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…

Archive for the category “Modern / Contemporary”

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

 

 

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)

 

 

 

Bastardo and Two Grey

I’ve quite enjoyed two new eateries in the city lately, for totally different reasons.

Bastardo has oodles of olde-worlde charm and classy comfort food, while Two Grey is more of a modern brasserie for catching up with friends over a drink and tasty bites.

Bastardo decor MAIN

Bastardo on Tory Street (the old Pan de Muerto) is brought to us by the Cicio Cacio team from Newtown (also Franziska at Seatoun). And will do well. You can read my thoughts in detail here, and do make room for the groovy dessert trolley when you go.

 

Two Grey MAIN

Two Grey is the new Arizona on the corner of Featherston and Grey Streets. Still the same team out back, but with a focus on local, fresh, seasonal, and modern. The service has been a little patchy to date, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt at the moment being newbies. Again, more detail here, and don’t miss the roasted cauliflower.

 

Comes and Goes

If you haven’t come and gone to Comes and Goes at Petone, you definitely should (Comes and Goes was named in the hope people would come and go all day long – and they certainly seem to be!).

Comes Goes decor

Comes and Goes is another in the stable of light, clean and predominantly plant-based eating (there are some meats, and copious use of eggs, but with a Korean background, Chef/Owner Sean has leaned the plant way, not the BBQ way).

And such an interesting selection of dishes (a multi-purpose daytime menu), that I’m going to bullet some below rather than describe them, as I simply won’t do them justice:

  • Rosewater yoghurt panna cotta, honey glazed muesli, berry compote, fruits, honey crumble, chocolate soil, freeze dried raspberries
  • Bibimbap mixed grains, puffed quinoa, mushroom, bean sprout, carrot, pickled daikon, seaweed salt, 63degC cooked egg, gochujang chilli paste, with minced beef or tofu.
  • Al’s sesame seed Ugly Bagel with mashed avocado, ricotta, dried tomato, 63degC cooked egg, fennel seeds, lime zest and paprika oil (pictured below)
  • Soba the Japanese noodle salad of daikon, carrot, bean sprout, red cabbage, spring onion, coriander, pickled ginger, sesame seeds, lemon wedge, with free range chicken or tofu (pictured below)
  • Cassoulet the French baked beans with duck fat, white beans, bacon, carrot, onion, mixed herbs, rosemary, 63degC cooked egg, and served with sourdough or gluten-free bread
  • The nest of pumpkin seed crumbed soft boiled eggs atop a filo pastry nest, feta and mesclun salad, and topped with beetroot ketchup (this was the dish I really, really wanted, but alas they’d served the last one just before I ordered – I did see it go past though, spectacular!).

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The dishes we had were beautifully presented, well balanced in flavour and texture, and I just wanted to stay all day and eat my way through the menu. It was that good.

I quite liked the under-stated decor, and an open kitchen you could see via a giant hole in the wall, but which kept some kitchen secrets and clutter to themselves.

They have a cabinet of cakes and slices available if you fancy afters, and I noticed a steady stream of locals coming and going (ha!) for coffee, so assume it’s good.

Be warned though – you can’t book and will likely have to put your name down then go for a wander up the street, there’s that many people coming and going (double ha!).

Comes Goes kitchen

Tuesday to Sunday, daytimes.

259 Jackson Street, Petone.

Don’t under-estimate the Glasshouse

The Glasshouse restaurant at Rydges in Hawkstone Street (formerly the Portland Towers hotel) first came to my attention during this year’s Wellington on a Plate.

Their element of surprise was one of the most innovative around and was extremely well executed – mains presented as desserts and vice versa (pork belly with crumble custard and gelato; peanut butter and jelly toastie for dessert). And so I ended up going back and chatting to Chef Andy and Marketer Rebecca about what’s going on.

Quite a lot as it happens.

The Glasshouse has done a little re-decorating, is upping the food ante, and is starting to emerge from its cocoon.

Andy started at the Glasshouse as an apprentice some 14 years ago, and has been around a number of other Wellington establishments before circling back.

Given they’re a home-away-from-home for many of their guests, many dishes have a familiarity to them, but are done with a focus on local, seasonal and artisan ingredients (On-Trays, GelissimoZany Zeus, among others). And I liked the introduction at the front of the menu telling some of the provider stories.

They’re also very focused on giving a friendly welcome, and relaxed but professional service. And I can say over two recent lunch visits, both boxes were ticked.

The things that stood out my visits were:

  • The baguette around the hot chicken schnitzel was excellent, with a satisfying crunchy exterior (not hard or explosive) and soft interior
  • The schnitzel was tender, with a pleasing balance of flavours across the shaved ham, Buffalo mozzarella and their house-made napoli sauce
  • The chicken caesar’s flavour and texture balance was likewise very good, and loaded with chicken (I didn’t need to eat for hours afterwards!)
  • The perfect texture of the egg yolk on the caesar
  • The presentation was excellent each time
  • I felt very relaxed by the end of each visit
  • And most impressively, on ordering the caesar, the immediate response was to ask whether I had any gluten issues. Very smart.

While understated, the Glasshouse is a very pleasant, light and airy place to have lunch away from the corporate rat-race. There was an interesting mix of conference-goers, locals, corporate folks and even a retired group of gentleman having their weekly lunch on my last visit (and looking like they were thoroughly enjoying it!), so its not pretentious, and welcoming to all.

Stand-by for bean bags, bbq’s and more in their sunny, sheltered bar courtyard this summer. And possibly even some Sunday family feast type events too.

Stay tuned….

24 Hawkstone Street.

Shepherd & Al’s Best Ugly Bagels

Shepherd

Shepherd has opened in Leeds Street next to Pomodoro Pizza, brought to us by Shepherd Elliott (Ti KoukaLeeds Street Bakery) and Sean Golding (Golding’s free dive bar).

shepherd-entry

Sean and Shep wanted to maintain the laneway vibe and create a place that provided all styles – a wine, a bite, a meal, an interesting beer, a shared catchup with friends, or just dessert and coffee. A place to come together.

The space is actually the original canteen of the Hannahs Shoe Factory (and a large party-central student flat between times!), so the perfect setting. And has are a number of different areas and seating styles, including some at the kitchen counter so you can see exactly how its all done (no secrets here).

The food is light, tasty and extremely well executed, with the cheapest item at $4 (oyster), and the most expensive $28 (you will need a couple of courses though).They are also being playful by combining ingredients and mixing courses in ways you might not expect (a custard entree? pikelets with house made cheese, salted tamarillo and roasted hazelnuts? pulled pork with apple, fennel and red curry mustard?).

The drinks reflect recent travel, with some interesting big (alcohol, size and price) Californian craft beers on the list. Alongside a whole bunch of ‘sour and interesting’ and some Garage Project, Yeastie Boys (the Rex Attitude Peat-Smoked Strong Golden Ale was really memorable), 8 Wired, Panhead and ParrotDog, etc.

From 5.30pm Wednesday to Sunday, with some bookings taken (via phone for the moment, but watch out for a website and online booking system soon).

Al’s Best Ugly Bagels

Best Ugly is fast food at its best – Montreal bagels (lighter then their New York cousins), hand rolled, poached, wood-fired, and delivered to you with a range of traditional and kiwi toppings in open sandwich style. So no jaw-cracking chewing here (yay!). The likes of peanut butter and jam, rueben (below), Stewart Island salmon, marmite,  Zany Zeus cream cheese etc.

It’s a pretty slick process a’la’Starbucks where you order, then move along to the delivery counter and listen for your name, then see if you can wangle a stool at the wall or window. Be prepared to take-away as there isn’t much seating, but what there is, does turn over reasonably quickly.

Check out the daily bagel and drinks boards too, interesting stuff.

7 days, 7am to 3pm. Swan Lane behind Floraditas (also newly earthquake-strengthened and with some new eye-catching dishes alongside the time-honoured favourites). Full laneway updates here.

bagels-rueben

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Sterling on the Terrace

Sterling is a must-do.

This next venture from the Egmont Street Eatery folks is a bigger establishment on the Terrace where The Pub used to be, with a feature wood-fired oven.

Sterling oven

The decor is simple but classy-feeling; the staff professional, courteous and helpful; and the food the absolute standard we’ve come to associate with ESE.

On this first visit only a few days after opening, we enjoyed a late lunch of vanilla-rum baked French toast (divine) and a Wagyu burger (moist and flavourful, and although shoestrings are my least favourite chip, they were crispy and well cooked). They’ve taken care to make sure things are right from day one, super important in Wellington’s saturated dining market.

Sterling rum-vanilla baked french toast

Sterling wagyu burger

I spotted a whole bunch of things on the menus that appeal to me no end, so I’m delighted that Sterling are open 7 days, and only a block or so down from where I live.

The drinks include a typical range of beers, wines, spirits, digestifs and non-alcs, with good NZ representation. A couple of champagne options caught my eye, as well as there being several choices by the glass for most wine varietals. Nice. There are even a few big reserve bottles for those who like something altogether different.

Sterling brunch menu

Sterling dessert menu

I’m also currently trying to figure how to fit a couple of their delicious-looking scones into my WOAP schedule over the next week or two. I’m sure my inner planner is up to the task, even if my eyes prove to be bigger than my stomach.

Sterling scones 2

I’m not sure there’s much more I can say other than get thee to Sterling soon.

And check out their WOAP offerings (bookings recommended).

101 The Terrace.

 

Coco and the Roxy turn five

Happy birthday to Coco and the Roxy in Miramar! Five years on and just getting better and better.

Coco header.jpg

Check out my recent visit and thoughts from the key players there. I particularly like their playfulness and community spirit.

They’ve also got quite a lot going on for WOAP with Creole flavouring, a crack at defending their 2015 Capital Cocktail win, and a couple of events as well. And one of the country’s best and most innovative cocktail makers.

Definitely worth a jaunt out to Miramar.

 

 

 

Supporting the students

LCB header mainWe’re lucky to have training restaurants we can go along and dine at now and then – the Le Cordon Bleu brasserie, and WelTec School of Hospitality’s  Bistro 52 (both use the same restaurant space).

These open days are excellent ways for the students to get real live practice, and for us to enjoy good food at economic prices.

WelTec is primarily the course of choice for school leavers starting out in the industry or those wanting to get some skills in their pocket before overseas travel, whereas Le Cordon Bleu has a range of students (most from overseas) and delivers high end French cookery training.

Both are totally worthwhile for different reasons. Read about the experience at both – Le Cordon Bleu and Bistro 52, and check out their open dates – Le Corden Bleu and Bistro 52.

I challenge you.

52 Lower Cuba Street.

B52 food5

 

 

 

 

 

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