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…

Archive for the tag “eat and drink”

50-50 at Pram Beach

I have been told a couple of times to check out 50-50 at Paraparaumu Beach, and OMG, it was really excellent.

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The decor is very austere, with three pictures on one wall, and simple brown tables in one big oblong room. But don’t be fooled.

Helen Turnbull (opened Rata restaurant in Queenstown for Josh Emett, also best emerging chef at Hummingbird in the 2014 Capital awards) crafts her dishes at a big kitchen bench at the end of the room, while long-time Wellington bar personality Eddy Kennedy runs the front of house as smoothly as a well oiled machine.

The menu has only four dishes per course to choose from, and you can go a-la-carte, or do a 6 or 9 course dinner ($75 and $95 respectively) where Helen presents from across the menu, or have a taste of everything for $120. So lots of choice in how you eat.

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Among our group of three, the stand-out dishes were all of them. But of particular memorability were the amazing flavours of the aubergine entree which the biggest vegetable-avoider of the group fell in love with (me too for that matter), the crispy pork belly with both fantastic crispness and tenderness, the super crispy but feathery roast tatties which appeared by magic with the mains, and the unusualness of the nectarine tart.

The drinks list is also small, but as you’d expect with Eddy’s background, interesting and well formed. We enjoyed The Bone Line Waipara non-typical chardonnay (was described well and double checked with us at ordering), and at $11 per glass was good value.

The beers include a Lakeman Primate pilsner, Kereru Come By Shepherd’s low alcohol ale and Duncans stout (to name half of them), and the non-alcs Kapiti chemex coffee, strawberry Sichuan fizz, apricot and tarragon iced tea, again all interesting and a little different.

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This is definitely a place all foodies should try, and do book as they’re getting really busy.

Wednesday to Saturday evenings (note closed as a one-off this week 21 to 24 Feb).

27 Maclean Street, Paraparaumu Beach

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.

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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.

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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!

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

From 5.30pm Tuesday to Sunday.

232 Oriental Parade (above Beach Babylon)

 

Lola Stays

The new iteration of Vista on Oriental Parade (Lola Stays) has groovy contemporary decor (love the flamingos!), a breezy fresh feel on days when the bifods are right open, and the best cheese scone I’ve had in a long, long time.

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They also do tasty classic dishes with kiwi or contemporary twists (smashed avo on rye with goat cheese), interesting cocktails (The Pink Flamingo, The Talulah, The Wolf Gan Jack with Lewis Road chocolate liqueur), NZ wines and local Havana coffee.

Lola brioche berry creme fraiche french toast

We did find it quite noisy on a heaving long weekend Saturday (lots of flat surfaces as well as lots of people), so go between peak times for a quiet coffee, or with a bunch of friends for a grand old catch up.

More detail here on Word on the Street.

Open 7am til late, 7 days

106 Oriental Parade

Wicked Wildfire

We recently tried out the new Wellington Wildfire on Tory Street, spawned from the Auckland mothership.

And Oh. My. God. So much food. All the New Years resolutions about portion control went totally out the window in a big way. Wicked, wicked Wildfire.

Wildfire carving

You can read all the details here, but suffice it to say:

  • Its Brazilian BBQ, so expect a lot of meat (although they do have a whole separate vegetarian menu which I’m going to try next time)
  • Its kinda like yum cha where they keep coming to your table with skewers of different proteins and carving off whatever you fancy (with unlimited salad and roasties on the side, and that’s after intro tapas and tasters!).
  • The variety of protein will astound you – everything from several types of beef, pork, seafood, lamb, chicken, and on it went….
  • It’s a full-your-boots kinda place so plan to be there for a while and don’t rush it
  • There’s no shortage of liquid accompaniments to suit all tastes
  • Go with a group for best fun (it’s possibly not your intimate first-date experience)
  • Fast for the whole day prior.

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7 days, noon til late.

60 Tory Street.

 

 

 

Luna Estate winery and Kitchen

I was recently invited to check out the new Luna Estate winery and Kitchen in Martinborough, after it’s recent revamp.

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Luna is where Alana once was, and also encompasses the former Murdoch James winery out the other side of town, now known as Luna Blue Rock (currently converting to a function centre without a cellar door). Owner Charlie Zheng, a Wellington Investment Director and passionate wino (I say that in the nicest possible sense!), has supported other Wellington institutions to expand (Mojo into China, for example) and has an eye for regional and global opportunities (the James Murdoch brand will continue as the export arm).

In the last year Luna have ripped out most of the sauvignon blanc and replanted with pinot noir to take advantage of the Burgundy-like growing conditions (now 85% of their crop), launched their first vintage to market, and refurbished the old Alana tasting room into the new Luna Estate cellar door and kitchen, with courtyard al fresco dining.

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The food is Mediterranean/North African inspired tapas and sharing style, courtesy of Exec Chef Lisa Howard’s travels in that part of the world. The portions are generous (you truly do only need the recommended 1.5 – 2 dishes per person), with the eats ranging from from light snacks (patatas bravas with citrus dip and passata), to salads (roast pumpkin with feta and mesclun), to mains (morsels of NZ lamb roasted in a Moroccan marinade), to sweet desserts (baklava with greek yoghurt). Lisa makes all sauces etc in-house, and likes to use local wherever possible, for example using Drunken Nanny Goats cheese, Olivo oils, and Elysian Foods.

We enjoyed patatas bravas, the chilli jam chicken nibblets, the Moroccan spiced sticky pork belly, the grilled asparagus with broccoli and almond salad, and the loukoumade donuts. The stand-outs were the patatas bravas (satisfyingly crispy and feathery, resting on a bed of lovely pesto-density passata), and the pork belly (sweetly and lightly sticky, and melt-in-the-mouth tender).

Both the 2016 Luna Riesling, and the 2015 Eclipse Chardonnay went well with all dishes and released pleasing aromatics and flavours once up to room temperature.

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The wines also include several pinots of course, a rose, a pinot gris, and a sauvignon blanc currently. With a side of Bootlegger sodas for those driving, and a handful of beers, including light versions. Good responsibility.

The coffee was again slightly more European in style (dark toffee notes), but went down well to conclude the outing.

If you have youngies along (or are just feeling frisky/inspired after lunch), there were various balls and cricket gear on the lawn to run around with, or a cute wee chalkboard for releasing your inner Picasso.

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This is definitely a place to enjoy some nice wines and fill bellies in a very pleasant setting. It can be busy with tour groups passing through for tastings, so it’d pay to book your lunch spot, and if you wanted a more intimate experience, ask for a table in their private room.

7 days noon to 4pm (cellar door to 5pm).

133 Puruatanga Rd, Martinborough

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Quarter

I finally got to The Old Quarter on Dixon Street, and rather liked it.

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A new Vietnamese eatery, The Old Quarter reminded me of Mr Go’s in many ways (decor), and of Dragonfly in others (food).

With dishes ranging from classic and not-so-classic bao buns (five spice roasted pork, salt and pepper soft shell crab), to nearly a dozen share plates (son-in-law eggs, salt and pepper squid), to salads (green papaya, orange roasted duck) or more individual meals (lemongrass grilled pork with spring rolls, green vegetarian/vegan curry), there’s definitely something for everyone here.

The fried fish in the apple salad was light and tender without any hint of grease or fishiness and was a nice contrast to the crisp apple and herbs, the baos were light but still slightly tacky (in the nicest possible sense!) and generously filled, and the peking cashew duck was tender and flavourful.

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Of course the chip fiend couldn’t help but point out that the website on the wall hangings was misspelt, as was the ‘wrapping’ leaves of the Crying Tiger. Perhaps the legacy of chip withdrawal?

The drinks offer up one of each wine varietal (two pinot noirs), a bunch of cocktails with suitably intriguing names (Chai to say No, Blushing Dragon), and a scattering of beers and cider.

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The service was friendly and personable, and I’m most definitely heading there for another round soon.

39b Dixon Street

 

Tinakori Bistro rises again

If you like The Ramen Shop at Newtown, or Hillside Kitchen at Thorndon, you’ll totally enjoy the Tinakori Bistro’s newest incarnation by the same team.

The restaurant is now a French Bistro, with very French dishes, but all presented with a light hand and local ingredients.

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Asher (Boote, owner) has a particular penchant for suburban eateries that become a hub of the community, that celebrate local produce, and that suits the style of the locals. And he hasn’t missed the mark here; there was a constant stream of locals and visitors coming through during the Saturday evening (yes I eavesdropped here and there to get a sense of the localness!), and at least 30 people turned away.

If you don’t fancy a full meal, or its between lunch and dinner, you can just enjoy a glass of wine and charcuterie platter. And because Cult Wine is part of their stable, there’s a really interesting list of ‘bin end’ bottles, as well as each varietal by the glass.

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I really liked having a good old fried egg on top of the asparagus (none of this 60 degree trickery!), that the Bistro salad had little dressing but didn’t need it do to the flavour and integrity of the ingredients, and that the gnocchi was made from choux batter (a first for me).

The chip fiend particularly enjoyed the steak and dripping fries (surprise, surprise!), and the creme brulee dessert was the best I think I’ve ever had (read more about that in my Word on the Street post).

These guys will do well here, but it does pay to book.

Lunch Friday to Sunday, drinks and snacks Friday to Sunday between lunch and dinner, and dinner Wednesday to Sunday.

328 Tinakori Road

 

Grand Century surprise

A friend who knows the owners of Grand Century on Tory Street told me about their refresh, with a more contemporary decor (I believe there is a little more art to come for the side wall), and a new smart chef from China.

Grand Cent decor

So we toddled along this week for dinner, and I have to say, it well exceeded my expectations. We shared a range of dishes, all of which were beautifully presented, executed with a light touch (not my experience generally with Chinese restaurants), and clearly had used quality ingredients.

The crispy prawns were lightly battered, and I learnt that you can eat the whole thing, tail and all (in fact I enjoyed the tail more than the head!); the whole blue cod was tender with gentle herby notes (beware the odd bone); the rice-wrapped sesame parcels were sweet, crispy and moreish; the orange beef satisfactorily sticky and tender with touches of crispness; and the deep fried pork had a light batter and almost melted in the mouth.

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And then onto dessert. Oh my god.

Caramelised kumara beneath a tree of spun sugar, with the chunks of kumara dipped in iced water to enhance the texture just before eating (and yes this dessert is on their menu as a standard option – done with either apple or kumara).

I would never in a million years have expected this in a Chinese restaurant. And I can’t say enough about the uniqueness, finesse and execution of this dish; Judy has netted herself one smart chef indeed (and nice to have a dessert that isn’t creamy and over-rich).

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We washed all this down with a rather nice Mt Difficulty Chardonnay, and finished off with a round of liqueurs (as you do right?).

I’ve also heard a sneaky rumour that the new chef does a mean Peking Duck for groups, but one needs to request it a few days in advance, as its not a standard offering.

I was very impressed with the step up that Grand Century have taken, and intend to take my dinner club back soon.

84 Tory Street

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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