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…

Pickle & Pie – a NY-style deli in Wellie

Pickle & Pie has just opened at 2 Lombard Street (the Civic Square end of Lombard Lane), with chef Tim Tracey at the helm.

Pickle Pie decor

They have a lovely large sunny space, with outside tables, and eventually, a grassy park out front. So don’t be put off by all the current fencing to get there.

Tim has always wanted a NY-style deli, and so finally has his chance. Opening from 7am to 7pm, the counter food changes throughout the day to match the kind of hunger we have on, while the menu has set breakfast and lunch timings. And there’s a whole wall of pickled goodies you can take home while you’re at it.

Pickle Pie menu

Because I was there for a late breakfast, I decided to try out the sourdough crumpets with tamarillo, blackberry, vanilla mascarpone and fennel syrup. I enjoyed the sour notes coming through the nicely balanced sweet and sour fruit compote, rounded off with the creamy mascarpone. I don’t recall much in the way of fennel syrup, but the overall mouthfeel and flavour balance was good.

Pickle pie crumpets

Had it been afternoon, I’m sure I would have made a bee-line for the beautiful New York cheesecakes on the counter, or perhaps one of their house pretzel and peanut cookies. I know I’m certainly going back for a hot chocolate or mocha at some point to try out the Pickle & Pie marshmallows that come with them!

They also do take-home meals later in the day if you fancy a treat without cooking, so they’ve got your day totally covered at Pickle & Pie.

7am – 7pm Monday to Saturday

2 Lombard Street

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Dinner returns to Elements

Elements cafe at Lyall Bay now have a dinner service on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, in addition to their popular daytime fare.

The Elements philosophy is to gather people around a table to share great food and wine (not tapas, you get to have your own), with the food being nourishing and hand made from fresh, seasonable and sustainably farmed ingredients. In a relaxing and convivial environment without pretention (if that’s not a real word, I bags its credit!).

Elements decor

They certainly make nearly everything in-house including breads, stocks, sauces, pasta, ice creams, etc (unless there’s a local artisan product they’d like to showcase), with the intention of creating a fond food memory with a little ‘wow’.

Actually, the word fond seems just right for Elements.

So how did we go?

The complimentary bread was warm and fresh, with whipped salted and sweet chilli butter options, the sweet chilli being a little different to the norm.

And then we proceeded to the chive, pumpkin and blue cheese gnocchi with a side of smokey bacon peas (could have eaten a bucketful of those!), and the chicken with Jamaican spices. The gnocchi was comforting with many textures and flavours, and the chicken was pleasant with a ‘wow’ shredded chicken leg rosti cake. So far, so good.

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We then cracked on to the peanut butter parfait dessert, and port with dark chocolate truffles – it’s so nice to have a light / alternate dessert option when you don’t fancy the full monty.

The dessert had nicely bruleed bananas, along with dense parfait, light banana cake and crispy peanut brittle. AND surprise chocolate peanut butter truffles. Again lots of different textures which met well when spooned up together.

Elements banana dessert

I also very much enjoyed the pear, cucumber, lemon, mint and elderflower soda mocktail one of the young ladies crafted for me. And the very virtuous feeling about the number of fruits and veg I was ticking off for the day!

On the evening we visited, the restaurant had a nice hubbub, but nothing that intruded on our own conversation. And because there are several rooms to Elements, they can cater for groups more or less in their own space.

We had a very pleasant time overall, and I think just quietly, that young Sam might come further into his own as time goes by.

144 Onepu Road, Lyall Bay

Elements mocktail

Gipsy Kitchen comes to town

For CBD lovers of Gipsy Kitchen, your prayers have been answered. The Gipsy has taken up a spot in Jessie street opposite the Il Casino apartments, operating daytimes til 3pm.

The very groovy exterior sets the tone from the get-go, continuing inside with luxurious wall panelling, funky decorations, and plenty of quirk.

Gipsy exterior

The food is the quality we know and love from Gipsy, ranging from pastries to salads, to quiches, to lunch rolls, pies and sweets. And they have their heavenly (vegan) seed bread available for takeaway too.

I haven’t had a rhubarb scone fix for a while, but alas there were none, so I settled for bread and butter pudding for breakfast instead. Soft, moist and flavourful, I was sorry when it was gone.

We didn’t have coffee on this visit, but there was a steady stream of locals popping in for theirs, so we take that as a good sign (especially with Prefab, L’affare and Moore Wilson all within a stones throw). The herbal teas we did enjoy were nicely presented and real, not teabags.

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There’s only seating for about 12, so either pick your time or be prepared to take away. And do have a wee peek in the fridge of deli products available too.

They utilise a wood fired oven, and say the may well run into evenings as summer appears.

Amen!

37 Jessie Street

 

 

 

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.

 

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