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Speights Ale House (Shepherds Arms Hotel)

285 Tinakori Road
New Zealand
Phone: (04) 472 1320
Date of Visit: 4 May 2007

Reviewed by: Sky Heighway, CaptainCowEater, Wellington, New Zealand


With every Meat it seems there are new faces at my table. It could be that we are eating at different restaurants and served by different staff every time. Or it could be that our ranks are filling with friends, colleagues and friends friends alike? Needless to say one such recent recruit; I wont name names (it was Dave); put forward the Speights Ale House in Thorndon.

Speights Ale House. Pub or Restaurant? I was expecting a pub, and rightly so, at first impressions that's what it is. Lots of natural wood, well lit and with plenty of Speights' paraphernalia scattered tastefully around the room. One side of the bar the room had bar seats and the traditional high tables of a pub and on the other side was restaurant seating. There are TV screens hidden around the room so that you can see "the game" from wherever you are.

For a pub on the outskirts of the CBD they are doing well to have a car park. Not that it helped me as it was full to capacity. Parking in the street wasn't bad, I only had to walk half a block.

We all turned up within 20 minutes of each other and several didn't turn up at all. Still we were seven strong and hungry as Steak Lovers could be. "Steak Lovers": Now theress a term that does't sound right! How about Dead Cow Lovers? NO, that's even worse. OK, 'm using Steak Enthusiasts. We were as hungry as any Steak Enthusiasts could be. The staff were very polite in asking for their empty tables back and the service was efficient too. Very professional. The barman knew his ales, though you would have to question one working an alehouse that didn't. If anything was lacking it was only the personal touch. But I can't fault them for that.

Mat and Amy ordered an Ale House Loaf for the table, $12 (8.75 USD) which came out with humus, pesto and a balsamic olive oil. And I ordered a bowl of steak chips for the table as well, $7 (5.10 USD); yeah, I was on a tight budget. The chips were nice but the House Loaf was really good, and the dips were great too. I must say I was impressed with the speed in which the entries arrived. It was at this stage we discovered that there was no Vodafone reception and just one bar of Telecom reception.

As diligent as they were when delivering the entries, the staff cleared away the first course and were serving the mains in good time. I ordered the St Bathans Sirloin medium rare, a 400gm (14oz) Dead Cow with potato mash, a port wine jus and Cafi de Paris butter $33 ($24 USD). Speights was the drink of choice, Speights Ordinal to be precise, $6.50 ($4.75 USD). Peter and I both agreed that the port wine jus was very good and went well with the other flavours. This comes with a side of pesto drizzled roast vegetables. Portions were large, I was told by Dave that every meal hes ordered there has been of a decent size. Other than one other St Bathans Sirloin the rest of the group ordered the Drunken Steak. A 250gm (9oz) Sirloin marinated in Speights Old Dark served with the generic chips and salad and a choice of Roast Garlic, Mushroom or Horseradish sauce $26 ($19 USD). These were the only two Dead Cows on the menu.

Of six orders of Dead Cow only one was over cooked. A medium rare was medium. I did find that my roast vegetables were, for lack of a better word, squishy. They tasted great and the pesto made the flavours meld together very well. I would have preferred they have the texture roast vegetables should.

The Dead Cow was as it should be. Soft, no need for a steak knife, full of flavour, well seared and cooked as I ordered. I find a really good steak should put a BBQ style, almost salty, flavour on you tongue before melting the full flavour into your mouth. Similar to drinking Tequila. This comes from the searing of the steak and is vital to sealing in the flavour. This process is wasted if the Dead Cow is not properly baked afterwards to cook the juices in the Dead Cow. This is all something I think the chef at the Speights Ale House fully understands. This is a highly recommendable Sirloin steak.

Amy was the only one who ordered outside the Dead Cow menu. Roast Vegetable Parcels, with yoghurt and coriander in a filo parcel topped with beetroot relish and salad, $16 ($11.70 USD). It looked very appetising. Her comments: "Yeah, really good!" Another thumbs up.

So we arrived at 6pm. Were served with diligent and polite service. Food quality was exceptional. Atmosphere was good. I was most impressed that we could have a conversation with out raising our voices. A common problem in restaurants we have visited. And finished by 7pm. I didnt realise how fast it had been until I looked at my watch on the way out. I didn't feel rushed at all. A great restaurant.


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