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”

Monte Cervino

If you didn’t catch my Monte Cervino post over at Word on the Street, here’s the link.

Monte Cervino is the new iteration of Matterhorn in Tory Street (the old Lonestar building), and differs from Matterhorn by being a bit more casual and Italian-inspired (the Italian ‘face’ of the Matterhorn!).

MonteC bar

The food is still the quality you’d expect of Sean Marshall, albiet a little simpler, and the service still has the Matterhorn vibe – a whole lot of groove, a little bit laid back, and a couple of handlebar moustaches to round it out – so there’s a whole lot that feels familiar.

The environment is light and bright, and its an easy place to pop by for a drink and bite, full meal, or even just dessert in the bar if you so fancied.

MonteC motto

I’m eyeing up the zucchini, lemon, pine nut and assiago pizzetta (naturally leavened sour dough base) on my next visit, along with Nonna’s fritole. And another of the very interesting cocktails. This one ‘The Alps’ with pine cordial….

MonteC Alps

Open 7 days lunch and dinner.

66 Tory Street

50-50 at Pram Beach

I have been told a couple of times to check out 50-50 at Paraparaumu Beach, and OMG, it was really excellent.

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The decor is very austere, with three pictures on one wall, and simple brown tables in one big oblong room. But don’t be fooled.

Helen Turnbull (opened Rata restaurant in Queenstown for Josh Emett, also best emerging chef at Hummingbird in the 2014 Capital awards) crafts her dishes at a big kitchen bench at the end of the room, while long-time Wellington bar personality Eddy Kennedy runs the front of house as smoothly as a well oiled machine.

The menu has only four dishes per course to choose from, and you can go a-la-carte, or do a 6 or 9 course dinner ($75 and $95 respectively) where Helen presents from across the menu, or have a taste of everything for $120. So lots of choice in how you eat.

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Among our group of three, the stand-out dishes were all of them. But of particular memorability were the amazing flavours of the aubergine entree which the biggest vegetable-avoider of the group fell in love with (me too for that matter), the crispy pork belly with both fantastic crispness and tenderness, the super crispy but feathery roast tatties which appeared by magic with the mains, and the unusualness of the nectarine tart.

The drinks list is also small, but as you’d expect with Eddy’s background, interesting and well formed. We enjoyed The Bone Line Waipara non-typical chardonnay (was described well and double checked with us at ordering), and at $11 per glass was good value.

The beers include a Lakeman Primate pilsner, Kereru Come By Shepherd’s low alcohol ale and Duncans stout (to name half of them), and the non-alcs Kapiti chemex coffee, strawberry Sichuan fizz, apricot and tarragon iced tea, again all interesting and a little different.

5050 exterior.jpg

This is definitely a place all foodies should try, and do book as they’re getting really busy.

Wednesday to Saturday evenings (note closed as a one-off this week 21 to 24 Feb).

27 Maclean Street, Paraparaumu Beach

Pomelo surprise

I had heard good things about Pomelo Kitchen and Bar  on Oriental Parade, but when we finally got there this weekend, it totally exceeded expectations.

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The views, of course, are fantastic from those giant windows looking directly across the harbour and city, and the decor is light and fresh.

Co-owners Lily and Laili Chin started from a takeaway background in the Hutt Valley (among other things), and have obviously been hiding their light under a bushel.

The food very much made me think of Comes and Goes at Petone, both in terms of quality and presentation. Being ‘pan-Asian’, the ingredients draw from many cultures – Thai yellow curry, Vietnamese tiger prawn salad, Chinese pork dumplings, and much more.

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The signature soft shell crab with coriander, chilli mayo and slaw was a first for the chip fiend, and he thoroughly enjoyed the delicate flavours of the crab on its own, as well as enhanced with the chilli mayo.

The caramelised eggplant with tamarind, Sichuan pepper and sesame seeds had a very thin crispy batter, without any inner sog, and was nicely enhanced by the sweet sauce and sesame seeds.

The slow braised Angus beef ribs fell off the bone, the yellow curry with lotus chips was the best I think I’ve ever had, and the spiced poached pear with coconut custard was a light fresh finish.

Every dish supported the main ingredient to shine, and was melt-in-the-mouth where it should be, lightly crispy where it should be, firm where it should be, and fresh. Even the hand cut kumara fries were an excellent showcase of kumara (and rather fab dipped in the yellow curry!). Impressive.

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There’s a rather cute wee bar down the back, with a lit marble base and wooden slab top, and a couple of wee tables for a quieter eat if you fancy (the main room is pretty noisy with flat surfaces, especially when there’s a big group celebrating nearby).

The drinks include a range of specialty green teas in addition to the normal teas and coffees (Yame, Chiran, Shira ori), a chili hot chocolate, a sticky chai latte, a large list of non-alcs (including specialty sodas and kombucha), some interesting-sounding cocktails (the Hulk, the Drunken Buddha), champagne from Champagne, a good range of NZ wines, local craft beers, a sake, and a couple of spirits. Phew!

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I think I’ve found a new favourite for evening wanders.

From 5.30pm Tuesday to Sunday.

232 Oriental Parade (above Beach Babylon)


Artisan @ The Bolton

I have always liked Exec Chef MacLean Fraser’s style at Artisan, and wasn’t disappointed when checking out the new spring/summer menu today.

He’s also one of only two New Zealanders to date to be appointed a WorldChefs judge. Which also says something.

Artisan setting.jpg

Another of the things I’ve always liked at Artisan is the comfort and peacefulness to enjoy a meal or meeting without feeling like I’m at the zoo. The staff are unobtrusive (but still professional and available at the right times), you’re away from street level noise, and there’s a lovely sense of casual elegance right from the start when you float up the winding staircase.

Todays lunch consisted of melt-in-the-mouth marshmallowy tuna pastrami with crispy fennel and grapefruit mayo; followed by the market Moki on a Niçoise warm potato salad with a crisp pea, feta, mint and bean side salad; and then the creme brûlée with poached rhubarb (yes, I did share!).

All of the dishes were light, fresh, satisfying and felt just like summer – clearly made with quality ingredients and a light hand in the kitchen.

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I also liked the interesting non-alcs (sparkling lime and cranberr or feijoa smoothie), the low alcohol and gluten-free beer section (Kereru’s Auro gluten-free Golden Ale), and a wide range of wines and spirits to suite all tastes. As you’d expect from a hotel restaurant.

Gluten-free food options are also available, and I expect Artisan would cater any dietary requirements without issue.

So don’t under-estimate this gem tucked away at the Bolton Hotel. You don’t have to spend a fortune or have a large (in this case lunch) eat, you can go light with one of their salads in a small size ($14), or maybe the soufflé with goat’s cheese, spinach and velouté ($17). Or go whole hog and make an event of it.

Artisan decor.jpg

Do check out their Christmas menus, both lunch and dinner, they look pretty darned fine if you’ve still got some partying left to do (sorry Christmas Day itself at Artisan is sold out).

The Bolton Hotel, 12 Bolton Street.


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

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.


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




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.

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