The Pear Tree, Kerikeri, Northland, New Zealand

The Pear Tree restaurant is located at 215 Kerikeri Road. It is in a lovely location, overlooking the Kerikeri estuary on one side and the old Stone Store on the other. The Stone Store dates from the 1830s and the restaurant takes its name from a pear tree which apparently was planted in 1819 by the Christian Missionary Samuel Marsden and is New Zealand’s oldest (see the website for further information).

I’m always a bit suspicious of restaurants which are in a beautiful location or an historic or odd building. The Tugboat on the Bay in Wellington and a place in an old ship in Tairua are two which come to mind. Great building/views, but shame about the food. Four of us dined at The Pear Tree on 28 December 2014 and all four of us found it acceptable – but only just. It was certainly just another eating place and not somewhere special. Location 9/10; food and service 6/10. The oddest thing that evening was the “summer vegetable” – battered fried eggplant, which was chewy and … fatty. Where were the beans, the courgettes, the other many possible contenders for light, well-prepared “summer vegetables”?

Pear Tree

The Seafood Chowder was available as an entree ($12) or a main ($18.50). It was described on the menu thus (capitalisation reproduced): “Classic Creamy Chowder with Mussels, Prawns, Smoked Fish & Salmon. Served with Fresh Homemade Bread.” I have to say I don’t like salmon, and I don’t think it really belongs in seafood chowder. The Pear Tree chowder had a reasonably sized glob of salmon plonked right in the middle of the bowl, alongside a mussel in a shell. “Yes, it has salmon. Check. Yes, it has mussels. Check.” The salmon wasn’t really integrated with the rest of the dish. The temperature was good but overall the chowder was thin and didn’t have a rich taste – and it certainly wasn’t “creamy” as claimed by the menu. Some bits of mussel were present, along with a few prawns and some small chunks of smoked fish. Grated bits of carrot and chopped parsley also lurked in the depths. Overall, it was like The Pear Tree: Adequate. I gave the chowder 6 out of 10. Not all that bad, but there are lots of restaurants and cafes all around New Zealand which turn out a much superior chowder.

The accompanying bread was excellent. Freshly baked, two types and of sourdough-like consistency. It wasn’t toasted, but was a delight to eat. They can’t really produce top quality seafood chowder, but their bread is good.

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