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 “restaurant”

Veg and vegan at the Cross

Although the Southern Cross Bar and Restaurant has meaty stone grills and a roast dinner on Sundays and Wednesdays, their strength is the ever-increasing range of interesting vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan offerings (and the fabulous sun-drenched beer garden in summer).

On my most recent visit I had a Buddha Bowl of roasted spiced carrot and mint, wild rice and cranberry pilaf, toasted chickpeas (was a little wary about that component when ordering), spinach leaves, and a creamy almond dressing. It could have been up-scaled with Zany Zeus halloumi, chilli soy tofu, garlic chilli prawns or spiced chicken, but I decided I’d go for the basic and see what I thought.

Sthn X budda bowl

It really was excellent. The almond sauce was a nice conductor, and the toasted chickpeas were deliciously textured and light (not the dry dusty journey I’d expected). After sampling all the components, I ended up combining the the dish into a delicious mixed salad. Satisfying and healthy, nice.

I noticed they have quite the cake cabinet too now (if you don’t eat your chickpeas, you can’t have pudding!), so its also an easy place to slide by for a coffee and cake. Especially on peaceful weekdays. With at least two vegan options available always.

Sthn X cabinet

The Cross is all about different nooks and crannies, casual and easy dining, and suitable for everyone from families to students to lunch-time workers dashing in and out, a weekend BBQ in the sunny courtyard, or a large event. And excellent for those with vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free requirements.

There’s easily another dozen things I’m eyeing up, including:

  • the almond pina colada smoothie
  • the almond porridge topped with caramelised bananas, walnuts and lightly toasted coconut
  • the mushroom and halloumi Aro burger
  • the halloumi stone grill with mediterranean vegetables, beetroot and sunflower seed dip, and roasted kumara
  • the vegan cashew mac’n’cheese
  • Spanish baked tofu
  • butter and sage ricotta gnocchi
  • Mediterranean lentils with grilled veggies, toasted pistachios and crispy tofu or marinated and baked feta
  • I could go on and on…..

SthnX salt car ccake

I also might or might not have checked out the salted caramel cheesecake on a previous occasion. Somewhere along the line I’ve lost the side picture which shows that this beauty stood about 2 inches high, but you’ll get the idea. Rich, moorish and very memorable. My advice – share with a friend.

And do have a look at their Wellington on a Plate offerings too, again interesting vegetarian and vegan.

Sthn X night decor 2

7 days and nights.

39 Abel Smith Street



Intercontinental’s Chameleon

Chameleon restaurant changed to a series of $26 plates between entree and main in size during the Intercontinental’s 2014/15 refit, categorised into ‘seafood tastes’, ‘tastes from the farm’, and ‘vegetable tastes’ (there’s a couple of bread-type starters between $4-$12, the oysters and shellfish bouillabaisse are priced separately, and the desserts are $16-$18).

You can crack into it at two courses for $50, three courses for $70, or four for $80, with wine matching accordingly $20, $30, and $40.

So given I had a wee celebration to mark, and one of my friends had never been there, we trucked off to check it out.

We were presented with a pumpkin mille feuille amuse bouche to start which was delightful, and then some of us shared a roti starter so we could fit dessert. I enjoyed the crispy roti itself, but I’m still feeling a little discordant about the capsicum-hazelnut dip and baba ganoush accompaniments (I guess it challenges my favourites of the plain light and flakey one at Satay Malaysia dipped in a sumptuous curry, and the one with lemon butter at Two Souls).

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The summary of the plates we had was this (when ordering two or more courses, you get to decide which sequence you’d like them in):

  • Whitebait salad – crisp and tasty.
  • Serrano ham, apricot, fresh goat cheese and mint – beautiful flavours and textures, but maybe a struggle to justify $26 against some of the other dishes.
  • Venison loin with crispy potato cake, truffled leek, apple and cranberry – classic pairings and pleasantly lightened by both the cranberry and caramelised apple.
  • Lamb tongue with kumara foam, lemon hazelnut and pomegranate – soothing textures and flavours.
  • Beef tenderloin with rosti, portobello mushroom, and tarragon/balsamic butter – beautifully cooked with smokey mushrooms, although the balsamic butter was rich and better with the truffle fries.

Overall a sensation of flavourful dishes done with a light hand. And if you want dessert, maybe just choose one ‘main’ plate that takes your eye and share another with others, as two nearly-mains can be quite filling. To dessert then.

The lemon trifle was nicely dense and rated. The chocolate mousse was nice and light with tangy complimentary summer berries. And the petit fours were beautifully presented and plenty for two (or actually four people just wanting a mouthful of something sweet to finish).

So, a very pleasant experience overall with the professional and reasonably formal service you’d expect, although we all found it cold by the windows (and this on a summer evening). The wine matching was judged to be very good and included a couple of new taste experiences, and you can do dessert and cocktails in the revamped bar area, so that’s another way to have a wee taste if you don’t have a full evening available.

2 Grey Street, Wellington

Boat Cafe on Oriental

Aaaah, the visit to an old friend.  It’s so good to see some things just keeping on keeping on, even if in a different location.

Boat Cafe retains the charm of its Parade Cafe origins, in food, atmosphere and staff.  And with even better views.

Boat cafe 2 for 1

I’d noticed on a recent Saturday morning that they’re doing 2-4-1 Wednesday dinners, so what better excuse to blow out the cobwebs after a corporate day than a waterfront wander and dinner with great views.  And scored a table in the bow of the boat (around a large number of booked tables I must say), so got to enjoy those views to the full.  Nice.

He of the girly cocktails chose the wagyu beef burger and fries (damned fine fries I might add) and mine was the pan-seared fish of the day with garden salad, chunky chips, lemon and homemade tartare sauce.  Both very pleasant, nicely presented and value for money (even without the deal).

Boat cafe food

Had I had room for dessert I was eyeing up the Winter Warmer Granny Smith Apple Crumble with vanilla ice cream candy floss and passionfruit coulis, or the Cheese Platter of Puhoi triple creamy brie, distinction blue, tarragon & garlic havarti with oat crackers, dried fruit and nuts, with the addition of a bottle of Tresillian Cerelia 375ml Spatlese style Riesling to complement the platter for only $22 more.

I’m definitely coming back just for dessert!

Boat cafe views

Despite confirmation that the management remains the same, in recent times the cabinet offerings have seemed a bit more varied and refined (as was my groper dinner), so whatever the Boat Cafe are doing, its clearly working.

A pleasant mid-week interlude.

148 Oriental Parade.




WBC – Wholesale Boot Company

So upstairs on Victoria just a smidgen along from Tatsushi, is the new venture from the Capitol folks – the WBC restaurant.

The environment is welcoming and cosy, and its kind of neat being able to watch the world go by below.

WBC decor

Narry an old boot to be seen, but a small ‘standard’ menu of tasting plates, a couple of mains (mostly designed for two), and a handful of desserts are doubled by the chef’s daily specials on the wall (tasting plates, mains and desserts).

There was also a similar sized spread of NZ and international wines, a few beers (some heading towards crafty and some more mainstream), and for this kid several delectable sherries. Nice!

Liking to spread my taste experiences as far and wide as possible, I chose two tasting plates (new season scallops on egg yolk with potato and confit garlic, and mushrooms on bruschetta with vinegar), while he indoors chose a main (confit duck sausage on ginger kumara mash with greens).

WBC menu

All were good flavoured, but the main was a little skimpy for $28 (in my view maybe $22 worth), so we followed with desserts which were nicely done (roasted pears with thyme honey and hazelnut praline, and banana chocolate donuts), and mostly filled the gap.

Currently WBC are doing early pre-show dinners (ergo be done by 7.30ish) until they see / decide how evenings are going to go.  And beware you can’t book for the evenings, so its another take-your-chance spot.

WBC plates

For me, I think they might fit nicely in the nibble-and-drink-before-heading-elsewhere space (as commented in this Stuff article).

But the food is definitely Capitol quality.

1st Floor, 107 Victoria 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…


Rock Yard Vietnamese, Allen Street

And so we have another Vietnamese in Wellington.  And not bad it is either.

Rock Yard is found down Allen Street in one of those ubiquitous spaces that all look/feel the same, but they have managed to make their establishment feel modern and sharp with sleek black and white. (There is some incongruity though with blue flashing neon on entry above the water feature – although on reflection, Vietnam does have a mix of tradition and new flashing neon in the bigger centres.)

Rock Yard table

The food here is fresh and crisp, the staff friendly, and the set up has been done well (despite the blue flashing neon!).

The small plates include options like water fern cake, chicken ham, summer (cold rice wrapped) or deep fried spring rolls, and (on the night we were there anyway) a tripe dish, which no-one was quite game to try. And they were all quite sizeable for small plates.

The big plates include options like pho (one of the best I’ve had in Wellington), crispy vietnamese pancake (remarked as needing a bit more salt to enhance flavour), spicy lemongrass chicken (conversely reasonably spicy), prawn salad etc.  Next time I’m going to try the Vietnamese braised fish in claypot to see how that stacks up.

Rock Yard food

They also promote their range of cocktails as being creative, so I might just have to check them out next time too (simply in the interests of research you understand). And you can ring and order take-out too.  Nice.

For a cheap, cheerful and fresh dinner in a pleasant setting, Rock Yard would definitely pop into my head (even though there was a fire alarm on the night we went and we had to enjoy our dinner in two stages!).

18 Allen StreetRock Yard 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

The Hop Garden, Pirie Street

I consider the The Hop Garden to be one of our city’s gems.  They did a fab WOAP burger, I’ve taken dinner club there, and they really are just very good at what they do.

If you haven’t been there, you should go.  Soon.  Any time.  Brunch or lunch (Thursday to Sunday), afternoons or evenings (Tuesday to Sunday).

The food is very good, whether sharing plates or meals (and interesting), and the range of craft beers must surely please anyone from a learner to a connoisseur, with a good range of wines and other tipples for the non-beerers. And now the funky Six Barrell Sodas too.

And they didn’t disappoint this time either.  A late afternoon weekend visit hit the spot perfectly.  The ‘pork three ways’ burger of the day with a pint of Garage Project Hapi Days for him, and the rosemary and thyme potato skins with a Lighthouse stout for her (having had a lovely three course Logan Brown lunch earlier in the day to complement!).

13 Pirie Street, Mt Victoria






Kazu Yakitori & Sake bar

What better way to showcase a number of Wellington eating experiences to a visiting friend than a progressive dinner?

So Saturday night’s excursion was peanuts and Badgers Piss (truly, I’m not taking it….!) at Bangalore Polo Club, skewers and Japanese beer at Kazu Yakitori Bar, tapas and craft beer at the Hop Garden, and dessert and gewurtz nectar at Ambeli.

Kazu Yakitori (yaki – to grill, tori – chicken) is tucked away upstairs on Couternay Place.  From the Japanese greeting to the quirky English translation on signs, to the bandana-wearing chef entertaining with flames and skewers on the bench top grill, it’s a casual and fun place to experience a small slice of Japan.

The staff are respectful and mostly Japanese (chefs only speak/read Japanese), and the revamped menu now appears to offer a greater range of non-skewered dishes as well.  Good for us slightly vego personalities who like lots of veges with our meat.  Not entirely convinced about the non-Japanese repeat-track music playing on the night though.

The 5 stick combo platters range from traditional all-chicken including hearts (firm but pleasant) and gizzards (crunchy and variably received!), to mixed (beef, tuna, salmon, scallop and vegetables), to spicy, to healthy etc.   And for the adventurous, a roulette sushi dish presented like a wheel with one of the 8 pieces having the mother load of wasabi tucked inside.  Surprise!

Of appeal for my next foray to Kazu Yakitori are the lotus root chips, tofu and sansai (mountain vegetables) salad and taiyaki sweet dessert pancake (grilled in a fish shape and filled with red bean paste) with green tea ice cream.  Open evenings only.

Also in the Kazu stable are the Kazu restaurant on Tory Street, Wasabi sushi (Cuba & James Cook), at Mison in Woodward Lane.


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