Even on a wet night, particularly on a wet night, Dux Dine shines.
It could be the overwhelming greenness of the interior and the lush greenness of the garden where every leaf glistens, or possibly it is the wacky wall of fussy mirrors that greets arrivals.
I lived for years in an old villa not dissimilar to Dux Dine and I was pleasantly surprised at the warmth, the layout and the happy vibes from bar and booths.
Colin, in-charge-of-the-bar, was as busy as a bee with a large group of pony-tailed chaps and designer-suit chapesses, all looking as if they were Made In Chelsea (long, shiny hair and fake tans), but when asked to concoct a no-alcohol cocktail he was onto it at once.
A pretty arrangement of lime lemon and ginger flavours met with some acclaim, so maybe Colin has it on his cocktail list as No-Alcohol Thursday. You could ask.
A very hungry arrival should order a bowl of polenta fries first up. They will arrive quickly and they are very filling and tasty, with cheese and salt enlivening what is basically fried cold porridge.
As a display of Dux Dine's specialisation in vegetarian and fish dishes, the mains are a mix of complexity and simplicity, humble and non-PC ingredients.
Aubergine involtini with its neat slices of aubergine wrapped around grains, herbs, nuts, ricotta and greens has a couple of out-of-season inclusions: zucchini and tomatoes in mid-winter? The massaman curry will, however, soothe those who eat seasonally, with its available all-year round tofu and chickpeas.
The stylish presentation is a long way from the piles of shredded greens in small bowls that is my memory of the Dux de Lux, but that was then and this is now, and there is fancy stuff on the menu to enjoy, such as mushroom and pesto croquettes and battered oysters.
We didn't realise we should have shared our starters, so the non-oyster eater missed out while I appreciated all six, as well as the take on crumbed mushrooms: little crumbed balls tightly packed with many many chopped mushrooms.
There are dishes I wouldn't order again. The pasta did include clams, but there were no scampi, and the ceviche needs more kick of lemon and lime. But let me heap praise on the halloumi salad - skinny slices of fried cheese on a boldly flavoured salad.
The pizzas are simple but good.
The desserts include a satisfying apple and quince crumble with a creamy custard sauce and an unremarkable sticky toffee pudding, but the other options give an impression of cabinet food: never-changing from season to season.
It's a busy, noisy restaurant - the veranda area especially clatters with its glass wall and wooden floor and just one braying diner can earbash the whole deck, but owner Richard Sinke has long had a good take on hospitality and, as a fellow diner remarked, "It's a bit like having a crowd round home".
Where: 28 Riccarton Rd, phone 348 1436
When: Daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner
How much: Mains mid to high $20s
Upside: Warm, welcoming ambience
Downside: Can be noisy
- © Fairfax NZ News