Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On culinary catastrophes

Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ) chief executive Bruce Robertson today urged New Zealanders to travel within their own country this holiday season, to counteract the drop in the number of foreign tourists.

His call followed the release of Statistics New Zealand’s (SNZ) accommodation survey for September, which showed total guest nights at 2.2 million - down 5 percent from September 2007.

I'm not surprised by the fall. Tourism was bound to suffer as a result of the credit crisis/financial meltdown (or whatever you like to call it). And I'm happy to report that I have already made reservations for our upcoming summer holiday, which will see us travel to Wanganui, New Plymouth, Stratford, and back to Palmerston North.

I would be even happier if I could say I were confident of finding food of an acceptable standard at every stop. Two years ago, in Te Anau, one of the premier destinations for tourists in the South Island, the food was so bad that we stopped dining in restaurants and bought buns and rolls from a bakery.

Two years before that, I took my mother-in-law and her sister to the Duxton Hotel in Wellington for a couple of nights. For those who have never been to New Zealand's capital city, the Duxton is one of the poshest, most expensive hotels in town.

The dining room had a suitably refined atmosphere. The menu was also impressive, with lots of those almost incomprehensible French names for dishes. But the soup, when it came, was atrocious. It both looked and tasted like lukewarm gray sludge. And the rest of the meal was almost as bad. In fact, it was so bad that we didn't dine at the Duxton the next night. We went around the corner to the next hotel, only to find that the food was not much better.

I could go on. My list of culinary catastrophes in New Zealand is almost endless. Oh to be in Melbourne again, where we had excellent meals wherever we went - even in a rather prosaic food court.

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