Eating out: Freemans

FREEMANS: Good reason to visit Lyttelton.
FREEMANS: Good reason to visit Lyttelton.

After a mix-up with the booking at another restaurant our side of town I rang Freemans in Lyttelton with apprehension.

I was under the impression that it was fine dining with prices to match - and, seeing it was my idea for this casual family gathering, I would be paying.

However, since reopening (post-earthquakes) the owners have reviewed their menu to meet local demand, and from Monday to Thursday offer a selection of pizzas and pasta dishes for $15.

Even though it was midweek the restaurant, small bar and deck were full of happy patrons when we bowled up.

The decor is black leather and wood, urban cool, sophisticated casual, with great street and port views.

I am not usually an enthusiast for restaurant pasta offerings, but chicken and bacon tortellini with blue cheese sauce on the $15 blackboard menu sounded warming on this beastly easterly evening. Warming, and then some. The pasta was silky, the chicken filling moist and tender, the bacon strips draped on top crispy, the cheese sauce rich and tangy, and the portion perfect for Mrs Piggy who, admittedly, had been unable to resist the shared entrees of grilled breads and oily zucchini fries.

Mr Workout has a physical job, is fit as a fiddle, skinny as a rake and eats like a horse, so when his bowl of maybe eight tortellini parcels was presented to him his face zipped through a gamut of emotions. Son's hefty grilled beef sirloin and dauphinoise potatoes ($36) was eyed enviously.

Fortunately, the others ordered pizzas, in standard but delectable combinations, such as cherry tomato, olive, anchovies and chilli, and not so standard spinach, mozzarella, eggs and rocket. All were large enough to sate every appetite. Even with Mr Workout's help there was half a pizza remaining.

The waitress's asking if he would like a box in which to take it home was a nice touch.

The Marlborough salmon was served with an interesting potato and goat cheese terrine ($36), and although "very nice" there seemed to be a hint of food envy here regarding the aforementioned tortellini, or maybe it was the pumpkin and amaretti ravioli with sage butter? No detectable taste of amaretti but its pumpkinish sweetness was "a joy," said he whose sweet tooth demands two teaspoons of sugar in his tea.

The Italian theme embraced our dessert orders, and although the tiramisu was average, the affogato - a shot of espresso served with a scoop of vanilla- bean icecream - was a near- perfect end to a fine meal that didn't break the bank. The bill for my five was $179 - and $50 of that was for drinks.

Freemans is a very cool restaurant and a very good reason to visit the port and spirited community keeping its chin up.

Freemans 47 London St, Lyttelton, ph 328 7517 Open 7 days lunch and dinner.

Upside: the food, ambience

Downside: bookings usually needed.

Who: Anyone who doubts the wonders of pasta

Would I go there again: Already have.

The Press