foodiegemsofwellie

For worthy 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 or hosting Zest guests around the city…

Park Kitchen

I’ve popped into Park Kitchen at Miramar twice in recent times, once for lunch with friends, and once for cake while out on a looooong walk (blood sugar needs right?).

And apart from the frowning rabbit we were seated right beneath the first time (I can’t decide if its a groovy piece of art or just a bit disturbing), I enjoyed both outings. The décor reminds me of Loretta in Cuba Street, with a light, bright and airy design, long coffee and servery counters with delicious-looking cakes, and a separate lounge for more casual coffee catchups or a bit of paper reading.

Between us on the first visit we covered the Park cheese burger, the pumpkin rosemary and feta empanadas, the fish fingers with dill mayo, and the seasonal special of the day – end-of-season asparagus with crispy bacon, poached eggs and golden hollandaise. They were all pretty good (creamy empanada fillings, pleasing medium rare meat patty, herby and unctuous tartare with light crispy fish fingers), but the winning dish just might have been the seasonal special.

I also liked that they had a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails to go with the substantive list of local and international wines, NZ craft beers, and classic cocktails also on offer (a night visit next time methinks). There’s certainly something for everyone.

PK mocktail

Elderflower spritz mocktail

On the walk refueling stop, we inhaled an Anzac cookie and cheese scone, both getting the thumbs up.

PK sweets

Park Kitchen seem to have all bases covered, whether you’re wanting coffee and cake, a light nibble, a more substantive meal and/or a relaxing tipple. And add another option to the already-plentiful and quality Miramar/Strathmore dining scene – The Larder, Coco at the Roxy, Café Polo, The Gypsy Kitchen, La Boca Loca, and probably others that I haven’t been to yet.

6 Park Road, Miramar

Mojo St James

Mojo have added another cafe to their enterprise, not dissimilar to Poneke, with food created by Martin Bosley and steampunk and cold brew coffees featured. The decor is light, bright and airy, and a nice fit with the theatre foyer.

Additional to dishes you will recognise from Poneke (yes the fab super grain salad is here too), is a section of ‘on bread’ gourmet sandwiches made to order and served nicely on wooden boards if eating in, or packable for takeaway. These range from $9 to $16, include some interesting ingredients, and can also be provided on Paleo Pantry gluten free bread if desired.

Pictured below is the smoked fish, beet caviar, caper and lemon on wholemeal, which was tasty with quality smoked fish. My recommendation is to eat in to get the full experience.

And I couldn’t go past my favourite Greek yoghurt mousse, thyme honey, poached figs and granola crumble either (yep more than just my mouth doing the dining!)…

MSJ yog mousse

 

Mojo SJ are also in the process of applying for their liquor licence and intend to open for pre-show dinners and possibly post-show nibbles in the near future (currently 7 days until 4/5pm, but later openings from 26 February to 20 March for the Arts Festival). I imagine enjoying casual but quality food and drink here will do nothing but add to the pleasure of an evening at the theatre.

St James Theatre, 77 Courtenay Place

 

Intercontinental’s Chameleon

Chameleon restaurant changed to a series of $26 plates between entree and main in size during the Intercontinental’s 2014/15 refit, categorised into ‘seafood tastes’, ‘tastes from the farm’, and ‘vegetable tastes’ (there’s a couple of bread-type starters between $4-$12, the oysters and shellfish bouillabaisse are priced separately, and the desserts are $16-$18).

You can crack into it at two courses for $50, three courses for $70, or four for $80, with wine matching accordingly $20, $30, and $40.

So given I had a wee celebration to mark, and one of my friends had never been there, we trucked off to check it out.

We were presented with a pumpkin mille feuille amuse bouche to start which was delightful, and then some of us shared a roti starter so we could fit dessert. I enjoyed the crispy roti itself, but I’m still feeling a little discordant about the capsicum-hazelnut dip and baba ganoush accompaniments (I guess it challenges my favourites of the plain light and flakey one at Satay Malaysia dipped in a sumptuous curry, and the one with lemon butter at Two Souls).

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The summary of the plates we had was this (when ordering two or more courses, you get to decide which sequence you’d like them in):

  • Whitebait salad – crisp and tasty.
  • Serrano ham, apricot, fresh goat cheese and mint – beautiful flavours and textures, but maybe a struggle to justify $26 against some of the other dishes.
  • Venison loin with crispy potato cake, truffled leek, apple and cranberry – classic pairings and pleasantly lightened by both the cranberry and caramelised apple.
  • Lamb tongue with kumara foam, lemon hazelnut and pomegranate – soothing textures and flavours.
  • Beef tenderloin with rosti, portobello mushroom, and tarragon/balsamic butter – beautifully cooked with smokey mushrooms, although the balsamic butter was rich and better with the truffle fries.

Overall a sensation of flavourful dishes done with a light hand. And if you want dessert, maybe just choose one ‘main’ plate that takes your eye and share another with others, as two nearly-mains can be quite filling. To dessert then.

The lemon trifle was nicely dense and rated. The chocolate mousse was nice and light with tangy complimentary summer berries. And the petit fours were beautifully presented and plenty for two (or actually four people just wanting a mouthful of something sweet to finish).

So, a very pleasant experience overall with the professional and reasonably formal service you’d expect, although we all found it cold by the windows (and this on a summer evening). The wine matching was judged to be very good and included a couple of new taste experiences, and you can do dessert and cocktails in the revamped bar area, so that’s another way to have a wee taste if you don’t have a full evening available.

2 Grey Street, Wellington

Happy birthday Astoria!

Check out details about Astoria’s 20th birthday happening soon.

If you’re an Astoria fan, I’m sure you’ll want to help them celebrate.

The Garage Project Taproom

Just when we thought the Garage Project had it all covered, they’ve added a Taproom in Aro Valley. Small, cute, and quintessentially Aro, it’s definitely worth a visit.

The staff are very helpful and happy to talk you through all the different tipples (all GP of course), and even gave me a demo of how their new cask pull pourer works (check out the sprinkler head action below). It didn’t hurt that the sample I then had to drink was one of my favourites – a milk cereal stout made with cornflakes and additional milk proteins for that creamy finish.

The beers on tap are all helpfully displayed on the wall in sample bulbs so you can see what your tipple will look like, and the cans are displayed with their grains or hops above.

I tried a few, and being a warm sunny afternoon settled on the Bossa Nova five-fruits tropical brew, lightly fermented (so it must be a health food right?). The strongest fruit note to me was passionfruit, and it was easy drinking – a good session beer, if I could ever manage more than one!

Some of the more unusual beers currently are the Wiggly Stick (a trial of unique Australian hops), and the Cabbages and Kings oyster stout (120 oysters in each brew, with an oyster in the glass if you fancy), alongside favourites like Cherry Bomb, Angry Peaches, Aro Noir and Nerissimo.

The food is by Ti Kouka and the Leeds Street Bakery and the meats are from Ontrays at Petone, so all quality products.

We indulged in the Aro Noir braised beef brisket with BBQ sauce, smoked cheddar and pickled cabbage (tender and delicious in crispy bread wedges), while eyeing up the turducken with bacon and swiss cheese for next time.

The smoked potato chips weren’t available this time (something about the cooking process not meeting their standards just at the minute) so we indulged in the two cold cuts platter which included lamb prosciutto (unusual), chicken liver pate topped with Death From Above sweet jelly (moorish), and the Chicharron pork scratchings with bacon salt (yep both porky and bacony).

Hard not to enjoy a Sunday afternoon outing here.

Tuesday to Sunday (3pm weekdays, noon weekends) to 10pm.

91 Aro Street.

Taproom try some new

 

 

 

 

Hanging Ditch cocktails

Tucked in beside Goldings Free Dive Bar is the newest addition in the Eva-Leeds laneway – the Hanging Ditch cocktail bar.

The bar is compact with a nice vibe, and spaces for lounging, or more upright pursuits (like lifting one’s glass), and a short menu for food and drink alike (there are wines and beers as well, but it was the cocktail’s I’d gone to check out). The point to the short menu is so it can be creative and changed regularly.

The cocktails include very local ingredients (Fix and Fogg smoke and fire peanut butter, WCF Peruvian chocolate, Six Barrel salad cucumber and mint soda), as well as some more unusual (organic bee pollen, umami salt, salted pistachio orgeat).

The food leaned savoury and a little retro (popcorn shrimp, crumbed camembert or salami toastie), but given we are on our way to dinner, I’ll have to return to check these out.

The Flowers’ Peaches and Cream cocktail with organic bee pollen, peach, lemon juice, sugar-free soda and albumen (or egg white for us lay folk) was sweetly unsweet with pleasing bits of texture courtesy of the pollen. And the Earth, Wind, Peanut Butter and Fire was smoky, tangy and moorish.

The focus of the bar is the forest of 2m long bungies from the ceiling holding all their myriads of bottles (short staff need not apply!), the fuller ones the lower hanging fruit, so to speak. Pretty funky, and a definite talking point. I’m sure I’ve read about the same concept overseas, but it may well be the first of its kind in Godzone.

A fun addition to the laneway. I’m definitely going back.

Tuesday to Sunday 3pm til midnight.

14 Leeds Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chocolate Bar

Local lad Luke Owen Smith fell in love with the Wellington Chocolate Factory’s bean-to-bar products, and decided to delve further into the industry.

Choc bar blurbIn doing so, he’s created a business called The Chocolate Bar, sourcing and selling high quality artisan chocolate from NZ and around the world (Canada, Scotland, Vietnam, Mexico, Australia to name a few).

The website is well laid out with interesting information on all products and providers, and looks like it’d be easy to purchase from once you’ve got your eye in from tastings. Luke is at the Frank Kitts art and craft market every weekend, so there’s no excuse folks.

I tried several, and leaving our own lovely WCF bars aside which we can access easily, I was taken with the Spencer Cocoa Vanuatu 72% (smooth, smokey, bacony and hankering for a whisky – trust me, I’ve had deep fried bacon chocolate brownie, so have a benchmark!); the Taza Mexican old-style hand ground chilli chocolate (a lovely grainy texture and chilli flavour, not just heat); and the Ocho Dunedin Papua New Guinea salted caramel (not sweet and with a pleasant chewy texture).

The limited edition Marou Heart of Darkness 85% went home with me and might just be my favourite. The cacao grows on an island in the Mekong Delta (Vietnam) and although having no coconut, is alleged to taste like coconut. I didn’t necessarily get coconut, but did enjoy the creamily smooth and sweet toasty experience with a pleasing backnote (maybe what others identify as coconut), so can see why it was a gold winner at international chocolate awards.

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Luke plans to do some events next year, so watch out for tea and chocolate matching, and tastings at venues around town. And whip down to the  Frank Kitts art and craft market next weekend (and every weekend after that), to have a tasting and solve your prezzie dilemmas.

Frank Kitts carpark on Jervois Quay.

 

 

Another cup of java…

I’m seeing new coffee places everywhere lately.

Firstly there’s the new flagship shops for both Supreme and Mojo, selling an array of single origin coffees, coffee equipment and accessories, and keen to teach you anything you could possibly wish to know about coffee.

Supreme has moved from Woodward Lane to a bigger, brighter space on the edge of Midland Park next to Soho Brown. They do cupping sessions at 10am Wednesdays if you want to go further than just sampling the filtered coffees they have on brew each day, or are very happy to help you decide what interesting single origin you’d like to take home (pays to pop by and book your slot for the cupping).

Mojo’s Beanery is in the ground entrance of Lambton Square. You can experience a steampunk coffee (a version of filtered), and again buy interesting single origins to take home, with any kind of accessory you desire. Both places have exceptionally welcoming, friendly and helpful staff, so don’t be shy.

On the slightly more cafe front, Zumo is now open on the corner of Tory and Wakefield, as is Franks on The Terrace (probably others around town I just haven’t tripped over yet!).

Zumo breakfastZumo’s new Wellington premises are along similar lines to their Nelson HQ – large, airy, and warehousey. There’s a load of indoor and outdoor seating, a range of single origins and blends to try (with very helpful large descriptions on the wall) and counter food that includes at least some from French CanCan (I saw Sophie slide by with a food box while there…).

Although I’m a decaf drinker and they can often be a bit nebulous, my Swiss decaf was flavourful and made me think dark caramel. I thoroughly enjoyed a quiet read of the paper and wee graze in that lovely airy space. Daytime 7 days, from 7am weekdays, 8am weekends.

Franks buildingAnd then theres Franks on the Terrace (opposite PWC tower in the space that’s had a chequered past – most recently Bureau wine bar), part way up the hill.

I like the crisp, white, clean feel of the place, and the staff are similarly well presented, professional and competent. Using Red Rabbit Roastery coffee, and bakery food from the Leeds Street Bakery, you’ll feel quite at home here in a Mojo/Leeds Street blended kind of way.

Again my decaf was flavourful, well made, and had the word toasty popping into my head. There’s plenty of seating upstairs, and there was a nice ambience from people coming and going enjoying quality fare while I was there. Monday to Friday daytimes, 6.30am opening.

 

 

 

Pan de Muerto surprise

I recently was invited to check out Chef Jiwon Do’s new Mexican/European fusion dishes at Pan De Muerto, and was pleasantly surprised.

You can read the full article here, and should definitely have them on your to-visit list.

PdM cactus tiramisu

Steel Press Cider

Steel Press frontI was recently given a couple of bottles of Steel Press Cider to try.

Sean, the young lad behind this venture, has an entertaining story on his website about how he came to be a cider producer, although a little birdie tells me said girl isn’t so much a big cider fan (perhaps early relationship over-enthusiasm on both sides?). And like most artisans, he started from the point of loving cider and deciding ‘how hard could it be?’ (yep, same tales to tell as all other artisans), and thought that the cider market deserved the same variety and quality as wine and craft beer now has.

Steel Press rearSo, for right now, there’s two varieties – the Dry and the Bee (sweeter). Both use a blend of liquid honeys as their sweetener, added immediately on bottling. The ciders are sulphite and chemical free, and fermented by wild yeast over a longer period (read originally unpredictable but mostly now harnessed), giving a more south-west English traditional brew.

Sean and his dad built their own first steel press, which wasn’t so successful, but spawned the development of the next press and to work towards a full-time venture. They operate from a shipping container at Seaview, with a second container about to come on line shortly, and also very recently moved from all apples being hand-cut to machine cut. Definitely on their way then.

Steel Press compareSean gets his apples from a range of sources, including markets and wild apple orchards in the vineyard areas (apparently wild Granny Smith’s are a waaaaay different beast from the commercial ones), and presses with skins, stalks and a few of the seeds present. This adds flavour, pectin and tannin (ahhh grasshopper, that explained the after-taste we both noticed at the end of each mouthful but variously described as slightly sour or slightly bitter). More good info here about the role of tannins in cider.

Steel Press foodBoth went really well with meats and cheeses, and the Bee also went well with sweet fruit afters. The Bee has a distinctive honey taste and I could happily drink that on its own, whereas the Dry would definitely be a food pairing for me, although my partner seemed to manage quite well sans food with the Dry. You will see they had different colour profiles and were both a little cloudy, and definitely tasted more authentic than most commercial ciders which I find to be sickly and over effervescent. It’d be interesting to see how/if they change with longer in the bottle.

Sean is super focused on quality, so will only upscale slowly to ensure he maintains quality, but do visit Crumpet (where Sean still works work part-time) or Rogue and Vagabond now to enjoy a tipple. And keep an eye out through next year as more outlets get in on the act.

I applaud anyone who’s prepared to develop an artisan product, and wish Sean well. I would definitely drink it again.

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