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”

Shepherd & Al’s Best Ugly Bagels

Shepherd

Shepherd has opened in Leeds Street next to Pomodoro Pizza, brought to us by Shepherd Elliott (Ti KoukaLeeds Street Bakery) and Sean Golding (Golding’s free dive bar).

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Sean and Shep wanted to maintain the laneway vibe and create a place that provided all styles – a wine, a bite, a meal, an interesting beer, a shared catchup with friends, or just dessert and coffee. A place to come together.

The space is actually the original canteen of the Hannahs Shoe Factory (and a large party-central student flat between times!), so the perfect setting. And has are a number of different areas and seating styles, including some at the kitchen counter so you can see exactly how its all done (no secrets here).

The food is light, tasty and extremely well executed, with the cheapest item at $4 (oyster), and the most expensive $28 (you will need a couple of courses though).They are also being playful by combining ingredients and mixing courses in ways you might not expect (a custard entree? pikelets with house made cheese, salted tamarillo and roasted hazelnuts? pulled pork with apple, fennel and red curry mustard?).

The drinks reflect recent travel, with some interesting big (alcohol, size and price) Californian craft beers on the list. Alongside a whole bunch of ‘sour and interesting’ and some Garage Project, Yeastie Boys (the Rex Attitude Peat-Smoked Strong Golden Ale was really memorable), 8 Wired, Panhead and ParrotDog, etc.

From 5.30pm Wednesday to Sunday, with some bookings taken (via phone for the moment, but watch out for a website and online booking system soon).

Al’s Best Ugly Bagels

Best Ugly is fast food at its best – Montreal bagels (lighter then their New York cousins), hand rolled, poached, wood-fired, and delivered to you with a range of traditional and kiwi toppings in open sandwich style. So no jaw-cracking chewing here (yay!). The likes of peanut butter and jam, rueben (below), Stewart Island salmon, marmite,  Zany Zeus cream cheese etc.

It’s a pretty slick process a’la’Starbucks where you order, then move along to the delivery counter and listen for your name, then see if you can wangle a stool at the wall or window. Be prepared to take-away as there isn’t much seating, but what there is, does turn over reasonably quickly.

Check out the daily bagel and drinks boards too, interesting stuff.

7 days, 7am to 3pm. Swan Lane behind Floraditas (also newly earthquake-strengthened and with some new eye-catching dishes alongside the time-honoured favourites). Full laneway updates here.

bagels-rueben

 

 

 

 

 

The Jardin Grill

UPDATE: The Jardin Grill is currently closed due to a kitchen fire, re-opeingn mid 2017.

The new five-star Sofitel hotel is under way on Bolton Street.

Jardin decor 6

There’s a botanical theme throughout given their nearness to the Botanic Gardens, including the two eating spaces – the Green Room bar, and the Jardin Grill restaurant (Jardin being French for garden/botanical).

The Green Room is very pleasant with lush furnishings and different spaces for quiet catchups, anytime tapas, or a celebration. They’re planning on stocking non-alcoholic champers shortly too, so you don’t miss out on a bubbly flute if not drinking – nice!

The staff are multi-national as you’d expect, and very professional and courteous. The bar lad certainly didn’t blink an eye when I asked him to create a mocktail that wasn’t sharp, sweet or too fruity, with a spot-on result.

They also have a $7.50 coffee and pastry, or coffee and scone deal daily from 7am; an easy and convenient place for that overdue coffee catchup.

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The Jardin Grill has been decorated to mix a little ‘market’ with ‘stylish’ comfort.

The ‘market’ is achieved with wooden signs above the open kitchen counter, a meat and cheese pantry you can get up close and personal with, baskets of fruit and preserves around, and a wood-fired rotisserie stoked by the staff (luckily it was only a mocktail I’d had first or I might have been breaking into a rendition of Bill and Boyd’s ‘put another log on the fire, babe…..’, and you know what comes next!).

The ‘stylish’ is achieved with a mix of garden and earthy tones and patterns (make sure you look up), an inviting curved wine rack at the entry, a mix of plush and contemporary seating, attention to detail on the tables, and a delightful outside patio for fine days.

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Jardín describe their food as contemporary with a strong bias towards NZ meats, cheeses and local seasonal products. Their tomato juice comes from a local grower, for example. Their pricing is hotel level ($18-$25 for tapas/entrees, $36-$43 for mains, and $15-$18 for desserts), with the menu set to expand further over the next couple of months towards their formal launch.

The current dinner menu has some interesting ingredients and dishes – tonka bean ice cream, beetroot and feta gratin, and blueberry and gin sorbet to name just a few, and the tapas likewise – mushroom cappuccino, wood-roasted merino spare ribs, and rocket/bacon arancini.

Dinner ended up being the the multi-fish parcel special wrapped in serrano and served on mussel risotto, and the honey roasted poisson on bacon and herb risotto. The poisson was fun to watch roasting, and again I was able to get up close and personal to see it. Dessert was a bitter chocolate tart, and brandy snap ice cream trio.

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All dishes were pleasant with subtle flavours (the strongest notes being the risottos), including the bitter chocolate tart which turned out to be neither bitter nor sweet (pleasingly so as it happens). The staff need a little more time to gel and settle, and get to grips with the Wellington hospitality scene, however the bones of a nice experience are in place.

Jardin’s breakfast menu also operates a little differently to other hotels. You still pay a set fee, but can choose between just the continental, or the full, with an  a’la’carte hot dish of your choosing (rather than a hot buffet). Or you could just pop by and have an a’la’carte dish. A nice mix of options, and again a very pleasant place for a breakfast catchup.

We watch with interest to see how Jardin develops.

17 Bolton Street.

 

 

 

Sterling on the Terrace

Sterling is a must-do.

This next venture from the Egmont Street Eatery folks is a bigger establishment on the Terrace where The Pub used to be, with a feature wood-fired oven.

Sterling oven

The decor is simple but classy-feeling; the staff professional, courteous and helpful; and the food the absolute standard we’ve come to associate with ESE.

On this first visit only a few days after opening, we enjoyed a late lunch of vanilla-rum baked French toast (divine) and a Wagyu burger (moist and flavourful, and although shoestrings are my least favourite chip, they were crispy and well cooked). They’ve taken care to make sure things are right from day one, super important in Wellington’s saturated dining market.

Sterling rum-vanilla baked french toast

Sterling wagyu burger

I spotted a whole bunch of things on the menus that appeal to me no end, so I’m delighted that Sterling are open 7 days, and only a block or so down from where I live.

The drinks include a typical range of beers, wines, spirits, digestifs and non-alcs, with good NZ representation. A couple of champagne options caught my eye, as well as there being several choices by the glass for most wine varietals. Nice. There are even a few big reserve bottles for those who like something altogether different.

Sterling brunch menu

Sterling dessert menu

I’m also currently trying to figure how to fit a couple of their delicious-looking scones into my WOAP schedule over the next week or two. I’m sure my inner planner is up to the task, even if my eyes prove to be bigger than my stomach.

Sterling scones 2

I’m not sure there’s much more I can say other than get thee to Sterling soon.

And check out their WOAP offerings (bookings recommended).

101 The Terrace.

 

The Seashore Cabaret, Petone

Folks with a Maranui background have done it again. This time in the Rowing Club on the Petone waterfront.

Like Maranui, the downstairs remains the club while the upstairs is now a funky diner. You can feel the Maranui vibe throughout, from the art and signage, to the writing on the stairs, the jazzy ceiling, the menu design and the old collectables (including 4 pinball machines, and a delightful set of scales that start at 12 stone!).

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They also have a coffee roasting section where local roasters Good Fortune Coffee recently became the first roaster in the country to receive a living wage accreditation, and plan to extend the living wage accreditation to all cafe staff over time.

To highlight the amount of coffee sold to support fair wages for the growers, there’s a prominent counter showing the number of cups sold since they opened only a couple of months ago. Look at those those numbers – we clearly love our coffee!

Petone coffee1Petone coffee2

The food is diner and seashore classic, with a little Mexican thrown in. Items such as surf’n’turf, cheeseburger, fish tacos, vegetable quesadilla, a truckers breakfast or dinner, a range of hot dogs and more.

Between four of us enjoyed a hot smoked salmon pide with capers, mascarpone and chives; crunchy fish tacos with slaw and jalapeño sauce; the cheeseburger with handcut fries; the vege quesadilla; key lime pie; and a lazy berry sundae. Everything hit the mark nicely as we’d expect from this team, other than the prosciutto, gorgonzola, caramelised onion and mozzarella pide we’d started with, which was a bit heavy and greasy. All other dishes, however, had a lightness that left one well satisfied but not overloaded.

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Being persons of mature persuasions, the sundae artfully dripping over the side made us think of milkbars and the Fonz, and the use of frozen berries on top was noted as a clever texture and flavour move.

You’ll find separate breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend and kids menus, an interesting range of sodas and shakes, and a fair selection of wine, beer and other tipples.

The views over the harbour are pretty darned fine, the environment is warm and welcoming, and you won’t need to consult with the bank manager to enjoy an outing here.

Daytimes Monday-Thursday, day and night Friday to Sunday.

160 The Esplanade, Petone.

Coco and the Roxy turn five

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

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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.

 

 

 

Arthurs re-opens

Arthurs up Cuba Street has just re-opened under new ownership.

The decor is now sleek and simple, there’s a wee cake cabinet up behind the counter (with strawberry milkshake cupcakes and straws when I visited, courtesy of a cup-cake fan in the kitchen), and Schoc hot chocolates featured.

They’re currently operating with a small menu and daytime hours until settled in, and then will extend both.

At an 11am brunch we spread ourselves around coffees, a geranium and orange hot chocolate, a cayenne and cheddar scone, baked eggs benedict, avocado on toast with slow roasted tomatoes and rocket, and ricotta/basil ravioli topped with zucchini ribbons.

The presentation was pretty, with herb garnishes on most dishes, and despite the eggs being a little firmer than anticipated (potentially continued cooking in their dish after serving), the ravioli pockets needing a smidge more seasoning, and the scone being fairly solid, there was definitely some finesse around many of the components, and the flavours were well balanced in all dishes. The slow roasted tomatoes on the avo dish were outstanding, as was the hot chocolate.

I totally enjoyed having a mug of nicely stretched and foamy milk to dunk and swirl my Schoc chocolate stick (a good way to control the strength if so desired), including extracting it every now and then to slurp the melty gooey goodness (well why wouldn’t you?).

The coffees were Flight, and well made, and the service welcoming and personable. I also had a wee chuckle at the kids drink list including ‘Thomas the tank engine’ apple juice, ‘Minions’ orange, ‘Peppa pig’ strawberry and ‘Dora the Explorer’ blackcurrant.

I will watch their development with interest.

272 Cuba Street.

 

 

 

Pinot May – Tequila Joe’s

2016 is the inaugural Catch Pinot event, courtesy of the Visa Wellington on a Plate team. To celebrate the pinots that come out of the Wairarapa region, restaurants across the region have free reign to match them to whatever food they like. To be as creative as they fancy.

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Given I like the unusual and slightly out-of-the-box, my first stop was Tequila Joe’s (more below), but some of the others that take my fancy are:

  • Afrika’s crocodile tail gumbo – crocodile meat soaked in lime juice and grilled, with wok-fried maize and salad. With a Pencarrow Pinot Noir.
  • Coco at the Roxy’s glass of Paddy Borthwick Falloon Block Pinot Noir 2014 with a culinary cocktail bringing together a new way to experience Pinot Noir – a modern fun cocktail experience with molecular gastronomy and a side serving of childhood nostalgia (intriguing!).
  • The Larder’s duck confit with pomegranate molasses, confit gizzards, roasted cauliflower, liver and chestnuts. With a Porters Estate Pinot Noir.
  • One80’s masala lamb cheeks, sago sandige, and mango mint chutney. With a Russian Jack Pinot Noir.

So Tequila Joe’s. A fun Mexican taverna and cocktail bar near the corner of Vivian and Tory. I’d spotted their maytag fries (never heard of them) with Applewood smoked bacon (ditto) and exclusive gorgonzola bleu cheese sauce, matched with a Paulownia Estate Rose 2014. Definitely in the I-can’t-imagine-how-that’s-going-to-work category.

The Rose was so delicious on its own, I damn near hoovered it all up before the dish arrived – off-dry and with plenty of body and flavour, so a more intense Rose than I’d expected – but I did manage to control myself and enjoyed it with the dish as well (and the ‘Death Rides a Pale Horse’ blonde ale we sampled was pretty fine too!).

The maytag fries are a crispy waffle cut fry imported from the USA (took a month to get here), as is the Applewood smoked bacon, while the bleu cheese sauce is made just for TJ’s. Because the Rose was richer than expected, and the smoked bacon and bleu cheese more subtle than expected, the flavours actually met and melded well. The waffle-cut chips gave great texture and crunch against the softer bacon, with the only issue being the bottom chips sogging before getting to them (I can confirm the plate was clean at the end though!).

And it would have been rude not to finish with the recommended apple cinnamon churros, right? Also light, crispy and flavourful. And refreshingly different to the norm.

So there you have it, a match that I thought couldn’t possibly work.

Here’s the full line-up of offerings to whet your palate further.

 

 

Supporting the students

LCB header mainWe’re lucky to have training restaurants we can go along and dine at now and then – the Le Cordon Bleu brasserie, and WelTec School of Hospitality’s  Bistro 52 (both use the same restaurant space).

These open days are excellent ways for the students to get real live practice, and for us to enjoy good food at economic prices.

WelTec is primarily the course of choice for school leavers starting out in the industry or those wanting to get some skills in their pocket before overseas travel, whereas Le Cordon Bleu has a range of students (most from overseas) and delivers high end French cookery training.

Both are totally worthwhile for different reasons. Read about the experience at both – Le Cordon Bleu and Bistro 52, and check out their open dates – Le Corden Bleu and Bistro 52.

I challenge you.

52 Lower Cuba Street.

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Mirabelle in Carterton

Another on my keep-missing-it list was Cafe Mirabelle at Carterton. I’d never managed to go past when it was open, but finally, success! Twice in fact, go figure.

Mirabelle is run by French husband and wife team Megan (the magic in the kitchen) and Olivier (the FOH maestro) Rochery. The food philosophy is simple, hearty and unpretentious, like dining at home in France. And what would French dining be without wine, beer and liqueurs? You’ll never need to find out here.

One visit was for a light brekkie, so I made a beeline for the pastries. They all looked delightful and beautifully hand-made, and in fact the apple danish I settled on might be the best one I’ve ever had. The pastry was light and crispy, the apple generous and beautifully layered, and both the custard beneath and glaze on top just the right hint of sweetness without overkill. I’m still revelling in the memory.

Mirabelle apple danish

The other visit was lunch so I decided on the macaroni cheese with bacon from the menu board. It was a close run thing with the goat cheese salad, but since it was a slightly cool day, and I was interested to see how Mirabelle would deliver the dish, the mac cheese won. And yes it did arrive French style, topped with cheese, pepper (noticeable), a dose of melted butter, bread for dipping, and bubbly hot grilled top.

A delicious and unctuous dish (love that word!). All for $12.50. Excellent value.

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A place not to be missed if you can time it right.

Wednesday to Sunday daytimes (9-4 weekdays, 10-3 weekends), dinner Friday and Saturday nights (bookings recommended).

31 High North Street, Carterton

Blue Belle at Island Bay

I went on a long walk around the city yesterday and found myself at the Blue Belle Cafe in Island Bay.

Online reviews talk a lot about their pies, and they do have a few, but their cabinet fare looked appealing too, as well as there being a menu of typical breakfasts, Mexican dishes, burgers and fries.

Blule Belle busker

The decor is funky, there are tables out the front for sunny days (or on this particular occasion, to be sung to!), and the service was friendly.

To cover all bases (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it), I decided on something savoury  and something sweet. Since the pies are talked about I chose a vegetable korma. The pastry was indeed light and flaky, and the filling pleasingly korma-ish, however I didn’t find any chunks of vegetables as I’d expected. Maybe they were pureed into the sauce given it had a reasonably thick texture.

The custard square was the standout of the two, again with flaky pastry (someone knows what they’re doing with pastry), a slightly lemon custard filling that was soft but not a squirter, and a sweet passionfruit icing. Overall a sweet number, with a good balance of flavours and textures.

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I’m keen to come back and try the generously filled paninis, and the tasty-looking salads, or maybe even the pulled pork ciabatta with cajun kumara fries. So another place on the ‘repeat’ list. If only there were more than 24 hours in the day….

Daytimes 7 days.

148 The Parade, Island Bay.

 

 

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