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


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).

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.

Little White Rabbit

Little White Rabbit is part of a his (Village Inn Kitchen in Palmerston North) and hers (Little White Rabbit at Foxton Beach and Picnic Daze) hospo duo.

LWR decorApprox 1km back from the beach, LWR is one of those quintessentially cool cafes with a [probably deceptively] casually thrown together rusticness, simple home-made food, and relaxed service.

There are two large community tables inside (check out the door latch still on the rear table), and a number of smaller ones out front for the sun-lovers or those who don’t want to commune.

The menu is small – 4-5 blackboard daily specials, a few cabinet shelves, and a couple of pizzas which looked delicious when delivered nearby and might be the kind of thing one’d make a special trip here for.

LWR eggs bruschThe drinks included Foxton Fizz and the usual suspects, but also a freshly squeezed house juice changing as the day goes along (the current flavour pegged up on the blackboard). Alas by 1pm on a Sunday the freshly squeezed juices were all gone (seems a shame for prime time weekend holiday trade) and so we settled for a commercial guava juice. A number of the scone and cake plates on the main servery were empty by that time too. Popular place.

LWR vege pieThe eggs and tomato brushetta was tasty and pretty (above) and the cabinet vegetable pie dense and flavourful, although could have done with some accompanying chutney to round it off.

The fact that Picnic Daze operates out of the Manawatu probably explains why I couldn’t get a picnic delivered on Xmas Eve Wednesday in Wellington for Xmas lunch despite the website advertising Wellington deliveries Wednesday to Friday (disappointing, as I do like a unique Xmas Day experience each year), so I will have to find another occasion to test those out.

LWR counterWe enjoyed the paper and a quiz or two whilst chilling, and noticed a book swap developing, so if I lived at FX beach, I’d probably pop by fairly regularly.

Tuesday to Sunday daytimes.

106 Seabury Avenue, Foxton Beach.

LWR logo


Whitebait is the new Whitehouse venture, run by Paul Hoather’s ex-Sydney in-laws (who both have considerable respect in the food world from all accounts).

Whitebait decorIn the interests of brevity since there’s still many xmas pies to eat and carols to sing, here’s my initial foray thoughts:

  • It had a very Auckland viaduct feel to me (views, diner mass, reasonably generic décor).
  • If you enjoy all kinds of seafood, you’ll enjoy this menu (approx 80% is seafood).
  • No disputing the food quality, especially the dessert work of arts (do make room for one).
  • Take a walletful of cash (the herb and parmesan crusted
    bluenose needed a side, taking the $41 price tag to $50).
  • Whitebait entreeEntrees are substantial enough and of sufficient interest to have as a main with a side ($24-$32 + $9), and include a couple of whitebait options as you’d hope for a place named Whitebait (I can recommend the semolina noodles with whitebait, garlic and chilli).
  • The wine list was varied and split into helpful categories (smoky and rich whites, dark and brooding reds, fine and rare, etc).
  • The service needs to settle in a bit (early days).
  • Whitebait dessertI’m keen to try lunchtime and see how that compares (overall vibe).

It’ll be interesting to see how they go after the honeymoon period given the average diner these days wants to eat out more often for the same $.

Clyde Quay Wharf (old Overseas Terminal for those of us over 20).

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