Aside from the awesome decor, the first sign of a good eatery came when all of us were wracked with indecision over what to have. Mr Cake's dad decided fairly quickly that he would have the burger, but the rest of us were wavering - over four or five choices each! - and had a hard time settling on one dish.
Eventually we placed our orders. Mine was a very last-minute decision - though I was helped by two of my shortlist items being chosen by the others (illogically, even when I'm not sharing food I tend to try to order different dishes from others I'm with) - and the wait was a bit on the long side, but our meals were well and truly worth waiting for.
Mr Cake's mum chose the gnocchi, which was soft and pillowy and the bolognaise sauce was gorgeously rich - real comfort food, excellently done (the serving was perhaps a little on the small side - but at least they didn't fall into the serve-three-times-as-much-because-it's-pasta trap). Mr Cake's roast pumpkin, chorizo and chevre salad was delicious - probably not my pick of the bunch but only because everything else was so good! The pumpkin was lovely, and the whole thing vanished pretty quickly, which is always a good sign.
Mr Cake's dad chose the slightly famous Ali Ba Ba burger, which I had been eyeing up, thus helping me become a little more decisive, and I was pretty jealous when it arrived - the fried Kefolagraviera cheese (a salty sheep's milk cheese) and pulled lamb shoulder looked fabulous and were well enjoyed. The fries, while clearly not the focal point of the dish, were perfectly cooked, which is a disappointingly rare occurrence.
My lamb sweetbreads (not something I am in the habit of ordering, but you have to try these things) was a great lunch - tender, succulent meat delicately seasoned - and the green capsicum and potato hash not only satisfied my carb cravings but also carried a great flavour; I was really impressed that I could taste the capsicum, I admit I expected it to be just a few flecks of green amongst the spud. A great meal!
I can also heartily endorse their fabulous hot chocolates, which I sampled the last time I was here, with a group of fellow foodies - they remain the best hot chocolate I've tried in Wellington. Sadly Saturday was a bit too tropical to feel like a hot choc day.
I definitely recommend Duke Carvell's - it was a lovely lunch, and very reasonably priced for such good food. Next time: definitely the burger. And hot chocolate.
What's your strategy for choosing food when there are too many excellent-sounding options on a menu?
Duke Carvell's is located at 6 Swan Lane (off Cuba Street), Wellington, ph 04 385 2240, dukecarvells.co.nz