Eating out: Clink
Clink is an inviting spot in Sumner's main street. I would say it is across from the containers, but that is no help when what seem like hundreds stretch right down the opposite roadside, stacked like some giant's forgotten game of blocks.
Inside Clink, you can forget the dodgy rocks behind the bins. It is cosy and warm and merges the bar and restaurant concept better than most places in Christchurch.
You can dine and feel separate enough from the bar crowd to be happily private, yet there is also enough murmur, comings and goings and glimpses from the drinks crowd to make you feel part of a wider happy evening. It is a triumph of the design of a rabbit warren of rooms, tables, leather armchairs, fires, stone walls, wood and huge windows.
I planned to try the fish dishes. A few years ago Clink won a regional prize for chips and fish, plus it is right by the sea.
So the scene was set. Unfortunately, a salmon gravlax starter did not really excite. It was hard to tell that any spicy marinating had occurred, but the balance of the dish with garlic croutons, a mini tomato-onion salad and a tasty olive tapenade was good.
The other side of the table veered inland for all choices. A rare beef salad was a combination of beef slices, blue cheese, walnuts, beetroot and a few greens. The combination of textures and flavours was excellent, and the fact that the basil seemed to have been replaced by baby spinach, and the crunchy toasted walnuts having skipped the promised "candied" treatment, mattered little.
Gurnard is my favourite fish, and a big, fresh, perfectly cooked fillet did not disappoint. Almost stealing the show were some excellent partially crushed roast potatoes that someone in the kitchen had seasoned brilliantly. Crunchy broccoli florets made a surprise guest appearance among a few strands of the advertised spinach.
By now we were starting to think the chefs took the menu descriptions as more a rough guideline than a confirmed lineup.
A pork belly main seemed to confirm this. Accompanying "Asian greens" turned out to be two small slices of zucchini. The pork was a huge rustic lump, none of this prissy little melt-in-your mouth cube business. Five-spice flavours and a tangy marmalade lifted the interest. It came on a mound of roasted red capsicum couscous and while the couscous was indeed orange, the capsicum taste had been lost along the way.
The dessert lineup is small. There is the ubiquitous creme brulee, petit fours, icecream and the two we fancied: spiced chocolate and coffee mousse with a pistachio and chocolate macaroon and macerated raspberries; and a black doris plum frangipane tart with white chocolate icecream, a berry sauce and vanilla anglaise.
Both were good. The mousse had excellent texture and flavour, with a lovely lingering taste of coffee, and we did not miss the missing spiciness one bit. The puddle of raspberries were dark and tangy as they should be.
The (gluten-free) warm almond-based tart was very moreish and the mix of plums, cream, melting icecream, berry sauce was a lovely way to end a winter's meal.
Clink feels like a safe, solid dining option. It is a generous place, with a good wine and beer list, and friendly and professional service. It is easy to like, but to love it the food and particularly the sauces and garnishes, need more clarity and oomph.
Clink Restaurant and Bar
Where: 29 Wakefield Ave, Sumner When: daily from 5pm
Cost: starters, $10.50 - $18.50; mains, $30.50 - $37.50; desserts, $10.50 - $13
Who: casually dressed locals
Upside: warm, cosy, friendly Downside: bland flavours
Go again: Yes, especially for a drink and bar snack.