Monday, December 13, 2004


So, a couple of weeks ago I was in Hamilton. I flew up on the Friday, picked up my nice wee bright yellow Lancer from the airport, went to the Youth Hostel to find that their office closed at 8:00. Stupid Hamilton Youth Hostel - why close so early? Stupid YHA booking office, as I'd told them I'd not be in town till after 8:00. In a slightly panicked state, I tripped up and down the main drag north looking for a likely looking cheap motel - plenty advertising cheap rates, weekend specials and the like but none actually putting their price out for the passing motorist to see. I then thought vaguely about driving to Cambridge, as they must have a backpacker's (in Hamilton, they are very thin on the ground, although I now know of another) before deciding that was stupid. Back in town, I checked out, and into, the Commercial Hotel - one which has long outlived its glory days but offers a main street address for $45. By this time, it was far too late to go out to Raglan to see Voom and the Shrugs, and I was too grumpy anyway, so I just bought some beer and a 28 day aged beef burger (!) and retired to my room. Not for long, as the blockaded Victoria Street I had encountered when driving in had a point: Hamilton was having a street party, complete with magicians, fire throwers, bands, bad comedians and crowds of people. Not in my honour, alas, but to welcome home Richard O'Brien and the unveling of the statue of Rifraf. Of course, I didn't know the WHY of this until the next day.

I also found the next day that some charming Hamiltonian had decided they didn't like bright yellow Lancers, and had chosen to make their feelings known by breaking off the wing mirror and leaving it dangling against the door. The nice folks at Mitsubishi Hamilton were kind enough to remove the mirror, but I got home to a bill from Avis for over $300 for the little plastic bit that connects mirror to car! I must look more closely at my contract, to see if it actually imposes liability on me. I rather suspect it does, as they're probably not too concerned as to why or how the car was damaged.

I spent the weekend with my mum in Taumarunui, which has lifted its game considerably in the last few years. It now boasts 3 "proper" cafes (i.e. with fully functioning espresso machines), although Flax wins hands down in terms of ambience, food, service and pretty much everything important about a cafe. My mum might even agree, even though a friend of hers owns one of the other cafes - the deciding factor for my mum being that she could order whiskey for lunch. We were both staggered by the changes wrought to the National Park Railway Station - which had been pretty rough and ready when it had changed from railway station to accomodation for pig hunters and the like. Now, it is a flash restaurant, with menu items topping $25, good coffee, a bar and lovely bittersweet chocolate on sale, made by Bennets of Mangawhai. My dad, who did a lot of the work on the first transformation, simply would not recognise the place now.

Back in Hamilton, having become accustomed to the finer things in life over my weekend of exploring King Country cafe culture, I could not lower myself to anything less than the Tainui Novotel. (Work was paying.) As befits a person who would stay at such a luxurious hostelry, my dinner that night was taken at the Narrows Inlet, a place which is possibly miles out in the country (I have reason to distrust the taxi company which took us out there). Being a fan of meat, I was pleased to have an entree of lamb followed by a main course of beef - two of the four essential food groups as far as I am concerned. The company was slightly elevated: several District Court Judges, two High Court, one Court of Appeal as well as a former deputy leader of the British labour party. In a nice piece of synergy, one dining companion told me of the best cafe in Hamilton (Scott's Epicure) and the one on my other side told me how the only fellow I went to law school with from Hamilton turned out to be having a spot of bother with the Law Society over some of his marketing techniques. By going into Scott's, I found my friend - he apparently runs his law practice from one of the tables there.

The actual reason for the visit, a meeting at the University, turned out to be pointless as within 7 minutes it was over. The taxi ride to the University was quite a bit longer than the meeting, a taxi ride in the self same taxi that had taken us to the dinner the night before. My colleagues (six of us went to the 7 minute meeting!) were commenting on how far out of town the University was but I found that when I was walking back, I walked a mere few blocks, turned a couple of corners and, what's this, its the Waikato River and downtown Hamilton.

Apart from the Commercial Hotel and Scotts Epicure, I must recommend Metropolis - I think it is one of Hamilton's earliest cafes, certainly when I was visiting my mum in hospital, it was the only one my feet found themselves making for. Years later, it is still going strong and serving humungous piles of good food - I had tuna and crab fritters which came with an interesting fresh corn salsa and about a gallon of salad. Not that I'd eat salad, of course.


Blogger Jessie said...

"...two of the four essential food groups as far as I am concerned."

Hahahaha that's funny. I finally saw the infamous Skeptics video a few weeks back when I got the new Flying Nun dvd. "We.. pack.. meat!!" Yuck.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Ooh, I need to get myself a copy of that Dvd. Although, it must be said, I bought a copy of the first one off someone on trademe several months ago and it has yet to be watched. Shocking.

10:22 PM  

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