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…

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.

Food truck fun

We’re starting to get a few food trucks kicking around Wellington these days, and a small collection of them can be found at The Taranaki Wharf on Thursday afternoons and evenings (and a few on Wednesdays and Fridays). Go inFiretruck the afternoon if you also want to check out the crafty stalls in the baby containers dotted around.

If the previous year’s form continues and the weather gods permit, this will be a weekly event right through until the end of March, so there’s plenty of time left to get yourself down there and sample the wares.

Curbside CafeThis week’s collection included The Greek Food Truck (souvlaki, haloumi and greek sausages), The Firetruck (smokey BBQ burgers), Curbside Café (lots of sliders), Nicce Chilean (hotdogs and empanadas), the Sichuan Spice trailer (street noodles and dumplings) and Santos Churros (for dessert).

I couldn’t go past The Firetruck’s BBQ pulled pork shoulder on brioche bun with fennel and bacon slaw, and chipotle mayo. Good smokiness without being overpowering and a pleasant mix of soft and crunchy on the tongue.

Firetruck burgerIt was also pleasing to see them supporting other local artisans with Wooden Spoons’ ice cream sandwiches for afters (I can vouch for these from past experience!).

I think Wellingtonians should get out there and support the food trucks as they add a fun aspect to our cityscape, allow you to try many things in one location, and acknowledge the chance these brave souls are taking in trying to get this mobile industry into gear (pun intended).

For next week I’m eyeing up those street noodles ….

Jano bistro

The yellow villa at 270 Willis Street holds special food and ambience memories for me (from the Citron days), and I think Jano Bistro might just carry on that tradition.

Jano bldgPierre-Alain Fenoux, French-born and trained, former Head Chef of Le Canard, and 2014 Chef of the Capital sees himself as an Alchemist of food constantly seeking new ideas and techniques, and promoting ‘bistronomy’ – the marriage of bistro and gastronomy (fine dining in a relaxed environment).

No pressure then.

The name Jano pays homage to Pierre’s French gardener grandfather and the learnings at his knee about local, fresh and seasonal (and yes, the kitchen at Jano is tiny to further inspire daily freshness and innovation – no freezers here).

So Jano is open weekdays from 7am-10amish for coffee (Flight) and muffins (check out their FB page for daily creations), weekends from 8am-3pm for brunch, and Tuesday to Sunday evenings for dinner.

Jano cabinetMy first visit was a Sunday lunch, and my second a Tuesday dinner. Both times were impressive, and I left thinking there’s some definite smarts in the kitchen here and some complexity and considerable attention to detail in what’s being presented.

Be it cooking techniques, flavour/texture combinations, overall presentation, table settings, service, etc, they seem to have it nailed.  Although I do wonder how they’ll maintain their very good price points for all of that – $17 brunch, $32 mains, $14 desserts.

Now to the food specifically.

Jano parcelsThe smoked fish cake with asian-slaw, peanuts and chilli mayo was crisp, fresh, flavourful and beautifully presented (interesting slaw).

The crispy parcels of tomato ragu served with black pudding, confit egg and spinach were well rated for flavour combination and uniqueness (the confit egg having a yolk that held together when pierced inside its soft tender white).

The beef (Red Devon) two ways included a very visually appealing and tasty ‘building’ of beef rib.

The pork squares of deliciously slow cooked belly then crisped and served in a sweet corn, mushroom and chilli broth melted in the mouth.

Jano pork entreeThe apricot dessert of rosemary grilled apricots topped with soy custard and compressed apricot (intriguingly transparent) accompanied by a cashew nut crumble and small cubes of intense apricot was almost too pretty to eat.

And the Whittakers 72% Ghana with several densities, techniques and presentations of chocolate left the imbiber describing the chocolate mousse as the chocolate equivalent of a ripe fresh peach straight from the tree on a sunny mid-summers day.  Far out!

Jano dessertNext time I’m going for the unique Mebus Estate (Wairarapa) chardonnay served warm and only available at Jano, the cauliflower main (as interesting vegetarian dishes are a rarity), the cheese dessert (which is actually a mini salad built around the cheese being showcased at the time), and I’m going to sit in the outside courtyard along the side of the villa (weather gods permitting).

Jano outdoorThe wine list is interesting (a number available here only due to the small size and particular supplier they use) and there’s also a 7-course $95 degustation if you’d like to really push the boat out.

Fresh, simple and innovative with a dash of the unexpected? Absolutely yes.

And darned good value for the effort and care taken.

Paekakariki’s Perching Parrot

So you can tell its summer and I’m getting a little more riding in (motorised, yes).

Perch Parrot decorMy last sojourn out of the city took me to Paekakariki’s Perching Parrot cafe, Paekakariki meaning perching place of the kakariki – green parrot (bet you didn’t know that huh?, me neither prior to Friday).

So the Perching Parrot is a funky indoor/outdoor cafe in the main street of Paekakariki, doing lots of vegan and vegetarian dishes with fresh seasonal ingredients, a cabinetful of delicious-looking cakes and slices, and a great array of Siggy’s famous-on-the-coast pies (although these are not so vego), and Havana coffee.

Perch Parrot frittersMy spinach and feta fritters were fresh, tender and flavourful, and accompanied by a generous green salad.

The service was friendly and welcoming, there’s a good array of reading material and one can pop next door to the Beach Road Deli afterwards to buy goodies for a delicious home-made platter for dinner.

What more could one want?

7 Beach Road, Paekakariki.

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