Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books


6 June 2013


June 2013

Occasionally a restaurant opens that is a game changer. With a Pacific/Chinese menu, cheerful atmosphere, intriguing décor and snappy service The Blue Breeze Inn fired from the moment it opened the doors on to Ponsonby Rd. Everybody wants a table and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re young, middle-aged or old, real estate agents, car salesmen or straight from Mad Men. It suits everyone and there’s even a little high chair, for heaven’s sake.

Mark Wallbank, fast becoming the most innovative and influential restaurateur in the area, has managed to grab the lead and the limelight again. He was famously involved with the popular café Blake St and Rocco, and then morphed the latter into MooChowChow, introducing diners to an eclectic take on Thai fare. And now his Blue Breeze Inn. If you’re going there, make sure your diction is careful and exact. My friend looked in vain for the ’Blueberries’ Inn until it dawned on her where she was supposed to meet me!

I loved the array of Chinese-influenced appetisers including some pretty smart dumplings. The pork and prawn shumai were tasty, a tad solid perhaps, but I liked that. There are soup dumplings xiao long bao that explode in your mouth with a rush of hot salty soup, some even arriving bathed in a tasty pork and black truffle soup that maybe the most comforting thing in the world on a chilly wintry day.

The prawn har gau are light and fluffy, and the barbecued pork buns were so good I had to order another; soft silky dough, folded over and stuffed with a piece of marinated pork with crispy, fatty skin that crackled in my mouth with an accompanying smear of sweet spicy sauce, a couple of sliced of pickled cucumber and a wisp of lettuce had me swooning. Forget all those oh-so-fashionable sliders round the rest of the city and head for these amazing treats.

Other appetisers we’ve tried that stood out were the bang bang chicken - a cold yet spicy plateful of deliciousness; a pile of freshly spiced and smoked fish, redolent of five spice, ginger and shallots; and some extraordinary tea smoked duck breast, arranged in a circle of overlapping pieces with some pickled cabbage and mustard cress to cut the fattiness. You can eat your away through this section of the menu, be perfectly satisfied and not blow the bank.

However that would be a shame to restrict dining to appetisers only for there are more fancy and wonderful things for those with ’big appetites’.
Che Barrington is the talented chef in charge of the kitchen, and has a veritable army of workers crammed in there. He’s the proud owner of a battery of new kitchen equipment to produce such a varied menu, and in particular one enormous ’duck oven’ with a shiny hood where the whole roasted Chinese ducks hang and cook until the skin is a deep lacquered brown. This is another not-to-be-missed treat on the menu, along with another duck dish - crispy skinned portions that have been deep-fried and rolled in Sichuan pepper, chillies and cumin. As they say, finger-lickin’ good!

I also love the generous portion of steamed fish fillets with black bean and shaoxing wine, the wok fried green beans and chunks of tender eggplant, and a very black peppery pickled cabbage and coriander salad. It’s all great.

The wine list takes us around the world, although the husband, with pretty set drinking habits (he knows what he likes ’ chardonnay most of the time) lamented the lack of local chardys on the list by the glass. Is Ponsonby an ABC zone? Better then to settle for the gorgeous house made ginger beer, or a cooling lager to match the zesty, zingy food. Even perhaps, an exotic cocktail.

Occupying a long thin corner site, there’s plenty of natural light, big windows that will allow the blue breeze in on warmer days and some terrific décor that conjures up the Pacific Rim. I especially love the gabion of coconuts, the large solid wooden bar to perch at and the brightly coloured cushions everywhere. And with Mark Wallbank at the helm, rushing all over the place all the time, of course the service was swift and personable.

Situated on the corner of Ponsonby Rd and Brown St, The Blue Breeze Inn is officially part of Ponsonby Central, but luckily has its own entrance and balcony. I say luckily, as all the pizzazz of the market place disappears into the evening when those vast spaces feel very empty. I predict it will be months, if ever, that this snazzy restaurant suffers that sort of fate. 146 Ponsonby Rd, T 09 360 0303

  • First published Ponsonby News
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