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…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

39b Dixon Street

 

Fortune Favours

It’s taken me a while to decide if Fortune Favours (the bold, the brave, the lucky etc…) ticks all my boxes after a couple of mediocre food experiences on first visits (although the ambience, decor and beers were all good). However I feel like they’ve found their groove now, and they definitely have oodles of Wellington character.

Fortune favours

Downstairs is a darker and cooler environment, while upstairs is light bright and full of brewing equipment, decks and leaners. I like that they’ve taken on an old furniture-makers building and retained the character and history of it, melding nicely into the Leeds Street laneway vibe.

I also like that one of their features is cheese and beer matching – a little different to the norm. With many cheese dishes on the menu, and a dedicated meat and cheese bar downstairs.

Having tried a few dishes, I find the share boards to be the way to go here, with the ability to choose your own meats and cheeses.

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With Shannon Thorpe (ex-Good George Brewing) partnered with the resources of the Wellington Hospitality Group (Munchen, Bethel Woods, Coene’s, Gaslight and loads of others), and local brewer Dale Cooper on board (ex-Black Dog), you won’t go thirsty here any time soon. And can probably expect some interesting brews over time.

I enjoyed a sip of all the beers on the paddle (yep worlds most useless drinker!), then settled on a dark beer, whose name totally escapes me at the moment, but was light while still having a rich flavour.

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Definitely worth a visit, and particularly fun in a group.

7 days from 11am til late.

7 Leeds Street

 

Artisan @ The Bolton

I have always liked Exec Chef MacLean Fraser’s style at Artisan, and wasn’t disappointed when checking out the new spring/summer menu today.

He’s also one of only two New Zealanders to date to be appointed a WorldChefs judge. Which also says something.

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Another of the things I’ve always liked at Artisan is the comfort and peacefulness to enjoy a meal or meeting without feeling like I’m at the zoo. The staff are unobtrusive (but still professional and available at the right times), you’re away from street level noise, and there’s a lovely sense of casual elegance right from the start when you float up the winding staircase.

Todays lunch consisted of melt-in-the-mouth marshmallowy tuna pastrami with crispy fennel and grapefruit mayo; followed by the market Moki on a Niçoise warm potato salad with a crisp pea, feta, mint and bean side salad; and then the creme brûlée with poached rhubarb (yes, I did share!).

All of the dishes were light, fresh, satisfying and felt just like summer – clearly made with quality ingredients and a light hand in the kitchen.

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I also liked the interesting non-alcs (sparkling lime and cranberr or feijoa smoothie), the low alcohol and gluten-free beer section (Kereru’s Auro gluten-free Golden Ale), and a wide range of wines and spirits to suite all tastes. As you’d expect from a hotel restaurant.

Gluten-free food options are also available, and I expect Artisan would cater any dietary requirements without issue.

So don’t under-estimate this gem tucked away at the Bolton Hotel. You don’t have to spend a fortune or have a large (in this case lunch) eat, you can go light with one of their salads in a small size ($14), or maybe the soufflé with goat’s cheese, spinach and velouté ($17). Or go whole hog and make an event of it.

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Do check out their Christmas menus, both lunch and dinner, they look pretty darned fine if you’ve still got some partying left to do (sorry Christmas Day itself at Artisan is sold out).

The Bolton Hotel, 12 Bolton Street.

 

Tinakori Bistro rises again

If you like The Ramen Shop at Newtown, or Hillside Kitchen at Thorndon, you’ll totally enjoy the Tinakori Bistro’s newest incarnation by the same team.

The restaurant is now a French Bistro, with very French dishes, but all presented with a light hand and local ingredients.

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Asher (Boote, owner) has a particular penchant for suburban eateries that become a hub of the community, that celebrate local produce, and that suits the style of the locals. And he hasn’t missed the mark here; there was a constant stream of locals and visitors coming through during the Saturday evening (yes I eavesdropped here and there to get a sense of the localness!), and at least 30 people turned away.

If you don’t fancy a full meal, or its between lunch and dinner, you can just enjoy a glass of wine and charcuterie platter. And because Cult Wine is part of their stable, there’s a really interesting list of ‘bin end’ bottles, as well as each varietal by the glass.

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I really liked having a good old fried egg on top of the asparagus (none of this 60 degree trickery!), that the Bistro salad had little dressing but didn’t need it do to the flavour and integrity of the ingredients, and that the gnocchi was made from choux batter (a first for me).

The chip fiend particularly enjoyed the steak and dripping fries (surprise, surprise!), and the creme brulee dessert was the best I think I’ve ever had (read more about that in my Word on the Street post).

These guys will do well here, but it does pay to book.

Lunch Friday to Sunday, drinks and snacks Friday to Sunday between lunch and dinner, and dinner Wednesday to Sunday.

328 Tinakori Road

 

Black Coffee at Newtown

I finally got into Black Coffee at Newtown. What an awesome (and very Wellie) place!

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The coffee is Havana, and the food ranges from toasties to ginger ‘dead’ men if you’re just after a sweet bite with your coffee.

There are a couple of pinball machines, ever-changing art exhibitions, a small music ‘shop’ at the rear, and oodles of groove. A place one could wile away a good chunk of time I should think.

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There’s not really much more to say other than get thyself to Newtown.

Monday to Saturday daytimes.

133 Riddiford Street, Newtown.

La Petite French grocery

If you’re needing a French treat, pop into the new La Petite France ‘grocery’ on Blair Street.

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Olivier (properietor) and Tom (a local chef) present all manner of French cheeses, salamis, wines, cider, crusty baguettes, snails, oils, condiments, chocolates, and much more.

95% of their product is of the French persuasion, with the other 5% a wider European style. They also support local businesses by getting their cheese and salami’s from Le March Francais, and baguettes from the Shelley Bay Baker.

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You’ll find brands like Guérande, AL’Olivier, Connétable, Favols, Rougié, Mathez, and Goulibeur. And Olivier and Tom are more than happy to help if the fantastic choices feel a little overwhelming.

I will definitely be back here soon for more treats.

La Petite Olivier & Tom

Tuesday to Sunday daytimes.

4 Blair Street

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