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…

Kera-la-carte

The new Kera-la-carte Indian on Courtenay Place gave us the best Indian we’ve had in a good long while recently – light, tasty, fresh and more refined-feeling than most Indian around.

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The food is centred on Kerala region in Southern India, one of the first spice trading areas with early Portugese and European influence.

The Uzhunnu Vada savoury donuts were outstanding, and the butter chicken had more flavour layers than any I’ve had before.

The chip fiend’s Chicken Chettinadu with spicy, aromatic chili’s hit the spot too. As did the Kallappam fluffy pancakes with crispy edges, made from fermented rice batter. Excellent on their own, and more excellent when used for the requisite mopping.

Don’t let this under-stated wee restaurant fool you (but maybe pass on the salted lime soda, that was just a step too weird).

Lunch and dinner Tuesday to Sunday.

25 Courtenay Place.

 

 

 

Churchill

The Wellington Hospitality Group (Bethel Woods, Coene’s, Gasworks, Whitby Co-op, Munchen) has added yet another horse to its stable – Churchill bar on Lambton Quay where the Royal and various other bars have been.

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There’s a bit of cheekiness at play in Churchill if one looks closely at the black and white ‘War is over’ mural on the wall, and like other WHG places, there are lots of different nooks and crannies depending on your mood.

We happened along on a Saturday evening pre-Hurricanes game, and the place was buzzing with hopeful anticipation, and bunches of folks getting warm food in their belly before the blast of cold to come.

The food leans British as you’d expect (bangers’n’mash, Cornish pasty with peas and gravy, Beef Wellington, fish’n’chips, Eton mess etc), but actually has a few contemporary dishes thrown in too – warm chicken, feta, quinoa and radiccio salad, or chickpea and cauliflower curry, to name just a couple.

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And to show that you can never tell with Wellingtonians, we metro dwellers ordered the fish’n’chips and bangers’n’mash, while the strapping rugby lads next to us ordered the chicken quinoa salad and grilled fish with veges, and were talking about the parmesan fries they’d made at home recently!

The food came promptly with satisfying braised pork, apple and sage sausages in my dish, and flaky fish inside the crisp batter of the chip fiend’s. The presentation was simple but appealing, and I confess to eyeing up someone else’s potted pork belly with pickled cucumber, sourdough and beer mustard on the way past.

The drinks list has the usual range of suspects, with a couple of not-so-usual leaping out – a black doris plum and ginger sour cocktail, and a Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill bubbly from France if one really wanted to push the boat out.

Churchill decor1

So next time you fancy a comforting bite and blast of conviviality, pop on down to Churchill.

132 Lambton Quay

 

Hugo’s Whisky Lounge

I was reasonably impressed with the style and ambience of Hugo’s Whisky Lounge created above the Establishment on Courtenay Place. With a bunch of different nooks and crannies, and a bible-ful of whisk(e)y’s you could wile away a good amount of time up here.

Hugos bible2

The food was bar snack/tapa style, and ranged from sliders to homemade pork and shrimp wontons (very good), to crumbed camembert with spicy plum sauce to meat skewers to mini seafood fritters etc. And the staff very knowledgeable and helpful.

I won’t repeat what I wrote in my Word on the Street post, but suffice it to say you should pop by for a whiskey and bite sometime on your way out or back from somewhere, and check it out.

Best entry is just around the corner on Blair Street.

From 5pm til late Tuesday to Saturday.

Hugos lounge pic 3

 

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.

New vegan eats and a lightly swished up Hippo

There’s another wave of new vegan eats around the city (check out my latest Word on the Street post for detail), but I mostly want to talk about Hippopotamus at the QT Museum Hotel here.

Having been there over the years, I realised I’ve never written about them on this blog. And felt compelled to rectify!

Hippo high tea

 

To me Hippo is the last ‘fine dining’ restaurant left in Wellington. Where you’d dress up and have a classy evening out, with fine french food, fine wines, and respectful proper service. And although sold to QT late last year, that hasn’t changed.

The decor throughout has had a wee swish up to create a slightly more contemporary sophistication, rather than the previous traditional formality, but it’s been done with a light touch so the character of the place has not been compromised. So at Hippo, there is new branding in the tableware, fewer white table cloths, sleek black polished tables, and a hint more casual styling in the staff uniforms, etc.

You’ll still have a fine time, but with a notch less stiffness.

I’ve enjoyed a pre-Christmas team lunch at Hippo, a Guy Fawkes dinner with that wonderful display over the harbour, high tea, a lovely anniversary dinner and many other cocktail and tea visits over time.

And recently, I went along to enjoy Laurent’s new vegan menu. A totally separate menu with choices for most courses (although I suspect there’s a little swearing in the kitchen at times for this Frenchman used to his cream and butter!).

The dishes we enjoyed were:

  • Tofu sashimi with wakame salad and ginger syrup
  • Roast baby vegetables with ‘soil, rain and snow’
  • Mushroom risotto with vegan cheese
  • Coconut and mango panna cotta, with bruleed fresh pineapple, kaffir lime gel, toasted coconut crumble, mango gel, freeze-dried pineapple, mango passionfruit glass (yep it look and broke just like glass!), and finally, guava sorbet. OMG. And only $18 for all that.

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This menu will evolve over time, but was delicious, beautifully presented, and had some clever layering and flavour/texture combinations.

The one thing I haven’t done yet, and been told is really worthwhile, is breakfast at Hippo. As well as buffet food, they have an a’la’carte breakfast menu with light dishes at $15 and substantial ones at $25. That’s not much more than a bunch of cafes around town, who won’t give you that same elegance and finesse. Checking that out very soon!

QT are also converting their foyer carpark into a ‘Hot Sauce’ Korean/Japanese tapas bar and lounge (the same as QT Melbourne has) for a mid-year opening, so stay tuned folks. More good things to come.

90 Cable Street, CBD

 

 

 

Leroys Dive Bar

I’ve been in and out of Leroys a couple of times, and written about them as part of the rise and rise of tacos post for Word on the Street, so here’s my summary…

Leroys decor 0

Leroys is in the old Hideaway space in the Plimmer Steps, and is brought to us by the Greenman folks (the recent Dillingers addition to Midland Park is theirs also).

Leroys has been redecorated as a dive bar style with motorcycles hanging from the ceilings, pour-your-own beer from a carburettor, a half caravan for seating (or the musos), a twinkly outdoor garden bar, and more groove than you can poke a stick at.

They’re also doing some tasty bites – predominantly tacos (delivered on cute toy trucks), firebird fried chicken (some of the moistest I’ve ever tasted courtesy of the $16,000 pressure cooker in the kitchen), and frankendogs (hot dogs in a potato rosti).

The tacos were all tasty, with their own distinct flavour profiles, and the frankendog much more interesting than a dog in a bun. Although I will grant you, messier to eat.

If you need something a little extra on the side, you can dive into K-fries (pretty much Korean spicy nacho topping on fries), or good ol slaw.

There’s a bunch of beers on tap and by the bottle if pouring your own doesn’t appeal, and a selection of wines, retro cocktails, alco-slushies and non-alcs.

And deals every night through the week – motormouth Mondays with a quarter bird and pint deal; taco truck Tuesdays 2:4:1 tacos; gigging (and probably lots of giggling too!) Fridays with live music from 7pm, etc.

Leroys decor 1

Be prepared for lots of noise on busy nights, ordering at the counter and collecting your eats from the kitchen when the vibrating ‘waiter’ tells you it’s time.

Don’t be shy, put on your dive shoes and get on down to Leroys for tasty bites and a bit of fun.

Monday to Friday from 9am to late. Saturday noon to late.

2 Plimmer Steps

The Botanist at Lyall Bay

Having given them a month or so to settle in (that’s my excuse anyway!), I finally trucked out to the new Botanist at Lyall Bay for lunch.

Brought to us by the folks of Beach Babylon, Little Beer Quarter, and Basque, the point of difference here is that everything is vegetarian or vegan.

Botanist decor

The atmosphere is inviting – an old villa with views out to the south coast, a north facing garden / deck area and lots of light and plants indoors – and the staff were welcoming and friendly.

We tried out the pea, smoked brinza and zucchini fritters with pickled cucumber raita (with optional poached eggs), and the crumbed halloumi burger with herbed fries.

With the winner being the fritters (and my apologies, I just realised the pic is nearly all eggs!) with a pleasing texture and tangy raita offset. The burger was pleasant but nothing exciting and we struggled a bit to get herbiness off the fries, although they were nicely cooked. We probably should have tried one of the other burgers – marinated tempeh, or black bean, corn and pecan patty – to really sample something outside the norm.

The drinks cover all bases, with a range of local and NZ craft beers and ciders, all wines by the glass and bottle (virtually all NZ), and a bunch of appealing-sounding cocktails (Garden of Babylon with pea pods, Basil Crush, Flowerbed Martini, and Lavender Cosmo with lavender leaves). Unfortunately I was driving so kept to the non-alcoholic, which included the usual coffees, HardieBoys, Humble honey soda, Salty Dog apple and lime soda, smoothies, T Leaf organic teas etc. Next time.

I did chuckle at the drink menu saying ‘sorry we don’t serve marshmallows as they contain animal gelatin’, as we sat under a [wooden] deer head eating our vegetarian lunch!

Botanist deer

On the way out I saw the dinner menu (they’ve just started this week), and thought it contained more interesting dishes, so might head back for an evening soon.

Beware the place is apparently heaving at weekends (and was pretty full today at a Tuesday lunchtime) with a lot of flat surfaces, so fairly noisy. But bookings can be made online, so you should be able to pick your moment.

A pleasant addition to the South Coast.

219 Onepu Road, Lyall Bay

Italian wine at Petone

Michele Marai started Cangrande Italian Wine importation and distribution around five years ago, and has recently set himself up for retail – both online and a wee flagship store in Petone named Il Doge (pronounced eel doe-jay, in honour of the Duke of Venice).

This has been in response to people continually asking to buy the Italian wines they’ve experienced at restaurants around the city and region.

Il Doge decor 2

The two points of different at Il Doge are the quality of the wines (his father back in Italy samples 300-400 per year and selects the top 40 for further sub-selection – that’s really taking one for the team huh!), and each being displayed with a label of its provenance, tasting profile, and most importantly, what food it goes with.

Turns out food and wine matching is a big deal for Michele (the Italian heritage), with many Italian wines drier and more rustic on their own than our Kiwi palates are used to, but wonderfully rounded with the right food. Aaaaha!

So on Fridays from 5.30 – 7pm Michele opens a wine of the week for sampling with tasty hors d’oeuvres (which I completely forgot to ask the source of, I was so entranced with the whole concept), to demonstrate just that.

We enjoyed the Isonzo del Friuli Northern Italian Chardonnay so much we subsequently took a bottle to dinner with us, and discovered it went well with Vietnamese food.

The biggest seller is the Valpolicella Ripasso from Valrona (the hinterland near Venice that Michele hails from), which ‘speaks to you about village life’ and is a gentler big red for those who aren’t into big reds. I loved Michele’s passion and eloquence when talking about his wines, totally infectious.

I ended up buying a bottle of the Amarone Campagnola (also from Verona), traditionally paired with horse meat (errr venison or rich stew), and with a slightly different production process – grapes dried indoors, macerated and oaked for three years – resulting in a chocolatey, jammy, dark minerally drop. Yet to be enjoyed, but the anticipation is great.

As well as an interesting selection of wines, you’ll find authentic Italian craft beers (the Vienna lager had a caramelly smoothness and was quite the moreish drop), balsamics, spirits and liquers – a bottle of the Amaretto very nearly jumped into my bag as well. Next time.

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So pop along on a Friday evening to taste and learn, grab a bottle for your next BYO dinner (or what the hell, just to enjoy at home!), and watch out for Italian food and wine matching events at a restaurant near you.

281 Jackson Street, Petone

A Wellington watering-holes tee

To celebrate Wellington’s wonderful beer spots, local company Very Well ran a Facebook promo on Wellington Live to find out what places should be included on their new Wellington tee, and what the unofficial top 10 Wellington drinking spots are.

So here’s the results:

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And the tee:

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Available online, along with a whole bunch of other Wellington tees.

Salt and Wood at Waikanae

I found myself at Waikanae this week and tried out the new Salt and Wood Collective, run by the folks who have North End Brewing, Long Beach and the previously-posted Olde Bakery (so they know what they’re doing).

salt-wood-entry

Salt and Wood is an American-style barbecue brew pub. They brew on site (you can see it through the glass), you can fill your flagons and taste the treasures onsite (they do a specific Salt and Wood range), as well as enjoy food (mostly) cooked in a large American smoker oven.

There’s a bunch of deals throughout the week like Mexican Mondays, $10 Burger Tuesdays, and Pork Rib Fridays. As well as live music on Saturdays from 3pm.

So, given it was brunch time I figured I’d better try the breakfast sandwich, which I imagined as a BLT-style sandwich in dense grainy bread (no idea why) and turned out to be a full on burger!

salt-wood-bfast-swich

The components were clearly quality, and generous, with all meats ethically raised, and as much local as possible.

The menu ranges across spent grain granola; house smoked fish with avocado, buttermilk cream and pickles on spent grain bread; a caesar salad with pulled chicken and maple bacon; a ‘kitchen sink’ sandwich (pork, brisket and gravy); dirty fries (meat and gravy); tacos, quesadillas and much more.

Alas we didn’t make it to dessert, but I wouldn’t have minded a go at the Black Bottom Pie or Baked Cherry Cheesecake.

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I was amused by the very large knife we received with our cutlery (great for keeping the opposition away from one’s food!), enjoyed their house-made sauces (you can usually buy to take home but they’d run out this time), and was impressed by the service (relaxed but efficient).

I will most certainly be back.

7 days and nights.

11 Ngaio Road, Waikanae (right across from the town centre carpark).

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