“Epic water fail!” the waiter said. If only the water was the only fail encountered that evening. It was, however, entertaining. Not the kind of entertaining that makes you think “I must come back for more”, more like the “I so have to tell someone” kind of entertaining.

So, I’ll tell you.

Rockefeller has an austere appeal about it, a self-conscious cool like the fashion boutiques my daughter’s mum loves: retail outlets that I never warmed in, as I sat smiling and mumbling my non-committal appreciation of whatever she was making look fabulous. She has that gift, to make any damn thing look sophisticated and cool.

Rockefeller doesn’t have that gift.

As soon as diners arrive Rockefeller makes a lunge for it. Every new arrival is greeted along the lines of “We are a champagne bar,  champagne specials up here and our oyster board there.”  It’s the delivery less assured, than smug.

If you ask them anything but the most rudimentary question about their champagnes specials, it throws them off their sophistication, which is a shame because they have an impressive selection by the glass that they could easily up sell. I counted eight in addition to the aforementioned specials.

Quiz them on the oysters, though. Their knowledge is as impressive as the oysters themselves; I had three types, served naturally and promptly on a shiny platter ($36 for 6). Delicious, deftly delivered, expertly explained, and very well done.


The wine list is less well done. They may have gone substantially French, but list nothing sufficiently unique to justify an immense carbon shadow from source to my table.

I had the Denis Race 2013 Chablis, $15, crisp and unremarkable, but it was hampered by a frigid serving temperature. My mate fared better with her Hopes Grove Hawkes Bay Viognier 2014, valued at $11 and a perfect option to lead pinot gris drinkers to new water.

I had tap water and my mate had sparkling. Antipodes as per usual. Her glass topped, the bottle was placed far above our heads atop the toweringly backed bench seats. Well out of reach to anyone but the tip-toeing waiter and, it would transpire, also out of his mind.

Conversation intensified, controversy and creativity unfurled, so a glass of something bolder was sought; Rippon Mature Vine Riesling 2012 ($15), a vibrant and rewarding wine that takes the mind from the complexity of the day into a more rewarding type, followed by the terrifically earthy, yet enticingly perfumed Clos Marguerite Marlborough Pinot Noir ($18). More food was ordered. Sliders – beef or crab $10 ea, $18 for 2. They never arrived.

“Excuse me, what happened to our food?”

And here begins the fail.

“I’ll just go and see,” he said, returning rapidly to inform us that our dishes would be some time yet, but were assuredly on their way.

“You didn’t order it, did you?” I asked.

“Er, no.”

“That’s fine. We’ll cancel it, thanks – just the bill.”


I hadn’t warmed to the lunging superiority and was eager to return to the chill of the windswept six lane road outside. But he was back, telling us excitedly that he could have our food with us in under two minutes.

“Well, thank you,” I conceded.

“Good save,” my buddy said, as her water was topped up. Tap, which I was enjoying but unfortunately wasn’t her choice.

“Hers is up there, remember?” I said, pointing skyward to her water on it’s Rockefeller tower-like vantage point.

“Epic water fail!” He said with a laugh, replacing her glass and half-filling a fresh one with what remained.

Not really epic, I thought, don’t be too hard on yourself. But he had epic on-hand, as he delivered our  swiftly-cooked sliders.

“Well done,” my ever upbeat mate said as the dishes arrived, “that was impressively fast.”

“Yeah,” the waiter replied, “these were meant to be our staff meals.”


And off he huffed into his hipster mo and snug winter knits.

How we laughed! Sort of.

I hope that you are laughing, or chuckling at least.  Maybe you’re not and I hope you’re not going to order the sliders either. They were terrible, greasily overdone evidence that Rockefeller really ought to feed their staff better.

They should probably train them better too.


What: Rockefeller
Where: 104 Fanshawe St
Contact: 09 379 4209 rockefelleroysterbar.co.nz

About The Author

Timothy Giles

Timothy known as Giles, drinks. He does other things, runs, swims and rides unfeasibly long distances, probably to make up for the drinking. Oh and he's a gardener. He's into permaculture which reflects what he drinks most, which is organic, biodynamic and natural wines and craft brews. Giles eats too, but always has a drink to start.

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