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 “Seafood / Steak”

Pravda turns steakhouse at night

Pravda has always been a favourite of mine for daytime eating. The lovely high ceilings, spacious feel, excellent service, and quality food (and will remain so).

Pravda decor.jpg

However, they’ve now turned a little Jervois Steakhouse in the evenings (the same Nourish Group of restaurants), with no fewer than 13 different cuts of meat available. Carnivore heaven.

But never fear if you’re not carnivorous (or just not a red meat eater), there are still plenty of other dishes available and a full separate vegetarian menu.

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The highlights of the opening night for me were the truffle brioche-crumbed asparagus, the Pravda onion rings, the seared kingfish, the Japanese wagyu, the house Yorkshire puds, and the green spanner crab and ricotta risotto. We didn’t make it to dessert (eyes and stomach not being able to negotiate a truce), but I’m certainly eyeing up several for future visits.

You can read more details here of the first night experience, or hop along yourself to check it out.

107 Customhouse Quay



Portlander (and their 2015 VWOAP pleasures…)

Things come in threes right? I’ve unexpectedly ended up at Portlander three times this week. Go figure.

Portlander lunchAnd looking back, I’m feeling pleasure about all three visits.

Firstly was lunch with a friend (why would you pay $10 for a panini at a crowded cafe when you could pay $15-$18 for a delicious salad at a serviced restaurant with a nice ambience?), secondly was an invite to a sneak preview of their VWOAP 2015 DINE plates and burger and thirdly was to someone else’s drinks (thanks for the guidance on the Japanese whisky Antonio!).

Portlander scallopsAlthough primarily a steak restaurant, Portlander do offer up dishes for a wider audience – seafood chowder, seasonal salads, soups, a range of burgers, and even some vego options (on the autumn menu there was both a smoked tuna and a vego kedgeree).

You will of course still find signature items like the Wakanui eye fillet (90 day grain finished Angus and Hereford Canterbury cattle), T-bones, venison, the daily seafood catch etc, with the most popular combination still remaining oysters, steak, and something chocolate to finish (and if you must have fried eggs on the side of your steak they at least will be truffle fried).

Portlander wakanuiPortlander like to use local product wherever possible (Otaki free-range pork, Palliser lamb, Zany Zeus smoked brinza) and are also conscious of recycling and managing food waste effectively. As an example they partner with Kaibosh to re-use the rest of the potatoes left over from the hand-cut chunky fries. Cool.

Because they understand the need for local support, Portlander host a range of regular events like ‘chic chat’ lunches for women with inspiring women speakers, sport-associated events (Melbourne Cup long lunch in November), and also have a free-membership Prime Club with a range of one-offs like masterclasses, whisk(e)y tastings, 2:1 lunches prior to Xmas, etc. They’ve also just announced a Backyard Cricket Long Xmas Lunch (yes you truly are going to play cricket) in conjunction with the Westpac stadium. Busy people.

Alongside all that, Portlander are a regular VWOAP contender. After getting to taste them all (I know, but someone’s gotta do it…) the dishes I’m still thinking about are the Hunter Games burger (wild venison patty, smoked bacon, cheese and cherry relish), the Yellow Brick Road Ora King Salmon main (cold smoked salmon on crushed
potato, house preserved lemon and extra virgin olive oil), and the RJ’s liquorice baked cheesecake dessert (individual baked cheesecake with apple sourz sorbet).

Portlander WOAP burgerAnd if you have the wild venison main during VWOAP, you’ll be given co-ordinates to an online map showing where your particular deer was caught by a shy local hunter (via QR code I believe). Can’t get much stronger provenance than that.

Portlander also have a significant drinks menu, featuring a large range of whisk(e)y’s, bourbons and cocktails (even a separate whisky cocktail section), and I like that wines can be purchased by the half glass.

Portlander is definitely not your usual hotel restaurant.

In Rydges on the corner of Whitmore and Featherston Streets.

Portlander WOAP licorice

Portlander WOAP pnut sw

Wonderful Whitebait

UPDATE: The head chef is now James Pask, of various Auckland and Wellington ventures. A good pair of hands, so the quality continues, with the addition of a workday lunch Tuesday to Friday now, $35 for 2 courses, $45 for 3 courses. Exceedingly good value for the quality of food delivered.

Whitebait is the new Whitehouse venture, run by Paul Hoather’s ex-Sydney in-laws (who both have considerable respect in the food world from all accounts).

In the interests of brevity since there’s still many xmas pies to eat and carols to sing, here’s my initial thoughts:

  • It had a very Auckland viaduct feel to me (views, diner mass, reasonably generic décor).
  • If you enjoy all kinds of seafood, you’ll enjoy this menu (approx 80% is seafood).
  • No disputing the food quality, especially the dessert work of arts (do make room for one).
  • Take a walletful of cash (the herb and parmesan crusted
    bluenose needed a side, taking the $41 price tag to $50).

Whitebait entree

  • Entrees are substantial enough and of sufficient interest to have as a main with a side ($24-$32 + $9), and include a couple of whitebait options as you’d hope for a place named Whitebait (I can recommend the semolina noodles with whitebait, garlic and chilli).
  • The wine list was varied and split into helpful categories (smoky and rich whites, dark and brooding reds, fine and rare, etc).
  • The service needs to settle in a bit (early days).
  • I’m keen to try lunchtime and see how that compares (overall vibe).

Whitebait dessert

It’ll be interesting to see how they go after the honeymoon period given the average diner these days wants to eat out more often for the same $.

Clyde Quay Wharf (old Overseas Terminal for those of us over 20).

Whitebait decor

Ortega Fish Shack

Ortega is still one of Wellington’s best fish restaurants (in my humble opinion of course!).  Just quietly going about its business (and they do great WOAP events).

Ortega fish

Interesting flavour combinations (jerk salmon on a salad of beetroot, chickpeas and spiced cashews with pineapple chutney; salad of warmed smoked Scottish kipper, goats milk edam, beetroot and watercress; smoked white warehou, asparagus, black pudding, pear relish and a golden egg; snapper with a fennel, mussel, roasted red pepper and Pernod broth, saffron mayo; and plenty more….), superbly cooked and presented, and excellent service.

And a tasty Italian white wine special offered up as a seafood compliment with lovely viscosity, crispness and finish (yep it was).  And best of all, in half glass sizes for those of us who must try harder!

Ortega decor

I really enjoy the touches here of staff wearing matching leather builders aprons but their own individual fashion beneath, salt and pepper presented in shells on driftwood, a nice air flow through the restaurant on a warm evening, and interesting pictures and stories on the walls (check out upstairs).

Long live Ortega.

16 Majoribanks Street.

Ortega map image

Shed 5, still going strong

Shed 5‘s premises have been somewhat taken over by the Crab Shack of late, so it was interesting to have dinner there and see how they’re faring.

The food was still of the quality and presentation we’ve had before, but the overall feel is a little more casual than it once was.

Shed 5 tuna cappacio
The staff are shared between the Crab Shack and Shed 5, which shows in the less polished service.  On the night we visited, wrong drinks arrived, a wrong meal was delivered and while they managed that well and were friendly and willing, it just didn’t quite have the same class.

Shed 5 has also become the corridor between the bar (in the former Green Room end of the building) and the Crab Shack, so there’s a little more noise and distraction in the background.

Having said all that, the dishes we had were all delicious, prettily plated and with interesting ingredients (tuna carpaccio with coriander, nahm jim, coconut gel, lychee and apple salad, crispy shallots; Atlantic scallops with popcorn and ham hock grits, wasabi pea dust; bluenose on cauliflower puree with smoked fish kedgeree and piccalilli….).

Shed 5 scallops

And the prices do reflect the slightly less formal positioning of Shed 5 (sensible in the current climate I think), so still very good pricing for the quality of food served – entrees probably the most expensive feeling at $18-$23 (but including scallops, salmon caviar, a selection of oysters etc, ingredients which don’t come cheap), mains in the $28-$32 range (you might need a side if not doing all courses), and desserts $13-$15 (the Spanish chocolate fudge figs were definitely calling my name if only I’d had time).

With their own filleting room and fishmonger, Shed 5 still rate in the top 3 seafood restaurants for me in Wellington.

Queens Wharf.

shed 5 map

Crab Shack (carved off Shed 5)

Well since everybody seems to be talking about the Crab Shack, I figured I might as well too!

Shed 5 has been reinvented into two halves, the continuing Shed 5 as we all know it (albiet more tables into a smaller space with a few smaller bistro style tables for 2) and the new casual quasi-American Crab Shack in the previous bar area (Shed 5’s bar is now where the Green Room was).

Crab Shack menu

Like other recent Wellington additions, Crab Shack follows the model of no bookings (unless 10pax or more), hang out in the bar and spend some $ on drinks and/or nibbles whilst waiting, mostly tapas and sharing style food which comes in any sequence, lower price points, and pressure on to move along once finished to turn tables over.

Crab Shack burger

The environment is warm and welcoming (a little too much for this kid though when the kitchen staff yelled out ‘Fire in the Kitchen’ after flaming something in a frypan, followed by staff yelling back ‘Its Getting Hot in Here’ – really?), music is lively and fun, staff friendly and slick, and food quality good (and quick!).

On this occasion him indoors had the fish burger (had been reliably informed burgers at CS were large and tasty, and that’s certainly true) and she had the crab cake and dutch babies (essentially yorkshire pud with liquid parmesan cheese sauce inside).  The 1kg pottle of Nelson crab is being held until a return dinner club visit shortly to share with others.

Crab Shack decor

Desserts are very slim pickings (3 only the cynic in me contemplated while thinking about table turnover times) and drinks well priced.  And the side of creamed corn presented in a wee jar worked really well for dipping one’s fries (whether intentional or not!).

One could also tick off the year’s camping expedition given eating off enamel plates, using chequered napkins, and being near flames and heat from the open kitchen right alongside.  And watching the communal ceiling mounted tv unit running the daily specials or old music videos.

Beware though CS is quite noisy, so definitely a place for fun rather than serious conversation.

Outdoor seating in summer.

Queens Wharf.

Crab shack beanbags.jpg







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