Review: The Square, Novotel

IN THE SQUARE: Lunch at Cathedral Square's Novotel hotel.
IN THE SQUARE: Lunch at Cathedral Square's Novotel hotel.

Looking around the quiet gentility of The Square restaurant and bar in the Novotel, it seems a lifetime since the The Press moved in after the September 2010 quake. Warners was still there, the cathedral was entire and the business of producing a newspaper from hastily converted function rooms was just another day at the office. Last week I went back and my table by the window in restaurant could well have been my computer desk those three years and six months ago. The view isn't worth bothering about but the staff now as then are as chirpy and helpful as ever.

We were there for lunch. A catch up with friends who are not sandwich and sausage roll folk. A restaurant though would tick our boxes. Pre-lunch drinks, a table set for three and a proper menu. Tick tick tick. But we were lunching in lonely splendour. One other table was occupied and there were a couple of suits in the bar but having a meeting rather than a beer.

A loud television intruded on the quiet atmosphere and although it was switched off immediately on request, we took our drinks to the window table. The menu arrived swiftly our orders were taken with some alacrity - and there proceedings stalled. We'd been straightforward with our selections from the small menu, hadn't branched out with requests for add-ons or swaps and we were happy to accept recommendations. The other table recommended the nasi goreng and added they were impressed with the size of their toasted club (sandwiches) and fries. "The squid," said the maitre'd was "very popular."

Well of course she would say that, but when our orders eventually turned up - with apologies for the tardiness - I could see why. The plating was big on eye appeal with generous squares of squid hoods scored and coated in a delicate tempura-like batter. The accompanying salad was a pretty arrangement of red and green vegetables sliced into fine strands and the dressing was served separately in its own small bowl. It was very good.

A bit of sharing took place, although I passed on the club. It was, as they say in Texas, a real big mouthful. Egg and bacon and avocado and tomato stacked the toasted slices then there was the generous pile of fries. The nasi goreng was topped by the obligatory fried egg, a saucer of dried chilli flakes was included and there was high praise for a little side dish of pickled vegetables especially when it was discovered they went equally well with lime and chilli seasoned squid.

At that point there was a flurry of business in the bar and our wine order lost its place in the queue. We expressed our disappointment. The staff were apologetic. And when it came time to pay the bill the wines were on the house. "We're so sorry you had such a long wait today." Nice gesture.

The Square is part of a tourist hotel and obviously is intent on caring for its hotel guests who were probably taking pictures from the top of a bus or lining up at Ellerslie or braving the blustery easterly on our dusty streets rather than coming back to the hotel for lunch, but for us it was a pleasant meal in pleasant albeit quiet surroundings. It needed a bit of a buzz but it will only take a few more people at a few more tables to get it going.

As an aside the children's menu on the same small card as our lunch selections impressed with its healthy options.

Where: The Square, Novotel Cathedral Square

When: Open daily

Upside: A pleasant lunch

Downside: Where was everyone

The Press