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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…

Archive for the category “Mexican / South American”

Machete – Guatemalan coffee and tacos

As mentioned in a recent Word on the Street post, Paul and Cesar have brought some Guatemala home to Wellington.

machete-guat-people

They are both very passionate about their relationship with Guatemala (Cesar’s heritage), and the word ‘earthy’ comes up a lot in conversation. Many people there only have the basics, so they’re masters as using whatever’s to hand to spice up their lives, including the spices in the food.

At Machete, you enjoy single origin Supreme coffees roasted for the gentler siphon or V60 brewing methods, or you can still get a standard espresso if you fancy. Paul is very knowledgeable about coffee and happy to share information.

There’s also a range of coffee accessories and some interesting teas available for purchase if you fancy.

On the food front, the breakfast menu is small but tasty (check out the bircher parfait with cherries below; and the kiwifruit, ricotta and honey on Leeds Street toast), while the lunch menu mostly focuses on the tacos.

What makes these tacos Guatemalan is the use of chilli (judiciously), and simple un-adorned ingredients. You can choose one, two or three, which gives the option of trying all fillings, or mixing and matching to suit your personal preferences (including one vegetarian).

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I had two and found them both to be fresh, light, and well balanced in flavour and texture, and interestingly, a good match with the coffee. And if you fancy afters, there’s a very Kiwi hokey pokey biscuit, or scones and one or two other house-baked goodies.

Machete make all of their food and fillings in-house, with only the taco shells coming from other specialists, so you truly are getting hand-crafted and quality food.

Monday to Friday 7.30am-3.30pm, Saturdays 9am-4pm.

9 Boulcott Street.

 

Pinot May – Tequila Joe’s

2016 is the inaugural Catch Pinot event, courtesy of the Visa Wellington on a Plate team. To celebrate the pinots that come out of the Wairarapa region, restaurants across the region have free reign to match them to whatever food they like. To be as creative as they fancy.

CATCH-PINOT-BANNER-2-620x420

Given I like the unusual and slightly out-of-the-box, my first stop was Tequila Joe’s (more below), but some of the others that take my fancy are:

  • Afrika’s crocodile tail gumbo – crocodile meat soaked in lime juice and grilled, with wok-fried maize and salad. With a Pencarrow Pinot Noir.
  • Coco at the Roxy’s glass of Paddy Borthwick Falloon Block Pinot Noir 2014 with a culinary cocktail bringing together a new way to experience Pinot Noir – a modern fun cocktail experience with molecular gastronomy and a side serving of childhood nostalgia (intriguing!).
  • The Larder’s duck confit with pomegranate molasses, confit gizzards, roasted cauliflower, liver and chestnuts. With a Porters Estate Pinot Noir.
  • One80’s masala lamb cheeks, sago sandige, and mango mint chutney. With a Russian Jack Pinot Noir.

So Tequila Joe’s. A fun Mexican taverna and cocktail bar near the corner of Vivian and Tory. I’d spotted their maytag fries (never heard of them) with Applewood smoked bacon (ditto) and exclusive gorgonzola bleu cheese sauce, matched with a Paulownia Estate Rose 2014. Definitely in the I-can’t-imagine-how-that’s-going-to-work category.

The Rose was so delicious on its own, I damn near hoovered it all up before the dish arrived – off-dry and with plenty of body and flavour, so a more intense Rose than I’d expected – but I did manage to control myself and enjoyed it with the dish as well (and the ‘Death Rides a Pale Horse’ blonde ale we sampled was pretty fine too!).

The maytag fries are a crispy waffle cut fry imported from the USA (took a month to get here), as is the Applewood smoked bacon, while the bleu cheese sauce is made just for TJ’s. Because the Rose was richer than expected, and the smoked bacon and bleu cheese more subtle than expected, the flavours actually met and melded well. The waffle-cut chips gave great texture and crunch against the softer bacon, with the only issue being the bottom chips sogging before getting to them (I can confirm the plate was clean at the end though!).

And it would have been rude not to finish with the recommended apple cinnamon churros, right? Also light, crispy and flavourful. And refreshingly different to the norm.

So there you have it, a match that I thought couldn’t possibly work.

Here’s the full line-up of offerings to whet your palate further.

 

 

Puro Chilean

Puro wallSo just inside the Grand Arcade, Willis Street entrance, is now a Chilean lunch and espresso bar called Puro.

Coffees, an alfajor and cheese bread (scone) hit the mark for a mid-week bolster before work.

The ‘scone’ had a crisp outside and cheesy viscousness inside that was a little different from a normal scone, but well worthy of a return visit.

Puro counterThe coffee came with a cuchufli (pronounced koo-choo-flee, fun!) hollow wafer filled with manjar/de leche. Nice.

The cabinet was filled with tasty (and generous) looking sandwiches, hot dogs and empanadas. They make their own bread on-site and were friendly and welcoming.

Puro coffeeThere’s really only two or three seats (and onsite food is served with plastic plates and cutlery – expedient in washing up terms), so this is most likely to be a takeaway lunch bar for most.

7.30am (Mon-Fri) to 3pm (Mon/Tues) or 4pm (Wed-Fri).

Mexico on Dixon

I know its a chain.  And I haven’t been to any of the others to see how ‘chain’ it feels. But we all really liked it.

Slightly grungy funky decor, delicious good value food, and a large range of quality tequilas. Hello Mexico.

Mexico decor

The crisp patatas de maize with blue cheese and smoky almond snack for $8 were substantial and tasty, as were the $6 soft shell tacos (maybe the beef skirt meat could have been a smidge tenderer, but couldn’t fault the flavours and presentation).  And the $14 – $16 quesadillas, flautas (with pumpkin pictured below), Mexican fried chicken (yes there was agreement with the menu ‘not to be missed’ comment), ceviche with pork crackling and fresh salad etc all well exceeded expectations too.

Although we were told that none of the dishes were that spicy (chilli-wise) and there were hot sauces on the table for extra grunt, we found a few to be quite tingly.  The hot sauces are available to buy instore or online if one takes your fancy.

Mexico flauta

Most of the group ordered one snack item or soft shell taco and one slightly bigger dish and were chokka (technical term) by the end of that.  So for $20 – $24 here you really can have a good time, be satisfied with quantity and quality and try different things. Pretty impressive really.

You can’t book in advance, so like most places these days you’ll end up parked in the bar for a bit enjoying tequilas, margaritas, and Mexican beers. Wine drinkers should note there are only three wines (red, white and sparkling), complemented by a few delicious sounding sangrias (by the glass or carafe).

Mexico taco

And the food will come in whatever sequence being of the sharing persuasion (however most of ours came within 10-15 minutes of each other so no dramas).

I really liked the sound of a couple of desserts, so will have to return soon and maybe do the menu in reverse!

If you are a small group or couple, expect to be seated at large communal tables near other diners.

Noon til late, 7 days.

41 Dixon Street.

 

Loving La Boca Loca

Finally.  Its only taken about three years to get to La Boca Loca in Miramar.  And yep, it was worth getting the car out of the garage.

La Boca decor

The atmosphere is fun and buzzy (read go in a group), the decor bright and interesting (love the fluoro blue), and the food goooood (nary a nacho in sight).

We started with the trio of little bites to acknowledge the weekend of gluttony already under way (a tastebud tingling mix of spicy pumpkin seeds, fried nixtamal corn with salt and chilli spiced peanuts), and then moved right along to the enchilada/taco/burrito section of the menu.

La Boca mains

The sizes (moderate) and prices (around $18) suited us, not being hollow-legged teenagers, and the quality and flavours impressed.  Particularly the hand-made organic corn tortillas of the pescado (at front) – earthy in colour, texture and taste – and the flavours of the chicken enchilada (the influence of the Mexican coriander cream I suspect).  Pleasingly nothing was drowned in salsa, sauce or cheese (the mayo was maybe edging slightly towards heavy handedness).

It was extremely helpful having a full page of descriptors for the Mexican terms and chilli strength, and pleasing to see recognition of their main suppliers at the end too, including the very local Miramar Fruit Supply.

La Boca goodies

One could happily call in here for a casual margarita and nibble at the bar, or a longer dining experience down the back (and there’s no way it’ll be three years this time!).

There’s also quite a range of goodies one can purchase to take home if feeling suitably inspired (tacos, hot sauces, dried chillies, and even banana vinegar and stoneground chocolate).  Nice one La Boca Loca.

19 Park Road, Miramar.

La Boca map

 

 

Bebemos South American

On an unexpectedly free evening, we decided to tootle along to Bebemos at Newtown.

BebemosI had heard of this new South American Bar in connection with Little Beer Quarter (an owner in common I believe), and a bit of googling suggested an interesting range of craft beers, a few Argentinian wines, and a mix of South American foods (primarily Brazilian).

He had a couple of different tap craft beers, and I chose the one apple and elderflower cider they turned out not to have currently, so reverted to a simple ginger beer (having had a three-course wine matched lunch earlier in the day already!).

The tapas to share as a starter turned out to be more generous than expected (and tasty), so we were clearly not going to make it all the way through the menu this time (doh – the dulce de leche ice cream sundae will have to await another occasion).

The tapas shared were pao de queijo Bebemos tapas(baked Brazilian cheese puffs served with acai relish) and crispy Brazilian rice bolinhos with parmesan & chili mayo.

To follow was the Gaucho burger (beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and chimichurri) served with rosemary and garlic fries for him, and steak and cheese empanadas for her.

I particularly liked that the empanadas were hand made and irregular, with a delicious pastry both firm and melt-in-the-mouth tender (not chewy). Nice.

Bebemos wallThe decor is welcoming, with both indoor and courtyard dining.  Staff were friendly and welcoming, although there was a tiny feel of still being new and not having hit a rhythm yet.

I will definitely pop into Bebemos for a beer and tapa again if in the neighbourhood.

Corner of Riddiford and Hall Streets, Newtown (at the first intersection just past the public hospital).

El Matador, upper Cuba Street

NOTE: Their sharing meat platters are fantastic, share with friends and a few sides, and don’t be fooled by the platter being for two, its got enough meat for four easily…

El Matador Cafe, Asador Grill and Bar is a recently opened Argentinian restaurant in the old Munchen Burgers space next door to Logan Brown.

El Matador had very quickly decided not to take bookings after the initial ones (we had booked thankfully being a bigger group) so if doing the bigger group thing, go early or late and be prepared to wait (not much waiting space).

There is an air of authenticity and charm about the place though which will take them a long way.

The service was fairly slow (they were very busy) and we had a Mexican waitress who was doing her first night ever, so probably a little nervous of a group of 7 asking questions about ingredients and dishes.

El M kitchen

To summarise, several of the mains came out wrong, one or two a bit cool temperature-wise (the meat), the 6-hour cooked lamb dishes were not 6-hour tender, the sides of spinach and feta were spinach leaves only, one of the tapas ordered as an entree came at the same time as the main and a second never appeared, the boys who ordered tomato sides with their steak and potatoes got tomato but lost the potatoes etc etc.

To give credit, they provided complimentary empanadas to the boys who had to wait for their correct mains, and one somehow couldn’t take offence as the place had a buzzy vibe and they are clearly trying hard amongst the initial swamp of activity.

The desserts were superb in taste and interest (and price at $8 – $10), and definitely uplifted everyone’s experience, with the favoured desserts being Quemado oranges with almond brittle ice cream (very good but alas well inhaled before I could photograph!) and panqueques con dulce de leche (pancakes with caramel) (simple but delicious, also a breakfast option).

Unexpectedly there are more NZ wines on the menu than South American, with a few Spanish and French thrown in.  So being a white drinker I tried the Argentinian Trivento Torrontes 2010 and found it rather pleasant.

Overall?  A revisit in 3 months or so to see how they’re coping.  Keep an eye out and take advantage of their specials (tapas Tuesdays, wine Wednesdays, Fugazzeta Fridays) and maybe focus on tapas and desserts there as the more interesting offerings.

196 Cuba Street

And a breakfast image taken at a later time. Pretty fine..

El M pancakes

 

Taco Shop – Mexican Taqueria in Leftbank

The Taco Shop is a fun little place painted warmly yellow down the back of Leftbank, cozy and humming, and seating all of about 15 people (although one can sit at the tables just outside if the weather behaves).

The menu has a picture of Frida Kahlo on the front and the Madonna on the back, and is delightfully hand scripted inside.

The offerings are simple – 3 entrees, mains covering the usual quesadillas, tacos, tortillas, salads and tortas (mexican sandwiches), one dessert (chocolate brownie) and 4 breakfasts (all variations of eggs, beans and tortillas).

Our entree of cheese stuffed jalapenos was very tasty and unexpectedly (to me anyway) crisply crumbed.  Something about the cheese was different than expected (thinner and silky) and pleasing to the taste, but I never did quite put my finger on what.

The mains of  a ‘wet’ taco (tortillas with a sauce of choice poured over – orange tanged pibil in this case) and ham quesadilla were both very pleasant and available in small or large sizes.

The plates were a colourful backdrop to the food, the beer Mexican, the service welcoming and prompt, and overseeing our dining pleasure a large wall mural in memory of Emiliano Zapata (early 1900 Mexican revolutionary) which made for interesting reading while digesting.

The meals are very good value for money and one could easily slide in and out here for a quick pleasant meal on the way home, or a more leisurely catchup with friends.

Havana bar and tapas

Thanks to one of the dinner clubs, there we were at Havana restaurant and bar in Wigan Street.

This is one of the gems of Wellington in my book (er, blog).  A fabulous building decked out Cuban-style with lots of nooks and crannies, to enjoy a drink or nibble.  And an eclectic mix of decor and art, which give all those nooks and crannies individual moods. Very cool.

The restaurant is in the half of the building that formerly housed the Havana roastery (now in larger premises up Tory Street), and specialises in tapas style sharing plates.  Delights such as hot red pepperdews stuffed with persian feta and toasted hazelnuts, sauteed prawns in kahmiri chilli and garlic, crisp haloumi with sweet red pepper relish and rosemary oil, pork fillet wrapped in jamon serrano with cranberry and fennel (pictured), grilled aubergine with persian feta and pomegranate, and on it goes… (drooling yet?).

Havana bar

Given there were five of us and we decided to choose two dishes each for sharing, we managed to cover a fair chunk of the offerings (including dessert tastings for some of the group).  All were interesting and well done.  The only disclaimer I’d make here is that you can expect to spend a bit as the plates are a small tasting size, and you may need a few.  You are essentially paying for the complexity and interest factor as opposed to quantity.

Also of note was the armchair in the ladies toilet (in case you need to wait for a friend?), and the upside-down decorated canoe hanging from the ceiling in the restaurant.

Havana stock a good range of drinks and bar nibbles (extracted off the tapas menu), including some interesting sounding cocktails.  I was eyeing up a rum with maple syrup concoction which sounded a bit like me should I be going back there for a drink sometime as opposed to dining.

All in all, a highly recommended experience.

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