Saturday, 13 December 2014


I went to Federal St Delicatessen tonight for a quick meal and a couple of glasses of wine.

I've been there before. The food is good and the wine list above average.

This is another of Al Brown's outlets so you'd expect the standards to be pretty high.

To be honest, both times I've been there it was second choice after The Depot one or two doors along. This is Al Brown's primary establishment and it is always crowded. No matter what time of day you go there you end up queing. I don't queue so went next door.

Federal Street deli is loosely modeled after the North American city delis. I've been to various ones in Chicago, NYC and Toronto and tehy are generally great. Busy, cheap with reliable food.

Federal is reasonably busy (not as much as the Depot), the food better than the North American delis but not cheap.

What's been lost in translation is the value concept of the deli. They exist in USA and Canada because they are a quick and cheap alternative to restaurant dining. What is being done here is the 'romantic' concept of the diner is being presented as if it was fine dining which it's not.

Mars diner Toronto

Federal Street Diner is getting 5 star reviews which, on the food and service it deserves but:

When ordering a super premium wine at super premium prices - between $14 and $20  a glass do you want it served in this?

I know that it is all part of the deli style but, put bloody orange juice in it not a decent wine that needs to be savoured.

Also, being squeezed into a booth or pressed up against the cooking area ( a small perspex shield separates the diners at the counter from the chefs in the kitchen) might impart a sense of "being part of the action" as my waitress told me, but at normal restaurant prices I think I'd rather the action was being done elsewhere and I was given a bit of space and peace.

The wines I had tonight were pretty good - Kumeu River Chardonnay 2012 and Greenhough Nelson Pinot Noir 2012. They were both served in the ridiculous tumblers. The Chardonnay was properly chilled but the Pinot Noir was overly warm.
If the resataurant/bar area is too warm from the exposed kitchen then why the hell don't they put the red wines in the fridge?

OK, those are the gripes.
As said the food is pretty good - much better than a lot of the fancier restaurants around town,

Tonight I had Kawhai fish cakes and chips.
Last time I had veal schnitzel and salad.
I can't fault that.
The food came out smartly and perfectly as I was wanting a quick bite before going to Christmas in the Park at the Auckland Domain.

Now, while I'm complaining about the price vs the ambience I have to say that while the US and Canadian joints are cheaper there are a few differences.

  • Federal Street Delicatessen food is better
  • Prices include GST whereas the North american set-up is that taxes (up to 18%) get added to the bill
  • Tipping is pretty much mandatory which is 15% to 20%
  • USD is 30% more than ours
This means that the $52 I spent on food and wine, in USA/Canada might have been $35 plus 30% plus 15% plus 20% or about NZD 63.00 equivalent. Maybe it's not so bad after all.

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