Back to the Nineties
Ye-Gon: I’m not one of these Kiwi kids that have childhood memories of the local Breakers or Cobb & Co, but I’d like to think I have a pretty good understanding of the fond nostalgia (or PTSD depending on who you ask) that surrounds these vestiges of the nineties and noughties. I’ve been to their old hangout next to Garden Place exactly three times, and all three times I remember dry meat offset by runny mash, accompanied by bottled sauce.
And so it was with mixed emotions that, a good few years after they shut the shop where The Quad now occupies, I found out they were moving into an empty spot along Bryce Street outside Centre Place with a fresh new look to boot. The décor appeared to be cheerful and bright, the menu comfy and predictable. But the memories of their cooking – or lack thereof – kept me away, until my parents decided to take Natalia and I out for lunch this afternoon. And mother being mother, having bought up the vouchers for burgers and fries at none other than Breakers, decided we should give the place a try. $9 for burger and fries isn’t bad, and we were now going to find out if the facelift came with a revamp in the kitchen as well.
Natalia: The service represented the typical Kiwi attitude of being way chill, to the point that you’re not sure if you’re speaking to an employee or you have mistaken a diner and they’re just too polite to tell you. Not exactly fine dining first class experience but fine if you just want a relaxing afternoon lunch.
Ye-Gon: The onion rings have a little bite to them. They’re not raw, and they’re not mushy like so many restaurants that mess them up. Perfectly cooked, it’s a shame that the oil’s not drained all that well. The mushrooms have an American chicken-fry-style breading that work surprisingly well to trap all the juice of the portobello pieces. Can’t fault the seasoning on either. They come with an obligatory pile of greens. They look and taste rather fresh, and come with some dressing out of a jar. That’s fine by me; it’s there just to send a message that you’re in the business of fresh. If you want a proper salad with house-made dressing and all the trimmings, you’re probably at the wrong establishment.
Natalia: The bathrooms had clearly been “renovated” so that three cubicles had been squeezed into a space that was only supposed to fit two.They were painted dark purple, which unfortunately only added to my growing sense of claustrophobia. Some customers may have trouble squishing through the small gap between the door and the sink. Having bathrooms is nice but it’s no good if you can’t get into them.
Ye-Gon: Then the burgers. We got a fish, a crispy chicken, a pulled pork, and a regular cheeseburger. Regular buns nicely toasted, salad again fresh, and a generous serving of chips to accompany each. The fish and chicken have the same batter/breading as the onions and mushrooms respectively, and having nailed this part pays dividends. They’re the two standout burgers with glassy skin and juicy meat, though they could be more generous with the tartare, and sweet chili on crispy chicken seems a bit too much of a throwback to the days yonder. Pulled pork tastes like the ready-to-serve vacuum packs with a sauce that will take any diabetic to eleven, but the lightly grilled onions go some way to remedy it. (This was advertised as “caramelised” onions, but thank Lord it wasn’t.) A regular beef patty shouldn’t be that hard to make and keep in house, but unfortunately, it’s one of those pre-made Salisbury steak type of deal with bits of onions. A burger should have some bite and juice in it, but a teething baby could chew and swallow what was in that patty.
Natalia: The burger was meh. Not good, not bad, just average. So all in all pretty consistent with how I remember it, but is it enough that the food is just not terrible? Shouldn’t we be striving for more? The fries on the other hand! Oh the fries! They were like the deep fried tears of an angel. Chrispy and textured on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Good enough to even rival the fries from Jester’s (which I consider the best fast food fries.)
Fill you your belly with fries and beer, empty your bladder at home.
They still hit the mark on (most of) the basics and things that matter, and skimp out in (mostly) the right places, all for a pretty reasonable price, but is it enough?
Ye-Gon: So that’s what we have. An actual, normal, regular bar, when every other place either gentrifies into a gastropub, or winds down into a chips-and-frozen-pies menu. They still hit the mark on (most of) the basics and things that matter, and skimp out in (mostly) the right places, but is it enough? Their value proposition starts to diminish when you take into account that they normally charge around double for a burger and fries, and what you get at other places for a similar amount of damage to your wallet.
Breakers/Jandal Bar is located on Bryce Street in the CBD. They’re open every day from 11am till late.