FIFTEEN MINUTES into the lunch hour and the Blue Breeze Inn is well-stacked with patrons. This is what happens when you're the hottest ticket in town.And that's why we've delayed breezing in to The Blue Breeze - even though we know we will be in capable hands.This is the latest baby of one of Ponsonby's restaurant Godfathers: Mark Wallbank (Moo Chow Chow, nee Rocco; Ponsonby Road Bistro and Magnum before that; Blake St Cafe.)
But can he pull another rabbit out of the hat?
There's a sense of glad about this place, partly due to the sun-shiny bright weather outside. That the wait staff have clearly taken heed of whatever they've been told about solicitous and welcoming behaviour further warms things up.
Among those to attend to our table is Harold the Frenchman. Harold has a Masters degree in up-selling. He also bears an air of insouciance which is not out of place in these surrounds - even if you think it's a bit weird having a French waiter in a place boasting a predominately Chinese menu - with not an Asian face in sight in the open-to view kitchen. (Nor, for that matter, the dining area).
The menu offers the dishes big and small. A woman's heart sinks on learning that the dishes are for sharing. Too many flashbacks involving places that offered big plates, big prices and not a lot of food to go around.
We shall get the barbecued pork bun. Harold persuades us to do two. We add to that the five spice smoked fish. And the crispy duck. There's some pickled cucumber as a side and later we will add some rice.
The food arrives in no particular order. It is timed sharp enough to suit the suits who are watching their watches. It is pleasantly plated and there is (thankfully) a generosity about the serves.
The Blue Breeze Inn is not just hot as a destination; there's a preponderance of Sichuan pepper in lots of the dishes here. But don't say you weren't warned: they post such details on the menu.
We like these flavours. There's ample differentiation between each plate. We're a little overwhelmed by the unwieldy nature of the duck - you don't want to tackle that in public - but we have no other food quibble. These dishes are so lively and zest-filled you are moved to look more kindly on your world.
A pity it is lunchtime: we won't be availing ourselves of the wine list - despite the considerable beckon it holds in its breadth and imagination.
We won't be doing dessert either, in defiance of Harold's exhortations. But we will go back for a bigger night out.
The Blue Breeze Inn is street food at restaurant prices in bright and, er, breezy surrounds (save for the bathrooms which are trademark dark.) It's a safe place for people who take venue into account as much as the food within. The address adds more strength to the enclave that is Ponsonby Central. And that can only be for the good.
✪ Geraldine Johns
Where 146 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland. Phone (09) 360 0303
When Lunch: Tuesday - Sunday. Dinner seven days.
How much Small appetites $4 - $18. Big appetites $26 - $38. Sides $3 - $18. Dessert $10 - $15