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…

Enjoying Saffron Haveli

I finally got (a lot of my posts are starting with that lately aren’t they!) to the new Saffron Haveli on Cambridge Terrace, in the old Strawberry Fare premises.

And was pretty impressed with the food quality. I think along with Kera-la-carte this might be one of my fave Indian eateries now.

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After ordering drinks we were presented with feather-light crispy poppadoms with enough salt to be moreish but not OTT. A great accompaniment to the Lychee mint mojito and Indian beer.

We then dove straight into mains with a Malai kofta, and a chicken special. The kofta were silky and light in a nicely dense sauce. And the chicken special was very tender and flavourful, despite being kiwi hot. No flavour ruinations with the temperature increases here.

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Haveli means a mansion or hall where families live and eat together, and there were certainly plenty of families and groups dotted around the restaurant.

The service was courteous and friendly, and all in all, we rather enjoyed ourselves.

25 Kent Terrace

PS. They look to do a roaring trade in take-aways, so if you’re short on time or fancy eating at home, that’s another option.

The Press Hall Eateries

I recently checked out the new Press Hall Eateries in Willis Street next to Ti Kouka, so named because the site was originally the press hall for the Evening Post.

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The quality of the eateries is good with local favourites like Fratelli, Tommy Millions, Yoshi, and others. And the decor nicely done.

I decided the best way to sample the Hall was a progressive early dinner (most eateries open til 7pm), so started at Aroha’s plant-based cuisine, moved to Mad Mex for mains, and then took Fratelli home for dessert.

Aroha’s plant-based cuisine includes dishes like a smoky seitan vegan burger (wheat protein, so beware those with gluten issues), vege curry with rice or roti, and vegan power bowls, for $12. I decided on the $6 satay kebabs as an entree and found them tasty, with just the right amount of flavour and texture in the satay sauce.

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We then trucked onto Mad Mex and shared a chorizo quesadilla and loaded Baja fries. Watching the chorizo being flamed in the background, and the quesadilla being made in front of one’s eyes is always a satisfying experience, and both dishes were pleasant and fresh. I loved the booth decor and the guava soda that went alongside.

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And then because I’m a fan of Fratelli, and a progressive dinner isn’t complete without dessert, we took home salted caramel cannoli, piped with filling right in front of us. The custard was delightful, the right density and flavour, and the cases satisfyingly light and bubbly. There my happy belly rested.

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I’m planning on heading back to Yoshi for lunch or an early dinner as they have a separate restaurant-like area down the back which would be ideal for a working lunch or early evening dinner away from the masses.

They are also the only sushi and bento business in the city run by a Japanese lad, and you’ll find more genuine dishes like udon and karaage here.

7am – 7pm weekdays, 9am – 3pm Saturdays.

78 Willis Street.

PS. Keep an eye out for an upstairs bar opening soon run by the Hanging Ditch team.

Oodles of cool at Coolsville

I was out walking recently and tripped over Coolsville Trading Post at Hataitai. And what a groovy place!

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Turns out to be part of the Bambuchi family, with most of the food coming out of the kitchen across the road (shows in the quality), and includes a good number of alternatives for those with dietary restrictions – healthy grab’n’go food, in compostable and recyclable containers.

Because I was on a long walk, I felt totally justified in having two dishes (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it), and thoroughly enjoyed both the kumara and egg nest, (nicely crisped in a toastie machine and not sogged in a microwave) and the salmon noodle salad. Along with my friends moose and bear at the table!

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Both were fresh, flavourful and satisfying. And the coffee was also well made.

There’s both cabinet and menu options, with many of the dishes named after random people like Lisa and Bart Simpson, or people from the Bambuchi family like Richie, Oliver or Tommy.

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The gifts range from artisan to quirky homeware, which I confess I made good use of (a mojito candle anyone?), and on the food front included Nice Blocks, Hakanoa traditional ginger beers, local O manuka honey chocolate (it’s really good, you should get your hands on some), and Joco glass keep cups, among others.

This is soooo going to be one of my favourite walk routes now!

Daytimes 7 days.

3C Moxham Avenue, Hataitai

Monte Cervino

If you didn’t catch my Monte Cervino post over at Word on the Street, here’s the link.

Monte Cervino is the new iteration of Matterhorn in Tory Street (the old Lonestar building), and differs from Matterhorn by being a bit more casual and Italian-inspired (the Italian ‘face’ of the Matterhorn!).

MonteC bar

The food is still the quality you’d expect of Sean Marshall, albiet a little simpler, and the service still has the Matterhorn vibe – a whole lot of groove, a little bit laid back, and a couple of handlebar moustaches to round it out – so there’s a whole lot that feels familiar.

The environment is light and bright, and its an easy place to pop by for a drink and bite, full meal, or even just dessert in the bar if you so fancied.

MonteC motto

I’m eyeing up the zucchini, lemon, pine nut and assiago pizzetta (naturally leavened sour dough base) on my next visit, along with Nonna’s fritole. And another of the very interesting cocktails. This one ‘The Alps’ with pine cordial….

MonteC Alps

Open 7 days lunch and dinner.

66 Tory Street

50-50 at Pram Beach

I have been told a couple of times to check out 50-50 at Paraparaumu Beach, and OMG, it was really excellent.

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The decor is very austere, with three pictures on one wall, and simple brown tables in one big oblong room. But don’t be fooled.

Helen Turnbull (opened Rata restaurant in Queenstown for Josh Emett, also best emerging chef at Hummingbird in the 2014 Capital awards) crafts her dishes at a big kitchen bench at the end of the room, while long-time Wellington bar personality Eddy Kennedy runs the front of house as smoothly as a well oiled machine.

The menu has only four dishes per course to choose from, and you can go a-la-carte, or do a 6 or 9 course dinner ($75 and $95 respectively) where Helen presents from across the menu, or have a taste of everything for $120. So lots of choice in how you eat.

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Among our group of three, the stand-out dishes were all of them. But of particular memorability were the amazing flavours of the aubergine entree which the biggest vegetable-avoider of the group fell in love with (me too for that matter), the crispy pork belly with both fantastic crispness and tenderness, the super crispy but feathery roast tatties which appeared by magic with the mains, and the unusualness of the nectarine tart.

The drinks list is also small, but as you’d expect with Eddy’s background, interesting and well formed. We enjoyed The Bone Line Waipara non-typical chardonnay (was described well and double checked with us at ordering), and at $11 per glass was good value.

The beers include a Lakeman Primate pilsner, Kereru Come By Shepherd’s low alcohol ale and Duncans stout (to name half of them), and the non-alcs Kapiti chemex coffee, strawberry Sichuan fizz, apricot and tarragon iced tea, again all interesting and a little different.

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This is definitely a place all foodies should try, and do book as they’re getting really busy.

Wednesday to Saturday evenings (note closed as a one-off this week 21 to 24 Feb).

27 Maclean Street, Paraparaumu Beach

Pomelo surprise

I had heard good things about Pomelo Kitchen and Bar  on Oriental Parade, but when we finally got there this weekend, it totally exceeded expectations.

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The views, of course, are fantastic from those giant windows looking directly across the harbour and city, and the decor is light and fresh.

Co-owners Lily and Laili Chin started from a takeaway background in the Hutt Valley (among other things), and have obviously been hiding their light under a bushel.

The food very much made me think of Comes and Goes at Petone, both in terms of quality and presentation. Being ‘pan-Asian’, the ingredients draw from many cultures – Thai yellow curry, Vietnamese tiger prawn salad, Chinese pork dumplings, and much more.

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The signature soft shell crab with coriander, chilli mayo and slaw was a first for the chip fiend, and he thoroughly enjoyed the delicate flavours of the crab on its own, as well as enhanced with the chilli mayo.

The caramelised eggplant with tamarind, Sichuan pepper and sesame seeds had a very thin crispy batter, without any inner sog, and was nicely enhanced by the sweet sauce and sesame seeds.

The slow braised Angus beef ribs fell off the bone, the yellow curry with lotus chips was the best I think I’ve ever had, and the spiced poached pear with coconut custard was a light fresh finish.

Every dish supported the main ingredient to shine, and was melt-in-the-mouth where it should be, lightly crispy where it should be, firm where it should be, and fresh. Even the hand cut kumara fries were an excellent showcase of kumara (and rather fab dipped in the yellow curry!). Impressive.

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There’s a rather cute wee bar down the back, with a lit marble base and wooden slab top, and a couple of wee tables for a quieter eat if you fancy (the main room is pretty noisy with flat surfaces, especially when there’s a big group celebrating nearby).

The drinks include a range of specialty green teas in addition to the normal teas and coffees (Yame, Chiran, Shira ori), a chili hot chocolate, a sticky chai latte, a large list of non-alcs (including specialty sodas and kombucha), some interesting-sounding cocktails (the Hulk, the Drunken Buddha), champagne from Champagne, a good range of NZ wines, local craft beers, a sake, and a couple of spirits. Phew!

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I think I’ve found a new favourite for evening wanders.

From 5.30pm Tuesday to Sunday.

232 Oriental Parade (above Beach Babylon)

 

Lola Stays

The new iteration of Vista on Oriental Parade (Lola Stays) has groovy contemporary decor (love the flamingos!), a breezy fresh feel on days when the bifods are right open, and the best cheese scone I’ve had in a long, long time.

Lola exterior.jpg

They also do tasty classic dishes with kiwi or contemporary twists (smashed avo on rye with goat cheese), interesting cocktails (The Pink Flamingo, The Talulah, The Wolf Gan Jack with Lewis Road chocolate liqueur), NZ wines and local Havana coffee.

Lola brioche berry creme fraiche french toast

We did find it quite noisy on a heaving long weekend Saturday (lots of flat surfaces as well as lots of people), so go between peak times for a quiet coffee, or with a bunch of friends for a grand old catch up.

More detail here on Word on the Street.

Open 7am til late, 7 days

106 Oriental Parade

Wicked Wildfire

We recently tried out the new Wellington Wildfire on Tory Street, spawned from the Auckland mothership.

And Oh. My. God. So much food. All the New Years resolutions about portion control went totally out the window in a big way. Wicked, wicked Wildfire.

Wildfire carving

You can read all the details here, but suffice it to say:

  • Its Brazilian BBQ, so expect a lot of meat (although they do have a whole separate vegetarian menu which I’m going to try next time)
  • Its kinda like yum cha where they keep coming to your table with skewers of different proteins and carving off whatever you fancy (with unlimited salad and roasties on the side, and that’s after intro tapas and tasters!).
  • The variety of protein will astound you – everything from several types of beef, pork, seafood, lamb, chicken, and on it went….
  • It’s a full-your-boots kinda place so plan to be there for a while and don’t rush it
  • There’s no shortage of liquid accompaniments to suit all tastes
  • Go with a group for best fun (it’s possibly not your intimate first-date experience)
  • Fast for the whole day prior.

Wildfire signature Pushka.jpg

7 days, noon til late.

60 Tory Street.

 

 

 

Luna Estate winery and Kitchen

I was recently invited to check out the new Luna Estate winery and Kitchen in Martinborough, after it’s recent revamp.

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Luna is where Alana once was, and also encompasses the former Murdoch James winery out the other side of town, now known as Luna Blue Rock (currently converting to a function centre without a cellar door). Owner Charlie Zheng, a Wellington Investment Director and passionate wino (I say that in the nicest possible sense!), has supported other Wellington institutions to expand (Mojo into China, for example) and has an eye for regional and global opportunities (the James Murdoch brand will continue as the export arm).

In the last year Luna have ripped out most of the sauvignon blanc and replanted with pinot noir to take advantage of the Burgundy-like growing conditions (now 85% of their crop), launched their first vintage to market, and refurbished the old Alana tasting room into the new Luna Estate cellar door and kitchen, with courtyard al fresco dining.

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The food is Mediterranean/North African inspired tapas and sharing style, courtesy of Exec Chef Lisa Howard’s travels in that part of the world. The portions are generous (you truly do only need the recommended 1.5 – 2 dishes per person), with the eats ranging from from light snacks (patatas bravas with citrus dip and passata), to salads (roast pumpkin with feta and mesclun), to mains (morsels of NZ lamb roasted in a Moroccan marinade), to sweet desserts (baklava with greek yoghurt). Lisa makes all sauces etc in-house, and likes to use local wherever possible, for example using Drunken Nanny Goats cheese, Olivo oils, and Elysian Foods.

We enjoyed patatas bravas, the chilli jam chicken nibblets, the Moroccan spiced sticky pork belly, the grilled asparagus with broccoli and almond salad, and the loukoumade donuts. The stand-outs were the patatas bravas (satisfyingly crispy and feathery, resting on a bed of lovely pesto-density passata), and the pork belly (sweetly and lightly sticky, and melt-in-the-mouth tender).

Both the 2016 Luna Riesling, and the 2015 Eclipse Chardonnay went well with all dishes and released pleasing aromatics and flavours once up to room temperature.

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The wines also include several pinots of course, a rose, a pinot gris, and a sauvignon blanc currently. With a side of Bootlegger sodas for those driving, and a handful of beers, including light versions. Good responsibility.

The coffee was again slightly more European in style (dark toffee notes), but went down well to conclude the outing.

If you have youngies along (or are just feeling frisky/inspired after lunch), there were various balls and cricket gear on the lawn to run around with, or a cute wee chalkboard for releasing your inner Picasso.

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This is definitely a place to enjoy some nice wines and fill bellies in a very pleasant setting. It can be busy with tour groups passing through for tastings, so it’d pay to book your lunch spot, and if you wanted a more intimate experience, ask for a table in their private room.

7 days noon to 4pm (cellar door to 5pm).

133 Puruatanga Rd, Martinborough

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Quarter

I finally got to The Old Quarter on Dixon Street, and rather liked it.

Old Quarter decor.jpg

A new Vietnamese eatery, The Old Quarter reminded me of Mr Go’s in many ways (decor), and of Dragonfly in others (food).

With dishes ranging from classic and not-so-classic bao buns (five spice roasted pork, salt and pepper soft shell crab), to nearly a dozen share plates (son-in-law eggs, salt and pepper squid), to salads (green papaya, orange roasted duck) or more individual meals (lemongrass grilled pork with spring rolls, green vegetarian/vegan curry), there’s definitely something for everyone here.

The fried fish in the apple salad was light and tender without any hint of grease or fishiness and was a nice contrast to the crisp apple and herbs, the baos were light but still slightly tacky (in the nicest possible sense!) and generously filled, and the peking cashew duck was tender and flavourful.

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Of course the chip fiend couldn’t help but point out that the website on the wall hangings was misspelt, as was the ‘wrapping’ leaves of the Crying Tiger. Perhaps the legacy of chip withdrawal?

The drinks offer up one of each wine varietal (two pinot noirs), a bunch of cocktails with suitably intriguing names (Chai to say No, Blushing Dragon), and a scattering of beers and cider.

Old Quarter drinks list.jpg

The service was friendly and personable, and I’m most definitely heading there for another round soon.

39b Dixon Street

 

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