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 “cocktails”

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.

Pomelo view.jpg

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.

Pomelo bar 2.jpg

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!

Pomelo decor 2.jpg

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

From 5.30pm Tuesday to Sunday.

232 Oriental Parade (above Beach Babylon)


Hot Sauce

If you haven’t checked out Hot Sauce yet, its definitely time to do so.

Hot Sauce decor

I heard it somewhere described as as cross between Dragonfly and Mr Go’s and that’s about right. Although more lounge bar than restaurant (the pic above had tables cleared away for opening night, so there are more places to perch!), the food is still very good, and we found it a peaceful place to enjoy a bite and drink away from the Courtenay rat-race.

The food is Asian ‘non-fusion’, in that Chef Wylie Dean is more about keeping dishes authentic, and all are pretty much bite sized and easy to handle.

The drinks also cover a large range from sakes to champagne to pretty cocktails to Japanese beer and harder spirits. So you can’t possibly go thirsty or hungry at Hot Sauce.

Read the full blurb here.

QT Museum Hotel, 7 days from 4pm.



WOAP 2017, here we go….

It’s that time again. The loose-waisted pants are out of the wardrobe. And life is managed by spreadsheet for 15 days.

Aside from just the sheer frivolity of it all though, it’s worth thinking about the theme put to chefs and mixologists – this year, celebrating food as part of New Zealand’s culture – and how you score your eats and drinks:

  • Celebrating the role that food plays alongside other cultural forms such as art, music and creative expression
  • What is New Zealand’s contemporary cuisine?
  • What role does our multicultural society play in our cuisine?
Ghouse pork puha etc

Glasshouse Restaurant’s pork, puha and paua on smokey hangi kumara hash

This is how mystery judges apportion their scores:

  • 15% service (knowledge, timeliness)
  • 15% presentation
  • 15% use of local ingredients
  • 5% beer, tapas or local beverage matching
  • 5% relation to the festival theme
  • 25% taste

Before adding the last 20% from final weighted average public scores.

We of course all have our own perspectives and benchmarks (my pet peeve – if a burger can’t be held in the hands and eaten easily, its not a burger), but it might be interesting to contemplate the above factors when deciding your scores.

WBC spicy crispy pork bao

WBC crispy Sichuan pork bao burger

So far I’ve had one experience at the Glasshouse Restaurant (Thorndon Hotel) where Nona was excellent at describing the dish components and how to maximise the tastes, and one at WBC where the festival theme was reflected in a fusion of Asian/New Zealand styles and ingredients by a renowned chef, Jenny Gao of Shanghai (although I only found that out later when chatting while paying).

And my last piece of advice? Keep your thoughts and probable scores written down somewhere for the first few days, as what feels like a 7/10 might become more or less once you have a few other bites and slurps under your belt to compare to.

Ghouse saus roll dessert

Glasshouse’s ‘sausage roll’ dessert

Lots to think about aye?

So have at it, have some fun and happy scoring (log into the VWOAP site and click the scoring link at the bottom of each Establishment’s page).

And I’ll see you for Slimming September on the other end!






Coco and the Roxy turn five

Happy birthday to Coco and the Roxy in Miramar! Five years on and just getting better and better.

Coco header.jpg

Check out my recent visit and thoughts from the key players there. I particularly like their playfulness and community spirit.

They’ve also got quite a lot going on for WOAP with Creole flavouring, a crack at defending their 2015 Capital Cocktail win, and a couple of events as well. And one of the country’s best and most innovative cocktail makers.

Definitely worth a jaunt out to Miramar.




Hanging Ditch cocktails

Tucked in beside Goldings Free Dive Bar is the newest addition in the Eva-Leeds laneway – the Hanging Ditch cocktail bar.

The bar is compact with a nice vibe, and spaces for lounging, or more upright pursuits (like lifting one’s glass), and a short menu for food and drink alike (there are wines and beers as well, but it was the cocktail’s I’d gone to check out). The point to the short menu is so it can be creative and changed regularly.

The cocktails include very local ingredients (Fix and Fogg smoke and fire peanut butter, WCF Peruvian chocolate, Six Barrel salad cucumber and mint soda), as well as some more unusual (organic bee pollen, umami salt, salted pistachio orgeat).

The food leaned savoury and a little retro (popcorn shrimp, crumbed camembert or salami toastie), but given we are on our way to dinner, I’ll have to return to check these out.

The Flowers’ Peaches and Cream cocktail with organic bee pollen, peach, lemon juice, sugar-free soda and albumen (or egg white for us lay folk) was sweetly unsweet with pleasing bits of texture courtesy of the pollen. And the Earth, Wind, Peanut Butter and Fire was smoky, tangy and moorish.

The focus of the bar is the forest of 2m long bungies from the ceiling holding all their myriads of bottles (short staff need not apply!), the fuller ones the lower hanging fruit, so to speak. Pretty funky, and a definite talking point. I’m sure I’ve read about the same concept overseas, but it may well be the first of its kind in Godzone.

A fun addition to the laneway. I’m definitely going back.

Tuesday to Sunday 3pm til midnight.

14 Leeds Street.







C G R Merchant and Co

UPDATE: The food is now more toasties, cheese boards, ice cream sandwiches and salted caramel chocolate cookies. Great infused gins and rums, and always interesting creative cocktails.

The replacement Hooch.  Now C G R (Coffee, Gin, Rum) Merchant and Co upstairs on Courtenay.

CGR Merchant hours

As you can imagine, coffee, gin and rum are the focus of this bar, with the cocktail list divided into gin and rum creations of the week (although they offer to turn their hand to any other kind of cocktail if those aren’t to your liking).

I had a gin fixer (spirits, no mixers) and he had a rum fizz (spirits with mixers).  Mine was a lovely orangey number (strong but pleasant sipping) and his had a vanilla tone with milder taste (and probably all the more dangerous for that!).

They infuse all their own gin and rum syrups, so there’s an interesting array of jars and ingredients apothecary-style behind the bar.

I won’t repeat what was said in the Word on the Street article, but thinking about the Rum Diaries isn’t too far wrong.  I definitely went away thinking English, Indian and colonists.

CGR bar

The coffees include a Vietnamese egg coffee (apparently rum, coffee and condensed milk), something I shall definitely try next time, and a variety of Kenyan, Ethopian and Nicaraguan cold coffee infusions.  I note they open 10am to midnight weekdays (from 5pm Saturdays), so you can get your weekday coffee fix should one of these brews become a must-have in your world.  Might be interesting to pop in during the daytime to see how much following they’ve actually got.

CGR decor

I also noticed from their facebook page that they have Gipsy Kitchen deli fare.  Delishimo!  (Especially the rhubarb and caramel scones if you can ever get your mitts on one of those).

The evening we were there we partook of their goat cheese, honey and pear brushetta (nicely done), and noted a pea puree and ricotta brushetta, aged cheddar / pickle or beef / aged cheddar grilled sammies, and house baked beans (an intriguing bar offering), so the food aspect is suitably covered.

The only criticism I had on our visit (6pmish on a weekday evening) was the music being too loud for conversing.  As always with new places, I’ll see how a second or third visit goes down.

But so far, this really looks like another interesting gem tucked away in Welly.

46 Courtenay Place.

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).


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.

Cocktails and crumpet

Now bring your mind back, its not what you’re thinking….

In the space that was Pollux between the Opera House foyer and Opera House Lane is the Boon Brothers’ new cocktail and crumpet bar.

Delicious crumpets, coffee, beers and wines by day, and tailor-made cocktails by night (or  daytime for the truly hardy).

One of the Boon brothers being formerly of Lamason coffee connoisseurs down the nearby Lombard Street, and using Peoples coffee, means you get a pretty good cuppa here.

And for the accompanying munchies, a delicious crumpet or two.  Either standard (jam, nutella) or savoury/sweet specialty combinations like:

  • Smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill
  • Baby rocket, champagne ham and red onion relish
  • Banana, butterscotch, toasted walnuts and double cream
  • Ricotta, pear, candied pecan (and boy are those candied pecans good) and maple syrup….

In discussion with the brother Boon on duty this morning, they decided (after a few attempts themselves) to get their crumpets made by experts and found a start-up catering company to produce these gems.

Dense enough, but not too dense, firm enough to hold the toppings well, but soft enough to cut through and chew esaily, these crumpets really and truly are worth a stop by.

Of interest on the drinks list under beers was an 8 Wire imperial stout with kapiti vanilla ice cream, and the coke for Miss 14 was in fact a coke flavoured Six Barrel creaming soda creation.  Interesting.

After having just seen a Six Barrel Soda Company Limited cafe in the upstairs space opposite on Dixon that once was Bambalinas (see the Wellingtonista article I’ve just found), that can’t be coincidence. Next weekend’s exploration.

Crumpet opens 7 days from 1pm.  Delish.

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…

Concrete Bar in Cable Car Lane

Well these guys have been around a long time and seem to be still going strong. AND they have fascinating toilets.  If for no other reason than checking out the toilets, it’s definitely worth a visit.  And let me know if you figured out in less than 30 seconds or not how to make the water cascade down onto the long sloping washbasin!

Concrete do lunch mains during the day, tapas in the evenings and (recently started) brunches on Saturdays from 10am-2pm.  The menu looked pleasant for all dining options. But mostly they are probably relatively famed for after work corporate socialising and cocktails.

On arrival we were given a sample of Gosset Excellence Brut champagne (well I am a tv star now of course), rather lovely drop actually.  And as a promotion they were offering it up for $10 a glass instead of the usual $20, so that decided me on the tipple for the evening.

A $39 deal for 4 tapas beckoned, so we sampled pork and potato balls, mini beef burgers, quesadillas and battered feta mushrooms, with a side of fries (can take the boy out of South Auckland but can’t take South Auckland out of the boy…).  Very nicely presented as you will see below, and all very tasty.  Certainly was sufficient in quantity in place of an evening meal.

The staff were very efficient, pleasant and knowledgable, and the place was getting close to standing room only, ala the Friday after work experience.  Some of the tables looked a little tired (scratched), but other than that it was pleasant and one didn’t have too far to weave home (am sure champagne bubbles rise straight to the brain more quickly than other drinks).

I see I’ve used the word pleasant a few times, that’s probably a very good summing up of the Concrete experience really.  And whilst we’re talking tapas, standby by for another tapas-ish entry later on the weekend.  I have grand plans for attending The Library’s Saturday afternoon sweets and treats experience.  Yum yum….



Concrete main inside header




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