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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 tag “bar”

Veg and vegan at the Cross

Although the Southern Cross Bar and Restaurant has meaty stone grills and a roast dinner on Sundays and Wednesdays, their strength is the ever-increasing range of interesting vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan offerings (and the fabulous sun-drenched beer garden in summer).

On my most recent visit I had a Buddha Bowl of roasted spiced carrot and mint, wild rice and cranberry pilaf, toasted chickpeas (was a little wary about that component when ordering), spinach leaves, and a creamy almond dressing. It could have been up-scaled with Zany Zeus halloumi, chilli soy tofu, garlic chilli prawns or spiced chicken, but I decided I’d go for the basic and see what I thought.

Sthn X budda bowl

It really was excellent. The almond sauce was a nice conductor, and the toasted chickpeas were deliciously textured and light (not the dry dusty journey I’d expected). After sampling all the components, I ended up combining the the dish into a delicious mixed salad. Satisfying and healthy, nice.

I noticed they have quite the cake cabinet too now (if you don’t eat your chickpeas, you can’t have pudding!), so its also an easy place to slide by for a coffee and cake. Especially on peaceful weekdays. With at least two vegan options available always.

Sthn X cabinet

The Cross is all about different nooks and crannies, casual and easy dining, and suitable for everyone from families to students to lunch-time workers dashing in and out, a weekend BBQ in the sunny courtyard, or a large event. And excellent for those with vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free requirements.

There’s easily another dozen things I’m eyeing up, including:

  • the almond pina colada smoothie
  • the almond porridge topped with caramelised bananas, walnuts and lightly toasted coconut
  • the mushroom and halloumi Aro burger
  • the halloumi stone grill with mediterranean vegetables, beetroot and sunflower seed dip, and roasted kumara
  • the vegan cashew mac’n’cheese
  • Spanish baked tofu
  • butter and sage ricotta gnocchi
  • Mediterranean lentils with grilled veggies, toasted pistachios and crispy tofu or marinated and baked feta
  • I could go on and on…..

SthnX salt car ccake

I also might or might not have checked out the salted caramel cheesecake on a previous occasion. Somewhere along the line I’ve lost the side picture which shows that this beauty stood about 2 inches high, but you’ll get the idea. Rich, moorish and very memorable. My advice – share with a friend.

And do have a look at their Wellington on a Plate offerings too, again interesting vegetarian and vegan.

Sthn X night decor 2

7 days and nights.

39 Abel Smith Street

 

 

Park Kitchen

I’ve popped into Park Kitchen at Miramar twice in recent times, once for lunch with friends, and once for cake while out on a looooong walk (blood sugar needs right?).

And apart from the frowning rabbit we were seated right beneath the first time (I can’t decide if its a groovy piece of art or just a bit disturbing), I enjoyed both outings. The décor reminds me of Loretta in Cuba Street, with a light, bright and airy design, long coffee and servery counters with delicious-looking cakes, and a separate lounge for more casual coffee catchups or a bit of paper reading.

Between us on the first visit we covered the Park cheese burger, the pumpkin rosemary and feta empanadas, the fish fingers with dill mayo, and the seasonal special of the day – end-of-season asparagus with crispy bacon, poached eggs and golden hollandaise. They were all pretty good (creamy empanada fillings, pleasing medium rare meat patty, herby and unctuous tartare with light crispy fish fingers), but the winning dish just might have been the seasonal special.

I also liked that they had a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails to go with the substantive list of local and international wines, NZ craft beers, and classic cocktails also on offer (a night visit next time methinks). There’s certainly something for everyone.

PK mocktail

Elderflower spritz mocktail

On the walk refueling stop, we inhaled an Anzac cookie and cheese scone, both getting the thumbs up.

PK sweets

Park Kitchen seem to have all bases covered, whether you’re wanting coffee and cake, a light nibble, a more substantive meal and/or a relaxing tipple. And add another option to the already-plentiful and quality Miramar/Strathmore dining scene – The Larder, Coco at the Roxy, Café Polo, The Gypsy Kitchen, La Boca Loca, and probably others that I haven’t been to yet.

6 Park Road, Miramar

The laid back Laundry

No I’m not going to talk about my washing.

A former laundry/dry cleaners on the corner of Cuba and Abel Smith Streets has re-emerged as yet another local watering hole – the Laundry on Cuba.

Laundry decor

The feel is very beachy, with rustic and retro decor and furniture (which works), several sunny spots, and the staff welcoming and friendly.  A bit like a mini Meow really, but smaller and with more glass and sun.

Above the bar are a string of individually iced dia de los muertos skull cookies for $5, and a skull painted on the window, so a little south american with the beachy.

Food is finger fare only – burgers (nearly all variants of beef with a couple of vego options for good measure), tacos and toasties.  Clever really in terms of kitchenware and washing effort.  Down home and simple.

Laundry tacos

And beware no credit cards accepted here.  

A regular diet of live music abounds from around 8pm most nights, and there is a small but pleasant enough range of beer and wine.

And interestingly, an eclectic mix of customers in there on a Wednesday early evening, not full of hipsters as anticipated.

Check out the staff climbing up and down to the storage cupboard at the top of the wall ladder, and most definitely drop in for a casual drop and graze if in the neighbourhood.

240 Cuba Street.

Hashigo Zake, pie and a pint…

As you do when catching up with friends, an excursion to the downstairs delights of Hashigo Zake on lower Taranaki Street was in order.  A well established Wellington institution for those serious about (originally) whiskey and sake, and (over time) craft beers.

Hashigo Zake sign

The beer menu is extensive and took a good 15 minutes to browse through before deciding, with interesting artistic cards throughout the menu folder (check out the list here on their website).

I ended up choosing a Rogue chocolate stout (nearly the Rogue double chocolate stout, but that was even bigger with even greater alcohol content and I couldn’t see me getting home in a sensible condition on that one!), which poured with a thick creamy head as promised, and went rather well with the gyoza pork dumplings to start and Moroccan veggie pie to follow.  And came with its own branded glass. Very piratey and funky.

Their pies are seriously good, light of crust, deep of  delicious fillings (boston pork, beef rendang, rustic salmon, pork and chorizo, vege chilli or Moroccan veggie), and worth a revisit for them alone.

Hashigo Zake pie

Of course the company is important, and a fine time was had by all without the late night lag the next day.

Highly recommended (although be early to get a space or be prepared to loiter around at leaners until a space becomes available).

Open 7 days from noon.

25 Taranaki Street

Hashigo Zake map

 

 

Thorndon toddle (and toddy)

After not wandering around Thorndon for a while, two opportunities abounded over a couple of days.

Firstly, brunch at Leafee on Sunday on the recommendation of (and with) a friend.  Delicious!

Cinnamon pancakes with raspberries, pistachios, vanilla mascarpone, banana and maple syrup.  Mmmm.

The mushrooms and feta on grainy toast looked pretty damn fine as well.

Leafee is run by Japanese folks who convert fully to Japanese fare at night. They are very friendly and welcoming, and I’m told the evening experience is pretty good too, so will be back.  I’d suggest booking for the evening given Leafee is in a small villa, and note that you order at the counter during the day (so don’t sit there waiting!). 320 Tinakori Road.

The mid-week evening graze and tipple happened at the Sprig and Fern at 342 Tinakori Road (courtesy of traffic snarl around The Terrace).

Originating out of the Nelson Sprig and Fern, this craft beer bar is also in an old Thorndon villa and looked to be a popular spot for the locals.

The food is house platters and sandwiches or Siggy’s pies, both of which accompany beers nicely.

The decor is cosy, there’s an outside garden bar for the hardy (10C at the time), the staff are friendly, and there’s a 9 square word jumble on the wall for those attempting to ward off alzheimers (and for those with vision problems the letters are O, M, I, A, A, T, X, C, I). Please submit all guesses via the comments!

There’s a small upstairs room with tables, but its a bit austere and quiet up there, so wasn’t as appealing as the downstairs.

All in all very pleasant, and will call by again when in the area needing a beer.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragonfly on Courtenay

On the site that used to house Uncle Changs on Courtenay Place is a new Asian dining lounge called Dragonfly (classy website), an experience of sharing and enjoying a variety of dishes from south east asia.

We bowled in last night (Friday) around 7pm for a look and chancing of luck about dining there.  They didn’t have any tables available in the near future but invited us to have a drink and look at the garden bar out the back (very Matterhorn, lots of bamboo with a sail overhead), and offered that we could dine out there also.  The same menu applies throughout the premises.  Too cold for dining in the garden bar last night, and small tables/dim lighting in the bar meant we decided on just a drink and nibble this time.

There appears to have been a chunk of money invested here, a very sleek look (lots of black with red lighting), clever spaces for diners around a central kitchen, understated but effective wall hangings here and there, a hallway that feels a little like a secret tunnel, and separation of the diners and the drinkers (way down the back in the bar and garden bar, quite large premises all up).  The place is very inviting.

So to a cocktail (Thai Foon) for me, having read about it coming in a science lab style beaker  (yep it did), beer for him, and pork and chive dumplings to sample the wares.  A chat with the bar lad revealed that the Thai Foon included a Thai rum they make on site (thinner, lighter and sweeter courtesy of palm sugar).  Nice.  As was the cocktail.

In a display of excellent service, the maitre’d who’d escorted us to the bar came and found us shortly after we got settled, offering us first choice on a table that had become available. The waitress we had from then on was also very polished and ensured we understood the menu intention (sharing of small or larger offerings) and checked we understood the spiciness of the green papaya salad when we chose it.  And made sure our bar-ordered dumplings were redirected to the right place. Nice again.

The menu is interesting, not just for the offerings (Son-in-Law duck eggs with fried basil, shredded lime leaf, roasted rice and four flavour sauce; soft shell crabs; eggplant with candied cashew nuts and thai salads; southern clams wok tossed in hot and sour sauce; massaman peanut curry braised angus beef short ribs, baby potato and pea snaps with cardamom, cassia bark, tamarind and thai basil…..) but for the origami-style folded presentation.

The food is fresh and tasty, there has been a lot of thought go into the design and presentation of the premises, staff and food (down to plates and bowls), and they’re off to a slick and wobble-free start. I shall most definitely go back.  With friends.  A couple of times.

Havana bar and tapas

Thanks to one of the dinner clubs, there we were at Havana restaurant and bar in Wigan Street.

This is one of the gems of Wellington in my book (er, blog).  A fabulous building decked out Cuban-style with lots of nooks and crannies, to enjoy a drink or nibble.  And an eclectic mix of decor and art, which give all those nooks and crannies individual moods. Very cool.

The restaurant is in the half of the building that formerly housed the Havana roastery (now in larger premises up Tory Street), and specialises in tapas style sharing plates.  Delights such as hot red pepperdews stuffed with persian feta and toasted hazelnuts, sauteed prawns in kahmiri chilli and garlic, crisp haloumi with sweet red pepper relish and rosemary oil, pork fillet wrapped in jamon serrano with cranberry and fennel (pictured), grilled aubergine with persian feta and pomegranate, and on it goes… (drooling yet?).

Havana bar

Given there were five of us and we decided to choose two dishes each for sharing, we managed to cover a fair chunk of the offerings (including dessert tastings for some of the group).  All were interesting and well done.  The only disclaimer I’d make here is that you can expect to spend a bit as the plates are a small tasting size, and you may need a few.  You are essentially paying for the complexity and interest factor as opposed to quantity.

Also of note was the armchair in the ladies toilet (in case you need to wait for a friend?), and the upside-down decorated canoe hanging from the ceiling in the restaurant.

Havana stock a good range of drinks and bar nibbles (extracted off the tapas menu), including some interesting sounding cocktails.  I was eyeing up a rum with maple syrup concoction which sounded a bit like me should I be going back there for a drink sometime as opposed to dining.

All in all, a highly recommended experience.

Foxtail tapas and cocktails

The last fine afternoon predicted for a while, a friend here from USA, and strolling the waterfront, ended in drinks and nibbles in the Foxtail Cocktail Lounge at Foxglove.  The old Greta Point pub transplanted in days gone by, and upgraded from the previous Loaded Hog iteration.

This place really is fairly classy.  Whether it be drinks, nibbles, sunning out on the deck, or brunch downstairs watching the water and world go by, those who bought it and have spent the big bucks know what they’re doing. Having said that, I haven’t plucked up the depth of wallet required for dinner there yet, but do have it on good recommendation that the desserts are pretty fine.  And the brunch I had once in times past (orange and cardamom french toast) was superb.

The tapas were prompt, and mostly importantly, interesting.  The goat cheese and mozzarella balls with apple and manuka honey come with their own individual test tube of deliciousness to squeeze into the ball before munching (many variations of the squeeze technique and number of holes created were encouraged to see if one could avoid the finger drizzle or ball explosion!), the Japanese crisps invoked memories of kettle fries, and the home made hand cut chunky chips with smoked tomato ‘Hellmans’ mayonnaise were suitably chunky with a tasty accompanying girly pink mayo (for the metro blokes in the group, one of whom has in recent times been seen ordering a pink girly cocktail…).

The bar lad obligingly created a personalised drink for my friend, and was very personable and helpful all round.  Lounging on couches in the corner checking out the action on the water, or the attempts of those trying to leave the bar again through the wardrobe (yes one side really does have coats in it and no secret exit), was all suitably entertaining.

On a sunny day the upstairs deck with the round cane hammock-like chairs (loungers?) is very appealing, with additional decks and tables on either side of the building available for those occasional (!) Wellington windy days.  Inside are many and varied spaces, especially upstairs, so you can enjoy a quiet intimate time or a larger louder group event.

Definitely a place to call for a drink and nibble while wandering the waterfront, and potentially one of those places that you just stay and stay with a constant changing vista outside to watch, and before you know it, it’s lunch time or dinner time or cocktail time.

And I can confirm all successfully made it through the correct side of the wardrobe on the way out…

Fork and Brewer, Bond Street

And so the Wednesday night wander has rolled around again (along with the rain). Having wandered past the Fork and Brewer on the weekend and thinking we should try it out again (having only been for a beer previously), here we are…

The boys from Malthouse are the main drivers behind this consortium, and they know what they’re doing in terms of decor, details and customer service.  There are lots of interesting little touches like different handles on all of the beer taps (and there are many) from utensils to tools to a hose head to a gun, a mix of booths, leaners, tables, balcony and relaxing couchy spaces, and a xmas tree made of beer bottles with twinkly lights.  Cute.

AND the brewing tanks and equipment are in the process of being installed (we wondered if they might be ex-Macs actually).  In fact, we had a wee table overlooking  the balcony right where they lifted another big piece of brewery structure in whilst we were there.  Entertainment as well as food and drink!

So the drink of the night was a Renaissance Barley Wine (one keg only available), which would have been rude to go past.  Actually it was rather unexpected.  We were imagining a pale drink like a dry lager.  But in fact it was rich amber, almost a bit thick in taste like a light stout, quite sweet and definitely not hoppy (yay!).  Very tasty.  Unlike in Vanuatu (where I discovered their beers are quite light, sweetish and not hoppy), I restrained myself from drinking all of R’s beer tonight.

And the meals were perfectly pleasant.  In fact probably a notch above that.  I had a light  Tandoori Chicken Salad with crispy noodles, turmeric potato and chili peanut dressing.  Very tasty.  And R had the pork burger off the snack menu (and a beery caramelly bread and butter pudding, just to be sure!), which also was interesting in that the bun was a thin light turkish style as opposed to the usual bigger boring burger bun (go the b’s…..), with a large home made style pork patty and the ubiquitous fries.  Not bad at all.

Nice and easy, a notch above usual large beer bars, and relatively close by.  We’ll definitely be back.

20 Bond Street.

POSTSCRIPT: And a few more recent F&B images:

 

 

Avida (greedy, covetous, open-mouthed…)

According to the Spanish online directory, that’s what Avida means.  Such is the reincarnation of the old Black Harp on the corner of Featherston and Johnstone Streets into a lighter brighter spanish-style tapas bar.

The place is a bit classier feeling, with segregated dining, leaners and loungey area. There is a popular gas open-flamed fire separating the dining and leaning area imparting a warm glow (aptly named Flamebuoyant apparently, hmmm), but alas open to kids or happy punters putting their hands in and copping a good burn (apparently one or two have had to be headed off).

As others had reported, there’s a bit of disorganisation around the tables and dining area. You can’t book, they don’t have tables for two so you get sat at a bigger table (if available, which seems a waste) or share with others, they don’t tip out just the drinkers from the area to make way for the diners, etc etc etc.  So be prepared to eat at high leaners, or just have nibbles with your drinks so you don’t need low tables (which is really what they’re aiming at anyway), or share a table with others, or eat elsewhere if you want a sit down dinner.

I had read about the Catalan grilled bread (bit like an oval shaped pizza), but knew it was fairly generous and would probably fill us up before we got to the real plates, so parked that for another time.  I did get to eyeball one delivered to the couple at the other end of our table, and it looked worthy with loads of ingredients on the top, the crispy bottom and softer interior.  Next time.

There are a range of nibbles, small and large plates, sides, and 2 or 3 full meals to choose from. I chose ox cheek with creamed cauliflower, mushrooms and lemony enhancements and a side of wilted spinach with goat cheese.  R chose a chicken, bacon, chickpea, black pudding chorizo broth.  Not a lot of 5+ a day hiding in that one!  Although designated as sharing plates, both were pretty much meal sized (especially with a side).  And both were very pleasant, with generous amounts of meat and flavoured nicely.  I liked that the choices were not necessarily mainstream combinations.

In terms of presentation, there is a whole wall of wine behind wire mesh which looks impressive (to my tidy anal mind – although not sure how easy it is for them to unlock and get more wine out from behind customers if they run out down behind the bar), the beer taps come from large shiny silver pipes running from the ceiling, and you can watch the (gas-fired I think) fully glass-walled bread oven at the end of the bar where they cook the Catalan grilled breads.  Helpful conversation starters (or diversions!) if required.

So, not sure how it’d be on a Friday after work, but for a mid-week nibble, quite pleasant, and reasonably priced.

 

 

 

 

As a PS, I have finally gone back to sample the Catalan bread (it’s now February 2012) and one or two other tapas.  Although pleasant, the catalan bread was a little difficult to eat as the toppings are perched on top of the bread with nothing holding them on.  If using fingers, everything just falls off.  Think they’re pushing hard to justify at $18.

The honey and goat cheese puffs were very pleasant and I had a wonderful sticky time, while the seared gamefish (tuna) bocadillos (mini burgers) with tartare sauce were nicely presented, although remarked to be a little underwhelming taste wise. Suspect the thin layers of tuna were overshadowed by dressing and bread.

So perhaps not as good a value for money as last time, but still a very pleasant place to enjoy an after work drink and nibble.

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