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”

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.

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Bastardo and Two Grey

I’ve quite enjoyed two new eateries in the city lately, for totally different reasons.

UPDATE: Bastardo has now gone for a slightly more refined Italian plates-style, with more focus on modern/contemporary and less on olde-world New York-Italian. The white tablecloths and formal dress of the staff have gone, but the dessert trolley remains!

Bastardo has oodles of olde-worlde charm and classy comfort food, while Two Grey is more of a modern brasserie for catching up with friends over a drink and tasty bites.

Bastardo decor MAIN

Bastardo on Tory Street (the old Pan de Muerto) is brought to us by the Cicio Cacio team from Newtown (also Franziska at Seatoun). And will do well. You can read my thoughts in detail here, and do make room for the groovy dessert trolley when you go.

 

Two Grey MAIN

Two Grey is the new Arizona on the corner of Featherston and Grey Streets. Still the same team out back, but with a focus on local, fresh, seasonal, and modern. The service has been a little patchy to date, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt at the moment being newbies. Again, more detail here, and don’t miss the roasted cauliflower.

 

The Botanist at Lyall Bay

Having given them a month or so to settle in (that’s my excuse anyway!), I finally trucked out to the new Botanist at Lyall Bay for lunch.

Brought to us by the folks of Beach Babylon, Little Beer Quarter, and Basque, the point of difference here is that everything is vegetarian or vegan.

Botanist decor

The atmosphere is inviting – an old villa with views out to the south coast, a north facing garden / deck area and lots of light and plants indoors – and the staff were welcoming and friendly.

We tried out the pea, smoked brinza and zucchini fritters with pickled cucumber raita (with optional poached eggs), and the crumbed halloumi burger with herbed fries.

With the winner being the fritters (and my apologies, I just realised the pic is nearly all eggs!) with a pleasing texture and tangy raita offset. The burger was pleasant but nothing exciting and we struggled a bit to get herbiness off the fries, although they were nicely cooked. We probably should have tried one of the other burgers – marinated tempeh, or black bean, corn and pecan patty – to really sample something outside the norm.

The drinks cover all bases, with a range of local and NZ craft beers and ciders, all wines by the glass and bottle (virtually all NZ), and a bunch of appealing-sounding cocktails (Garden of Babylon with pea pods, Basil Crush, Flowerbed Martini, and Lavender Cosmo with lavender leaves). Unfortunately I was driving so kept to the non-alcoholic, which included the usual coffees, HardieBoys, Humble honey soda, Salty Dog apple and lime soda, smoothies, T Leaf organic teas etc. Next time.

I did chuckle at the drink menu saying ‘sorry we don’t serve marshmallows as they contain animal gelatin’, as we sat under a [wooden] deer head eating our vegetarian lunch!

Botanist deer

On the way out I saw the dinner menu (they’ve just started this week), and thought it contained more interesting dishes, so might head back for an evening soon.

Beware the place is apparently heaving at weekends (and was pretty full today at a Tuesday lunchtime) with a lot of flat surfaces, so fairly noisy. But bookings can be made online, so you should be able to pick your moment.

A pleasant addition to the South Coast.

219 Onepu Road, Lyall Bay

Salt and Wood at Waikanae

I found myself at Waikanae this week and tried out the new Salt and Wood Collective, run by the folks who have North End Brewing, Long Beach and the previously-posted Olde Bakery (so they know what they’re doing).

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Salt and Wood is an American-style barbecue brew pub. They brew on site (you can see it through the glass), you can fill your flagons and taste the treasures onsite (they do a specific Salt and Wood range), as well as enjoy food (mostly) cooked in a large American smoker oven.

There’s a bunch of deals throughout the week like Mexican Mondays, $10 Burger Tuesdays, and Pork Rib Fridays. As well as live music on Saturdays from 3pm.

So, given it was brunch time I figured I’d better try the breakfast sandwich, which I imagined as a BLT-style sandwich in dense grainy bread (no idea why) and turned out to be a full on burger!

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The components were clearly quality, and generous, with all meats ethically raised, and as much local as possible.

The menu ranges across spent grain granola; house smoked fish with avocado, buttermilk cream and pickles on spent grain bread; a caesar salad with pulled chicken and maple bacon; a ‘kitchen sink’ sandwich (pork, brisket and gravy); dirty fries (meat and gravy); tacos, quesadillas and much more.

Alas we didn’t make it to dessert, but I wouldn’t have minded a go at the Black Bottom Pie or Baked Cherry Cheesecake.

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I was amused by the very large knife we received with our cutlery (great for keeping the opposition away from one’s food!), enjoyed their house-made sauces (you can usually buy to take home but they’d run out this time), and was impressed by the service (relaxed but efficient).

I will most certainly be back.

7 days and nights.

11 Ngaio Road, Waikanae (right across from the town centre carpark).

Dillingers throwback glam

Dillingers have opened at Midland Park where Soho Brown used to be.

This is a venture by the Green Man folks, with Kristan Mulcahy (formerly of Grill Meats Beer) at the helm food-wise, a bunch of friendly welcoming staff, and an appealing fit-out.

The decor is a little throw-back American glam, a little speakeasy, and a little wild west. The bar and brasserie opens onto Midland Park so gets afternoon sun, and will have built-in entertainment whenever there’s something going on. However, you could still tuck yourself away down the back if you wanted a bit more peace.

The menu ranges from easy finger food like smoked cheese and jalapeno croquettes, screaming eagle sliders (bbq beef cheek), and rueben sandwiches, through to ceviche with tortilla chips; baby carrot and haloumi salad; southern fried spiced chicken with smokey mash and slaw (they have two smokers out the back); and pork hock.

With Kristan’s hand in the background, many dishes have contemporary ingredients and presentation that lift them above the norm – the pork hock comes with carrot puree, kale, chilli pork praline, and sweet and sour sauce; the salmon is beetroot cured and comes with pickled fennel, horseradish, orange, capers and crostini; and the beef bavette comes with bourbon bbq beef cheek, roast shallots and smoked potato pompoms.


The crispy chicken was indeed crispy, but still succulent, and the accompanying spicy mayo an excellent contrast. The pork belly and calamari salad with mint and ginger dressing was like an Asian-flavoured caesar, with bursts of flavour and tender calamari, and the parmesan sticks with spinach dip a hearty starter or great nibble with a glass of wine.

We enjoyed a couple of interesting beers – the Choice Bros ‘Afraid of Americans’ IPA and ‘On the Brain PBRA’ (peanut butter and raspberry) – and vowed to come back for both brunch and dessert soon (not necessarily in that order!).

I think Dillingers will do well at Midland, and have opened with the ambience, food and service good to go.

dillingers-photobooth

Check out a few more pics from the opening.

7 days morning, noon and night.

Midland Park

 

 

 

 

 

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