Best of TAURANGA

New Watering Holes...

New Watering Holes...

Orange Zephyr
Come again? Is that the old Ford car, or the gentle breeze?   
But really, who gives a damn, when someone like Aaron Cutforth has the nerve to do something completely new on the restaurant & bar scene (but yet...strangely nostalgic and retro).

Orange Zephyr is just off the Strand at 15 Wharf Street, occupying the spot taken by a short-lived Mongolian grill. First impressions of OZ, for those of us who live sheltered lives in Tauranga, are of a mix of restaurant, lounge, bar and, er...
Aaron’s concept for Orange Zephyr was formed from ‘bits and pieces’ he’s seen in dance clubs, restaurants and wherever, on his travels. But however you title it, OZ rather defeats attempts to pigeon-hole it.

First, there are those orangey tonings that hint at the 70’s. Then there are the comfy green chairs, which look straight out of your auntie’s lounge in Otaki in the 60’s. It’s no wonder, as Aaron notes, that elderly women have warmed to their traditional teacup collection. If you want to tap a laptop, there’s wi fi. But OZ is kid friendly too, with children’s books in abundance. In fact, the menus are tucked into the front of children’s books, as one of the many quirky touches.

A Melbourne-trained chef (who grew up in Tauranga), he’s not the sort to name brazenly name-drop, but we can. He has worked in Noosa and London – where he toiled in some of Jaimie Oliver’s restaurants, and places like the renowned Wopping Food restaurant in the Wopping Project – a former hydraulic power station.

Orange Zephyr has a modern menu complete with veggie and gluten-free options. The food starts at bar snack level and runs to the likes of ‘Baby Seafood Antipasto’ at $14, and ‘Baby Eggplant Parmigiano’ at $10.50.  Don’t expect the ordinary here; you’ll get Aaron’s ‘spin on classic and eclectic dishes,’ which has been called an exotic collection of local, European and Asian influences. 
The mains range from $16 to $26 - for the likes of Oven Roast Venison Potato Galette, Braised Red Cabbage, Black Currant Jus. The ‘Afters’ begin at $5.50 with a Classic Ice Cream Sundae, if you want to wallow in a bit of Kiwi nostalgia. My excellent Atomic coffee really tweaked some deeply-buried memories, when it arrived with one of those confectionary cigarettes we used to pretend to smoke as kids.

Orange Zephyr is a fully licensed bar, with a selection of New Zealand wines, imported and Kiwi-made beers, spirits and the organic Phoenix fruit drinks.
Expect something different when you step in, says OZ, and that will run to retro movie nights screening stuff like Rocky Horror, the films beamed onto one wall from a projector. Wednesday features jazz from 8pm with the excellent Trevor Braunias Trio, and other local musicians and DJ’s will also be brought in. But Aaron says the emphasis will be on acoustic ‘left of centre’ tunes, and you certainly won’t hear cover bands.      

BoTCom reckons this a most pleasing place that easily lives up to a catchline of ‘comfortable surrounds, a relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff.’ But it’s also in Aaron’s words, off the beaten track with plenty of character. Oh, and the reviewers that preceded us are right about the food –  delectable. 
OZ is open for lunch Tuesday to Sunday, and dinner Wednesday to Saturday. Tel 571 6743.

Rosie O’Grady’s Irish Pub
Rosie’s is ‘The Strand’s first authentic Irish bar,’ and decked out with such attention to detail, it must bring a tear to the odd homesick Irishman who drops in for a wee drop of whisky on a raw night.   

The short entrance hallway rather lacks character, so it’s a pleasant surprise to step into the bar itself – with its cheery, woody ambience and all sorts of Irish trappings from posters to 19th century bric-a-brac of the tobacco tin variety.

Not surprisingly, brands of ‘finest Irish whisky’ features prominently - on posters and shields hung on the walls. With a little searching, you’ll spot more serious posters that depict Irish writers, and music. Large wooden Guiness barrels lend another nice touch of Irishness.

The first Rosie’s was established at Rata Street at Mount Maunganui three years ago.
Owner of new Rose’s franchise, Stefan Burt, says it’s already made its mark with Irish locals who come for a ‘little part of Ireland.’  Irish travellers staying at the backpackers next door also call in.    
 
Irish nationals working in the bar, helps deliver some authenticity, Stefan explains, but to be sure, that’s not all. The pub plays a range of Irish music and even the Wednesday quiz night, is led by an Irishman.

Naturally, Rosie’s serves up some traditional brews in the form of Guiness and Kilkenny on tap. And the pub stocks a range of good Irish whiskeys. Like all good watering holes, there’s a happy hour – or in this case hours – Friday evening from 4pm to 7pm.

You’d expect a menu with some good meaty Irish dishes, and Rosie’s doesn’t disappoint. Mains range from just over $14 to $23.50 for the salmon fillet. Beef and Guiness Stew is popular, and no wonder at $14.50, while Bangers and Mash will set you back just $12.50.

If it’s just a quiet drink yer wantin’, at the far end of the bar is the modern rendition of an old pub’s fireplace, complete with a family crest.

Rosie’s deserves to do well, with an interesting bar and famous Irish friendliness. It’s a bar that provides for a bit more ethnic variety on The Strand, that’s already well served, some would say, with mock-British pubs. 

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