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

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.

Poneke, week one…

The new marriage between Mojo and Martin Bosley at the bottom of the new Clyde Quay apartments (the old overseas terminal down by Chaffers) is up and running.

Poneke decorPoneke has the usual Mojo look and feel (and cabinet food), but with the addition of a Martin Bosley kitchen to produce swizzier menu dishes.

These cover small ($12 – $17) and large plates ($22-$24 excluding the whole flounder at $27), a few pizzas ($16-$18), oysters ($4.50 each) and a couple of desserts ($memory blank).

There are a number of items which allude to kiwiana – 12hr beef cheek as the mince on toast, fish finger sandwich and buttermilk fried onion rings, and asparagus, poached egg, salmon caviar with green herb hollandaise (being as close as you’ll get to an eggs benny) – and every dish has interesting combinations and ingredients.

Poneke small plateThere’s quite a range of seafood on the menu as you’d expect from Martin and the location (including a delish sounding smoked kahawai, olive, caper and potato pizza), but there’s also enough to satisfy the vegos or carnivores among us (roasted grapes and feta on grilled sourdough or slow-cooked lamb shoulder, garlic, oregano, lemon and skordalia which looked pretty saliva-inducing as it went to the next table to share).

The quality of the food and presentation is superb, as is the efficiency and friendliness of the staff, however I’m not yet convinced on the price points (especially for the small plates).  The anchovies and tomatoes on toast (above) for $17 was a fair stretch, and the fish finger sandwich was in fact just a burger (albeit a tasty one) with one crumbed Poneke ff sammieoblong finger at $22.  I expected at least sandwich style slices of interesting bread given it was marketed as a sandwich, with possibly even two or three smaller fish fingers for quirkiness and references to the kind of fish fingers we’d all remember (although that might be just the child in me!).

I do appreciate though, that they’re in an expensive location and prompt service and food delivery means bodies, on top of quality ingredients.

The winner on the day for me might just about have been the simple zucchini, mint, rocket and feta pizza (loved the thin rustic base), with fantastic flavours, textures, colour and piquancy (even the non-zucchini-loving teenager was impressed).

Poneke pizzaPoneke are doing 7 days from 7amish to mid evening, with the same menu running throughout, and outdoor tables for when the Wellington weather gods permit.  They are likely to change to later opening hours on the weekend with a slightly more tailored brunch menu in the near future.

Definitely worth a visit, especially if you appreciate quality food components and presentation, or fancy tender melt-in-the-mouth fish and chips beside the boats of a lovely sunny summer evening.

Clyde Quay Wharf.







A Canteen update

I know I’ve talked about Canteen a year ago when they opened, but a few things have changed so an update is in order.

After trying evenings and a few different variations on menus, Canteen have settled into a nice rhythm.  They have a lovely ambience in the style of a cake shop and tea room from days gone by (check out the casserole on top of the artificial flamed ‘oven’ in the picture at the end!), and friendly staff.

cantten french toastOpen from 7.30am Monday to Friday, breakfasts run until noon, and then there’s a switch up to lunch. The lunches include a tasty range of flatbreads, salads and hot meat sandwiches and burgers, many of which showcase their house-made Mabel & Mack hot spicy sauces (and are tender and delicious).

And although the breakfast foods are semi-traditional, they are well executed and usually have some different and interesting twists (turkish eggs with strained yoghurt, cumin butter and a grilled flatbread, or brioche french toast with toffee bananas – great presentation as canteen sconesyou’ll see above - or biscuits and gravy of open cheese scones with pork sausage and a creamy gravy – also delicious and well presented).

Open from 10 – 2.30pm Saturdays and Sundays with a brunch menu blended from the breakfast and lunch.

The coffee is Immigrants Son and well made, and the baking (with Roy being a baker) superb if you fancy a little cake to finish off with.

Here to stay.

8 Bond Street.

canteen decor





I know its a chain.  And I haven’t been to any of the others to see how ‘chain’ it feels. But we all really liked it.

Mexico decorSlightly grungy funky decor, delicious good value food, and a large range of quality tequilas. Hello Mexico.

The crisp patatas de maize with blue cheese and smoky almond snack for $8 were substantial and tasty, as were the $6 soft shell tacos (maybe the beef skirt meat could have been a smidge tenderer, but couldn’t fault the flavours and presentation).  And the $14 – $16 quesadillas, flautas (with pumpkin pictured below), Mexican fried chicken (yes there was agreement with the menu ‘not to be missed’ comment), ceviche with pork crackling and fresh salad etc all well exceeded expectations too.

Mexico flautaAlthough we were told that none of the dishes were that spicy (chilli-wise) and there were hot sauces on the table for extra grunt, we found a few to be quite tingly.  The hot sauces are available to buy instore or online if one takes your fancy.

Most of the group ordered one snack item or soft shell taco and one slightly bigger dish and were chokka (technical term) by the end of that.  So for $20 – $24 here you really can have a good time, be satisfied with quantity and quality and try different things. Pretty impressive really.

You can’t book in advance, so like most places these days you’ll end up parked in the bar for a bit enjoying tequilas, margaritas, and Mexican beers. Wine drinkers should note there are only three wines (red, white and sparkling), complemented by a few delicious sounding sangrias (by the glass or carafe).

Mexico tacoAnd the food will come in whatever sequence being of the sharing persuasion (however most of ours came within 10-15 minutes of each other so no dramas).

I really liked the sound of a couple of desserts, so will have to return soon and maybe do the menu in reverse!

If you are a small group or couple, expect to be seated at large communal tables near other diners.

Noon til late, 7 days.

41 Dixon Street.


Basque pinxtos

The people behind Beach Babylon and Little Beer Quarter have branched into northern Spain and tapas and pinxtos (pronounced pinchos).

In the old Zico premises next to The Tasting Room on Courtenay you will now find Basque.

And yes, they have pinxtos on the bar from 5pm like they do in Spain ($2.50 each), so you  can cruise in, grab a drink, select a pinxto or two from the bar and enjoy.

Basque pinxtosWhen asked how they monitor who has what, they laughed and said they just keep an eye on the custsies and its all good (apparently the same in Spain with no formal system for recording).

The pinxtos included many things on bread (frittata, chorizo and olive, baby octopus) as well as ham and cheese croquettes, arancini (the Spanish equivalent anyway) and many other very easy finger foods which changed as the evening went along.

The drinks included Spanish cava (bubbles, not Island-style!), wines, sangria and craft beers as well as a good complement of NZ offerings.

The tapas menu operates from 3pm with the expected items like patatas bravas, empanadillas, albondigas (Spanish meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce), grilled green beans with flaky sea salt etc, pretty much all priced between $8 and $13. They looked to be fairly decent helpings when we saw some pass by so I suspect you’d do very well here without breaking the bank (unlike some places where a small mortgage is required).

Basque MimatakiAdditional to the pinxtos and tapas are some traditional mains from 5.30pm, also at reasonable prices between $18 and $23 (excluding the steak). We partook of the Marmitake firm white Basque fish stew with spicy potato and tomato cooked in a traditional clay pot and the chorizo, beef and paprika burger (it was pretty close still to WOAP time) with tomato, caramelized onions, roasted capsicum, melted cheddar and patatas bravas.

Both were very good. The Marmitake was tender, well balanced and lightly tingly, and the burger included chunks of chorizo and offered with additional spicy sauces for those inclined beyond the standard tingle.

The environment was cosy and relevant, and the crowning glory on the night we were there – superb service from a delightful witty, charming and good looking bar lad who was Basque decor100% in the right role.

Nice one Basque.

8 Courtenay Place

City Dining

The City Dining restaurant at the West Plaza hotel surprised me.

I wanted to try their Wellington on a Plate menu since it had some interesting vegetarian offerings, and is somewhere I haven’t eaten before.  So the invitation was issued and five of us went to check it out.

City Dining Mush TortI expected nil ambience and yet the lighting and fabrics lent a pleasant air to the space (sorry forgot to photograph the decor after all that!).  And we enjoyed a drink first in the plush, slightly-darkened, cosy lounge bar on the other side of the foyer first. Huh.

The restaurant service was very good and it was warm and peaceful, and so the scene was set for a very nice time catching up with friends.

The Parkvale mushroom tortellini with Prana micro herbs and parmesan was very good, and the prune and walnut bread on the Kapiti aged cheddar and quince cheeseboard outstanding.  And the perfect size.  Enough bread/crackers for the cheese, not too much cheese, and crisp complementing fruits.  I’d even go as far as to say this is the best cheeseboard I’ve had in years (primarily because of the bread).

WOAP City DiningThe vego WOAP West Vege burger was pronounced far more than met the eye and very good also (even by a fairly carnivorous lad among us), and the creme brûlée desserts also had just the right textures and flavours.

The only wrong note was the venison on the Island Bay Butchery osso bucco and saffron risotto dish being tough (overcooked or cooked too quickly we suspect).  When pointed out they immediately offered to bring replacement meals which was the right response.  The risotto got the tick as well.

City Dining prune cheeseSo although it probably still wouldn’t be any of the first places I’d think of when heading out for dinner, it’d be the perfect place for a work lunch or business dinner, or even just dinner somewhere peaceful to enjoy good conversation over good food.

110 Wakefield Street, Wellington



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