REVIEW: Without making this sound like an 11th-hour book report for primary school, according to Wikipedia a "funicular" is a cable car. Considering this new cafe's location, upstairs near the entrance to Wellington's very own funicular vehicle, the name is entirely appropriate. Tim and I meet there for lunch one week day and it's clear that it's already popular with the CBD.
Without wanting to sound pretentious, Funicular Eatery reminds us of some of the cafes we've been to in London - there's just something in the layout, a huge long room with a shared dining table down one end, a central cabinet and kitchen, and smaller tables down the other end between elegant low-hanging light bulbs and polished concrete flooring.
The cabinet is massive, plus there's a menu. Either way you have to make your choice rapidly as the queue snakes ever closer towards the cashier. This can be slightly panic-inducing - make sure you're feeling decisive if the queue's long.
Funicular smartly mixes the reliable and expected - your pumpkin and feta, your chicken and apricot - with the delightful. I'm caught between a huge roll filled with pork, apple and cheese, and a gorgeously compact venison and blue cheese pie. Pie wins. Tim surveys the menu and while the seared scallops with carrot fritters and yoghurt dressing sounds super, he instead chooses their prawn and sweet pea risotto with dill creme fraiche.
My pie, warmed and served with my choice of roasted vegetables and garden salads, appears quickly, but it's not an arduous wait for our risotto. That said, I'd recommend, if dining with someone else, either both order from the cabinet or the menu - or be prepared for longing looks at your plate while they wait.
My pie has crisp buttery pastry and the intense flavours of venison and blue cheese ably standing up to each other in the dissolvingly tender filling.
Tim's risotto is wonderful, the peas' sweetness against that of the butterflied prawns, the richness of the creme fraiche tempered by the feathery strands of dill. We then divide and conquer a berry pie and caramel mocha mousse tart - the latter's caramel salty enough, and chocolate bittersweet enough, to make it a total success.
Without wanting to make you groan you could say this new cafe puts the "fun" in funicular.
WHERE: Level 1, Cable Car Centre, 282 Lambton Quay, Wellington, ph 472 2950.
WHEN: Open Monday to Friday 7.30am-5pm, Saturday from 9.30am.
WHAT'S TO EAT: A huge range of sandwiches, filled rolls and pastries from the cabinet, and a short, but stylish menu.
HOW MUCH: $48.80 for two mains, two cakes and two drinks.
- The Dominion Post