foodiegemsofwellie

For interesting eating and drinking experiences around Wellington, NZ (and the greater region) – you can also catch Heather over at Know Wellington's Word on the Street Blog…

Advintage, Albarino & Viognier

I recently got to try an Albarino wine at a function, and took quite a fancy.

Advintage albarinoSo when given the opportunity to order a couple of bottles from Advintage to try out their online retail shop, I chose a one-off 2014 Gisborne Albarino by winemaker Rod McDonald, and a 2013 Hawkes Bay Quarter Acre Viognier, unknowingly also by Rod McDonald (if you go to their home page, you’ll see some interest categories at the top or go to the full wine list under ‘main menu’ further down).

Advintage are based in Havelock North but appear well connected to Wellington with folks like Ti Kouka, Floraditas, Sean Clouston of Logan Brown, and Whitebait among others all Twitter followers, and our own Martin Bosley providing a recipe of the week for their website (yes, it does change weekly, I checked).

Advintage boxSome pretty big claims are made around customer satisfaction and prompt service. I couldn’t fault the service as I ordered Saturday morning, the order was dispatched first thing Monday morning and arrived to my door in Wellington first thing Tuesday morning. And in good condition inside its well-designed protective packaging.

Their 4 point guarantee also states that if you buy wine which turns out not to your taste, they will collect any unopened bottles at their expense (cases obviously) and replace them or give you a refund. Not something I could test, but a strong statement about customer satisfaction.

Albarino cheesecakeSo to the Albarino with that gorgeous label. I first had it alone, and then accompanying some delicious Ti Kouka macadamia cheesecake (why wouldn’t you?). Alone it was minerally, lightly salty, drier than the previous one I’d tried, but once warmed to room temperature definitely a little tropical. Pretty much in line with the tasting notes then. I actually liked it more with the cheesecake, as it cut through the richness and the cheesecake moderated its dryness. Interestingly, hubby preferred it alone. Just goes to show how individual wine drinking is.

The Quarter Acre I chose because Viognier feels like it might be the new ‘pinot gris’, and I’d like to learn more about them. The ones I’ve had so far seem versatile for food matching, have a more satisfying finish than pinot gris, but not as florally pungent asAdvintage viognier gewurtz’s.

This one I enjoyed overall more than the Albarino, possibly because of its sweet fruitiness, and subtle hint of chardonnay in the finish. It worked for me both on its own and with a sweet chili, garlic and cashew chicken stirfry whipped up for dinner. The notes describe a fleshy wine with apricot, orange, ginger and subtle toasty flavours – yep, I’d agree with that. And it feels like it deserves its five stars and 18.5/20 from Raymond Chan.

All in all, Advintage delivered as promised, and I’ve hopefully added a little more knowledge to my wine arsenal. Thanks DGM.

Vatican

Vatican signVatican is the new Italian restaurant in the former Tap Haus premises (and former, former Curry House) on the corner of Victoria and Dixon.

Opened by Donna and Geoffrey (the founder of Prego in Auckland many moons ago), they draw their inspiration from Vatican City.  The high curved balustrades and spaciousness do lend a churchy feel, enhanced by plentiful candles and a large tapestry overseeing the bar like you might find in yesteryear times.

Vatican entryThey’ve chosen a logo with St Peter’s Square-style pillar markings, and have wisely affixed these to the windows at eating level so you don’t feel fishbowl-like. There was pleasant background music, some of it Italian and all of it relaxing, and for a big space on a cool evening, it was surprisingly warm inside.

The food is simple Italian, with the pizza and pasta pricing around $20, and the grill mains around the mid $20’s. The pasta involves choosing the type and sauce separately, which gives flexibility.

Vatican pizza breadBoth entrees (roast portabello mushrooms with baby spinach salad and the calamari) were fresh and plentiful, but could have used a little more seasoning.  We also somehow ended up with the pizza bread with garlic oil, which was a meal in itself at $6.50, and pleasingly puffy and rosemaryish.

Vatican entree

The pepperoni classic hot and spicy pizza was hoovered up and considered perfectly pleasant (that word keeps coming up doesn’t it?), but the fettuccine with bolognese was the one I went home with, both in my head and a doggy bag – al dente curled fettuccine with a tangy un-chunky (yay!) bolognese sauce well mixed through.

The Richland Shiraz 2013 house red was gentle and easy to imbibe, with a good smattering of other wines by the glass. The beers included a few locals (ParrotDog and Yeastie Boys) and a few internationals (Stella, Amstel Light, Kronerbourg).

Vatican pastaThere is no possible way you could leave here hungry, and there was no way on god’s earth we were going to be able to fit dessert, so we’ll have to check that out on another occasion.

Given the acoustics are apparently very good here, Donna and Geoffrey intend to organise some live music in the future, and don’t be surprised to see some outside coffee and grazing spaces too.

Although we were there early on a quiet night and can’t judge what it’d be like at full tilt, for a good value, simple Italian meal in this part of town, Vatican might just do the trick.

7 days from 11 am.

Corner of Victoria and Dixon Streets.

I raise you a Chippery

TC headerThe Thorndon Chippery recently opened in the old Le Canard premises on Murphy Street, following the same successful formula as its Mt Vic sister – pick your fish, then its coat, then its side arms and sauce.

Which got me to wondering whether this is the way of the fish’n’chip future.

The lads behind the chipperies are a chef and a fisherman, with the desire to put the focus squarely back on the fish and chips, with more than one generic offering. When asked what they’d like their customers to say at the end of the chippery experience, the answer was ‘finally, decent fish’n’chips’. They also pride themselves on total freshness from their door to yours, and so along came the pretty brown anti-sog boxes.

TC boxesAs well as a list of the day’s fresh market fish, you will find a range of burgers and both fishy and vegetarian extras to satisfy all appetites. Consider whitebait fritters, crumbed scallops, calamari or fish bites, crumbed brie, pineapple or potato fritters, salads, etc.

On our visit we went away with panko-crumbed groper, herb-crusted blue warehou, fish balls, a vegan burger, homemade tartare sauce and a range of fries. They were all judged to be above average in quality and flavour, and despite not being a tartare fan, I found myself licking every last drop from the container (I kid you not) – a delicious balance of lemon, capers and gherkins in a pleasing viscous base.

And the hand-cut agrias. Oh. My. God. There is just no other comment. The chippery staff hand cut, slice and blanch these beauties daily from bags of honest-to-TC friesgoodness agrias into big doorstoppers for the final fry (the substantial ‘small’ serve above). They go through separate gluten-free fryers at each store to prevent crumb contamination, and result in mouthfuls of crispy-exteriored, fluffy-interiored heaven (confession – there may be some Irish blood lurking in these veins…).

In terms of wait times, you can order online and then stroll along to pick up (super easy and efficient), or nestle yourself into one of the tables at each location. But beware the seating is limited, so have Plan B handy (in the case of the Mt Vic Chippery, the Black Sparrow is conveniently located across the road for a quick one while you wait – a most cunning plan!).

TC fish boardNow there’s no denying its fun doing all that choosing, and the boxes are ever so pretty, but I did wonder about losing some of the fun of unwrapping a pyramid of food, liberally dousing with Mr Wattie’s finest and undertaking a big dig. They are also more expensive than your standard fish’n’chips, and you won’t get all the traditional extras (crabsticks, spring rolls, donuts, banana fritters). So the Chippery experience may not be for everyone.

But after all that? The quality is superior, the service better, and the choices substantial.  Game on.

Mt Vic Chippery – 5 Majoribanks Street

Thorndon Chippery – 10 Murphy Street

Seize

Seize wallLike everyone, I have been Seized.

I like that Seize on Lambton are fresh, seasonal, vegan, vegetarian, heavily plant-based, even paleo-friendly if that’s your thing. With fantastic staff.

There’s a range of non-typical salad bowls (coconut turmeric cerviche fish with watercress, capsicum, seasonal greens, organic quinoa and chili infused olive oil), create-your-owns, a daily vegetarian burger special (which I’ve managed to miss twice so far, such is the demand), a daily soup special (looked pretty fine at the table next to me, with the toast presented on a nice wooden side board), wraps, Seize acai puddinginteresting breakfast and dessert options (raw porridge, acai chia pudding), and a sweet cabinet with goodies such as cacao and goji berry macaroons, raw raspberry cheesecake, gluten and dairy free banana loaf, etc etc.

And that’s before a large range of equally interesting smoothies (kale goji, cacao berry nut, avo turmeric, maca coconut), juices (optimism, hydration, immunity, antioxidant, custom) and milk substitutes (almond, oat or coconut milk).

Seize wrapHoly hell. I’m going to need a lie down and a kale goji just to contemplate all that.

It just so happens I’ve been in a few times, and I can tell you that even a simple bacon salad wrap is presented beautifully when eaten on site, and included a range of green textures and tastes alongside flavourful non-fatty (yay!) bacon.

The salads are colourful, fresh and tasty, and the acai chia pudding (organic chia seeds with coconut milk topped with antioxidant acai) was a lot like a bircher muesli with a sweet fruit layer across the top. Nice.

Seize saladYou might want to avoid the noon queues, and some items will sell out during peak lunch service, so plan your visit with care.

Lookout burger special, I’m coming for you…

7am-3pm weekdays.

117 Lambton Quay

Muse and a little Singin’ in the rain

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Literally. On the way home from the show.

Thanks to Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and ACMN, I was given the opportunity to go along to the opening night of Singin’ in the Rain.

So what better opportunity to partake in one of the city’s pre-show dinner specials before being swept away for the evening.

Given the proximity to the St James, I chose the Muse on Allen $55, 3-course offering.

Muse dinner2Muse is the establishment of Samuel North, a young chef in Wellington with a bucketful of talent.  Samuel produces fine food (ergo you’ll need a few courses but they’ll be pretty smart), and won the Mindfood WOAP best menu in 2013 and dish of the festival in 2014 with his ‘Textures of Mandarin’ dessert.

The standouts were the free range chicken liver pate with port jelly, home-make pickles and mini brioche (silky and flavourful), the panfried market fish with leek and potato puree, crab tortellini’s, almond cream Muse dessertand caviar (and yes it did end up looking a little like a crab with eyes when turning the plate around! – all components were delicious, well cooked and went well together), and the selection of home-made sorbets and ice creams (espresso, rhubarb and lemon – the lemon making me think lemon meringue pie).

The food at Muse never disappoints, and the service was excellent, although I continue to come away thinking they need a slightly finer or intimate setting to match what’s being delivering.

And to the show.

Some cheese, some genius (especially the black and white footage), and loads of colour and fun.  I defy anyone to leave this show without a smile on their face.

Singin umbrellasThe first half is reasonably long at 1.5 hours, but the second half clips along and draws the story to its conclusion. There are a couple of stand-out actors (Lina), singers (Kathy) and dancers (the sultry nightclub girl, Don and Cosmo), and the technicality of raining gallons onto an indoor stage will leave you thinking about this production long after you’ve gone home.

If you want even more fun, see if you can get yourself tickets in the first three rows downstairs.

For full show information and bookings, click here. You’ll be missing out on some great fun if you don’t.

Vinyl

VinylI’m drawn to Vinyl.  The bar that is.

Vinyl makes me smile.  The LP’s, the music, the booths, the fun bar snacks, the teapot cocktails, the interesting mocktails.

I’m sure its a younger party place after 11pm, but earlier its a perfect fit for us 60’s and 70’s children (I just saw Bruce Springstein pluck Courtenay Cox out of the audience to dance onstage! – on screen that is).

Vinyl fairy breadWho can resist fairly bread (deliciously light, buttery and sugary), deep fried mars bars (the nutrition coach in my head couldn’t quite get me there), doorstop fries (great textures) and mocktails with names such as Strawberry Fields, Power and the Passion, Timewarp and You Sexy Thing.

I’m sure the main draw in ordering You Sexy Thing was the caramel, chai, mayan spice, chocolate and fresh orange components (and jeez, was it a meal in itself), but Vinyl u sexy thingthere might just have been an imp prompting me to check out how the bar lad would respond to the You Sexy Thing declaration.  In reality, he didn’t bat so much as an eyelash, but I think he did have a wee giggle at me having a wee giggle at it all.

The wall booths are heated in winter, which is lovely on the derrier, and the outside courtyard bar is rather delicious in the sun (protected on all sides), other than the usual issue of smokers all having to chug away out there too (did you spot the secret door in the wall?).

Vinyl do a happy hour from 5-7pm every day (maybe a happy two hour?), serve jugs and hold a meat raffle at 8pm Fridays.

What more of a blast from the past could we want?

66 Courtenay Place.

Picnic cafe

Picnic viewPicnic Cafe at the rose gardens and begonia house is another of those places I leave thinking I should visit more often.

Despite general kid and cafe hustle and bustle there’s something kinda peaceful about being among all those beautiful flowers and people cruising about at leisure.

And the food’s pretty tasty too.

Picnic crumbleThis time I had warm apple and rhubarb crumble with muesli topping since it was morningtime. I particularly appreciated it wasn’t so hot that I burnt my mouth, and wasn’t so sweet that I needed to drown it in cream (but I defy you to have it without some of that delish cream).

Last time I had a cabinet chicken almond croissant which I still have fond memories of, and the moroccan potato feta hash has my name on for next time methinks.

Picnic croisantCoffee is by Supreme, and there’s plenty of staff clearing tables and keeping things moving.

Open everyday from 8.30 am to 4.00 pm, and available for private evening functions by arrangement.

Beside the begonia house at the Botanic Gardens.

More foodie fun

Just in case you need more foodie fun, I’m now also writing for KNOW Wellington’s Word on the Street blog.

You can catch more about what’s going on around Wellington in general at KNOW as well…..

Bon appetit.

Melb Brother Baba Budon

Apache – where Hanoi met Paris

Apache introSo after I didn’t buy a bikini (who knew that was going to be such a traumatic experience?), I decided to pop into the new Apache in Wakefield Street for a Vietnamese lunch to recover.

It was a little past peak lunch hour and not too busy, but I was still pretty amazed when my fresh green papaya salad arrived about four minutes after I’d ordered it. Was this a good sign or not?

Actually it was all good. The salad had all the right ingredients (thinly shredded papaya and veggies, cherry tomatoes, chili peppers, lime, peanuts, dried shrimp, fish sauce, etc) and met the Vietnamese requirement of balancing sweet, spicy, salty and sour in each dish.

Apache lunchMy ‘buffalo boy’ coconut gelato, kaffir lime and jackfruit smoothie arrived with nary a buffalo in sight and reminded me of drinking just-whipped vanilla instant pudding (don’t knock it til you try it), with only a subtle back note of coconut. Unexpected. But very moorish.

Apache is Le Minh’s first restaurant after cheffing around Wellington for 10+ years in various South East Asian establishments. He grew up in northern Vietnam, influenced by past French occupation (hence the baguettes, pate and bitter chocolate mousse on the menu) and focused on fragrant, fresh and light food (as opposed to the more Chinese-influenced denser foods of southern Vietnam).

Apache dessertI practiced my talent for choosing the one dish not available by ordering the Sago Vanilla Pudding with caramelized banana and coconut praline and having the pear and ginger crumble from the cabinet (the bikini experience still fresh in mind, I bypassed the bitter chocolate mousse or pina colada with coconut ash mousse alternatives).  The crumble was superb and a steal at only $4 (but is this a survivable price point?).

Le’s aim is to offer high quality northern fresh Vietnamese, hence the use of wagyu beef, free-range pork belly, fresh kaffir lime and lemongrass etc in the main dishes, and many fresh fruits and vegetables in the house-made juices, smoothies and afternoon tea sweets in the cabinet.

I’m going back soon (on a non-bikini shopping day) for the Sea Meets Land king fish – twice cooked pork belly with Viet slaw, blue ginger and dried chili caramel, and the Chasing Dragon cocktail.

Lunchtimes 7 days (and possibly some dinners once they’re settled in).

122 Wakefield Street.

PS. Now doing dinners Wednesday to Saturday.

Lovely Le Marche

Tarts, tarts, tarts.

Le Marche cabinetTomato, leek and roqueforte, summer fruits, salmon, lemon, chocolate and orange, pear and ginger, quiche lorraine, and more.

This is the choice you will face at Le Marche, and that’s without the menu options of croques, baguettes, etc.

I’d come back for the pastry on the leek and roqueforte tart alone (flaky and tender), and thats before I got to the excellent balance of leek and roqueforte loosely bound by egg.  Absolutely no small windowless buildings here.

Le Marche leek

The tomatoes on the side salad require comment too – highly flavourful and ‘real’.  I can only imagine how the tomato tart would have tasted (next time!).

I really enjoy the atmosphere and authenticity of Le Marche and its staff each time I visit, being in the funky and creative-feeling Woolstore design centre, and having the opportunity to browse in the Le March deli before leaving (keep an eye on their facebook page for current cheese specials).

If you can fit dessert after your delish tart, there’s creme brulee or hand-made macarons.

Le Marche deliThere’s no way you wont leave Le Marche with a smile on your face.

Monday to Friday 7.45am – 4pm (note coffees finish at 3pm), Saturdays 8.45am – 3pm, and Friday evenings by reservation.

262 Thorndon Quay.

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