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…

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- Chocolate Cake

Last year’s winning Hot Chocolate Cake from Cafe Iwi

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Kera-la-carte

The new Kera-la-carte Indian on Courtenay Place gave us the best Indian we’ve had in a good long while recently – light, tasty, fresh and more refined-feeling than most Indian around.

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The food is centred on Kerala region in Southern India, one of the first spice trading areas with early Portugese and European influence.

The Uzhunnu Vada savoury donuts were outstanding, and the butter chicken had more flavour layers than any I’ve had before.

The chip fiend’s Chicken Chettinadu with spicy, aromatic chili’s hit the spot too. As did the Kallappam fluffy pancakes with crispy edges, made from fermented rice batter. Excellent on their own, and more excellent when used for the requisite mopping.

Don’t let this under-stated wee restaurant fool you (but maybe pass on the salted lime soda, that was just a step too weird).

Lunch and dinner Tuesday to Sunday.

25 Courtenay Place.

 

 

 

Churchill

The Wellington Hospitality Group (Bethel Woods, Coene’s, Gasworks, Whitby Co-op, Munchen) has added yet another horse to its stable – Churchill bar on Lambton Quay where the Royal and various other bars have been.

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There’s a bit of cheekiness at play in Churchill if one looks closely at the black and white ‘War is over’ mural on the wall, and like other WHG places, there are lots of different nooks and crannies depending on your mood.

We happened along on a Saturday evening pre-Hurricanes game, and the place was buzzing with hopeful anticipation, and bunches of folks getting warm food in their belly before the blast of cold to come.

The food leans British as you’d expect (bangers’n’mash, Cornish pasty with peas and gravy, Beef Wellington, fish’n’chips, Eton mess etc), but actually has a few contemporary dishes thrown in too – warm chicken, feta, quinoa and radiccio salad, or chickpea and cauliflower curry, to name just a couple.

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And to show that you can never tell with Wellingtonians, we metro dwellers ordered the fish’n’chips and bangers’n’mash, while the strapping rugby lads next to us ordered the chicken quinoa salad and grilled fish with veges, and were talking about the parmesan fries they’d made at home recently!

The food came promptly with satisfying braised pork, apple and sage sausages in my dish, and flaky fish inside the crisp batter of the chip fiend’s. The presentation was simple but appealing, and I confess to eyeing up someone else’s potted pork belly with pickled cucumber, sourdough and beer mustard on the way past.

The drinks list has the usual range of suspects, with a couple of not-so-usual leaping out – a black doris plum and ginger sour cocktail, and a Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill bubbly from France if one really wanted to push the boat out.

Churchill decor1

So next time you fancy a comforting bite and blast of conviviality, pop on down to Churchill.

132 Lambton Quay

 

Hugo’s Whisky Lounge

I was reasonably impressed with the style and ambience of Hugo’s Whisky Lounge created above the Establishment on Courtenay Place. With a bunch of different nooks and crannies, and a bible-ful of whisk(e)y’s you could wile away a good amount of time up here.

Hugos bible2

The food was bar snack/tapa style, and ranged from sliders to homemade pork and shrimp wontons (very good), to crumbed camembert with spicy plum sauce to meat skewers to mini seafood fritters etc. And the staff very knowledgeable and helpful.

I won’t repeat what I wrote in my Word on the Street post, but suffice it to say you should pop by for a whiskey and bite sometime on your way out or back from somewhere, and check it out.

Best entry is just around the corner on Blair Street.

From 5pm til late Tuesday to Saturday.

Hugos lounge pic 3

 

Comes and Goes

If you haven’t come and gone to Comes and Goes at Petone, you definitely should (Comes and Goes was named in the hope people would come and go all day long – and they certainly seem to be!).

Comes Goes decor

Comes and Goes is another in the stable of light, clean and predominantly plant-based eating (there are some meats, and copious use of eggs, but with a Korean background, Chef/Owner Sean has leaned the plant way, not the BBQ way).

And such an interesting selection of dishes (a multi-purpose daytime menu), that I’m going to bullet some below rather than describe them, as I simply won’t do them justice:

  • Rosewater yoghurt panna cotta, honey glazed muesli, berry compote, fruits, honey crumble, chocolate soil, freeze dried raspberries
  • Bibimbap mixed grains, puffed quinoa, mushroom, bean sprout, carrot, pickled daikon, seaweed salt, 63degC cooked egg, gochujang chilli paste, with minced beef or tofu.
  • Al’s sesame seed Ugly Bagel with mashed avocado, ricotta, dried tomato, 63degC cooked egg, fennel seeds, lime zest and paprika oil (pictured below)
  • Soba the Japanese noodle salad of daikon, carrot, bean sprout, red cabbage, spring onion, coriander, pickled ginger, sesame seeds, lemon wedge, with free range chicken or tofu (pictured below)
  • Cassoulet the French baked beans with duck fat, white beans, bacon, carrot, onion, mixed herbs, rosemary, 63degC cooked egg, and served with sourdough or gluten-free bread
  • The nest of pumpkin seed crumbed soft boiled eggs atop a filo pastry nest, feta and mesclun salad, and topped with beetroot ketchup (this was the dish I really, really wanted, but alas they’d served the last one just before I ordered – I did see it go past though, spectacular!).

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The dishes we had were beautifully presented, well balanced in flavour and texture, and I just wanted to stay all day and eat my way through the menu. It was that good.

I quite liked the under-stated decor, and an open kitchen you could see via a giant hole in the wall, but which kept some kitchen secrets and clutter to themselves.

They have a cabinet of cakes and slices available if you fancy afters, and I noticed a steady stream of locals coming and going (ha!) for coffee, so assume it’s good.

Be warned though – you can’t book and will likely have to put your name down then go for a wander up the street, there’s that many people coming and going (double ha!).

Comes Goes kitchen

Tuesday to Sunday, daytimes.

259 Jackson Street, Petone.

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