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 “Family”

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


Veg and vegan at the Cross

Although the Southern Cross Bar and Restaurant has meaty stone grills and a roast dinner on Sundays and Wednesdays, their strength is the ever-increasing range of interesting vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan offerings (and the fabulous sun-drenched beer garden in summer).

On my most recent visit I had a Buddha Bowl of roasted spiced carrot and mint, wild rice and cranberry pilaf, toasted chickpeas (was a little wary about that component when ordering), spinach leaves, and a creamy almond dressing. It could have been up-scaled with Zany Zeus halloumi, chilli soy tofu, garlic chilli prawns or spiced chicken, but I decided I’d go for the basic and see what I thought.

Sthn X budda bowl

It really was excellent. The almond sauce was a nice conductor, and the toasted chickpeas were deliciously textured and light (not the dry dusty journey I’d expected). After sampling all the components, I ended up combining the the dish into a delicious mixed salad. Satisfying and healthy, nice.

I noticed they have quite the cake cabinet too now (if you don’t eat your chickpeas, you can’t have pudding!), so its also an easy place to slide by for a coffee and cake. Especially on peaceful weekdays. With at least two vegan options available always.

Sthn X cabinet

The Cross is all about different nooks and crannies, casual and easy dining, and suitable for everyone from families to students to lunch-time workers dashing in and out, a weekend BBQ in the sunny courtyard, or a large event. And excellent for those with vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free requirements.

There’s easily another dozen things I’m eyeing up, including:

  • the almond pina colada smoothie
  • the almond porridge topped with caramelised bananas, walnuts and lightly toasted coconut
  • the mushroom and halloumi Aro burger
  • the halloumi stone grill with mediterranean vegetables, beetroot and sunflower seed dip, and roasted kumara
  • the vegan cashew mac’n’cheese
  • Spanish baked tofu
  • butter and sage ricotta gnocchi
  • Mediterranean lentils with grilled veggies, toasted pistachios and crispy tofu or marinated and baked feta
  • I could go on and on…..

SthnX salt car ccake

I also might or might not have checked out the salted caramel cheesecake on a previous occasion. Somewhere along the line I’ve lost the side picture which shows that this beauty stood about 2 inches high, but you’ll get the idea. Rich, moorish and very memorable. My advice – share with a friend.

And do have a look at their Wellington on a Plate offerings too, again interesting vegetarian and vegan.

Sthn X night decor 2

7 days and nights.

39 Abel Smith Street



The Seashore Cabaret, Petone

Folks with a Maranui background have done it again. This time in the Rowing Club on the Petone waterfront.

Like Maranui, the downstairs remains the club while the upstairs is now a funky diner. You can feel the Maranui vibe throughout, from the art and signage, to the writing on the stairs, the jazzy ceiling, the menu design and the old collectables (including 4 pinball machines, and a delightful set of scales that start at 12 stone!).

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They also have a coffee roasting section where local roasters Good Fortune Coffee recently became the first roaster in the country to receive a living wage accreditation, and plan to extend the living wage accreditation to all cafe staff over time.

To highlight the amount of coffee sold to support fair wages for the growers, there’s a prominent counter showing the number of cups sold since they opened only a couple of months ago. Look at those those numbers – we clearly love our coffee!

Petone coffee1Petone coffee2

The food is diner and seashore classic, with a little Mexican thrown in. Items such as surf’n’turf, cheeseburger, fish tacos, vegetable quesadilla, a truckers breakfast or dinner, a range of hot dogs and more.

Between four of us enjoyed a hot smoked salmon pide with capers, mascarpone and chives; crunchy fish tacos with slaw and jalapeño sauce; the cheeseburger with handcut fries; the vege quesadilla; key lime pie; and a lazy berry sundae. Everything hit the mark nicely as we’d expect from this team, other than the prosciutto, gorgonzola, caramelised onion and mozzarella pide we’d started with, which was a bit heavy and greasy. All other dishes, however, had a lightness that left one well satisfied but not overloaded.

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Being persons of mature persuasions, the sundae artfully dripping over the side made us think of milkbars and the Fonz, and the use of frozen berries on top was noted as a clever texture and flavour move.

You’ll find separate breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend and kids menus, an interesting range of sodas and shakes, and a fair selection of wine, beer and other tipples.

The views over the harbour are pretty darned fine, the environment is warm and welcoming, and you won’t need to consult with the bank manager to enjoy an outing here.

Daytimes Monday-Thursday, day and night Friday to Sunday.

160 The Esplanade, Petone.

Park Kitchen

I’ve popped into Park Kitchen at Miramar twice in recent times, once for lunch with friends, and once for cake while out on a looooong walk (blood sugar needs right?).

And apart from the frowning rabbit we were seated right beneath the first time (I can’t decide if its a groovy piece of art or just a bit disturbing), I enjoyed both outings. The décor reminds me of Loretta in Cuba Street, with a light, bright and airy design, long coffee and servery counters with delicious-looking cakes, and a separate lounge for more casual coffee catchups or a bit of paper reading.

Between us on the first visit we covered the Park cheese burger, the pumpkin rosemary and feta empanadas, the fish fingers with dill mayo, and the seasonal special of the day – end-of-season asparagus with crispy bacon, poached eggs and golden hollandaise. They were all pretty good (creamy empanada fillings, pleasing medium rare meat patty, herby and unctuous tartare with light crispy fish fingers), but the winning dish just might have been the seasonal special.

I also liked that they had a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails to go with the substantive list of local and international wines, NZ craft beers, and classic cocktails also on offer (a night visit next time methinks). There’s certainly something for everyone.

PK mocktail

Elderflower spritz mocktail

On the walk refueling stop, we inhaled an Anzac cookie and cheese scone, both getting the thumbs up.

PK sweets

Park Kitchen seem to have all bases covered, whether you’re wanting coffee and cake, a light nibble, a more substantive meal and/or a relaxing tipple. And add another option to the already-plentiful and quality Miramar/Strathmore dining scene – The Larder, Coco at the Roxy, Café Polo, The Gypsy Kitchen, La Boca Loca, and probably others that I haven’t been to yet.

6 Park Road, Miramar

Butcher and Brewer, Petone

BB smoke headerI’d heard good things about Butcher and Brewer, so dug my passport out and went to meet friends at Petone.

B&B is the reincarnation of the old Empire tavern (same owners), and has a nice warm vibe, with decor that made me think of the many swizzy suburban pubs done up in recent years by the breweries or other local cooperatives (gastropub being the technical term these days).

Their point of difference is that they’re into meat, traceable to the grower or supplier, and braised, smoked or slow roasted themselves.

There’s a fair range of mainstream beers and wines, and a selection of BB meat plattercocktails, cocktails, shooters and non-alcs. I had a chuckle at the Bloody Butcher cocktail (equal parts of pepper and citron vodka with spiced tomato juice, worchester sauce and lime served with celery, spinach and crispy smoked bacon) and then settled for a Mac’s ginger beer (driving) which wouldn’t overpower the food.

Most of the meals were served on wooden boards (very appealing), and all had some degree of smokiness. Like many other places these days, a mac’n’cheese side is de rigeur. The half porker was BB haloumi pumpkinjudged moist and satisfying, the cheeky chicken (infused with basil and wrapped in bacon) also moist and flavourful, and both boys commented on the pleasant spinach (what?!). The chargrilled haloumi on spiced butternut puree with spinach and oil got the big thumbs up and the house smoked meatloaf sliders also hit the spot nicely. The side salads were well dressed (not overdressed) and included many crisp colours and textures.

BB meatloaf slidersWe didn’t make it to dessert, but I noted the mini donut medley, and cookies and cream ice cream layered in a mason jar with either chocolate or strawberry sauce for next time.

Although the restaurant area was full, we could easily hear each other and the background was just a nice ambient buzz, along with a bit of retro toe-tapping music and associated videos on the wall to reminisce to.

B&B have a children’s menu, and a number of nooks and crannies if you want a more private or large group session, and various weekday specials. Hard not to be pleased here really.

7 days from 10am (Fri/Sat/Sun) or 11am (rest week).

175 Jackson Street, Petone.
BB MenuBB decorBB cutlery

Adelaide Trading Co Licensed Deli

Just a couple of doors down from the Goose Shack, and opposite the Gramercy Bakery, we now have the Adelaide Trading Co Licensed Delicatessen at Beramphore.

So it’d be rude not to visit on the way back from the airport right? (although being the morning after Beervana, we didn’t test out the licensed bit…..).

Adelaide Road

John and Z (Snook) opened ATC in June of this year and are settling into their groove. They make a bunch of their own products which they use in their dishes and you can take home if you fancy (grapefruit marmalade, house-smoked kippers, pickled vegetables, sourdough loaves), and use others’ where they have yet to tread or there’s a great product available (sauerkraut, Blackball salami, light rye loaves).

Adelaide rueben

While waiting for our spicy baked beans on crushed spuds and a Reuben sandwich, John whipped up a fresh carrot-based juice for me, which was smooth and creamy with a light orange back note lending a little sweetness. Nice.

The Rueben here is done on lightly toasted light rye with a good ratio of sauerkraut, corned beef and swiss cheese. Being made with a lighter touch overall than some traditional Rueben’s you didn’t need a crowbar to wrench your jaw open super wide and it sat well in the stomach after. I also liked the quality of the grainy mustard on the side for my own mix and match pleasure.

Adelaide beans

The baked beans were lightly spiced and went well with the baked potatoes beneath, although could have done with a smidge more seasoning; a very rustic and pretty dish.

There were also daily specials on the blackboard, and the cabinet had many appealing offerings including delicious-looking mince and cheese pies (next time), fritata’s, vegan slices, hand-made sandwiches, and a whole raft of treats for after (including these fab ninja cookies made locally at Hataitai by the Royal Icing Academy, apparently also the business for celebration cakes).

Adelaide ninjas

And we got to watch the karate class in action through the glass at the rear while chowing down.

A convivial atmosphere, pleasant food and entertainment to boot. What more could you want in your local neighbourhood deli?

Daytimes Monday to Sunday.

469 Adelaide Road.




Picnic cafe

Picnic viewPicnic Cafe at the rose gardens and begonia house is another of those places I leave thinking I should visit more often.

Despite general kid and cafe hustle and bustle there’s something kinda peaceful about being among all those beautiful flowers and people cruising about at leisure.

And the food’s pretty tasty too.

Picnic crumbleThis time I had warm apple and rhubarb crumble with muesli topping since it was morningtime. I particularly appreciated it wasn’t so hot that I burnt my mouth, and wasn’t so sweet that I needed to drown it in cream (but I defy you to have it without some of that delish cream).

Last time I had a cabinet chicken almond croissant which I still have fond memories of, and the moroccan potato feta hash has my name on for next time methinks.

Picnic croisantCoffee is by Supreme, and there’s plenty of staff clearing tables and keeping things moving.

Open everyday from 8.30 am to 4.00 pm, and available for private evening functions by arrangement.

Beside the begonia house at the Botanic Gardens.

The Spruce Goose

On the corner of Moa Point Road and Cochrane Street in Lyall Bay in the former Aero Club building (just behind the mega centre on the waterfront) is the new Spruce Goose.

Spruce goose menu

Open from 7am-11pm 7 days, with two floors of indoor and outdoor dining, this is a beast of a joint.  The same brunch/lunch menu operates from 7am-3pm, then counter snacks until 5pm and then dinner kicks off.  No bookings at any time.

I did like that the brunch/lunch menu had an ‘on toast’ section with a good range of things you could choose to complement your toast.  And the most impressive thing – on a busy sunny still-pretty-much-holiday Saturday around 11am with the place looking full to the gunnels from the outside – we were seated within 5 minutes and the food came 15 minutes later as promised.  I absolutely didn’t expect them to deliver to that timeframe and do it with well presented tasty food to boot (so it just goes to show the big venues can handle it if they’re turning people through and have good systems in place).

Spruce goose mushrooms

Having said that, the first time I called in around 2pm on a weekday I was told there was a 45 minute wait for food and their cabinet was bare, so I carried on down to Maranui Surf Club where I enjoyed cabinet fare in a slightly more peaceful environment.  Be interesting to see what impact the Spruce Goose has on the Surf Club long-term (if at all).

The marinated mushroom salad with organic smoked yoghurt was very pleasant (and pretty), albeit I would have preferred a few more dollops of smoked yoghurt to really experience the melded flavours, and the eggs benedict had loads of good quality ham and was proclaimed tasty.
The clientele is mixed between families, cyclists, big groups, couples, young and old, and is fairly noisy at times (depending on where one is seated), so I suspect its a good leisurely group brunch/lunch spot, or a good late afternoon beer/early dinner spot.

Spruce goose image

The surfers across the road weren’t getting much air on this day (check out some views here on SG’s Facebook page), but there’s plenty to keep one (or one’s kids) amused with plane traffic if the surfing’s a bit flat.

Be interesting to see how these guys are doing in six months time.









The Whitby Co-op

The old Whitby pub has been reborn as the Co-op, and done quite smartly I might add.  Brought to you by the Upstream Hospitality folks behind the Miramar Gasworks, and other such suburban ventures (Eastbourne, Khandallah, the Pram Coast).  A mix of upmarket local pub, restaurant and easy afternoon bar.  Nicely done.

Coop decor

As a co-op they’re aiming for the local community to vote on the the beer, new menu items, the staff member of the month, the entertainment etc.

The decor is quirky but classy (money spent) and there are lots of well thought out details to digest (walls made of doors, gaggles of hanging lampshade lights, various ‘co-op of…’ recessed wall displays, a bucket of blankets in the conservatory to keep one warm in winter, quotes on walls, etc).  The lazy late Sunday afternoon live musician was pleasant, and the service very good.

And the food exceeded expectation.  A special of salmon and trevally fishcake with asparagus and hollandaise turned out to be prettier, larger and tastier than I’d imagined, and the best bit – the hollandaise was used as an enhancer not a drowner – hallelujah! good hands in the kitchen who understand the role of sauces and condiments.

Coop fishcake asp

The lemon and thyme smashed potatoes had a definite thyme flavour as well as a scattering of said leaves, and the house fish and chips (with a shot of vinegar) got a resounding thumbs up.

Much of the menu was away from ordinary pub fare (lime and bee pollen panacotta; roasted provolone with dried oregano and paprika; salmon fillet with white bean puree, bok chou and smoked manuka broth) and there were a handful of wood fired pizza’s if you just fancied something casual with your bevvie.

The drinks menu included a small but decent spread of wines, a few local beers (many inspired internationally) and a couple of really local Left Footers (looks like the Upstream Hospitality folks are breaking into brewing for their bars…).

It’s nice to be surprised.

69A Discovery Drive, Whitby (the Whitby Village).

Coop fishchips

Mama Brown’s on Tory

So Wholly Bagels on the corner of Tory and Wakefield has made way for an American of another kind – Mama Brown’s.

A casual and fun diner doing Mexican and South American food.  The décor, tableware and music are all lively, and the food down home and satisfying.

Mama Browns french toastThe breakfast menu offered some interesting choices – home-made coco pops (nobody chose those so can’t report on the difference), almond stuffed french toast with sour cherry salsita (can report that was interesting and different and you need to like almond), spiced porridge with grated apples, cherries and honeyed pecans (eyeing that up for next time), american buttermilk scones (a staple through the menu), a bacon and egg sammie made using the scones, breakfast burritos and more.

Lunch moves onto a large range of tacos and sliders at $6, with various burritos, meatballs, salads and stews to compliment, and a range of Baby Brown snacks for the little ones.

Even the drinks had some interesting options like Coconut Rough Rooibos, White Tropical Glow white tea, guava / tamarind / lime / mango Jarritos, and Mama browns milkshakesa whole range of American-style milkshake flavours (chocolate brownie, kitkat, peanut, salted caramel) in REAL milkshake vessels.

The long black was indeed American-sized and came with a piece of pleasantly light shortbread (had us fooled by appearance into thinking it would be biscotti).

And the one who took away the doorstopper-sized chocolate brownie from the counter, and the judgement was dense, fudgey, rich and delicious (although best to be shared with a friend given the size!).

The staff were welcoming and friendly, and on a nice day with the big glass doors open I imagine it would feel a bit like being at home with friends.

The salted caramel milkshake definitely appealed, so it might be porridge and milkshake for another breakfast soon…

250 Wakefield Street on the corner of Tory.


mama browns map

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