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March 14, 2011 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

What’s For Lunch?

Finding food on Kelburn campus can be a chore. The range was never great, but now that a number of favourites—Galleria, Mount Street—have been demolished in favour of newer, more exciting developments, we’re even more pressed for places to source sustenance. Or are we?

Food outlets on Kelburn campus seem to be coming and going like taxis, so let’s assess our options. What’s the deal with The Hunter Lounge? And those kiosk things in the Old Kirk courtyard that seemed to surface overnight? Where’s the best coffee on campus? And what’s next in store?

vicbooks, Level 4, Student Union Building

What Victoria University says: vicbooks serves fair-trade organic People’s Coffee and selected cold drinks. Also available are hearty sandwiches, home-style baking, and a sophisticated take on the humble sausage roll.
What Salient says: There are a wide range of coffee and tea options available, ranging between $3.20 and $4.40 in price. There are also organic Phoenix juices for sale at $3.50. Food’s mostly cold snack/lunch food, such as biscuits, scones, croissants, rolls, bagels and chocolate cake—but it depends on the time of day you go, because they add new options during the day. There are vegetarian sandwiches on offer, as well as gluten-free cakes and slices. Prices range from $1.70 for a small biscuit to $7.50 for a sandwich, neither of which offer great value for money. The croissants, however, are full to the brim, and the chocolate cake is worth $6, even for a small slice, because it’s freshly-made and tastes great. Hot drinks are well-priced, as cups are filled to the brim, and well-made—points awarded for the delicious People’s Coffee, as well as a customer card that rewards their regulars. EFTPOS and service is fast—the whole transaction takes less than 30 seconds, though the coffee can take a while when there are a lot of customers. There’s a constant stream of people coming in and out, but the place gets crowded fast: there’s not a great deal of space, and limited seating, but the helpful and friendly staff deal with queues quickly.
The highs: The best coffee on campus
The lows: Counter food lacks variety and can be over-priced
Good for: Students who value their coffee and fair trade

The Hunter Lounge, Level 3, Student Union Building

What Victoria University says: The Hunter Lounge is the new café/bar and gig space in the revamped Union Hall and has counter food and a short-order menu with strong vegetarian and vegan offering. The café seats 350. A mezzanine floor has cosy couches and tables ideal for studying or cloud-gazing.
What Salient says: No-one was screwing around when they put the Hunter Lounge together: why so serious? Utility’s the theme, and with its formidable stage area, floor space and a décor that would suit anyone’s bar mitzvah, they hit a high note. The lunch menu screams one things to me: serious, serious, serious. Balinese chicken wings? Lebanese cauliflower? Octopus dumplings? You get the impression that the Lounge is trying to be a tad too mature, and with the steep prices (the Hunter’s ‘sausage in a bun’ is $7, the same price as a Subway foot long), it’s just a straight-up hard sell. Ranging between $3 and $6.50, the snacks on display on the bar are better value, though some have been known to be left uncovered, perhaps enabling patrons to share their summer colds with the rest of the student body. The Hunter Lounge seems to have multiple personality disorder. During the day, the atmosphere’s rather saccharine, with easy-listening music playing to encourage relaxation, and this works out quite well. At nighttime, however—when the place runs out of Prozac—it’s much busier, giving the place more of a Hotel Bristol vibe. So, when timing your visit, just remember to choose between study-by-day or whoosh-crikey! fun by night. As for service, the staff are friendly and chatty, but the wait for your order can be lengthy, especially during the lunchtime rush. The final impression you get is that the Hunter Lounge is trying to find a niche as a serious establishment, and is willing to die trying. Yes, the cuisine sticks out like a folk singer at a Dragonforce gig, and the service and atmosphere need fine-tuning, but it’s busting ass to please anybody that walks in the door.
The highs: Swiss Gold coffee in cute takeaway cups (kittens! bunnies!), flash new surrounds
The lows: Long wait for food and coffee at peak times, incongruous menu options
Good for: A social snack when you’ve got time to kill

UniStop, Easterfield Building

What Victoria University says: On the press release Salient received… nothing.
What Salient says: UniStop is the famed one-stop shop on Kelburn Parade that’s just about legendary to Vic students looking for a decent, fast food supply. It’s packed between noon and 2pm, with queues often extending out the door as students wait to buy a quick snack in between lectures—and that lunchtime rush is just what this place is stocked up for. They have a huge variety of packaged junk food (noodles, chips, biscuits, pies, and a remarkable selection of vege crisps) for pretty decent prices. The hot food, which includes wedges and curries, looks nauseating but tastes surprisingly satisfying, and it’s cheap. For what you get, UniStop prices appear to be respectable—especially for someone who’s craving fatty foods. Healthy and vegetarian options (sushi, salads, sandwiches, pasta) are considerably more expensive, but they are on offer, which is terrific. Drinks are on the pricier side, but there’s a sweet selection of sports waters, juices and milk-y Primo stuff. There’s a good range of cheap, hot drinks—the taste of the coffee is a different story, but it’s cheap and the service is fast, so it’s tolerable. Be warned, though: paying by EFTPOS is a time-consuming encounter, and the staff have a habit of holding onto your card for too long; it’s easy to forget to get it back off them.
The highs: The range, the cheap-ish prices
The lows: The queues at peak times, paying more for healthy options
Good for: Students for whom convenience comes first

The Illot café, Kirk

What Victoria University says: The Illot café is tucked into a corner with views down onto Kelburn Parade. Go there for hot food including fried rice, noodles and hot chips; self-service lunch options; milkshakes and fair-trade organic coffee.
What Salient says: The Illot café specialises in self-service hot and cold meals, as well as takeaway options. On offer are stir-fried noodles, rice and vegetables, deep-fried fish, wedges, hot chips, chicken, baked pies and sausage rolls. It’s mostly deep- or stir-fried fast food, which is popular for students in a rush between classes. Employer Gino says all the food’s cooked in soy and canola oil for the healthy option, and that the food is freshly prepared everyday, as turnover is high. The menu is also seasonal, and changes on a regular basis. Gluten- or lactose-free students might want to be aware that their choice is limited, but Gino says that there always at least four vegetarian options on offer. The café is buzzing with students coming from lectures nearby; not many sit in the café itself, but take their food to go. The takeaway meals are all under $10, while cold food such as tuna sandwiches, filled rolls, breads, cakes and slices range from $1 to $5. Coffee and cold drinks range from $3 to $5. The service is good; the queue seems to go down moderately after five to ten minutes. Most people use EFTPOS which is one reason for the queue.
The highs: Cheap, filling meals
The lows: The atmosphere doesn’t invite one to linger
Good for: Students whose hunger exceeds their means

Wishbone, Alan McDiarmid Building

What Victoria University says: Wishbone offers fresh self-service food for busy people who want to eat well. The broad menu samples from many cultures and includes something for every time of day. Gluten-free, dairy-free and meat-free options are available.
What Salient says: Wishbone, which is right smack-bang in the middle of the Science and Engineering sector of Kelburn, is the closest thing you’ll get to a professional café on campus. There are tables in abundance, so there’s always a place to sit, and the atmosphere is the same as if you entered a Wishbone on Lambton Quay. A large fridge that dominates one wall is exploding with enough healthy options to make the Cookie Monster weep into his dough. Nothing is excluded—this is the place to be if you’re a vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, or just a healthy eater. Healthy hot food is also on offer, with the options changing regularly. Unfortunately, the prices are staggering, ranging from $5 for a basic hot meal to a whopping $15 for a takeaway heat-and-eat. Coke and the like are also stocked, but can be bought elsewhere at a minimum cost. In short, Wishbone won’t be your cup of soy milk if keeping to a budget is your goal. Interestingly, its location works against it: most students will have to go out of their way to venture to Wishbone, and so, only serious students with work to do ‘relax’ there, which makes it feel a little less accessible than the other cafés on campus. With its wide range of healthy options and takeaway meals, this is a culinary hotspot, but be prepared to dig deep into your pocket; it’s the richer, post-grad connoisseur that frequents this hard-line café.
The highs: A wide range of options that meet all dietary requirements
The lows: The price. $15 for a heat-and-eat?
Good for: Students with sensitive stomachs


About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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