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…

New vegan eats and a lightly swished up Hippo

There’s another wave of new vegan eats around the city (check out my latest Word on the Street post for detail), but I mostly want to talk about Hippopotamus at the QT Museum Hotel here.

Having been there over the years, I realised I’ve never written about them on this blog. And felt compelled to rectify!

Hippo high tea

 

To me Hippo is the last ‘fine dining’ restaurant left in Wellington. Where you’d dress up and have a classy evening out, with fine french food, fine wines, and respectful proper service. And although sold to QT late last year, that hasn’t changed.

The decor throughout has had a wee swish up to create a slightly more contemporary sophistication, rather than the previous traditional formality, but it’s been done with a light touch so the character of the place has not been compromised. So at Hippo, there is new branding in the tableware, fewer white table cloths, sleek black polished tables, and a hint more casual styling in the staff uniforms, etc.

You’ll still have a fine time, but with a notch less stiffness.

I’ve enjoyed a pre-Christmas team lunch at Hippo, a Guy Fawkes dinner with that wonderful display over the harbour, high tea, a lovely anniversary dinner and many other cocktail and tea visits over time.

And recently, I went along to enjoy Laurent’s new vegan menu. A totally separate menu with choices for most courses (although I suspect there’s a little swearing in the kitchen at times for this Frenchman used to his cream and butter!).

The dishes we enjoyed were:

  • Tofu sashimi with wakame salad and ginger syrup
  • Roast baby vegetables with ‘soil, rain and snow’
  • Mushroom risotto with vegan cheese
  • Coconut and mango panna cotta, with bruleed fresh pineapple, kaffir lime gel, toasted coconut crumble, mango gel, freeze-dried pineapple, mango passionfruit glass (yep it look and broke just like glass!), and finally, guava sorbet. OMG. And only $18 for all that.

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This menu will evolve over time, but was delicious, beautifully presented, and had some clever layering and flavour/texture combinations.

The one thing I haven’t done yet, and been told is really worthwhile, is breakfast at Hippo. As well as buffet food, they have an a’la’carte breakfast menu with light dishes at $15 and substantial ones at $25. That’s not much more than a bunch of cafes around town, who won’t give you that same elegance and finesse. Checking that out very soon!

QT are also converting their foyer carpark into a ‘Hot Sauce’ Korean/Japanese tapas bar and lounge (the same as QT Melbourne has) for a mid-year opening, so stay tuned folks. More good things to come.

90 Cable Street, CBD

 

 

 

Leroys Dive Bar

I’ve been in and out of Leroys a couple of times, and written about them as part of the rise and rise of tacos post for Word on the Street, so here’s my summary…

Leroys decor 0

Leroys is in the old Hideaway space in the Plimmer Steps, and is brought to us by the Greenman folks (the recent Dillingers addition to Midland Park is theirs also).

Leroys has been redecorated as a dive bar style with motorcycles hanging from the ceilings, pour-your-own beer from a carburettor, a half caravan for seating (or the musos), a twinkly outdoor garden bar, and more groove than you can poke a stick at.

They’re also doing some tasty bites – predominantly tacos (delivered on cute toy trucks), firebird fried chicken (some of the moistest I’ve ever tasted courtesy of the $16,000 pressure cooker in the kitchen), and frankendogs (hot dogs in a potato rosti).

The tacos were all tasty, with their own distinct flavour profiles, and the frankendog much more interesting than a dog in a bun. Although I will grant you, messier to eat.

If you need something a little extra on the side, you can dive into K-fries (pretty much Korean spicy nacho topping on fries), or good ol slaw.

There’s a bunch of beers on tap and by the bottle if pouring your own doesn’t appeal, and a selection of wines, retro cocktails, alco-slushies and non-alcs.

And deals every night through the week – motormouth Mondays with a quarter bird and pint deal; taco truck Tuesdays 2:4:1 tacos; gigging (and probably lots of giggling too!) Fridays with live music from 7pm, etc.

Leroys decor 1

Be prepared for lots of noise on busy nights, ordering at the counter and collecting your eats from the kitchen when the vibrating ‘waiter’ tells you it’s time.

Don’t be shy, put on your dive shoes and get on down to Leroys for tasty bites and a bit of fun.

Monday to Friday from 9am to late. Saturday noon to late.

2 Plimmer Steps

The Botanist at Lyall Bay

Having given them a month or so to settle in (that’s my excuse anyway!), I finally trucked out to the new Botanist at Lyall Bay for lunch.

Brought to us by the folks of Beach Babylon, Little Beer Quarter, and Basque, the point of difference here is that everything is vegetarian or vegan.

Botanist decor

The atmosphere is inviting – an old villa with views out to the south coast, a north facing garden / deck area and lots of light and plants indoors – and the staff were welcoming and friendly.

We tried out the pea, smoked brinza and zucchini fritters with pickled cucumber raita (with optional poached eggs), and the crumbed halloumi burger with herbed fries.

With the winner being the fritters (and my apologies, I just realised the pic is nearly all eggs!) with a pleasing texture and tangy raita offset. The burger was pleasant but nothing exciting and we struggled a bit to get herbiness off the fries, although they were nicely cooked. We probably should have tried one of the other burgers – marinated tempeh, or black bean, corn and pecan patty – to really sample something outside the norm.

The drinks cover all bases, with a range of local and NZ craft beers and ciders, all wines by the glass and bottle (virtually all NZ), and a bunch of appealing-sounding cocktails (Garden of Babylon with pea pods, Basil Crush, Flowerbed Martini, and Lavender Cosmo with lavender leaves). Unfortunately I was driving so kept to the non-alcoholic, which included the usual coffees, HardieBoys, Humble honey soda, Salty Dog apple and lime soda, smoothies, T Leaf organic teas etc. Next time.

I did chuckle at the drink menu saying ‘sorry we don’t serve marshmallows as they contain animal gelatin’, as we sat under a [wooden] deer head eating our vegetarian lunch!

Botanist deer

On the way out I saw the dinner menu (they’ve just started this week), and thought it contained more interesting dishes, so might head back for an evening soon.

Beware the place is apparently heaving at weekends (and was pretty full today at a Tuesday lunchtime) with a lot of flat surfaces, so fairly noisy. But bookings can be made online, so you should be able to pick your moment.

A pleasant addition to the South Coast.

219 Onepu Road, Lyall Bay

Italian wine at Petone

Michele Marai started Cangrande Italian Wine importation and distribution around five years ago, and has recently set himself up for retail – both online and a wee flagship store in Petone named Il Doge (pronounced eel doe-jay, in honour of the Duke of Venice).

This has been in response to people continually asking to buy the Italian wines they’ve experienced at restaurants around the city and region.

Il Doge decor 2

The two points of different at Il Doge are the quality of the wines (his father back in Italy samples 300-400 per year and selects the top 40 for further sub-selection – that’s really taking one for the team huh!), and each being displayed with a label of its provenance, tasting profile, and most importantly, what food it goes with.

Turns out food and wine matching is a big deal for Michele (the Italian heritage), with many Italian wines drier and more rustic on their own than our Kiwi palates are used to, but wonderfully rounded with the right food. Aaaaha!

So on Fridays from 5.30 – 7pm Michele opens a wine of the week for sampling with tasty hors d’oeuvres (which I completely forgot to ask the source of, I was so entranced with the whole concept), to demonstrate just that.

We enjoyed the Isonzo del Friuli Northern Italian Chardonnay so much we subsequently took a bottle to dinner with us, and discovered it went well with Vietnamese food.

The biggest seller is the Valpolicella Ripasso from Valrona (the hinterland near Venice that Michele hails from), which ‘speaks to you about village life’ and is a gentler big red for those who aren’t into big reds. I loved Michele’s passion and eloquence when talking about his wines, totally infectious.

I ended up buying a bottle of the Amarone Campagnola (also from Verona), traditionally paired with horse meat (errr venison or rich stew), and with a slightly different production process – grapes dried indoors, macerated and oaked for three years – resulting in a chocolatey, jammy, dark minerally drop. Yet to be enjoyed, but the anticipation is great.

As well as an interesting selection of wines, you’ll find authentic Italian craft beers (the Vienna lager had a caramelly smoothness and was quite the moreish drop), balsamics, spirits and liquers – a bottle of the Amaretto very nearly jumped into my bag as well. Next time.

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So pop along on a Friday evening to taste and learn, grab a bottle for your next BYO dinner (or what the hell, just to enjoy at home!), and watch out for Italian food and wine matching events at a restaurant near you.

281 Jackson Street, Petone

Fine eats at the Tinakori Bistro

I really was surprised by the standard of food when I dined at the Tinakori Bistro a month or so ago.

So much so, that I went back and chatted with chef/owner Aaron Stott and  wrote about them for Word on the Street (check out the full details here).

And they’re still doing Grab One vouchers as we speak.

So if you fancy some very nice dining in a casual environment, Tinakori Bistro should be on your list.

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328 Tinakori Road

A Wellington watering-holes tee

To celebrate Wellington’s wonderful beer spots, local company Very Well ran a Facebook promo on Wellington Live to find out what places should be included on their new Wellington tee, and what the unofficial top 10 Wellington drinking spots are.

So here’s the results:

screen-shot-2017-03-06-at-2-52-14-pm

And the tee:

wellington-drinking-spots-457

Available online, along with a whole bunch of other Wellington tees.

Salt and Wood at Waikanae

I found myself at Waikanae this week and tried out the new Salt and Wood Collective, run by the folks who have North End Brewing, Long Beach and the previously-posted Olde Bakery (so they know what they’re doing).

salt-wood-entry

Salt and Wood is an American-style barbecue brew pub. They brew on site (you can see it through the glass), you can fill your flagons and taste the treasures onsite (they do a specific Salt and Wood range), as well as enjoy food (mostly) cooked in a large American smoker oven.

There’s a bunch of deals throughout the week like Mexican Mondays, $10 Burger Tuesdays, and Pork Rib Fridays. As well as live music on Saturdays from 3pm.

So, given it was brunch time I figured I’d better try the breakfast sandwich, which I imagined as a BLT-style sandwich in dense grainy bread (no idea why) and turned out to be a full on burger!

salt-wood-bfast-swich

The components were clearly quality, and generous, with all meats ethically raised, and as much local as possible.

The menu ranges across spent grain granola; house smoked fish with avocado, buttermilk cream and pickles on spent grain bread; a caesar salad with pulled chicken and maple bacon; a ‘kitchen sink’ sandwich (pork, brisket and gravy); dirty fries (meat and gravy); tacos, quesadillas and much more.

Alas we didn’t make it to dessert, but I wouldn’t have minded a go at the Black Bottom Pie or Baked Cherry Cheesecake.

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I was amused by the very large knife we received with our cutlery (great for keeping the opposition away from one’s food!), enjoyed their house-made sauces (you can usually buy to take home but they’d run out this time), and was impressed by the service (relaxed but efficient).

I will most certainly be back.

7 days and nights.

11 Ngaio Road, Waikanae (right across from the town centre carpark).

Get thee to Sixes and Sevens

The name Sixes and Sevens for the wee cafe on Taranaki Street behind Burger Fuel is an inside joke given Rob’s never been at sixes and sevens in his life.

six-seven-exterior

He started out as a fine dining patissier in Auckland, dabbled in catering, and then moved into the cafe and deli space, discovering you can choose what to bake every day. Eureka!

So Rob bakes what he’d like to eat himself, using local, fresh and seasonal ingredients. His like of order is evident in the presentation of the cabinets, the food itself and the calm excellence of the staff.

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The salad I enjoyed was a blend of several, with natural goodness (over-saucing is a pet hate), and presented very nicely for eat-in. At $10 for a satisfying lunch, how could you go wrong?

I then enjoyed a spinach and spring onion scone, which had a crispy exterior and soft flavourful interior. They were four different scones that day, so plenty of choice.

And I kicked myself all afternoon for not slipping the single remaining pear brioche into my bag for dessert too, as it looked so appealing. Next time if I’m lucky!

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Sixes and Sevens first came to my attention through Wellington on a Plate last year, when they were part of the pop-up donut store at Moore Wilsons.

And they do great donuts. There were both lemon cheesecake, and the classic cream buns still going in the early afternoon when I was there. So this is the place to come if you have a donut itch (check out their donut Saturday event this coming Saturday 11 Feb).

There was also a bunch of teas and cold drinks, Havana coffee, and apparently, damn good smoothies. With every flavour under the sun, and every superfood shot or protein supplement you could imagine, I suspect they just might live up to that claim (who knew there was such a thing as Amazonia raw immune supplement??).

If you keep an eye on their Facebook page, you’ll see what’s up each day, and can plan accordingly.

Monday to Friday, 7am-4pm (3pm closure on Fridays).

51 Taranaki Street

 

New vegan eating in the city

There’s a growing number of vegan options in the city that’ll meet your needs – morning, noon and night.

Boquita taco shop recently opened on Kent Terrace, with fresh, local, seasonal and vegan food.

Being the baby sister of La Boca Loca, these guys make everything themselves, including the tortillas, and totally know what they’re doing.

boquita-tacos-hero

I’ve also been chatting with Amber Sturtz of Easy as Kai – a one-woman band bringing us Austin, Texas inspired tacos with the same focus on fresh, local, seasonal, vegetarian and vegan. And I noticed she does a vegan coconut custard pie among her sweet American-style offerings.

You can check out her wares at the Frank Kitts Underground Market on Saturdays, and many of our street festivals (Island Bay, Newtown and Aro Valley Fair). Or have them delivered to your workplace on Tuesdays, Fridays and alternate Wednesdays to Weta (next delivery date shows at the bottom of the website page). Couldn’t be easier.

easy-as-kai-tofu-chorizo-vegan

And being summer, you shouldn’t miss out on cool, refreshing ‘ice creams’ either, as many sorbets and sorbetto’s in the city are vegan (vegetable binders rather than egg-based).

Case in point is Carello del Gelato on Oriental Parade.

They pride themselves on having a range of sorbets always available, all with fulsome flavours (yep, there was definitely a bunch of feijoas in the feijoa sorbet!), and nearly all vegan. Including a specialty dark chocolate that would surely satisfy any craving.

They also do soy-sorbet shakes, sorbet sundaes, and their own Mr Pops ice blocks, which include fruity vegan flavours like bursting blackberry, zesty lemon, and juicy apple. There’s also a couple of non-vegan flavours like flat white or creamy sea salted caramel, the caramel so unlike a traditional ice block that it felt like I was eating gelato on a stick.

carello-feijoa-sorbet

As well as their groovy little tasting room alongside Beach Babylon, you’ll see their bike around the waterfront in summer, and the Carello name popping up during events like Wellington on a Plate. And you can still get their 2016 WOAP dessert burger at the Oriental cafe if you missed out during the festival. Nice.

There’s also a bunch of flavours in one litre pottles for take-home, so there’s no way you’ll go short of dessert with Carello del Gelato on the job.

carello-lscape

 

Higher Taste, Midnight Espresso, Southern Cross Bar, Loretta, Olive Cafe, Maranui Cafe and Sweet Release are other established places that also spring to mind with vegan eats.

And I recently had a very pleasant vegan shepherds pie at the Glasshouse Restaurant at Thorndon Rydges – flavourful veg and chickpeas with a satisfying density not unlike the meaty version. Nicely done guys.

gh-vegan-shep-pie-2

And watch out for a new plant-based cafe at Lyall Bay called The Botanist due to open anytime soon…

Phew!

Beach House & Kiosk

The old Bach at Owhiro Bay has been taken over by the folks who created Elements.

bh-exterior

The physical layout of the Beach House & Kiosk feels pretty much the same to me, but now has a more seaside vibe, jazzed up the tables and railing out front (with the rail also doubling as bar-style seating), and I suspect a fairly significant investment into the kitchen.

Like Elements (and then later the Eat Street food truck), Scott and Zoe are focusing on fresh, seasonal, local and sustainable ingredients.

With a group of eight, I got to check out a range of breakfasts, all which met with approval:

  • crepes with seasonal fruit, lemon curd, coconut ice cream, maple syrup and candied walnuts (pretty and sweetly delicious)
  • a breakfast burger or two of Andouille sausage, streaky bacon, kasundi, fried egg, caramelised onion, rocket and halloumi (and if that wasn’t enough you could add duck fat potatoes for another $4!)
  • smoked kipper potato cakes with poached eggs, furikake and hollandaise (heavier on potatoes than kippers apparently, but tasty)
  • free-range soft scrambled eggs with free-range thick cut streaky bacon on sourdough (both boys who had this were voluble about the fantastic flavoured and textured fat in the streaky bacon)
  • baked spinach and tomato with smoked brinza, dukkah crusted egg and rocket (I’m so having that next time)
  • and a soft shell crab burger with wasabi mayo, lime cucumber, rocket, chilli jam and fries. Holy meeeoly.

And for me, washed down with a Salty Dog apple and lime soda. When at the seaside…

Other house sodas that caught my eye were the vanilla rhubarb and white cola. As well as the Storm and India organic premium coconut chai and almond macaroon teas, and the Whittaker’s iced chocolate. Beach House are also licensed with a simple range of wines and beers, but most of us didn’t get that far.

They’re currently doing daytimes, 7 days per week, but have recently advertised for additional staff so they can throw in a few nights as well.

410 The Esplanade, Island Bay

PS. The Kiosk is around the side doing frozen yoghurt, takeaway coffees etc on weekends and public holidays when its crazy inside and you just want a quickie (so to speak!).

 

 

 

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