Friday, February 27, 2009
#635 ... Ernestos in the HB Building
Hallenstein Bros. Building, Cnr Cuba and Ghuznee Sts.
Bendix Hallenstein opened the first Hallenstein Bros. retail clothing shop in Dunedin in 1873 and by 1900 there were 36 branches throughout the country. This branch was opened in 1920 and remained on the site until 1973. Note the company's emblem "HB" on the fanlight windows under the veranda roof. During the 70s and 80s this was the home of Crazy Rick's general hardware store .. they imported cheaper south east asian and chinese tools of all descriptions ... before The Warehouseentered the market. The Crazy Cafe was here for many years after that and has only in the last few years changed to "Ernesto's Cafe"
Review of Ernestos
Oddly reminiscent of the 1950’s style of shop still found in country towns like Waimate for example, Ernesto’s & its leadlight windows with the beautifully intact HB Clothing Factory wording inset were what attracted me as I slowly weaved my way along Cuba Street on the day of the Carnival. That and the fact that the café was packed when I walked past the evening before…….which I took as a good sign.
Inside on this hot and steamy day I plonked myself down at a table for two along the side wall with an unusual, entire room length 1.7 metre tall backed bench seat. I was promptly attended to by one of the busy staff who brought a bottle of cool, much appreciated water to my table.
The café was running to capacity and the waiters met the challenge admirably I thought. The soup of the day, pumpkin, lentil & ginger didn’t take long to arrive and was average to good with a somewhat gigantic, fist-sized slab of herb bread on the side.
I was more interested in getting the steamed mussels with white wine, garlic and thyme (a mere $14)but these were again average to good only and certainly not outstanding. They were accompanied by another boulder of bread. Perhaps I’ve been too spoilt in Golden Bay……..
The noise of the other customers in this café was so great that the music playing over the sound system was nothing more than a muffled cacophony of clatter and pulse. Easily forgiven, however, as it was after all Carnival day in Cuba St.
Before having to queue up along with new arrivals(for 10 minutes) and people ordering and paying for takeout food as the waitress advised that if I wasn’t paying cash she couldn’t take my card at the table, I needed to visit the Necessarium. These facilities were despicably dirty and featured an overflowing waste bin with paper towels spilling out over the damp, smelly floor. Notwithstanding that this was possibly the busiest day of the year for anyone trading on Cuba Street, the Carnival is an annual event so crowds should be expected, and a business offering toilet facilities needs to take steps to ensure than someone on the staff is allocated the job of maintaining the standards of hygiene in the ablutions area. I’m glad I didn’t have to sit down…………
Ernesto’s offered great atmosphere and a hint of excitement but I suspect this was more to do with everything else going on in the town than their efforts. Nonetheless, I will probably look in again when next in Wellington when things are a little more relaxed