I was presented with a nicely sized and plated offering. Accompanied with a bed of Chipotle Mash, upon which the meat was presented, with a medium sized field mushroom sandwiched between, and topped with a grilled tomato, a peppercorn sauce, and a dash of pesto. The mash was just that, mashed potatoe, flavoured with stock and bacon bits. The mushroom was nice, adding flavour to the mash, and I am always partial to a bit of grilled tomato.

The business end of the dish was what I was concentrating on, however, and at first impressions, it did not disappoint. The meat was given pride of place at the top of the "stack" and displayed a nicely coloured exterior, and wasnít over cooked or dry. I had asked for it to be cooked rare, and I have to admit it was red and bleeding when cut into, but to be honest, my neighbour, Kelvin, had ordered the same dish done medium rare, and it looked kinda the same. All in all, it was a well cooked steak, a good size, succulent and with a nice flavour which was not overpowered by the sauce or sides.

A couple of others, Ivan and Nick Ca', had the rib fillet, Nick Ca' complained the whole time that he couldnít taste anything and would rather have a Happy Meal, but this was more due to him having a headcold rather than a valid commentary on the state of the meal.

I donít know about ordering bone-in meat at a restaurant. I agree that bone-in meat always tastes better, but have to weight this up with the inconvenience factor of removing the meat from the bone and convenience usually wins the day. Picking your rib up might fly in some places, but Ivan and Nick Ca' had the distinct feeling of being watched by some of the more pretentious clientele. Not that this posed any sort of obstacle to them eating with their hands.

Big Nick Ca' and Matt ordered the Scotch Fillet, one of which came with a mushroom sauce and one of which came with a peppercorn sauce, Matt had also ordered some fries, being the traditionalist that he is, which did not arrive with this meal. Full credit to the Waiting staff who promptly organised these for him. (Matt protests that he ordered shoestring fries but got thick cut. Once again credit must go to the staff of Arizona, as Matt was not charged for the fries.)

Quote of the Day must go to CaptainCowEater, commenting upon his tenderloin: "Itís like Steak flavoured Butter!" To understand this, one must realise that Sky does actually enjoy eating butter, therefore making this a compliment of the highest order. Whatever floats your boat, El Capitan.

I did get the distinct impression that many of the Society may have been slightly underwhelmed initially by the ambience, and indeed the food of Arizona. Some of the feedback contains comments on the limited wine selection and the variety of the menu. In all fairness Arizona is not a specialty Steakhouse, and were kind enough to allow us to order from the dinner grill menu, not normally available during the day. The waiting staff were top notch and highly professional, and the food was on table in record time. They matched our names to meals and no one was given anyone elseís meal.

OK, so maybe the steaks werenít sizzling when they arrived, and maybe there wasnít an extensive selection of wines available, and maybe Matt didnít get his shoestring fries. But Arizona does what it does, and to a greater extent, it suceeds, and that is to provide a simple, informal dining environment, serving decent food at an Ok price, where the Captain can swig a beer, and belch his satisfaction.


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