For interesting eating and drinking experiences around Wellington, NZ (and the greater region)

Are we there yet on the burgers?

Apparently not.

On Willis Street in the old Crazy Horse Steakhouse premises is the new Burger Liquor.  I’m a bit disturbed by the word Liquor in a food outlet title, but after having been along I can understand a bit more of what they’re about.

Burger Liq decorThe décor, like Five Boroughs of last week, is a bit graffiti’d and edgy (industrial funk popped into my head, although I have no clue what that really means!), they specialize in burgers, rums and bourbons (a different bourbon showcased each day), they have the requisite American snacks and sides (bread and butter pickles, onion rings, buffalo wings, etc) and they were reasonably busy on an early Saturday evening (off to a good start then).

Most burgers had interesting components or flavours (chicken jerk rubbed Waitoa free-range chicken with roasted fennel and peach chutney; crumbed market fish with picked cucumber and white onion, lemon and dill mayo), and I applaud them Burger Liq burger1for the comment by the beef options – ‘Beef burgers are cooked medium rare. End of Story.’

The quinoa, faro, goats cheese, spinach and beet relish burger was tasty (with a pleasing balance of textures in the crispy-exteriored, soft-interiored brioche buns), and the smokey ground chuck and short rib with streaky bacon, onion rings, nim jam and scarmoza also got a tick. The comment from the smokey burger eater when comparing here versus Five Boroughs was that these burgers are more complex. Okay then.

Burger Liq hard shakesWe enjoyed one of the ‘hard’ shakes (a’la Burger ‘Liquor’) – the Malt’n’Salt Jim Beam Choice, maltesers and salted caramel – which was made with Kapiti vanilla ice cream giving a pleasingly thick texture. Very moorish and a pleasant surprise.

I noticed on the way out that they’re passing on the 2% credit card fees, and the bright blue exterior paint still doesn’t do it for me, however it was a pleasant eat overall and we’ll definitely be back sometime.

Open every day from 11am.

129 Willis Street.

Five Boroughs

5 Boroughs grafittiA bit edgy. A bit American. A bit hidden away. These guys’ll do alright.

There were a fair few burgers ordered in our group (so how did I manage to not end up with a photo of a burger?), presented as one would expect with pickles and chippies. The potato and gravy and paprika dusted fries all disappeared fairly quickly so we take that as a good sign, however no one was quite game for cheesy and gravy fries.

For the one in the group who didn’t follow the herd, the smoky pork short ribs were tasty, meaty and non-fatty (and looked pretty on the board), although the side of fried artichoke hearts with bacon needed more crispy bacon bits and less mayo.

5 Boroughs foodIntriguingly, although there’s a non-alcoholic drinks list, there isn’t an alcoholic one.  There’s a short wine list on the wall, and you rely on the staff to tell you the beer options. Huh. They do offer bottomless coffee though if you like several buckets of caffeine at a time.

The milkshake flavours are also interesting – bam bam baklava (perhaps a link to the Phoenician Falafel parents?), jelly tip, trippple chocolate (yes intended), after dinner mint and bounty.

5 Boroughs decorBoth the caramel tart and carrot cakes on the counter looked appealing, and the dessert menu is simple and to the point (banana split, sundae or pie with cream), but alas the group couldn’t quite do it. Clearly more practice required.

I don’t think you’d come here for sensational food, but I do think you’d come here for a fun time.

Corner Roxburgh and Majoribanks Streets.

Puro Chilean

Puro wallSo just inside the Grand Arcade, Willis Street entrance, is now a Chilean lunch and espresso bar called Puro.

Coffees, an alfajor and cheese bread (scone) hit the mark for a mid-week bolster before work.

The ‘scone’ had a crisp outside and cheesy viscousness inside that was a little different from a normal scone, but well worthy of a return visit.

Puro counterThe coffee came with a cuchufli (pronounced koo-choo-flee, fun!) hollow wafer filled with manjar/de leche. Nice.

The cabinet was filled with tasty (and generous) looking sandwiches, hot dogs and empanadas. They make their own bread on-site and were friendly and welcoming.

Puro coffeeThere’s really only two or three seats (and onsite food is served with plastic plates and cutlery – expedient in washing up terms), so this is most likely to be a takeaway lunch bar for most.

7.30am (Mon-Fri) to 3pm (Mon/Tues) or 4pm (Wed-Fri).

The Bresolin

That’s it.  I’m meated out.

Bresolin mushroomsGoing to the new Bresolin with a big group meant a zeroing in on the feast dishes (whole shoulder of lamb, whole roasted chicken) with a range of small dishes to keep the wolves from the door initially given the feast dishes would take an hourish.

The small dishes included a salmon and watercress salad; steak tartare; calamari with wakame; and mushrooms with pea shoots, polenta and mascarpone.  All were quality and nicely presented (the vegge dishes were the most interesting of the lot though – check out here).

Lke most places deciding to have small or tasting plates recently I’m not all that sold on some of the price points ($14 for a dish of butternut pumpkin, carrots and almonds, $8 for a very small bowl of unadorned salad leaves?). However there’s absolutely no way you’d go hungry here if feasting.

Bresolin meatsAnd American is clearly the new black (will it take the mantle from meat as the new black?) – at the Bresolin you’ll find burgers, buttermilk fried chicken, a range of soda pops in the traditional sarsaparilla style (pear and ginger, blueberry lemonade, rhubarb and basil), daily soft serve ice-cream, etc.

There’s a daily guest beer on tap (something from the UK on this occasion), as well as a range of NZ craft beers, NZ and European wines, cocktails, hot chocolate, gumboot tea and their own Gentlemen’s Beans coffee, so something liquid for everyone.

Bresolin spit roastAnd a whole spit roast animal over the courtyard barbecue pit of a Sunday (now only to be the last Sunday of the month given the effort required) and you must buy a ticket which gets you beast, house baked rolls, slaw, beer and music.

The atmosphere is fun (beware its noisy in the upstairs restaurant when full), the different spaces capture the different customers well (courtyard, bar, restaurant) and the service is slick, so the Bresolin will do well.

278 Willis Street (corner of Karo Drive and Willis).

Coastal Cuisine

A weekend jaunt up the Kapiti coast brought some challenging weather, interesting birds (see my post here about Nga Manu Nature Reserve) and wonderful food.  The highlights:

  • RSC sage eggsThe delicious almond shortbread bought from the Paraparaumu Beach Market before the wind and rain washed them out (and the Mary Potter Hospice Strawberry Festival unfortunately).
  • The [south] Raumati Social Club’s sage eggs and quinoa/kale fritter specials (and we loved the myriad carpets on the ceiling and that there was a ‘comprehensive’ breakfast option on the menu).
  • Long Beach prawn popcornThe Long [Waikanae] Beach buzzy environment, delicious prawn popcorn, almond pear tart (later found to have come from the local Olde BeachBakery around the corner – see below), great service and fabulous tea cosies.  Also noted the new North End micro-brewery being established in the cafe so that the return visit for delicious looking (and very popular) pizza can be accompanied by a craft brew. Nice.
  • The roti with spicy peanut sauce and warming flavourful red duck curry at Muang Thai at Paraparaumu Beach.
  • No6 sconeThe scones at No 6 Cafe at Raumati Beach (simply the best we’ve had in ages, both date and cheese).
  • Everything at the Olde Beach Bakery at Waikanae Beach. I could have just pulled up a chair and stayed all day.  In the end, I took home flaky well-made pies for dinner.
  • Relish Cafe’s warm bacon and avocado salad.  Simple but tasty, in a wonderful cottage environment.

Indep BurgerFor next time we’re lining up the ones we couldn’t manage this time – the Independent Burger Company Truck at Paraparaumu Beach (due
to weather) and Soprano Italian Restaurant (also at the Beach and booked to the gunnels prior).

We are so, so lucky with our regional offerings, as well as what we tend to focus on in the city.

Bon appetit.

A secret Hideaway

So another new place this week (its that time of year). This time in the old Bull and Bear premises at the bottom of the Plimmer Steps.

Hideaway barNow a speakeasy called Hideaway by Vincent Lombino with food from Adam Rickett (formerly of Matterhorn and Pravda).  Described as a red meat and whisky joint with classic throwback dishes revisited – a dive bar with class and style. You can read more here about their intentions and ethos.

On arrival, the black and red setting and schmoozy bar setup does shout speakeasy. There’s a choice of booths or tables, and the music fits the mood.  It is a fairly big space though, so might feel a bit rattly until enough people are in there (although a grand place to tuck away to do a deal or undertake a rendezvous as they suggest on their info page). The only mis-step for me was still seeing a side-alley of pokie machines. No, no, no.

Hideaway cocktailMy opening Chamomile Honey Sour cocktail (chamomile infused Famous Grouse, with lemon juice, honey syrup and egg white) was worthy at $14 and pretty to boot.  The cocktail list was interesting and different and I’d definitely slide by here again for another on my way to/from wherever.

To the food.  The $12 beef burger delivered in red and white chequered paper was considered flavourful and great value.  The beef tartare got the thumbs up, as did the mac’n’cheese, the southern fried chicken, and the triple cooked fries (yep, there were four of us!).  The parpadelle was delicious and classy, but overpriced at $26 by comparison to other dishes.

Hideaway burgerThe desserts were outstanding,and the accompanying whisky’s rated rather good too. The partaker of the milk and cookies couldn’t tell us what type of milk it was, other than creamy, the donuts with salted caramel dipping sauce were large and sugary, and the pecan pie was to die for (I’m choosing that way to go!).

The waitress did tell us that they’re curing their own meats, so a couple of dishes are yet to be be available.  Again, not much here for vegos (like everywhere new in Wellington lately).

And I must note that the staff were all fantastically welcoming and personable.  I wish them well.

Hideaway dessertDo slide by here and check it out soon. Monday to Saturday from 11am.

2 Plimmer Steps.

The Hangar, not just coffee…

Hangar coffeeI finally got to the Hangar (Flight Coffee HQ) for brunch (after recently being prompted again about their new and extended kitchen menu).

Worthy, yes. Delicious, yes. Fun, yes.

The booths have given way to more tables to accommodate the chowers, and the menu has a large range of brunch/lunch items, some reasonably standard, and some a bit more intriguing (Elvis banana bread with berry compote, bacon and peanut butter mousse – definitely on my to-do-next list; black garlic mac’n’cheese with roasted cauliflower; silverbeet chips baked in garlic infused olive oil and sea salt).

Hangar signThere was also a fairly impressive build-your-own breakfast list with about 20 options, and a new section of crumpets (goat cheese and walnut with honey and thyme being the order of today).

These guys have the fun and entertainment factor in spades.

From the welcome sign (yep it does say ‘lock eyes, open arms and nod suggestively’ for a cuddle), to watching fantastical coffee productions, to the cool of the staff, and right on down to the coffee and table condiments being on wooden trays with set holes for each component (not left-hand drinker friendly though!).  And we know the holes are the exact size for each item as the mischief maker at the table of course had to have a go at moving them all around (hah, snookered smartypants!).

Hangar crumpetsI’ve called by here for coffee and a delicious cheese scone on another occasion too, and enjoyed the peacefulness while out watching the city wake up.

I don’t think you could go wrong on any front calling in here for a graze if you find yourself in this part of town.

Wednesday to Saturdays evenings also, with a liquor licence from 5pm (cocktails and craft beers recommended).

Corner of Dixon and Willis Streets.

Bethel Woods Music Bar

Named in honour of the Bethel Woods Centre for the Arts on the site of the Bethel Woodstock music festival in 1969.  Fittingly with live music on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights (BBQ and Blues on Wednesdays).  And part of the Williams Pub Group who have the Gasworks at Miramar, and Co-op at Whitby, among others (ergo the decor).  Check out the drum kit above your head on entry.

Bethel drumsBethels have two imported meat smokers tucked on the rooftop and so not surprisingly the menu is fairly carnivorous. With a bit of bread.

The lunch I had was delicious. The pulled pork with fennel slaw and pickled apple sauce sandwich was sufficiently oozing and finger-licking good. Those who had salads were pretty impressed too.

The dinner a few weeks later was a different experience with two musicians cracking through a range of slightly bluesy classics from the 60’s and 70’s and a much more swilling crowd. The sound level was pretty high (music and the swillers) so conversation consisted of a fair chunk of sign language, and you needed to be happy to bump shoulders with others or share tables (they were pretty great at making up a temporary trestle table for six of us to start with though, which was impressive).

I didn’t mind the buzz.

Bethel dinsThe beef burger got the big thumbs up, and the smoked meat from the BBQ pit (a choice of six varieties – I decided a bit of lamb shoulder was the go) with two sides was pleasant enough, if not strongly flavoured of itself (the smoky BBQ sauce added at the table soon smartened that up). The broccoli with almonds was very tasty.

The sliders that someone had earlier looked like a winner too.  Three different meats in the three sliders and decent sizes. I think they might be my next dish to try.

And being Wednesday one could order any number of BBQ chicken wings (pretty large chickens) for $1 each or BBQ ribs (also dino sized) for $2 each.  Some of the others took this up and declared themselves full for $8 (very paleo-compliant that combo!).

Bethel lunchThey have Alan Scott wine on tap, a moderate range of wines and sodas by the glass and beers on tap or on the blackboard.

Check out this Stuff article if you fancy a bit more background on their views about beer or The Terrace as a location.

So in conclusion, you’d pretty much always have a good time here I think, and enjoy some fairly pleasant gastro-pub fare (much of which is handily finger-edible), but beware the noise and crowd factor if that’s not your thing.  Lunch is a little more sedate.  And I suspect brunch might be downright peaceful.

Monday to Friday 7am to midnight.  Saturday and Sunday 10am to 10pm.

73 The Terrace (the old Wine Loft premises).

Loving La Cloche…

I recently found myself in Kaiwharawhara at lunchtime and revisited La Cloche for the first time in years (I will get to Le Marche soon too Ann!).

Cloche bread wallIts a fairly full noisy place on a weekend lunchtime, but the food is worth the effort, the decor has the right quirk factor (check out the bread wall hangings and rustic chandeliers), and the bread, deli or patisserie delights you can take away for later, the icing on the cake (literally!).

The ham and mushroom crepe was the best I’ve had in years (suitably dark and textured with thick slices of real ham), the vegetarian quiche was voted as excellent (despite the teenager not usually being an egg fan, go figure), Cloche crepeand the beef and lamb sausage in crusty baguette (marguez) also passed muster with flying colours.  The accompanying vegetables (if chosen over fries) were flavourful cubes of rosemary-roasted root veggies.

And the homemade millefeuille (vanilla custard layered between leaves of puff pastry) rightfully deserves it’s title as a favourite.

Check out the beautiful pictures here from their website.

Cloche sweetsYou do have to go up and order at the counter yourself, and it can be a bit tricky lining up to pay among those ordering and those getting take away delights (yep guilty), but as long as you’re not in any burning rush, it’s definitely worth your patience (also noted, the $12 box of petit fours for a future gift purchase – it’s okay to gift oneself isn’t it? – six beautiful mouthfuls of prettiness which I’m sure will complete a dinner party sometime very soon).

The coffee is a unique Flight blend made for them, and they occasionally do events and dinners (like Ze Brittany Dinner recently on 30 October).

Parking on the weekends is down the back of the BMW carpark next door, and they’re open 7.30am – 4pm Monday to Friday and 9.00am 4pm Saturday and Sunday.

134 Hutt Road, Kaiwharawhara.

Lotus Restaurant

I think Lotus might deserve the stars they’re getting online, for the food anyway.

Lotus decorThere’s definitely nothing especial to write home about in terms of ambience (although perfectly clean and modern), and we had to wave down our wee wait boy a couple of times to get service, but the food is definitely worth a visit (or two or three) – crisp, light, flavourful, gently aromatic, and reminded me of Vietnam (right down to food coming in any old sequence!).

There are some interesting dishes like clear dumplings of tapioca dough filled with pork and shrimp, or rice dough filled with pork, shallots, fungus and boiled egg, or orange, mung bean sprout, carrot, daikon, cucumber salad, or Quang style noodle soup, or grilled pork ribeye Lotus foodsteak (it was so tender and wonderfuly marinated we had quite a debate about whether it really was pork given the atypical texture and taste)….  But also some expected favourites like several pho’s, sticky rice in lotus leaf, Saigon crispy rice crepe, caramelised salmon in clay pot with galanga, spring onion, chill and pepper etc.  Check out the full menu here.

The wines were surprisingly pleasant, and even better for being free with a main on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Mondays they do a free entree with each main.

For all of the entree’s and mains, there was just the one dessert – Vietnamese Caramel Cream. And what a one.  It was so good (in all ways) that I didn’t even get a chance to take a photo or I would have totally Lotus food2missed out on my share!  Clearly I must return for another helping.

This is a valuable wee additional to the Mt Vic area, and I can’t see any reason why one wouldn’t pop by regularly for a quality, cheap, easy and healthy dinner.

Here’s a Stuff review from earlier in the year you might also like to read.

Open 7 days for dinner and Tuesday to Saturday for lunches.

12 Majoribanks Street, Mt Victoria.

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