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For worthy eating and drinking experiences around Wellington, NZ (and the greater region) – you can also catch Heather out and about hosting Zest Food Tours around the city…

Archive for the category “Bars / Craft drinks”

Dillingers throwback glam

Dillingers have opened at Midland Park where Soho Brown used to be.

This is a venture by the Green Man folks, with Kristan Mulcahy (formerly of Grill Meats Beer) at the helm food-wise, a bunch of friendly welcoming staff, and an appealing fit-out.

The decor is a little throw-back American glam, a little speakeasy, and a little wild west. The bar and brasserie opens onto Midland Park so gets afternoon sun, and will have built-in entertainment whenever there’s something going on. However, you could still tuck yourself away down the back if you wanted a bit more peace.

The menu ranges from easy finger food like smoked cheese and jalapeno croquettes, screaming eagle sliders (bbq beef cheek), and rueben sandwiches, through to ceviche with tortilla chips; baby carrot and haloumi salad; southern fried spiced chicken with smokey mash and slaw (they have two smokers out the back); and pork hock.

With Kristan’s hand in the background, many dishes have contemporary ingredients and presentation that lift them above the norm – the pork hock comes with carrot puree, kale, chilli pork praline, and sweet and sour sauce; the salmon is beetroot cured and comes with pickled fennel, horseradish, orange, capers and crostini; and the beef bavette comes with bourbon bbq beef cheek, roast shallots and smoked potato pompoms.


The crispy chicken was indeed crispy, but still succulent, and the accompanying spicy mayo an excellent contrast. The pork belly and calamari salad with mint and ginger dressing was like an Asian-flavoured caesar, with bursts of flavour and tender calamari, and the parmesan sticks with spinach dip a hearty starter or great nibble with a glass of wine.

We enjoyed a couple of interesting beers – the Choice Bros ‘Afraid of Americans’ IPA and ‘On the Brain PBRA’ (peanut butter and raspberry) – and vowed to come back for both brunch and dessert soon (not necessarily in that order!).

I think Dillingers will do well at Midland, and have opened with the ambience, food and service good to go.

dillingers-photobooth

Check out a few more pics from the opening.

7 days morning, noon and night.

Midland Park

 

 

 

 

 

The Jardin Grill

UPDATE: The Jardin Grill is currently closed due to a kitchen fire, re-opeingn mid 2017.

The new five-star Sofitel hotel is under way on Bolton Street.

Jardin decor 6

There’s a botanical theme throughout given their nearness to the Botanic Gardens, including the two eating spaces – the Green Room bar, and the Jardin Grill restaurant (Jardin being French for garden/botanical).

The Green Room is very pleasant with lush furnishings and different spaces for quiet catchups, anytime tapas, or a celebration. They’re planning on stocking non-alcoholic champers shortly too, so you don’t miss out on a bubbly flute if not drinking – nice!

The staff are multi-national as you’d expect, and very professional and courteous. The bar lad certainly didn’t blink an eye when I asked him to create a mocktail that wasn’t sharp, sweet or too fruity, with a spot-on result.

They also have a $7.50 coffee and pastry, or coffee and scone deal daily from 7am; an easy and convenient place for that overdue coffee catchup.

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The Jardin Grill has been decorated to mix a little ‘market’ with ‘stylish’ comfort.

The ‘market’ is achieved with wooden signs above the open kitchen counter, a meat and cheese pantry you can get up close and personal with, baskets of fruit and preserves around, and a wood-fired rotisserie stoked by the staff (luckily it was only a mocktail I’d had first or I might have been breaking into a rendition of Bill and Boyd’s ‘put another log on the fire, babe…..’, and you know what comes next!).

The ‘stylish’ is achieved with a mix of garden and earthy tones and patterns (make sure you look up), an inviting curved wine rack at the entry, a mix of plush and contemporary seating, attention to detail on the tables, and a delightful outside patio for fine days.

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Jardín describe their food as contemporary with a strong bias towards NZ meats, cheeses and local seasonal products. Their tomato juice comes from a local grower, for example. Their pricing is hotel level ($18-$25 for tapas/entrees, $36-$43 for mains, and $15-$18 for desserts), with the menu set to expand further over the next couple of months towards their formal launch.

The current dinner menu has some interesting ingredients and dishes – tonka bean ice cream, beetroot and feta gratin, and blueberry and gin sorbet to name just a few, and the tapas likewise – mushroom cappuccino, wood-roasted merino spare ribs, and rocket/bacon arancini.

Dinner ended up being the the multi-fish parcel special wrapped in serrano and served on mussel risotto, and the honey roasted poisson on bacon and herb risotto. The poisson was fun to watch roasting, and again I was able to get up close and personal to see it. Dessert was a bitter chocolate tart, and brandy snap ice cream trio.

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All dishes were pleasant with subtle flavours (the strongest notes being the risottos), including the bitter chocolate tart which turned out to be neither bitter nor sweet (pleasingly so as it happens). The staff need a little more time to gel and settle, and get to grips with the Wellington hospitality scene, however the bones of a nice experience are in place.

Jardin’s breakfast menu also operates a little differently to other hotels. You still pay a set fee, but can choose between just the continental, or the full, with an  a’la’carte hot dish of your choosing (rather than a hot buffet). Or you could just pop by and have an a’la’carte dish. A nice mix of options, and again a very pleasant place for a breakfast catchup.

We watch with interest to see how Jardin develops.

17 Bolton Street.

 

 

 

Bars, bars, bars…

NOTE – As of 2018 Slim Daveys and Five & Dime are no more.

Okay guys, here it is finally. My round-up of the new bars in the city recently.

Slim Daveys

A neighbourhood saloon which is a mix of wild west, nana’s lounge and a kitschy American diner. They do light bites with a range of drinks including house sangria and some wines I haven’t seen too often before. Brought to you by the Ortega Fish Shack folks (right next door in fact!), with Davey the award-winning maitre’d the face of it. Relaxing and fun, with deceptive quality. 4pm til late Tuesday to Saturday, no bookings. Read more.

Slims header inside

The Top Garden (Hop Garden) rooftop bar

Another rooftop bar, above the restaurant area of the Hop Garden. Sheltered from three sides, and with a long western aspect, its in a prime spot for sun (you might need your scarf and beannie with it at the mo though!). The food and drinks are the same as the downstairs bar, with the ability to hire the rooftop for your own function. And no drama to just pop up there for a coffee or brunch, you don’t have to be beering or wineing. Open the same hours as the Hop Garden – Monday/Tuesday 3pm til late, Wednesday/Thursday/Friday 11am til late, Saturday/Sunday 10.30am til late. Read more.

TopG 3

 

Five and Dime

A new venture by Elie Assaf of Five Boroughs fame in the old Phoenician Falafel premises up Cuba Street (Phoenician is dad). A combination wine/spirits/tapas bar with some very smart food, so not your standard diner by a long shot. Although they do brunch, that feels more lunch/late afternoon fare (with the exception of the pancakes with fried egg and bacon ice-cream – odd-sounding but very smart), with the weekday lunches simpler Lebanese/Turkish sandwiches and bowls. Again some less-common drinks across the whole range and only 6 beers here, so NOT a craft beer bar (yay!). I’d come here over many other places just on the food alone. Not 100% sure of their hours yet as they’re still settling in,  but currently weekdays from lunch onward, and weekends from late morning onward.  Read more.

F&D fried bread bacon icecr

Noble Rot

A pure wine-bar back in the city, since Arbitrageur and Vivo both disappeared. With a master sommelier at the helm, and over 350 interesting wines from places as far flung as Tenerife, and both 100 and 150ml pours, you’ll be able to try lots. They also have a coravin wine system which allows extraction of wine through the cork via a slim needle, replacing what’s taken with heavy argon gas to prevent oxidation, so they can offer normally bottle-only wines by the glass. The food is by by the Salty Pidgin folks, and is designed appropriately to go with quaffing (plates, some raw, build-your-own platters). Busy as a busy thing at night (ergo fairly noisy), but you can at least make bookings. Seven nights (from 5pm Monday/Tuesday), from lunch Wednesdays to Fridays (noon) and from brunch on weekends (9am). My pick – go in the daytime for a peaceful experience (but then again I am getting old!). Read more.

Noble main header

Eva Bevas

Doing a mix of everything (sports, quiz nights, small plates, cheap steaks), this is in th told Hope Brothers site at the entry to the Eva Street/Leeds laneway and makes me think a little of Bethel Woods (from the bits I’ve seen, haven’t had a full experience yet). Brought to you by the Hospo Gurus who have the Ivy, Bad Grannies, and various Courtenay bars. 11am til late. Read more on Stuff.

Fat Angel

A music/rave venue immediately upstairs from Eva Bevas, definitely aimed at the youngsters with the hottest local and international DJ’s strutting their stuff. From 5pm Fridays and Saturdays. Read more on Stuff.

Fat angel teaser

There you have it, we’re clearly a thirsty city!

 

München at Queens Wharf

If you haven’t been to München yet, you really should.

Its fun, has different food and drink to the Wellington norm, and handles small or large groups well. Full details here.

A word of warning though, if you’re eyeing up their pork knuckle, truly do plan to enjoy it with a friend, and go early in the evening to ensure they still have some left.

And if you want a quiet time, go during the daytime or evenings earlier in the week.

Glücklich speisen!

 

 

The Garage Project Taproom

Just when we thought the Garage Project had it all covered, they’ve added a Taproom in Aro Valley. Small, cute, and quintessentially Aro, it’s definitely worth a visit.

The staff are very helpful and happy to talk you through all the different tipples (all GP of course), and even gave me a demo of how their new cask pull pourer works (check out the sprinkler head action below). It didn’t hurt that the sample I then had to drink was one of my favourites – a milk cereal stout made with cornflakes and additional milk proteins for that creamy finish.

The beers on tap are all helpfully displayed on the wall in sample bulbs so you can see what your tipple will look like, and the cans are displayed with their grains or hops above.

I tried a few, and being a warm sunny afternoon settled on the Bossa Nova five-fruits tropical brew, lightly fermented (so it must be a health food right?). The strongest fruit note to me was passionfruit, and it was easy drinking – a good session beer, if I could ever manage more than one!

Some of the more unusual beers currently are the Wiggly Stick (a trial of unique Australian hops), and the Cabbages and Kings oyster stout (120 oysters in each brew, with an oyster in the glass if you fancy), alongside favourites like Cherry Bomb, Angry Peaches, Aro Noir and Nerissimo.

The food is by Ti Kouka and the Leeds Street Bakery and the meats are from Ontrays at Petone, so all quality products.

We indulged in the Aro Noir braised beef brisket with BBQ sauce, smoked cheddar and pickled cabbage (tender and delicious in crispy bread wedges), while eyeing up the turducken with bacon and swiss cheese for next time.

The smoked potato chips weren’t available this time (something about the cooking process not meeting their standards just at the minute) so we indulged in the two cold cuts platter which included lamb prosciutto (unusual), chicken liver pate topped with Death From Above sweet jelly (moorish), and the Chicharron pork scratchings with bacon salt (yep both porky and bacony).

Hard not to enjoy a Sunday afternoon outing here.

Tuesday to Sunday (3pm weekdays, noon weekends) to 10pm.

91 Aro Street.

Taproom try some new

 

 

 

 

Hanging Ditch cocktails

Tucked in beside Goldings Free Dive Bar is the newest addition in the Eva-Leeds laneway – the Hanging Ditch cocktail bar.

The bar is compact with a nice vibe, and spaces for lounging, or more upright pursuits (like lifting one’s glass), and a short menu for food and drink alike (there are wines and beers as well, but it was the cocktail’s I’d gone to check out). The point to the short menu is so it can be creative and changed regularly.

The cocktails include very local ingredients (Fix and Fogg smoke and fire peanut butter, WCF Peruvian chocolate, Six Barrel salad cucumber and mint soda), as well as some more unusual (organic bee pollen, umami salt, salted pistachio orgeat).

The food leaned savoury and a little retro (popcorn shrimp, crumbed camembert or salami toastie), but given we are on our way to dinner, I’ll have to return to check these out.

The Flowers’ Peaches and Cream cocktail with organic bee pollen, peach, lemon juice, sugar-free soda and albumen (or egg white for us lay folk) was sweetly unsweet with pleasing bits of texture courtesy of the pollen. And the Earth, Wind, Peanut Butter and Fire was smoky, tangy and moorish.

The focus of the bar is the forest of 2m long bungies from the ceiling holding all their myriads of bottles (short staff need not apply!), the fuller ones the lower hanging fruit, so to speak. Pretty funky, and a definite talking point. I’m sure I’ve read about the same concept overseas, but it may well be the first of its kind in Godzone.

A fun addition to the laneway. I’m definitely going back.

Tuesday to Sunday 3pm til midnight.

14 Leeds Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steel Press Cider

Steel Press frontI was recently given a couple of bottles of Steel Press Cider to try.

Sean, the young lad behind this venture, has an entertaining story on his website about how he came to be a cider producer, although a little birdie tells me said girl isn’t so much a big cider fan (perhaps early relationship over-enthusiasm on both sides?). And like most artisans, he started from the point of loving cider and deciding ‘how hard could it be?’ (yep, same tales to tell as all other artisans), and thought that the cider market deserved the same variety and quality as wine and craft beer now has.

Steel Press rearSo, for right now, there’s two varieties – the Dry and the Bee (sweeter). Both use a blend of liquid honeys as their sweetener, added immediately on bottling. The ciders are sulphite and chemical free, and fermented by wild yeast over a longer period (read originally unpredictable but mostly now harnessed), giving a more south-west English traditional brew.

Sean and his dad built their own first steel press, which wasn’t so successful, but spawned the development of the next press and to work towards a full-time venture. They operate from a shipping container at Seaview, with a second container about to come on line shortly, and also very recently moved from all apples being hand-cut to machine cut. Definitely on their way then.

Steel Press compareSean gets his apples from a range of sources, including markets and wild apple orchards in the vineyard areas (apparently wild Granny Smith’s are a waaaaay different beast from the commercial ones), and presses with skins, stalks and a few of the seeds present. This adds flavour, pectin and tannin (ahhh grasshopper, that explained the after-taste we both noticed at the end of each mouthful but variously described as slightly sour or slightly bitter). More good info here about the role of tannins in cider.

Steel Press foodBoth went really well with meats and cheeses, and the Bee also went well with sweet fruit afters. The Bee has a distinctive honey taste and I could happily drink that on its own, whereas the Dry would definitely be a food pairing for me, although my partner seemed to manage quite well sans food with the Dry. You will see they had different colour profiles and were both a little cloudy, and definitely tasted more authentic than most commercial ciders which I find to be sickly and over effervescent. It’d be interesting to see how/if they change with longer in the bottle.

Sean is super focused on quality, so will only upscale slowly to ensure he maintains quality, but do visit Crumpet (where Sean still works work part-time) or Rogue and Vagabond now to enjoy a tipple. And keep an eye out through next year as more outlets get in on the act.

I applaud anyone who’s prepared to develop an artisan product, and wish Sean well. I would definitely drink it again.

Ministry of Food Bar and Kitchen

MoF have expanded to the Atlanta space on The Terrace.

MoF day menuThe Bowen Street site continues until MSD relocate to The Terrace in later 2016, so you have two MoF choices now – the more grab’n’go style of Bowen Street or the more stop’n’savour sister on the Terrace, which is focusing on kitchen and drinks (the only counter food here being their famed cheese scones).

The lunch and dinner menus are currently about 50% changing daily dishes / 50% pizza and a few blackboard specials, with a focus on fresh, seasonal and varied cuisines (chef Shonagh has considerable international experience and enjoys creating and experimenting).

MoF GaletteThe mushroom galette with Kikorangi blue cheese and salad at lunch had good textures and flavours across the crispy pastry disc, meaty mushroom, oily melted cheese and fresh salad leaves, although could have used just a little something extra with it (crusty piece of bread perhaps?), and the prosciutto, artichoke, mozzarella and olive pizza was generously topped and filling (yes good spotting, it was ordered without the olives!).

MoF pizzaI think the Bar and Kitchen’s strength will be the ever-changing and interesting menu items (pizzas being more of a drink accompaniment/big group staple), with a number of other dishes catching my eye – potato gnocchi with venison, pancetta, and parmesan ragu; risotto alla norma with tomato crispy eggplant and sage; Portugese monkfish and mussell stew with peppers, saffron, almond and tomato, to name a few.

On the drinks menu I spotted a Doctors low alcohol Sauvignon Blanc, and a good mix of local Martinborough/Marlborough and Central Otago wines – MoF Hoptone of the owners is ex-Wanaka hospitality and has connections in the wine industry. MoF also stock a range of craft beers, many local, and from time to time a contract brew made for them by Baylands Brewery (next up a winter brown ale), and pleasingly in the non-alcoholic space, Hopt low-sugar sodas. These come in interesting flavours and make a nice change from the fruit juice or coke / sprite / ginger beer standars (I can thoroughly recommend the salted lychee soda).

MoF specialsMoF are offering daily deals – Monday June Winter Warmer 2 for 1 breakfasts 7-9am, Lazy Thursday 2 for 1 dinner when buying a drink each, Flaring Friday 2 for 1 cocktails 4.30-6pm, etc – and intend to hold events from time to time. Given they only open Monday to Friday, its also not a bad space to hire for a private function on a weekend.

The service was welcoming, friendly and professional (a deliberate focus for them), and I could see this becoming a place to pop by for a graze and quiet one on the way home.

Prices ranged mostly between $18 and $25 across both day and evening menus.

Monday to Friday 7am til late.

105 The Terrace

Vinyl retro

I’m drawn to Vinyl.  The bar that is.

Vinyl makes me smile.  The LP’s, the music, the booths, the fun bar snacks, the teapot cocktails, the interesting mocktails.

Vinyl

I’m sure its a younger party place after 11pm, but earlier its a perfect fit for us 60’s and 70’s children (I just saw Bruce Springstein pluck Courtenay Cox out of the audience to dance onstage! – on screen that is).

Who can resist fairly bread (deliciously light, buttery and sugary), deep fried mars bars (the nutrition coach in my head couldn’t quite get me there), doorstop fries (great textures) and mocktails with names such as Strawberry Fields, Power and the Passion, Timewarp and You Sexy Thing.

Vinyl fairy bread

I’m sure the main draw in ordering You Sexy Thing was the caramel, chai, mayan spice, chocolate and fresh orange components (and jeez, was it a meal in itself), but there might just have been an imp prompting me to check out how the bar lad would respond to the You Sexy Thing declaration.  In reality, he didn’t bat so much as an eyelash, but I think he did have a wee giggle at me having a wee giggle at it all.

Vinyl u sexy thing

The wall booths are heated in winter, which is lovely on the derrier, and the outside courtyard bar is rather delicious in the sun (protected on all sides), other than the usual issue of smokers all having to chug away out there too (did you spot the secret door in the wall?).

Vinyl do a happy hour from 5-7pm every day (maybe a happy two hour?), serve jugs and hold a meat raffle at 8pm Fridays.

What more of a blast from the past could we want?

66 Courtenay Place.

The Bresolin

That’s it.  I’m meated out.

Bresolin mushroomsGoing to the new Bresolin with a big group meant a zeroing in on the feast dishes (whole shoulder of lamb, whole roasted chicken) with a range of small dishes to keep the wolves from the door initially given the feast dishes would take an hourish.

The small dishes included a salmon and watercress salad; steak tartare; calamari with wakame; and mushrooms with pea shoots, polenta and mascarpone.  All were quality and nicely presented (the vegge dishes were the most interesting of the lot though – check out here).

Lke most places deciding to have small or tasting plates recently I’m not all that sold on some of the price points ($14 for a dish of butternut pumpkin, carrots and almonds, $8 for a very small bowl of unadorned salad leaves?). However there’s absolutely no way you’d go hungry here if feasting.

And American is clearly the new black (will it take the mantle from meat as the new black?) – at the Bresolin you’ll find burgers, buttermilk fried chicken, a range of soda pops in the traditional sarsaparilla style (pear and ginger, blueberry lemonade, rhubarb and basil), daily soft serve ice-cream, etc.

Bresolin meats

There’s a daily guest beer on tap (something from the UK on this occasion), as well as a range of NZ craft beers, NZ and European wines, cocktails, hot chocolate, gumboot tea and their own Gentlemen’s Beans coffee, so something liquid for everyone.

And a whole spit roast animal over the courtyard barbecue pit of a Sunday (now only to be the last Sunday of the month given the effort required) and you must buy a ticket which gets you beast, house baked rolls, slaw, beer and music.

The atmosphere is fun (beware its noisy in the upstairs restaurant when full), the different spaces capture the different customers well (courtyard, bar, restaurant) and the service is slick, so the Bresolin will do well.

278 Willis Street (corner of Karo Drive and Willis).

Bresolin spit roast

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