04:35, Jul 25 2012
Bardello, which used to be Ivy, provides relief for sport and food lovers.

Tucked in beside Aikmans in Merivale is a bar with restaurant-quality food.

The two timer

Tucked away behind Aikmans Bar and Restaurant in Merivale, with its back to the mall, is the little-known Bardello. It's located at the heart of a throbbing bar zone, but is it a bar or a restaurant? We took our empty stomachs to find out.

It is easy to walk down this strip and completely miss Bardello (formerly Ivy), but we knew it existed next to Aikmans (under the same ownership), set well off the footpath.

When you walk into Bardello, it's the sweeping, well-stocked bar that dominates. Wall-to-wall TV screens, all glowing green with golf coverage on this night, ticked the boxes for one of us. A stunning, striped decor in Jaffa colours, with images by Christchurch artist Tony Cribb, did it for the other.

With no-one to direct us towards a tiny, vacant table for two, we headed to a bigger table with comfy bench seats. We ordered an Akarua pinot noir ($15) and a Craggy Range merlot ($14) from an extensive drinks list, then perused the menu. A good surprise - it offered far more than bar snacks.

For starters, my sports-mad partner opted for the grilled chicken drumsticks with a chili-lime glaze. Five sizzling drums arrived as hot and tender as could be and were almost a meal in themselves. Alas, there was no vegetarian entrée, but the rosemary and sea salt flatbread made up for some of the disappointment.

From six grill options, he chose the posh fish 'n' chips - char-grilled swordfish, hand-cut chips and seasonal vegetables ($30). Bypassing the pizza options, I ordered the seasonal vegetable risotto ($21). His was a dense fish with pleasant smoky flavours, served with a stack of grilled red peppers, carrot and pumpkin. My risotto came with the same veges, plus celery, mushrooms, onion and fresh basil, and a sprinkling of parmesan. Although not pretty, it was hot, generous and delicious.

Two staff members checked our meals were OK. While we had no complaints about the food, eating from a wobbly table niggled and required the old napkin trick. By this time, a rowdy group of four had positioned themselves close by, and made no secret of the fact they wanted our spot.

We still had dessert to come - tiramisu (all four dessert options are $12). It was modest in size and silken in texture, rather than rustic, with a light biscuit base. Shared between two people, it was spoons at dawn and the pudding lasted mere seconds.

With four sets of eyes upon us, we opted for coffee at home. But the encounter helped us decide that Bardello is a modern hybrid - a restaurant until mid-evening, when it becomes a bar, true to its location and open into the wee hours.

Where: 154 Aikmans Rd, Merivale.
Service: Pleasant and attentive.
Prices: Reasonable for the location.
Ambience: Cheerful, tending towards rowdy.