Saturday night at the movies...

Last updated 11:49 29/10/2012

Let's add one more place to my (extensive) list of places that generally have crappy food - alongside service stations, gig venues and Cuba: movie theatres.

For the most part, when I think about movie food, I am thinking overpriced, fake-butter and salted popcorn, watery post-mix soft drinks, little tubs of Tangy Fruits (discontinued, I know - I am old), rock-hard ice cream, and the ultimate sound of disappointment - that involuntary groan that accompanies the dropping of your box of Jaffas, rolling away from you down the sloping floor...

LH1And then there's you, noisy crisp eaters. For you I reserve a particular contempt. I would suggest that the noisy, scrunching chip eater has no respect for fellow moviegoers, and that crisps are inappropriate movie-going fodder. I once got rid of some records by a certain New Zealand band for the simple reason that their drummer was sitting behind me at a movie, noisily eating crisps.

Look, I mean, I know that no one is going to go to the movies specifically to eat, but there is no real reason that food at the cinema should be quite as poor as it has traditionally been. Or as expensive, aside from the fact that, at the cinema, you are basically a captive audience. It is quite civilised that nowadays most theatres will allow you to take a glass of beer or wine or a coffee into a movie (even if it is perhaps ill-advised, especially if it is a long film, or one that involves loads and loads of gushing water, such as Titanic).

But again, like at The Golden Dawn last week, there is the potential to do food that is good at the movie theatre. I reckon all it takes is a little care and attention, maybe even a little genuine love.

On Sunday I finally got around to going to see a movie that loads of people have told me about; Searching for Sugar Man tells the story of Detroit-born-and-bred singer-songwriter Rodriguez. (So many people had come into Slow Boat telling me all about it, and how I had to go see it, that I had started to view him as the new Eva Cassidy). But I'll tell you what - it is a fabulous film, full of heart and hope. And some tremendous music. It is an amazing story - if you have a beating heart, at all, you will love it.

I went to see it at my local cinema in Petone, the Lighthouse. It is in walking distance from my house (proximity - big tick), it shows a lot of kooky and arthouse-y films, as well as more mainstream flicks, has comfy couch-type seats with cushions on them, and, uncommonly, it has food and coffee that are remarkably good.

Plus One and I partook of a selection of the Lighthouse's tasty morsels, and, just as I was impressed by the quality of food at The Golden Dawn in Auckland, I was mightily impressed, and more than a little surprised, by the food on offer. It would put a lot of café food in this town (or any other) to shame, let alone most of the dross getting doled out at cinemas.

LH2Asparagus rolls! How could I not love a spread that features asparagus rolls?! Perfectly cooked asparagus, soft, white, crustless bread, and a tangy, lemony hollandaise. A classic. We also sampled a couple of mini pizzas topped with appetising, flavourful, classic combinations - one with roasted tomatoes, goat cheese feta and crispy basil, another with pumpkin, caramelised onion and tangy blue cheese - both perfectly executed with light, airy bases, and perfect seasoning. A little smoked salmon tart, topped with dill and shot through with citrusy notes, rounded out the savoury component of our pre-movie bites.

Just for the sake of thoroughness, we then sampled a pumpkin pie that was light, airy and deliciously spiced with nutmeg with a perfect, crumbly sweet pastry crust - and not too sweet, as well as a honey, pinenut and sesame tart that was oozingly delectable and a chocolate cupcake shot through with caramel and topped with marshmallow - magnificent, and I think my favourite of the three.

The coffee is Supreme, which I always think is a solid guarantee of a great cup - they don't seem to supply anyone who doesn't make good coffee, and they have a huge range of T Leaf teas - P1 had an English breakfast, while I washed down all this deliciousness with green tea just to, you know, aid digestion.

It is also a popcorn-free zone - nothing against popcorn, but, just as Golden Dawn doesn't do chips, it is rather refreshing to give it a rest. The other thing about the food that we ate is that none of it would have caused any distress or irritation to any fellow moviegoers! Bravo!

So here I am, for all this time, thinking that movie cinema food is crap - turns out I just wasn't looking in the right place, and that the right place to look was closer than I might have imagined possible...

A big thanks, then, to Chrisana Love, who made all this delicious, honest and inspired food, and to the staff of the Lighthouse, who always manage to make going to the movies feel like what it ought to be - a treat, and a hugely enjoyable outing, and one at which you can even get fed, fabulously! I think everything about the place works in unison - the type of films screened, the food, the service, the environment that has been created

PS: It is also worth noting that the Lighthouse now has a town branch, in Wigan Street, which Chrisana also bakes for, and that they also have a branch in Pauatahanui.

What do you like to eat at the movies? How is the food selection at your local cinema? Are you okay with the "no popcorn" policy? And has anyone else seen Searching for Sugar Man (okay, so I had a bit of a blub).

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