Review: Khandallah Trading Co has a good vibe but there's a beef with the food
REVIEW: Defying all the stereotypes about snooty Khandallah, the Khandallah Trading Company is a surprisingly down-to-earth pub.
The Trackside channel is screened; quiz nights and meat raffles are held; half-drunk men heartily address you in the loos as "mate."
Formerly Khandallah's Monteiths Brewery Bar, with add-on wings that have warped the building into a two-pronged fork, it has that rumpty, makeshift, lived-in vibe that Kiwis don't seem to mind.
Nobody notices or much cares about details like cracked glass in a photo frame, or the moribund Premium Cellar, where dusty decanters and glasses fill the vast spaces between the $180 bottles of wine.
On the dining room wall, three gold-rimmed plates of the NZ Beef and Lamb Hallmark of Excellence Award are all made out to the Monteith's Brewery Bar, and they end abruptly in 2011. There's a reason for that.
For the grey prison stew served here under the name of Boeuf Bourguignon, which I left three-quarters uneaten, I propose a fresh trophy to adorn the wall: a tricolour beribboned wooden spoon from the Alliance Francaise, engraved Hallmark of Debasement.
"Is everything okay?" asked our server, who I have to admit, was an absolute honey.
"Um, I'm wondering where the mushrooms are in my boeuf bourguignon" I replied, as I forked over two wholly unwelcome intruders from convict land – diced carrot and a cube of fibrous mush, either turnip or parsnip (so tasteless I couldn't decide which).
For that matter, the red wine, the lardons and the baby onions were also missing.
"I'm sorry, but it's not cooked with mushroom. Would you like me to bring you some?"
"No thanks!" snapped my friend Dennis, coming to the rescue.
His Deconstructed Beef Wellington came with the same mash as me – dry, nubbly, under-buttered and under-diluted with its cooking water, the mash that our grandparents ate and indeed is often still made at home.
The components of Deconstructed Beef Wellington were stacked like a hamburger, its pastry lid secured with a skewer.
So when do chefs deconstruct Beef Wellington? Easy. When they can't successfully construct it in the first place: the mushroom and shallot duxelles in this creation were so runny, the mixture wouldn't have been properly contained as a firm layer within the traditional pastry parcel.
But never mind: the fillet had been cooked rare as requested and the failed duxelles were actually rich and tasty for the extra dairy.
My entrée on other hand – five pallid prawns bathed in mystery liquid – tasted like canned shrimp. The accompanying "sourdough" cottonwool pads belonged in the kit of an army field surgeon.
Dennis suggested his crumbed squid rings might have come pre-prepared, and indeed they proved to be the classic rubber bands, without taste.
Only the desserts saved this food from a two-star rating.
Red Wine Poached Pears had been fanned across the plate a la nouvelle cuisine. Its crème anglais, though far too scant, actually passed muster. Brioche croutons were none too fresh, but genuine nevertheless.
The Khandallah Trading Company is clearly very popular as a watering hole, and being the suburb's only pub, forms its community hub. It's fun.
But our savoury courses had about the subtlety of AC/DC, whose logo I noted writ large across the chef's baseball cap.
ONE THING TO TRY
Nutella and Peanut Butter Cheesecake
More deconstruction here, but this time it's good: the layers of nutella, peanut butter and chocolate meld splendidly with the rich dairy products. Gosh, there's even a genius touch – a tiny amount of salt! Oh and that's fairy floss on top, not a stray chunk of ceiling Batt.
AT A GLANCE
Khandallah Trading Co
Cnr Agra Crescent & Ganges Rd, Khandallah, Wellington
Ph: 04 479 4157
Open Mon-Sat 11am-late, Sun 10am-late.
Price range of mains: $19.90-$31.90
Cost: $97 for two (excluding wine)
Food: two and a half stars
Service: four stars
Ambience: three and a half stars
Wine list: three stars