Accessibility Review: Cassia Restaurant

After years of being inundated with Asian Fusion cuisine, as if putting blue cheese inside a wonton was anyone’s idea of a good time, I’d been waiting patiently for someone to fuse two other equally incompatible ingredients. But as MooChowChow version 2, 3, and then 4 spawned on Ponsonby Road, I began to wonder if fusion was something you could only do with a wonton.

Well, it turns out the revelation of Indian fusion was under my nose the whole time. Specifically, about nine stairs under my nose, at Cassia, on Fort Lane in Auckland. The main door entry presents a steep flight of stairs, enough to put a slightly uncoordinated ambulant individual off, let alone someone who uses a wheelchair.

But that’s why we marry able-bodied people right? To dispatch as envoys to scope out the accessible entry we desperately hope exists. Considering this was a birthday outing, and we’d been gifted a fairly hefty voucher for the occasion, I really hoped Cassia was packing a wheelchair-accessible entry.

And they were! But — and isn’t there always a but — it went underground in a pretty dramatic way. Down Fort Lane we were led, turned left down a side alley, which plunged us deep within what might as well have been the catacombs of Auckland CBD. We snaked between some narrow rock walls, and left me briefly feeling like I was living the intrepid caving life that us disabled people only dream of.

We came upon a gate, adorned with a ‘wheelchair symbol’ sign, a visual cue that is equally reassuring and demoralising. “Yay, this is the way I go!” and also, “Explain to me again exactly why I have to go down this separatist, exclusionary route?”

Yeah, it’s complicated.

Once through the gate, we turned another rocky corner and almost collided with the wheelchair lift. It rose to a second level that I couldn’t see over, so I wasn’t sure what fate awaited us beyond the threshold. Was it the restaurant? Would I ever get there? Was it a trap? By this stage, I kinda hoped it was.

I boarded the platform lift. The only light of any note was a soft omniscient glow from above and a severely red LED on the control panel of the lift. I wasn’t sure what this meant, but red lights haven’t got a great rep when it comes to signalling the status of disability equipment.

“We got it fixed last week, so hopefully it works okay,” our guide said, reassuringly.
After a sharp jolt upon takeoff, the lift did indeed perform as expected, delivering me to what I hoped was the promised land of Indian fusion. Upon reaching the second level, I looked up and saw a door, through which were the unmistakable profiles of people tucking in to what I hoped had nothing to do with won-tons or blue cheese. The door opened, we were in, and friends: it was absolutely wonderful.

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Access to restaurant: “We got there, but it was a mish” – 3/5
Access within restaurant: “Tight. But I only had to ask one person to shuffle their seat in, which is actually not too bad” – 3/5
Accessible toilets: “No idea. I wasn’t willing to navigate a crowded restaurant to a potentially inaccessible restaurant. That said, they’d clearly gone to such lengths to provide an accessible entry, the toilet was probably quite good”
Food: “Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful” – 5/5
Service: “Okay. Lacking in quality banter, but that’s forgivable when the food is as good as it was”

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