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Archive for the tag “Cuba Street”

The new Black Dog

I recently popped along to the new Black Dog Brewery up Cuba Street to see how it compared to the previous iteration in Blair Street.

Quite favourably I have to say (as a non-beery girl).

Black dog HERO.jpg

Downstairs is the micro-brewery with lots of shiny tanks, and staff happy to talk to you all day long about their brews, and guide you through tastings.

And upstairs is a lounge bar with some very groovy art, where you can relax and try something new.

The brewery’s stated aim is to ‘create interesting alternatives to the range of beers already available. Some will work and some won’t but if we don’t try we’ll never know. Our mission is to always be interesting and intrepid, always act independently and stay in tune with what the drinkers want’.

In line with that, despite them being part of the DB family, Bar Manager Mat tells me the Cuba Street microbrewery is seen as the innovation hub for the brand where they create to their heart’s content and don’t have to worry about production runs or marketing. When they strike one that ticks all the boxes it then gets passed off to the mothership to deal with from there.

Black dog decor.jpg

So, as well as the core beers (like Chomp – their first ever brew – or The Dogfather), you’ll get new ones each season (like the Pug Life an extra pale ale, or Hop Boxer a fresh hop IPA). In fact, when we visited right in the middle of Hopstock, the Hop Boxer had been so popular they were eeking it out in tasting size glasses only until they could whip some more up!

One of the things the staff are very keen on is helping you try something new, starting with what type of flavours in general or densities you like and they’ll whip out various things that might be of interest (for example the Saisson has banana notes, who’d’ve known). If you go away saying you’ve had a great experience and tried something new, they’ll consider their job well done.

Black dog beers.jpg

They’re also keen on collaboration with other local businesses, including coffee and chocolate magic with Havana and WCF respectively, food from the Wellington Seamarket next door or Pandoro (beer and barley bread, and pizza bases), and I believe there are other collaborations with the likes of Grill Meats Beer coming soon.

You’ll also find exhibitions by different artists throughout the brewery and bar, acting like an informal Cuba Street Art Gallery (now that’s my kinda gallery!).

Tuesday to Sunday, noon until the wee smalls.

216 Cuba Street



Grill Meats Beer

It looks like 2pm of an afternoon is the quietest time to actually get a space at Grill Meats Beer to sample the offerings (open at noon 7 days).

GMB teeThis is the ‘accessible’ sister to Logan Brown (a’la’Whitehouse and Charley Noble), although more bar-focused than CN.

The food is tasty and interesting and accompanied by good service (with entertaining tee’s worn by the staff), and a reasonably efficient turnaround time once seated.  The menu is mostly meaty (as you’d expect), with a selection of burgers, a delicious sounding ‘pulled pork banh mi’ (slow spicy roasted pork with pickled carrot, cucumber, coriander etc), and a number of small and tasting plates (an interesting side of kim chi spicy pickled cabbage spotted).

GMB fish popcornThe fish popcorn with orange aioli, and barley, feta and capsicum salad both hit the mark on this side of the table, while the chicken burger on a brioche bun was noted as tasty with real chicken thigh and an interesting deep fried onion rosti cake but maybe a smidge overpriced at $20 without any kind of side (a theme across the board, especially for drinks).

The decor is simple, the music lively, and an overall noisy buzzy atmosphere prevails.  The coffee is ‘soft brew’ only (ergo filter), and there are only a couple of desserts and non-meaty mains to satisfy the carbophiles, so be prepared for a protein fix.

GMB dishesDefinitely worth a visit in Upper Cuba Street, but pick your time.  No bookings for tables at any time, limited capacity to handle groups (be early and see if you can get at the single bigger table that could hold 8-10) and possibly long waits (1.5 hours+ last Wednesday evening) so be warned.  It may however settle a little after the initial excitement passes.

GMB logo227 Cuba Street.










Viva Veni Vedi Vici! (now Cin Cin)

No I am not following David Burton around (is he following me?).

Veni Vidi Vici signHaving been to Veni Vedi Vici on Cuba Street twice now (in the former Istanbul restaurant space), I can say that they do what they do very well. Especially the service (jokingly offering over the phone to find me more friends when I rang to reduce the booking numbers!).

Mostly Italian offerings (with a smattering of Spanish), the atmosphere is warm and inviting, the food is good, and the wines interesting (virtually all European, and they are happy to give advice and tasters to help understand what the offerings are).  Nice.

Veni Vidi Vici foodSo the menu is made up of mostly pasta and pizzas with a couple of bigger mains, and the pastas nearly all in small or large to suit.  The pasta is all handmade and the pizzas thin crust.

I particularly liked that my Bolognese was a mix of beef and pork mince (a little sweeter and less intense), without a sauce drowning everything, and the pasta was perfectly al dente yet tender.

The other dishes around the table all got the thumbs up – the calamari, the proscuitto-wrapped melon, the pizza (again not wet or soggy), the salmon main, and the seafood linguine (lots of large seafood).  All presented nicely on stylish black plates.

Veni Vidi Vici wallOn Friday evening’s there’s live music which adds a nice ambience, and when the place is full, there’s a fair old buzz going on naturally (beware it can be a bit noisy though if you’re after a quiet intimate dinner).

The owner has been around Wellington for some time building in size as he goes along (originally Cubita cafe on Taranaki – good coffee, then partnering in Napoli pizza on Courtenay – good pizza), so we wish him well at Veni Vedi Vici .

I think it’s fair to say we came, we saw and we conquered and we will be back (and check out the fab leadlight-styled lights over the bar too when you visit).

156 Cuba Street.

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.

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…


Floradita’s finesse

Rather than just popping in with tour guests for a quick taster (Zest Food Tours of New Zealand), I finally got in to enjoy lunch with friends at Flo’s.

Flos baked ricottaAmong six of us we had fish pie with watercress and lemon; fresh ham off the bone with poached eggs and hollandaise on toast; grated courgette, mint, ricotta and parmesan frittata with microgreen salad; baked ricotta, radish, cherry tomato and tarragon salad with rosemary slipper bread; roasted aubergine, mint and paprika risotto with herbed creme fraiche; and a specially-requested potato and bacon hash plagiarised from a couple of other dishes (which they were happy to knock together).

Sound delicious?  Yep, it was.
Flos courgette fritter

Good service?  As always.

A level of finesse not found at other nearby places charging the same?  Yep again.

(Having said all that, you’d need to pick your dishes to fill up hungry teenagers here, or be prepared to go through several plates.)

Tis why they’re always heaving at the seams and do very little advertising.

Off course some of us had planned well to leave room for ‘dessert’ (Flo’s famed baking, for which they win awards), and had a delightful time with chocolate cake and fig/almond tart, while others finished off with another coffee (Supreme).

Wonderful food and fine friends at one of Cuba’s institutions, what more could a girl ask?

161 Cuba Street

Flos map

Olive Cafe and Restaurant, Cuba Street

NOTE: Olive are expanding their vegetarian and vegan dishes. And their food and service has improved markedly since below (ownership re-organisation).

After a failure to launch fully on a sunny Sunday ride (sadly an italian breakdown and truck ride home), a wander up Cuba Street for brunch/lunch became the next chosen activity.

Olive has had a change in ownership in recent times with the new management emerging from portions of the original.

With it has come a slight decor revamp of added art, leather dining benches, plants, and courtyard upgrade, making the cafe feel more welcoming and less austere.

I have partaken of both a weekday counter late lunch (slice of pizza) and Sunday menu brunch/lunch in recent times, and whilst pleasant on both occasions, there was nothing distinguishing about either.

The late lunch snack was more peaceful, whilst the Sunday brunch was on a busy WOW weekend, with the cafe running at full tilt.

Although the menu had 4 or 5 pancake options (one of which had my attention), I was informed that all the pancakes were unavailable as they’d all flown out the door. Hmmm.  Hard to whip up another batch of batter?

So the next choice was creamy mushrooms on grainy toast with fresh herbs and lemon sardines with poached eggs on bruschetta. Not a lot of herbs on the mushrooms, but flavourful and not too creamy.

The sardines presentation I thought quite funky, but him indoors thought it a bit cheeky to merely take the lid off a can of cold sardines and plonk them on a plate beside two poached eggs on toast (below).

The coffee was considered okay, but did take some long time to get to us after ordering.

And the service was fairly minimal, having to order at the counter and being given cutlery to take back to the table with us.

So overall pleasant enough, and quite possibly a good spot for a quiet coffee and cake stop of an afternoon, but probably not distinctive enough to be forefront in my mind when considering brunch locations in the Cuba area.

They appear, however, to be working hard to develop their evening dining, and pictures of the newly covered garden courtyard and dinner meals on their facebook page are appealing, so possibly worth a go there one evening to check out progress on that front.

170 Cuba Street

El Matador, upper Cuba Street

NOTE: Their sharing meat platters are fantastic, share with friends and a few sides, and don’t be fooled by the platter being for two, its got enough meat for four easily…

El Matador Cafe, Asador Grill and Bar is a recently opened Argentinian restaurant in the old Munchen Burgers space next door to Logan Brown.

El Matador had very quickly decided not to take bookings after the initial ones (we had booked thankfully being a bigger group) so if doing the bigger group thing, go early or late and be prepared to wait (not much waiting space).

There is an air of authenticity and charm about the place though which will take them a long way.

The service was fairly slow (they were very busy) and we had a Mexican waitress who was doing her first night ever, so probably a little nervous of a group of 7 asking questions about ingredients and dishes.

El M kitchen

To summarise, several of the mains came out wrong, one or two a bit cool temperature-wise (the meat), the 6-hour cooked lamb dishes were not 6-hour tender, the sides of spinach and feta were spinach leaves only, one of the tapas ordered as an entree came at the same time as the main and a second never appeared, the boys who ordered tomato sides with their steak and potatoes got tomato but lost the potatoes etc etc.

To give credit, they provided complimentary empanadas to the boys who had to wait for their correct mains, and one somehow couldn’t take offence as the place had a buzzy vibe and they are clearly trying hard amongst the initial swamp of activity.

The desserts were superb in taste and interest (and price at $8 – $10), and definitely uplifted everyone’s experience, with the favoured desserts being Quemado oranges with almond brittle ice cream (very good but alas well inhaled before I could photograph!) and panqueques con dulce de leche (pancakes with caramel) (simple but delicious, also a breakfast option).

Unexpectedly there are more NZ wines on the menu than South American, with a few Spanish and French thrown in.  So being a white drinker I tried the Argentinian Trivento Torrontes 2010 and found it rather pleasant.

Overall?  A revisit in 3 months or so to see how they’re coping.  Keep an eye out and take advantage of their specials (tapas Tuesdays, wine Wednesdays, Fugazzeta Fridays) and maybe focus on tapas and desserts there as the more interesting offerings.

196 Cuba Street

And a breakfast image taken at a later time. Pretty fine..

El M pancakes


Taco Shop – Mexican Taqueria in Leftbank

The Taco Shop is a fun little place painted warmly yellow down the back of Leftbank, cozy and humming, and seating all of about 15 people (although one can sit at the tables just outside if the weather behaves).

The menu has a picture of Frida Kahlo on the front and the Madonna on the back, and is delightfully hand scripted inside.

The offerings are simple – 3 entrees, mains covering the usual quesadillas, tacos, tortillas, salads and tortas (mexican sandwiches), one dessert (chocolate brownie) and 4 breakfasts (all variations of eggs, beans and tortillas).

Our entree of cheese stuffed jalapenos was very tasty and unexpectedly (to me anyway) crisply crumbed.  Something about the cheese was different than expected (thinner and silky) and pleasing to the taste, but I never did quite put my finger on what.

The mains of  a ‘wet’ taco (tortillas with a sauce of choice poured over – orange tanged pibil in this case) and ham quesadilla were both very pleasant and available in small or large sizes.

The plates were a colourful backdrop to the food, the beer Mexican, the service welcoming and prompt, and overseeing our dining pleasure a large wall mural in memory of Emiliano Zapata (early 1900 Mexican revolutionary) which made for interesting reading while digesting.

The meals are very good value for money and one could easily slide in and out here for a quick pleasant meal on the way home, or a more leisurely catchup with friends.

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