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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 “Spanish / Tapas”

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bars, bars, bars…

Okay guys, here it is finally. My round-up of the new bars in the city recently.

Slim Daveys

A neighbourhood saloon which is a mix of wild west, nana’s lounge and a kitschy American diner. They do light bites with a range of drinks including house sangria and some wines I haven’t seen too often before. Brought to you by the Ortega Fish Shack folks (right next door in fact!), with Davey the award-winning maitre’d the face of it. Relaxing and fun, with deceptive quality. 4pm til late Tuesday to Saturday, no bookings. Read more.

Slims header inside

The Top Garden (Hop Garden) rooftop bar

Another rooftop bar, above the restaurant area of the Hop Garden. Sheltered from three sides, and with a long western aspect, its in a prime spot for sun (you might need your scarf and beannie with it at the mo though!). The food and drinks are the same as the downstairs bar, with the ability to hire the rooftop for your own function. And no drama to just pop up there for a coffee or brunch, you don’t have to be beering or wineing. Open the same hours as the Hop Garden – Monday/Tuesday 3pm til late, Wednesday/Thursday/Friday 11am til late, Saturday/Sunday 10.30am til late. Read more.

TopG 3

Orpheus Kitchen

Although marketed as a New Orleans-style restaurant, one of the features here is ordering by iPad from your table (both food and drinks), including the ability to access 5,000+ cocktails. If mucking around with filters isn’t your thing (first ingredient, second ingredient etc), they have some pre-set categories (some with fairly outrageous names, so be warned!), and a few beers and wines. I had a pleasant nibble and exceedingly delicious dessert platter here recently, while knocking off a couple of those cocktails. Only 4,998 to go! Orpheus Kitchen is in Allen Street in the old Muse on Allen premises, Wednesday to Sunday 5pm til late, and you can make bookings. Read more.

Orpheus ipad

Five and Dime

A new venture by Elie Assaf of Five Boroughs fame in the old Phoenician Falafel premises up Cuba Street (Phoenician is dad). A combination wine/spirits/tapas bar with some very smart food, so not your standard diner by a long shot. Although they do brunch, that feels more lunch/late afternoon fare (with the exception of the pancakes with fried egg and bacon ice-cream – odd-sounding but very smart), with the weekday lunches simpler Lebanese/Turkish sandwiches and bowls. Again some less-common drinks across the whole range and only 6 beers here, so NOT a craft beer bar (yay!). I’d come here over many other places just on the food alone. Not 100% sure of their hours yet as they’re still settling in,  but currently weekdays from lunch onward, and weekends from late morning onward.  Read more.

F&D fried bread bacon icecr

Noble Rot

A pure wine-bar back in the city, since Arbitrageur and Vivo both disappeared. With a master sommelier at the helm, and over 350 interesting wines from places as far flung as Tenerife, and both 100 and 150ml pours, you’ll be able to try lots. They also have a coravin wine system which allows extraction of wine through the cork via a slim needle, replacing what’s taken with heavy argon gas to prevent oxidation, so they can offer normally bottle-only wines by the glass. The food is by by the Salty Pidgin folks, and is designed appropriately to go with quaffing (plates, some raw, build-your-own platters). Busy as a busy thing at night (ergo fairly noisy), but you can at least make bookings. Seven nights (from 5pm Monday/Tuesday), from lunch Wednesdays to Fridays (noon) and from brunch on weekends (9am). My pick – go in the daytime for a peaceful experience (but then again I am getting old!). Read more.

Noble main header

Eva Bevas

Doing a mix of everything (sports, quiz nights, small plates, cheap steaks), this is in th told Hope Brothers site at the entry to the Eva Street/Leeds laneway and makes me think a little of Bethel Woods (from the bits I’ve seen, haven’t had a full experience yet). Brought to you by the Hospo Gurus who have the Ivy, Bad Grannies, and various Courtenay bars. 11am til late. Read more on Stuff.

Fat Angel

A music/rave venue immediately upstairs from Eva Bevas, definitely aimed at the youngsters with the hottest local and international DJ’s strutting their stuff. From 5pm Fridays and Saturdays. Read more on Stuff.

Fat angel teaser

There you have it, we’re clearly a thirsty city!

 

The Arborist Rooftop Bar and Eatery

Arborist decorI was quite impressed by Arborist (the downstairs bar), and I hadn’t expected to be given its a hotel bar done over, and those can sometimes feel a bit lip service.

However, Arborist’s decor has a cosy log cabin feel, the staff were exceedingly welcoming, fun and friendly, the music matched the decor (slightly country/Steely Dan-ish) and the food was appropriately nibbly to go with a drink or two. They also have a cosy-feeling function room down the back, which a friend told me worked very nicely for a seminar recently.

Arborist tapas1The menu was split into bar bites (like quinoa, cheddar and cauliflower cakes with chilli yoghurt; tortillas with turtle bean salsa, avocado and hot sauce; or a Lumber Jack double beef/cheese or Hot Bird southern fried chicken thigh burger), protein dishes (like crispy pork belly, house gravy and apple crisp; jerk chicken; mutton back strap; or butchers sausages) and green dishes (like beetroot, avocado, pea, red onions, sherry vinegar and chilli; superslaw of kale, carrot, red onion, sweetcorn, chilli, nuts, cabbage and seeds; or caramelised brussel sprouts with shallots and pomegranate). A good range of greens in the current meat-obsessed market.

Arborist tapas 2Nothing was more than $14, and most dishes were under $10. Good prices when you just want a nibble with a drink. Pictured above are the quinoa cakes and southern fried haloumi chips, and at right, the jerk chicken and roast veg salad.

I see they do breakfasts and brunches as well, with some interesting options there too – vegetarian mince on toast of black lentils, coconut, mustard seeds and buttered sourdough; Turkish eggs soft poached with savoury Greek yoghurt, nut chilli butter, toasted coriander seeds and grainy toast; and fig and macadamia brioche french toast with chocolate anglaise or ricotta, love honey and almonds. Tempting.

Arborist mocktailOn the drink front, there were some interesting cocktails (mai tai with added caramelised banana and butter rum; mojito of white rum and pineapple gum syrup with green tea and lime, garnished with mint and a honey cured pineapple slice; pick-me-up of gin, fresh grapefruit juice and agave nectar shaken and served with a spice rim and home-made candied grapefruit peel), all with interesting names like Procrastination, Mid Life Crisis or World Famous Fully Loaded Bloody Mary (!), and a reasonable range of international and local beers and wines (sorry I didn’t get much past the cocktails).

I was actually in a non-alcoholic mood that night so asked the bartender if they had mocktails. He immediately offered to magic something up for me, and after asking a few questions about likes and dislikes produced this above. I’m damned if I know what went into it, but it was tangy without being sharp, not over fruited and long and cool. And oh so pretty with flowers on the top.

One of the group did go for a ‘happy ending’ of Smores and ice cream, which was deconstructed and sweet, and again high in the pretty stakes (pictured below).

Arborist smoresThe cabin rules on the back of the toilet door totally summed up the humour of the staff we dealt with, and should not be missed when visiting Arborist (a couple of examples – we reserve the right to tell you to make like a tree and leave if you are rude or disrespectful to our staff or customers; silver, gold dust or nuggets will also be accepted as payment; no sleeping on the grass or tables, we have rooms next door if you are in need of a snooze).

And I believe their rooftop bar (yes it is on the top of the Trinity Hotel on the 7th floor – access via the hotel lobby lift) is either just opened by now, or just about to. I believe there’s lots of artificial greenery, small BBQs on the table so you can take a creative part in your dining experience, and a fully stocked bar. Bring it on (and the weather to go with it!).

166 Willis Street.

The Bresolin

That’s it.  I’m meated out.

Bresolin mushroomsGoing to the new Bresolin with a big group meant a zeroing in on the feast dishes (whole shoulder of lamb, whole roasted chicken) with a range of small dishes to keep the wolves from the door initially given the feast dishes would take an hourish.

The small dishes included a salmon and watercress salad; steak tartare; calamari with wakame; and mushrooms with pea shoots, polenta and mascarpone.  All were quality and nicely presented (the vegge dishes were the most interesting of the lot though – check out here).

Lke most places deciding to have small or tasting plates recently I’m not all that sold on some of the price points ($14 for a dish of butternut pumpkin, carrots and almonds, $8 for a very small bowl of unadorned salad leaves?). However there’s absolutely no way you’d go hungry here if feasting.

And American is clearly the new black (will it take the mantle from meat as the new black?) – at the Bresolin you’ll find burgers, buttermilk fried chicken, a range of soda pops in the traditional sarsaparilla style (pear and ginger, blueberry lemonade, rhubarb and basil), daily soft serve ice-cream, etc.

Bresolin meats

There’s a daily guest beer on tap (something from the UK on this occasion), as well as a range of NZ craft beers, NZ and European wines, cocktails, hot chocolate, gumboot tea and their own Gentlemen’s Beans coffee, so something liquid for everyone.

And a whole spit roast animal over the courtyard barbecue pit of a Sunday (now only to be the last Sunday of the month given the effort required) and you must buy a ticket which gets you beast, house baked rolls, slaw, beer and music.

The atmosphere is fun (beware its noisy in the upstairs restaurant when full), the different spaces capture the different customers well (courtyard, bar, restaurant) and the service is slick, so the Bresolin will do well.

278 Willis Street (corner of Karo Drive and Willis).

Bresolin spit roast

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.

 

Basque pinxtos

UPDATE: No pinxtos on the counter much any more, but still delish tapas plates and a rooftop bar.

The people behind Beach Babylon and Little Beer Quarter have branched into northern Spain and tapas and pinxtos (pronounced pinchos).

In the old Zico premises next to The Tasting Room on Courtenay you will now find Basque.

And yes, they have pinxtos on the bar from 5pm like they do in Spain ($2.50 each), so you  can cruise in, grab a drink, select a pinxto or two from the bar and enjoy.

Basque pinxtosWhen asked how they monitor who has what, they laughed and said they just keep an eye on the custsies and its all good (apparently the same in Spain with no formal system for recording).

The pinxtos included many things on bread (frittata, chorizo and olive, baby octopus) as well as ham and cheese croquettes, arancini (the Spanish equivalent anyway) and many other very easy finger foods which changed as the evening went along.

The drinks included Spanish cava (bubbles, not Island-style!), wines, sangria and craft beers as well as a good complement of NZ offerings.

The tapas menu operates from 3pm with the expected items like patatas bravas, empanadillas, albondigas (Spanish meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce), grilled green beans with flaky sea salt etc, pretty much all priced between $8 and $13. They looked to be fairly decent helpings when we saw some pass by so I suspect you’d do very well here without breaking the bank (unlike some places where a small mortgage is required).

Basque MimatakiAdditional to the pinxtos and tapas are some traditional mains from 5.30pm, also at reasonable prices between $18 and $23 (excluding the steak). We partook of the Marmitake firm white Basque fish stew with spicy potato and tomato cooked in a traditional clay pot and the chorizo, beef and paprika burger (it was pretty close still to WOAP time) with tomato, caramelized onions, roasted capsicum, melted cheddar and patatas bravas.

Both were very good. The Marmitake was tender, well balanced and lightly tingly, and the burger included chunks of chorizo and offered with additional spicy sauces for those inclined beyond the standard tingle.

The environment was cosy and relevant, and the crowning glory on the night we were there – superb service from a delightful witty, charming and good looking bar lad who was Basque decor100% in the right role.

Nice one Basque.

8 Courtenay Place

WBC – Wholesale Boot Company

So upstairs on Victoria just a smidgen along from Tatsushi, is the new venture from the Capitol folks – the WBC restaurant.

The environment is welcoming and cosy, and its kind of neat being able to watch the world go by below.

WBC decor

Narry an old boot to be seen, but a small ‘standard’ menu of tasting plates, a couple of mains (mostly designed for two), and a handful of desserts are doubled by the chef’s daily specials on the wall (tasting plates, mains and desserts).

There was also a similar sized spread of NZ and international wines, a few beers (some heading towards crafty and some more mainstream), and for this kid several delectable sherries. Nice!

Liking to spread my taste experiences as far and wide as possible, I chose two tasting plates (new season scallops on egg yolk with potato and confit garlic, and mushrooms on bruschetta with vinegar), while he indoors chose a main (confit duck sausage on ginger kumara mash with greens).

WBC menu

All were good flavoured, but the main was a little skimpy for $28 (in my view maybe $22 worth), so we followed with desserts which were nicely done (roasted pears with thyme honey and hazelnut praline, and banana chocolate donuts), and mostly filled the gap.


Currently WBC are doing early pre-show dinners (ergo be done by 7.30ish) until they see / decide how evenings are going to go.  And beware you can’t book for the evenings, so its another take-your-chance spot.

WBC plates

For me, I think they might fit nicely in the nibble-and-drink-before-heading-elsewhere space (as commented in this Stuff article).

But the food is definitely Capitol quality.

1st Floor, 107 Victoria Street.

 

 

 

 

 

Ombra tapas

The Italian word for shadow/shade (as in come into the shade for replenishment after a hard day’s work).

Ombra decor

On the corner of Cuba and Vivian, Ombra has gone into the refurbished and earthquaked
site previously home to Peaches and Cream, with a warm open environment, rustic decor, pretty headlights and Venetian tapas (have a read of this Word on the Street post for the background).

Like most places recently, the concept is sharing. However, unlike many others, Ombra has the price point right ($5-$18, and $7 – $9 for desserts), so you can try a number of things and go home without emptying your wallet.  Four of us averaged $28 per head and felt sufficiently sated (although of course, drink prices are always another matter!), as well has having tried a number of new taste experiences.

Ombra polenta birds

And like the latest in the Auckland scene, there’s no booking here, just turn up, enjoy a drink and beginnings at the bar, and a table will present in due course.  A growing concept in the hospo trade to turn tables over without wasted ‘reserved’ time, keep the prices down and volumes up, and accommodate guests better while waiting.

Of highlight for me – the pizettes, arancini our way, polenta and birds that got away (traditionally done with illegal birds, but on this occasion veal wrapped in sage, slivered pork cheek, then veal again), and honey saffron panacotta with biscotti.

Ombra dessert

I was also impressed with the bathrooms (style and care), and enjoyed sitting at the bar watching the kitchen staff cooking right in front of us (no pressure) – a great way to drool in advance!

The only off-note of the night was our waiter at the end opening a discussion by saying ‘we don’t want to rush you, but with the number of people waiting….’ and then a flustered back-pedal about bringing the bill to help us out when realising it sounded a bit abrupt.  As it was I’d just been up and paid, as one is aware of others waiting, but a nicer opening would just have been ‘if there’s nothing else you’d like folks, I could bring you the bill?….  To this point the service had been very good, so I’ll forgive for now.

I’m scheduled there for a weekend brunch soon, so it’ll be interesting to see how the morning experience stacks up.

Definitely worth a visit, and be prepared to enjoy a drink at the bar with a starting nibble while it unfolds around you.

Trust me, it will mean an overall more memorable experience.

199 Cuba Street.

And brunch…

 

Poquito espresso, cocktails and tapas

UPDATE: Now under different ownership, but still a lovely wee hideaway with tasty bites and drinks.

In the former premises of Schoc chocolate on lower Tory Street, is a new espresso, cocktail and Spanish tapas bar – Poquito (meaning a little bit).

Open some pretty long hours (from 7.30am weekdays and 9.30am weekends to late most nights), you’ll be able to drop by here for a tipple or a nibble whenever the urge strikes.

Poquito tapas

The tapas include items like anchovy, olive and cheese poquito bites (very tasty, but beware the desire to drink more with them!), toasted pita bread with various hummuses, devils on horse back (soft datey deliciousness, not prunes), grilled bruschetta, mixed olives with treats (not ordered so can’t reveal the treats secret), and warm bean salad with chorizo and chickpeas.

There’s a range of wines, beers and cocktails on offer, with some interesting cocktails.

Poquito cocktails

The ones that caught my eye were the Monkey Business (fig infused monkey shoulder whisky, chocolate bitters, orange slice), Rhubarb 75 (rhubarb infused wodka vodka, cava, lemon, vanilla syrup) and Beetle Juice (Hendricks gin, homemade beetroot juice, celery salt, cucumber, basil, hot sauce, worchester sauce, lemon juice).

Phew!

I settled for the Monkey Business, which went well with the tapas selection.

There is also daytime snack food (still evolving as the clientele settles in), and the coffees meet the grade.

Poquito plants

This will only ever be a light snack place given the kitchen is the bench behind the bar, and it has a limited number of tables, but it’s a peaceful spot (especially down the back by the plant conservatory), and provides something different and interesting in that part of town.

11 Tory Street.

The Hop Garden, Pirie Street

I consider the The Hop Garden to be one of our city’s gems.  They did a fab WOAP burger, I’ve taken dinner club there, and they really are just very good at what they do.

If you haven’t been there, you should go.  Soon.  Any time.  Brunch or lunch (Thursday to Sunday), afternoons or evenings (Tuesday to Sunday).

The food is very good, whether sharing plates or meals (and interesting), and the range of craft beers must surely please anyone from a learner to a connoisseur, with a good range of wines and other tipples for the non-beerers. And now the funky Six Barrell Sodas too.

And they didn’t disappoint this time either.  A late afternoon weekend visit hit the spot perfectly.  The ‘pork three ways’ burger of the day with a pint of Garage Project Hapi Days for him, and the rosemary and thyme potato skins with a Lighthouse stout for her (having had a lovely three course Logan Brown lunch earlier in the day to complement!).

13 Pirie Street, Mt Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

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