The carnival is over?

18:41, Feb 19 2013

I am both curious about, and slightly frightened of, the Petone Fair, which took place just down the street from my house on Saturday - in much the same way as I have been of the Cuba Street Carnival in Wellington in years gone by.

For starters, it means that parking on my street becomes pretty well impossible, so the friends who came out to visit and pop along to the fair had to park miles away from Chez Omni. It is at about this point I might imagine a collective groan, and invitation to harden up.

And fair enough. But really, the food - the most important thing, IMHO - was not much chop at all.

While I think the event is probably, mostly, good for raising awareness of the local retail scene, and for bringing people to the area, this year I was disappointed in the quality of food on offer.

I thought that I would be able to string together a decent, albeit eclectic series of morsels into a tasty whole - I am an expert eater, after all - but I'm afraid this year I drew a blank. I had planned to eat stuff from the markets for morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, hell, even maybe dinner - but nope, uh uh, forget about it.

Last year I remember there being a place doing whitebait fritters: a fritter, buttered white bread slice, salt and pepper, lemon juice - yum. This year, nada. Maybe some tasty Mexican food would be there to entice me? Oh, good Lord, no way - not even close.


This year, aside from some of the Chinese and Indian Jackson St restaurant regulars, who were doing a mostly deep-fried selection of spring rolls and samosas and suchlike, the fair is populated by those ubiquitous vans that sell soggy chips, crappy battered hot dogs and bad burgers. None of this really appeals on what is a hot, still summer's day.

I have a quick traverse of the street - the only thing that really appeals is the croquette from the Dutch Shop. Deep fried, crumbed, beef, cheese and potato croquettes, on a slice of bread slathered with mustard. Very good, but really it's just the best of a bad bunch. I find an Asian restaurant stall selling fresh egg noodles at a buck fifty - there's lunch for Sunday. And then Plus One turns up with some bought baking - some melting moments that are freakishly large (and actually not half bad), and a chocolate iced banana loaf that is a bit like eating sawdust - dry, dry, dry.

I am so disappointed.

I find myself recalling the excellent food on offer at last year's Laneway music festival in Auckland - Hungarian bread, woodfired pizza, tacos etc, or the top grub on offer at the City Market on a Sunday. I feel disheartened.

How can I salvage this, not only for our guests, but, crucially, for myself?!

I make a plan - I go to On Trays and get some magnificent crusty baguettes from the Le Moulin bakery in town, some sliced chorizo grande reserve, and a lovely cumin-inflected gouda. We have some tomatoes and baby rocket, so there you go - should the others who visit feel similarly disenchanted by the food on offer, they will at least be able to load up on some decent sandwiches at Chez JT.

The sandwiches seem to go down a treat, as do the disproportionately large melting moments. A couple of hardy souls even brave the dense, dry, polystyrene-like banana cake. Put it this way - I wouldn't have wanted to risk a swim after it.

The Petone Fair - it came, it saw, it sank, as far as good food goes. Compared to years gone by, I thought the food this year was pretty darned average, verging on very poor. I'm not sure why this would be - I would have thought that people were now more, not less, interested in eating something good, or a bit lighter, or a bit interesting. Peculiar.

Anyhow, it strengthens my resolve to make something good for dinner, if only so that my day's eating (the sandwiches aside) is not a total wipeout.

Did anyone go to the Petone Fair this year? Were you, too, underwhelmed by the grub on offer, or did you find something good that I missed? Any other examples of where you thought you were going to get to eat well and you just... didn't?! And any fairs you have been to that DID have good food (go on, make me jealous)?

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Picture: Ccagle