Once upon a time, in the dark ages before The Strand became a bar and restaurant strip, and the epicentre of Tauranga’s downtown wining and dining, there was a dress shop where Vergo is now. It was the last of the die-hard retailers, clinging on against the odds where it didn’t belong anymore. Like it or not, urban growth trends in which like businesses cluster together has left The Strand food and drink premises shoulder to shoulder for at least two blocks (what is that dental clinic with the frightening big ‘happy tooth’ sign doing there?)
But enough of the urban growth theories and back to Vergo Bar and Restaurant - Meditteranean food with a touch of Turkish, as our excellent combined waitress/maitre d’ described it.
“Very reasonably priced” was one of my wife’s first comments after scanning the menu.
Best value for money perhaps comes in the set, three-course menu – entrée, main meal and dessert – for a minimum four people. The entrée is a platter of roasted aubergine, hummus and Tzaziki dips, deep fried spinach and feta parcels, mussels and pita bread. The main meal is char-grilled beef, shredded chicken cooked in tomato salsa, falafel, rice and salad. Dessert is a pistachio filo slice (served with optional apple tea). The set menu is priced at 34.90 per person, $10 cheaper for children aged 6 to 12.
Not quite that hungry, I ordered a calamari starter – that said good things about what would follow. The squid was fresh, firm but not chewy in a light and crunchy breadcrumb-type batter.
The main was a Seafood Pasta for $26.90. Not the cheapest seafood pasta in town but probably not the most expensive either, it came as a generous serving with plenty of scallops, shrimps, and marinara pieces, in a delectable, not- too-rich, creamy tomato pesto sauce.
The falafel my wife ordered, a dish that can be as dry and tasteless as a camel’s private parts, were moist and tasty. The vegetarian patties came on a bed of hummus with a side of green salad, pita bread wedges and vine leaves.
Vergo’s owner, Hazim Mekkey, a qualified civil engineer by trade, emigrated to New Zealand from Iraq 12 years ago, in search of a better life his family. He came to Tauranga from Hamilton where he ran Sahara Tent. Hazim’s twin brother works as a chef in the kitchen along with a Kuwaiti – just so you know this is not Kiwis-Do-Mediterranean Food.
Vergo décor thankfully makes a break away from the overblown sheik’s tent sort of clichéd décor you can get in such restaurants. The walls are deep maroon and black, with big mirrors, and the ceiling grey. There’s a long bar with low lighting and candles on tables add to the pleasant ambience.
Our charming waitress provided faultless, friendly, nothing-too-much trouble service and could possibly do with a pay rise Hazim. Vergo is a licensed restaurant with a not huge but perfectly adequate range of good, unpretentious Kiwi and imported wines.
We say try Vergo – at 81 The Strand (ph. 578 6610)