foodiegemsofwellie

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 “eat”

The Flamingo has landed

The Wellington Hospitality Group strikes again with its new venture Flamingo Joe’s in the bottom of the new waterfront PWC building.

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These guys are pretty practiced at rolling in and starting as they mean to go on, so I can’t see any reason why this wont be a success for them either – bright colours, neon lights, buzzy ambience, a giant flamingo, views across the harbour and pleasant ‘metro pub food’.

Friday night was the soft open (in time for the footie at the Stadium methinks) and the place was rocking, the staff welcoming, and the harbour lights twinkling. And pleasingly, the staff knew what they were doing. No stuttering newbies, or first night botch-ups that I could see (I’m a little over places opening before they’re fully ready).

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There was a cut-down menu for the soft opening with a choice of opening bites, duck tacos and multiple flatbreads, with interesting flavours like prosciutto, feta, fig roquette and balsamic glaze, or bacon, prawn, garlic and cheese. Nice to have something a little different to the standard imitation pizza toppings.

We opted for the roasted duck tacos and buffalo chicken flatbread with spring onions, yoghurt and mizuna (Japanese mustard leafy green salad plant). The tacos were a little drippy to eat, but had nice rich flavours, and the flatbread was satisfyingly soft on the base with well balanced toppings.

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In today’s era of over-choice, the drinks menu was happily all on one page. Local craft beers sat alongside international favourites, low-carb and zero alcohol options, and pretty much all wines were available in 150 ml, 250 ml or bottle size.

I’ll definitely be back to check out the full menu in due course.

1-10 Waterloo Quay.

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Origin at Petone

In need of lunch at Petone yesterday we found ourselves at Origin Cafe, and were quite impressed (yes its been a couple of months since I’ve felt impressed enough to write).

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The cafe is the home of Ripe coffee, with a quintessential Wellington feel – a fresh funky decor; a menu with a good range of vegan, vegetarian, and interesting brunch dishes (e.g. coconut bread with lemon curd and rhubarb below); and friendly service.

We were able to sit outside in the sun, which was very pleasant and relaxing.

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So, the coconut bread, and a BBQ pulled jackfruit toastie later, we were refuelled and ready to continue the morning’s jobs.

Nice work team, we’ll be back.

182 Jackson Street, Petone

BBQ pulled jackfruit toastie

Stunning Hiakai

Oh. My. God.

The new Hiakai at Mt Cook is stunning, and blows the rest of Wellington’s dining scene totally out of the water. And I don’t say that lightly.

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Based in a relatively nondescript modernised old villa, you will enjoy some history on the ground floor before making your way upstairs to the dining space. I’m not saying any more about that so I don’t spoil the experience and dichotomies present.

Then menu is chosen at booking time (how many courses and whether you want the wine or very inventive non-alcoholic matches) so there is nothing to do on the night but sit back and enjoy. Beware if you cancel too late or fail to show you will be paying for the experience anyway, and I have absolutely no problem with that given the level at which they’re delivering. They also cater to dietary challenges with advance notice and discussion.

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This is a journey through Maori and Pacific history in terms of ingredients and food evolution, thoughtfully designed and shared in detail by the servers for every single dish, including the first snacks. The only comparisons at this level I can think of are Steirereck in Vienna and Stone Barns at Blue Hills Farm out of New York city, both world top 50 restaurants. Truly.

We chose not to do the wine matches, but instead sampled a couple of drinks from the menu – wines for the rest of the team, and an excellent pea soda for yours truly.

I’m simply going to let the pictures and their captions tell the story for you.

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Every dish had us thinking they’d reached the pinnacle until the very last dish arrived (and there’s a couple of snack dishes I’ve missed photographing given the haze of deliciousness I was in).

The only teeny tiny thing I could fault was my pet hate of no fork with dessert and having to chase food around the plate to get it up.

But overall, I would have sold my first-born (luckily there isn’t one or it would have been the chip fiend’s first-born) or been happy for them to charge my credit card with virtually any price for this experience.

If you want to read a little more about Monique Fiso (a local Porirua lass), check out these articles from Viva and Stuff.

Groups of 6pax maximum given the style of dining, Wednesday to Saturday.

Book well ahead.

40 Wallace Street

 

Seatoun’s new Arcimboldi

In googling Arcimboldi, a new cafe in Seatoun, I came across the Wiki page of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. An Italian painter best known for creating imaginative portraits made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books. That surely can’t be a coincidence?

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Turns out Arcimboldi is by Alice Hill and Leith Wix, from catering in Arrowtown to community (Italian-leaning) eating and drinking in Seatoun. And indeed there was a very happy sounding Xmas party going on in the back courtyard on the day we visited.

So to lunch.

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We had the option of the breakfast dishes, the lunch dishes or a whole page of pizzas (which I’m informed by someone who’s tastebuds I trust, to be worthwhile).

After much umming and aaahing I went for the gnocchi with tomato, bocconcini and basil; another went for the smoked Kahawai agria hash with poached egg, spinach, peas and herbs (above); and the third went for the toasted red quinoa, tomato kasundi, grilled broccolini, goat cheese, and pickled red onion salad with lavosh. Healthy lot weren’t we?

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All dishes were fresh, flavourful, and nicely presented.

We had been eyeing up the lovely-looking baking in the cabinet too, so ended up sampling a couple of muffins (be rude not to right?). Unlike many cafes who use a microwave to warm their baking, Archimboldi warm theirs in a mini oven so you retain crispness and lightness.

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There was also a wide range of beer, cider, wines, spirits and cocktails with fabulous names like Violet Bramble. Also non-alcs like Monsoon Ginger Beer and Blood Orange sparking San Pellegrino, and I might have spied a Chocolate Martini with a Hershey’s Kiss for next time too. Nice.

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There certainly looked to be a little of something for everyone, and I imagine Arcimboldi will be a welcome addition to the Southern burbs.

24 Dundas Street, Seatoun

Still loving Restaurant 88

We tend to forget the good solid locals that are there are for us year in and year out, through every fad and phase that comes and goes.

So I recently popped back to Restaurant 88 to see how Luke and team were faring, and was impressed as always.

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I like the warm deep red ambience splashed with golden balloon highlights, and the equally warm (and prompt) welcome of the staff.

I also like the new style menu which is very tactile with beautiful pictures (even the chip fiend, who normally steers clear of restaurants with pictures on the menu thought it was well done). It feels a little smaller in number of dishes than previously, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in today’s world of information and choice overload. Stick to your knitting and do what you do well.

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Since I rather enjoy the soothing textures of bao buns I decided to try 88’s Bao Your Way, with sweet pork belly. I found the bun to be light and soft, and an excellent vessel to showcase the pork belly and tangy fresh flavours of the salad and sauces, with the pork belly being all meat and not just strips of fat (yay!). I could have stopped there and been totally satisfied with the evening.

The chip fiend had beef tacos as a starter, which were also pleasing with tender sweet and sour beef and lots of fresh minty flavours. Strong reminders of being in Vietnam.

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For mains I went beef salad with pork, prawn and crab spring rolls, while the chip fiend went lemongrass chicken. Again, lots of light, fresh, crisp flavours with a wide range of textures meeting the Vietnamese concept of balance – spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet, along with a balance of fragrance, taste and colour. What looks simple in presentation can be complex in execution.

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Being always keen to try new things, I decided to give the Vietnamese salty plum soda a go, which I have to admit grew on me during the evening. It is definitely an acquired taste and works better with food than without. But is apparently typically Asian, so nice to go authentic all the way.

I also spied a Chrysanthemum herbal tea that’s on my agenda for next time.

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The restaurant was pretty full on a Saturday night, and deservedly so.

At around $15 for entrees and $28 for mains, its also excellent value for money.

88 Tory Street

 

 

 

 

Lido’s better than ever

I always liked Lido, but after their refit and re-opening they’re better than ever (in my humble opinion!). Although previously relatively plant-based, they’ve gone even more that path, showcasing local, fresh and seasonal in interesting combinations.

I also rather like the blingy brass-look counter, mixing casual with a little sass.

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I had a really, really hard time choosing between the cauliflower cheese; the leek and goat cheese gnocchi; the baked flatbread with ‘many’ greens (that one scared the chip fiend!), ricotta, feta and haloumi; and the green olive, walnut and fresh herb-stuffed kumara fritter with a broadbean, avocado and spring onion salad.

After a round of eeny, meeny, miny, mo (modified for todays sensibilities of course), I settled on the kumara fritter, and was not sorry.

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It was crispy and flavourful and the side salad was super fresh and tasty. As well as nicely presented.

When did veggies become so cool?

There are bunches of add-ons to pimp your breakfast if you so desire (including some meats), and some interesting entrees and extras at dinner – bombay potatoes with tamarind and coconut chutneys, giardiniera Italian pickled vege relish with the smoked warehou pate, and brugge cheese ripened with beer.

And lots of options for vegans, vegetarians, dairy-free and other people with dietary restrictions.

Lido menu

I am so going back very soon for the orange-ricotta pancakes with poached tamarillo, biscuit crumb and mascarpone. Sold.

81 Victoria Street

7 days and 5 nights (dinner Tuesday to Saturday)

Qilin tea house

I rather enjoyed my first sojourn to Qilin teahouse for a late pastry and iced tea lunch.

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I’m going to borrow some of the Qilin website words here, because they sum it up pretty well:

  • a large range of flowering, premium and house blend teas served hot, iced or in latte form
  • exciting flavours like Iron Buddha and Qilin Chai
  • nitro coffee and homemade kombucha on tap
  • Asian nod on the food menu

There’s even a little tea running through some of the food – I spied fresh mozzarella, basil pesto and black tea drizzle on sourdough. Goodness.

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I went for iced tea since I’d been running around – the Jasmine with basil, strawberry and hibiscus. Very flavourful and very, very refreshing.

Well known and local ingredients like Lewis Road butter, Zany Zeus, and Fix & Fogg are dotted throughout the menu, as well as interesting Asian components like dragon ball, peking style mushroom and onigiri rice ball, and house-made ingredients like bacon jam.

Qilin pastry

The Xian roast pulled lamb bun sounded like a lunch with my name on it sometime soon, with a side of flowering tea methinks.

8/64 Dixon Street

7 days, daytime

EAT well, live well

That’s the philosophy of the new EAT on the corner of Wakefield and Cuba.

My first three visits have all been worthy, as they should with Laurent Loudeac (formerly of Hippopotamus, QT Museum), and John David (of Cin Cin) at the helm.

EAT confit & roast pork belly

Despite the French and Italian hands behind the wheel, the food is all modern contemporary, with just a little French and Italian showing through in the sauces or dish origins  (poached Waitoa chicken breast with veloute cream and polenta, or vine tomato tart with Clevedon buffalo milk curd, basil and balsamic).

My first visit was a group dinner for 16 so we organised a fixed price feast of shared dishes to simplify things for the kitchen and give us an opportunity to try a bunch of things (a most cunning plan!).

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My faves were the goat cheese Boursin tortellini with walnut and watercress, and the confit and roasted pork belly with caramelised apple, carrot, wilted savoy cabbage, jus and mustard (at top). All had the level of delicacy we’ve come to expect from Laurent, and showcased local, fresh and seasonal products.

My next visit was a chicken pie at lunch, also very well executed with a rich hearty taste to completely satisfy.

And my third visit was dessert on a girls night out, which also hit the mark nicely (below the Whittakers chocolate creation of a few weeks ago, rather than the apple tart that I totally forgot to photograph).

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This is a place to come and eat slowly to appreciate whats put in front of you, not a place to rush in and out. My only gripe is that the place is pretty noisy when full, being all flat surfaces; perhaps that will be remedied with time.

EAT is open in the mornings for pastries and coffees, and gets fully under-way food-wise for lunch and dinner. And you can buy gift cards. Helloooo Christmas!!!

128 Wakefield Street

Open 7 days and nights

Dinner returns to Elements

Elements cafe at Lyall Bay now have a dinner service on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, in addition to their popular daytime fare.

The Elements philosophy is to gather people around a table to share great food and wine (not tapas, you get to have your own), with the food being nourishing and hand made from fresh, seasonable and sustainably farmed ingredients. In a relaxing and convivial environment without pretention (if that’s not a real word, I bags its credit!).

Elements decor

They certainly make nearly everything in-house including breads, stocks, sauces, pasta, ice creams, etc (unless there’s a local artisan product they’d like to showcase), with the intention of creating a fond food memory with a little ‘wow’.

Actually, the word fond seems just right for Elements.

So how did we go?

The complimentary bread was warm and fresh, with whipped salted and sweet chilli butter options, the sweet chilli being a little different to the norm.

And then we proceeded to the chive, pumpkin and blue cheese gnocchi with a side of smokey bacon peas (could have eaten a bucketful of those!), and the chicken with Jamaican spices. The gnocchi was comforting with many textures and flavours, and the chicken was pleasant with a ‘wow’ shredded chicken leg rosti cake. So far, so good.

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We then cracked on to the peanut butter parfait dessert, and port with dark chocolate truffles – it’s so nice to have a light / alternate dessert option when you don’t fancy the full monty.

The dessert had nicely bruleed bananas, along with dense parfait, light banana cake and crispy peanut brittle. AND surprise chocolate peanut butter truffles. Again lots of different textures which met well when spooned up together.

Elements banana dessert

I also very much enjoyed the pear, cucumber, lemon, mint and elderflower soda mocktail one of the young ladies crafted for me. And the very virtuous feeling about the number of fruits and veg I was ticking off for the day!

On the evening we visited, the restaurant had a nice hubbub, but nothing that intruded on our own conversation. And because there are several rooms to Elements, they can cater for groups more or less in their own space.

We had a very pleasant time overall, and I think just quietly, that young Sam might come further into his own as time goes by.

144 Onepu Road, Lyall Bay

Elements mocktail

Counter Culture & Photonflux

There are a couple of groovy new eateries in Upper Victoria to go with the street widening and apartment building going on up there.

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The first is a board game cafe, Counter Culture, with over 300 games available, and tasty food to boot. In the former Crafters premises, you will find many nooks and crannies to wile away as much time as you like playing old favourites or learning new games.

The second is a Sci Fi cafe, Photonflux, with memorabilia for Africa (if you’ll pardon the pun!), and tasty ‘fluxbun’ sandwiches the feature of the menu currently (South African fried dough filled with interesting ingredients – surprisingly, not unhealthy feeling at all!).

Both are definitely worth a visit, with Counter Culture also taking part in Wellington on a Plate.

Further details on both here.

Photon art

 

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