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 Food Tours around the city…

Revelling in Rita

The Nikau folks have finally opened an evening service – at a new site in Aro Valley.

The tiny 1910 villa next door to the Taproom (the old Haya Deli) sets the scene for a relaxing dinner as if you were at a friend’s house.

Rita HERO

There’s no menu envy here, only a $65 three-course set menu of either meat or vegetarian persuasion. And a short, but well balanced, drinks list to go with it.

Rita is the name of Kelda’s grandmother, also born in 1910, so they’re using the setting as a prompt for looking back at recipes that might have been used in days gone by, making the most of whatever’s available, but delivering with a modern twist.

Rita lamb neck Drunk Nanny goat cheese

Slow-braised lamb neck chops with field peas, Nanny Goat silky goat cheese and radishes

So overall, a very comforting, convivial and relaxing experience. Delivered with the flair we’ve come to know and love from the Nikau team.

Read full details of our first Rita experience here.

89 Aro Street

 

 

WOAP 2017, here we go….

It’s that time again. The loose-waisted pants are out of the wardrobe. And life is managed by spreadsheet for 15 days.

Aside from just the sheer frivolity of it all though, it’s worth thinking about the theme put to chefs and mixologists – this year, celebrating food as part of New Zealand’s culture – and how you score your eats and drinks:

  • Celebrating the role that food plays alongside other cultural forms such as art, music and creative expression
  • What is New Zealand’s contemporary cuisine?
  • What role does our multicultural society play in our cuisine?
Ghouse pork puha etc

Glasshouse Restaurant’s pork, puha and paua on smokey hangi kumara hash

This is how mystery judges apportion their scores:

  • 15% service (knowledge, timeliness)
  • 15% presentation
  • 15% use of local ingredients
  • 5% beer, tapas or local beverage matching
  • 5% relation to the festival theme
  • 25% taste

Before adding the last 20% from final weighted average public scores.

We of course all have our own perspectives and benchmarks (my pet peeve – if a burger can’t be held in the hands and eaten easily, its not a burger), but it might be interesting to contemplate the above factors when deciding your scores.

WBC spicy crispy pork bao

WBC crispy Sichuan pork bao burger

So far I’ve had one experience at the Glasshouse Restaurant (Thorndon Hotel) where Nona was excellent at describing the dish components and how to maximise the tastes, and one at WBC where the festival theme was reflected in a fusion of Asian/New Zealand styles and ingredients by a renowned chef, Jenny Gao of Shanghai (although I only found that out later when chatting while paying).

And my last piece of advice? Keep your thoughts and probable scores written down somewhere for the first few days, as what feels like a 7/10 might become more or less once you have a few other bites and slurps under your belt to compare to.

Ghouse saus roll dessert

Glasshouse’s ‘sausage roll’ dessert

Lots to think about aye?

So have at it, have some fun and happy scoring (log into the VWOAP site and click the scoring link at the bottom of each Establishment’s page).

And I’ll see you for Slimming September on the other end!

 

 

 

 

 

Counter Culture & Photonflux

There are a couple of groovy new eateries in Upper Victoria to go with the street widening and apartment building going on up there.

Counter Cult battleship

The first is a board game cafe, Counter Culture, with over 300 games available, and tasty food to boot. In the former Crafters premises, you will find many nooks and crannies to wile away as much time as you like playing old favourites or learning new games.

The second is a Sci Fi cafe, Photonflux, with memorabilia for Africa (if you’ll pardon the pun!), and tasty ‘fluxbun’ sandwiches the feature of the menu currently (South African fried dough filled with interesting ingredients – surprisingly, not unhealthy feeling at all!).

Both are definitely worth a visit, with Counter Culture also taking part in Wellington on a Plate.

Further details on both here.

Photon art

 

Bambuchi

Another new sharing plates eatery, this time taking it to the ‘burbs in Hataitai.

Bambuchi has the feel of an upmarket beach bar with rustic wooden tables, a handful of neon lights, buddhas holding candles, and nightclub-style music in the background.

Bambuchi decor2

However, the food is far from beach bar.

The complimentary pillows of house ciabatta came with a smoked paprika butter which left a lightly cheesy taste on the palate (unexpected), and was elevated with pinenuts for texture.

The obligatory roasted cauliflower was very nicely done with a lemon curry cream base, fat juicy golden raisins and crispy kale contrast; the poached game fish laksa included lovely floral coconuty flavours; the lamb was tender and lightly smoky with a nicely contrasting pickled cabbage; and the hasselback potatoes were outstanding – a wonderful mix of featheriness and crispiness.

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We still had room for dessert so checked out the apple crumble (more like a muesli than traditional crumble, but with lots of lovely textures and rich flavours), and the baked camembert with gingerbread and saffron pears (enough bread for a change and excellent pears, together a very satisfactory flavour combination).

The other thing I particularly liked was the pacing of the courses. I hate being rushed, and although would have said we’d been there an hour in total, it was actually 90 minutes and just right.

There’s a good range of beer and cider showcasing many local brands like Garage Project, Kereru, Parrot Dog etc, and a few I’d never come across before like Schippers, Aspall and Poppels. The wines range from French sparkling to Spanish Gamacha (all except a couple of sparklings available by the glass, carafe or bottle), and there’s a handful of cocktails with ingredients like prickly pear, allspice and okar (not all in the same cocktail!).

Bambuchi drinks

I enjoyed a Vynfields sparkling riesling, and the chip fiend enjoyed a Brooklyn lager, although he was a little perplexed that they brought the opened can and glass but didn’t pour it for him (he’s a full service lad, and has never let me forget a cafe I took him to which served his sardines and ciabatta on a wooden board in the original can with only the lid removed!).

Don’t be fooled by the decor of Bambuchi, but do expect to put your hand in your pocket to enjoy a number of plates. Chef Julian Pizer has had his hand in a good few Wellington establishments over the years, as well as international experience, and it shows.

31 Waitoa Road, Hataitai (its actually right on the corner, not around as Google shows)

 

 

 

Have you taken part in the Hutt’s ‘Sweet As’ hot chocolate challenge yet?

If not, you really, really should.

13 cafes, bars and bakeries are taking part in the annual Lower Hutt ‘Sweet As’ hot chocolate challenge, which runs until 30 July, with their drink themed around a main flavour.

It’s not just the city who can run festivals and events!

Cafe Iwi choc cake

Last year’s winning Cafe Iwi chocolate cake

And I got to try two of them over the weekend.

Firstly was Toffie Bakery’s ‘Double shot of mint and chocolate’ – peppermint-infused hot chocolate served with an Old Gold Peppermint mini cupcake with peppermint buttercream icing, and peppermint chocolate as the crowning glory.

Good to see a bakery taking part, and the only one doing peppermint; a take on the after dinner mint Manager Kelsey tells me. The drink had a mild peppermint flavour against a sweetly intense chocolatey-pepperminty mini cupcake on top. And nicely presented.

Sweet As Toffie peppermint

And then came Gotham’s ‘Gotham Kiss’ – raspberry white hot chocolate with whipped cream, pink sprinkles and a raspberry and white chocolate cookie. So this one centred around raspberry.

I am a bit of a white chocolate fan, so was pleased to see more than just the dark variety in the competition, and found this one to be light, fluffy and easy to drink. Again the drink was reasonably gentle in flavour, offset by a more intense cookie.

Sweet As Gotham white.jpg

And to whet your whistle further, here’s a few others you still have time to enjoy and vote for (images below courtesy of Sweet As Hot Chocolate and Sweet As Hot Chocolate’s Facebook page, where you also vote).

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If you doubled up some days you’d still be able to grab the Sweet As passport and get a stamp from each entrant to enter the prize draw at the end of the challenge (details on the cards). Check out the full list of participants here.

So get drinking folks, there’s still 7 days left….

Oikos Hellenic cuisine

I have to confess up front I’m a bit over the sharing / tapas concept where you end up buying a bunch of dishes, which might come in random spurts, and go home potentially hungry and considerably lighter in the wallet to boot.

Oikos decor.jpg

So I was a little dismayed to find that Oikos, of which I’d heard very good things, was of this ilk too. Lately I just want a proper cohesive meal prepared by a chef putting the right things together for an experience greater than the sum of its parts.

However, Oikos apparently means both family and the place one calls home, so sharing it is (if you have 9 or more in your party you must share at $50 per head).

And there’s certainly no doubting the authenticity of Oikos and staff, with a couple of stand-out dishes – the sesame crumbed feta with honey for one, and the house-made pita bread, which was soft and tender, for two.

Other dishes were pleasant, but didn’t have any wow factor, and the jury’s still out for me on whether chocolate baklava is a good thing or not.

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The service was friendly and welcoming, but needs a little more settling in (one beer never eventuated for the longest time, and the greens to share with the meats was missed entirely). They offer their own Oikos’ organic house wines by the glass (all other wines are by the bottle, both Greek and NZ), which is kinda groovy. And the coffee was black, white or Greek. Simple and effective.

Like others have noted, be prepared for a range of emails, calls and texts from Oikos confirming your booking (they certainly want to be sure you’re going to turn up) and do consider booking if its heading towards the end of the week or the weekend.

And if you don’t like a lot of noise, choose an off-peak time as there’s a lot of flat surfaces here, and it was hard to hear each other by the end.

For me, a great location for a nibble and wine when you don’t fancy a meal.

382 Broadway, Miramar (really just before Strathmore)

 

Delicious Doppio

Tucked behind the Sprig and Fern in the Tinakori Village, is a delightful bakery and patisserie by the name of Doppio.

Doppio outside.jpg

Zoltan Loranth is a self-trained pastry chef from Hungary, recently relocated to Wellington with his wife and Cafe Manager (different people!) from Nelson, after an original relocation from Hungary.

The decor is ‘little Europe’, with a large community table for sharing, a few ‘piazza’ tables out front, and smooth Billie Holiday-style tunes in the background.

My berry custard pastry was excellent, with the pastry still crispy (not easy with soft fillings), the berries sweet, and the custard smooth. And the sourdough loaf I took home for lunch excellent also.

Doppio is so going to become one of my regular walk routes (Hillside, Doppio, The Gardens cafe, I might never get out of Thorndon….!).

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I particularly liked that all products are hand-made with love and passion.

8am – 3pm Tuesday to Friday, 9am – 2pm Saturday and Sunday.

342A Tinakori Road.

 

Bastardo and Two Grey

I’ve quite enjoyed two new eateries in the city lately, for totally different reasons.

Bastardo has oodles of olde-worlde charm and classy comfort food, while Two Grey is more of a modern brasserie for catching up with friends over a drink and tasty bites.

Bastardo decor MAIN

Bastardo on Tory Street (the old Pan de Muerto) is brought to us by the Cicio Cacio team from Newtown (also Franziska at Seatoun). And will do well. You can read my thoughts in detail here, and do make room for the groovy dessert trolley when you go.

 

Two Grey MAIN

Two Grey is the new Arizona on the corner of Featherston and Grey Streets. Still the same team out back, but with a focus on local, fresh, seasonal, and modern. The service has been a little patchy to date, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt at the moment being newbies. Again, more detail here, and don’t miss the roasted cauliflower.

 

Young Shing

The delightful Doris has taken over where Yeung Shing used to be in upper Willis Street with a ‘younger‘ version. With clean, fresh Chinese food ranging across the traditional and not-so-traditional.

YS decor

We started off by sharing crispy spring rolls, which were hot, fresh and crispy, and then proceeded to satay beef and kung pao chicken. The satay beef is made using a blend of Fix and Fogg peanut butters (both the smooth and smoke & fire) and coconut milk. As a result the satay wasn’t heavy or gluggy, had a satisfying ring of real peanut oil left on the plate, and a tasty wee zing.

The kung pao chicken was similarly appealing, fresh and satisfying. As well as plentiful, with both meats tender and not over-cooked. There’s no MSG anywhere within a ten mile radius of Doris’s kitchen, and do ask her to explain why the blue cod has a ‘squirrel’ label on the menu, a delightful tale (tail?!).

 

Although this is a simple restaurant with a takeaway area, I enjoyed the clean, fresh styling, and the soothing clunk of woks and pop radio in the background.

There’s a fantastic 8m mural about to be painted on the dining room wall, and local beer and wine to be stocked in the future, but in the meantime take your own wine or beer along (BYO licensed) or enjoy the onsite offerings (I can thoroughly recommend the Hopt salted lychee soda).

YS squirrel

Cost effective, fresh and tasty.

296 Willis Street

Monday to Friday lunch, Monday to Saturday dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

Moss Caff

OMG, how did I not know about Moss Caff, which opened in the ASB Tower on Hunter Street at the end of 2016???

Moss decor

What gorgeous fresh, light, tasty, paleo and plant-based food (it’s okay carnivores, there’s meaty things too!).

The decor is warm, sunny and plant-y with lots of lovely open space, and if on your own, could quite happily sit at the window seats watching the world go by.

We enjoyed a mushroom stack with paleo bread, and a paleo spiced lamb and kumara pie. Both of which were superb. And had me immediately plotting my next visit.

ASB Tower, 2 Hunter Street.

Weekdays.

 

 

 

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