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 “Restaurants”

Wellington on a Plate 2012 highlights…

The ‘Juices Flow at the Love Shack’ long lunch.  Especially the potted rabbit with Lavender’s Green roast lemon chutney on Ortega’s ciabatta, and Lavender’s Green lemon curd tart with liquorice ice cream (unusual sounding and looking, but amazing together in the mouth). And especially sharing it with one’s best friend.

The Schoc white chocolate and Soprano lemoncello fondue with strawberries and madiera cake at Beach Bablyon.

A fitting follow up to Kingsmeade Emmentaler cheese fondue to start!

Pecha Kucha Imbibe at Downstage Theatre.  Hilarious, heartwarming and thought-provoking presentations.  Best $10 spent in a long time.

The sweet burger at Artisan – Sweetness Incarnate – Whittaker’s chocolate marquise with a poached EcoEgg meringue, mango purée and lime jelly on a doughnut bun, with shortbread shoestrings.

Unfortunately the best laid plans went awry and I didn’t get to the Fratelli sweet burger to compare (but bring on some more sweet burgers next year….).

The Doctors Degustation at GP.  7 courses of pub grub through the ages with modern twists + 7 locally crafted beers. Really really good.

Food well exceeded expectations and some of the craft beers had been brewed especially for the event.

Favourite dishes being the pork and picked walnut sausage rolls, the fish’n’chips of raw tuna loin with citrus salad, flashfried whitebait and potato chips/sticks (sorry very low light environment with no flash), the delicate seafood lasagne of crayfish, mussels, prawns and clams with a crayfish bisque, the potted game bird with pistachio nuts set in clarified butter with Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black beer bread, and the deconstructed meat pie (slivers of venison back strap with tiny sweetbreads, duck livers, lambs kidneys, and a roll of pastry encasing bone marrow, completed by truffle game jus).

Favourite beers of the night being the Tuatara Ardennes Belgium style golden ale with NZ hops, orange fruit and spices (yeah, yeah, its a girl thing), the Kereru Moonless Black, pouring pitch black (but not thick) with roast coffee bean and chocolate aromas, and the Black Dog Brew Co Rich Bitch black forest gateau beer (truly tasted like berries and cake).

And to finish, the Hop Garden’s Casablanca Kid burger. Superb.
Moroccan-spiced wild Wairarapa goat patty with roasted aubergine, couscous (square you can see at top), lettuce, tomato and harissa sauce in a toasted Brezelmania bun, with handcut chips and weissbier aioli.
And now, New York, New York for me.  I may or may not blog whilst there, but will share some highlights in due course….

Boulcott Street Bistro & winebar

As our ‘local’, we don’t end up coming here very often.  The quality and pricing make Boulcott Street Bistro more of an experience rather than just dinner out.

Rex Morgan of former Citron fame (we still mourn the passing) is behind the wheel here, and so the food is of the fine dining ilk, set in the lovely old gothic-architectured Plimmer House historic villa.

You can’t book here, other than large groups or for the private room upstairs, so it is strictly a first come, first serve basis.  They are very happy to accommodate you in their bar until a table is free (a cunning plan I’m sure), so you maybe don’t want to be on a time schedule if you really want to dine here.

The service is as polished here as you’d expect (other than a smidgen slow to clear during the peak 7.00 – 7.30pm arrival rush), and the food as good – accepting that you do need to open your wallet and go through the menu.

We were delivered rounds of soft home baked bread and butter to start, before well- presented entrees of beetroot, goat cheese and walnut Napolean (stack) with citrus and manuka honey dressing (very pretty and pink, and not for the girl at the table as you’d think…), and a pan fried duck fritter with iceberg and vinaigrette (complete in its own mini cast iron frypan – very smart).

For mains I couldn’t go past the house-made spaghetti in a spinach and basil sauce with roasted butternut, zucchini and tomatoes, and he (surprise, surprise – not!) chose the grilled sirloin and braised smoked shin with green beans and duck fried gourmet potatoes.

The spaghetti was deliciously green (in both look and taste) and the smoked shin definitely smokey.  All were cooked to the right done-ness and were sufficiently filling without further sides. Interestingly one of the sides was creamy corn, not something you see every day in restaurants. And all accompanied by a pleasant Marlborough Envoy gewurzt that started out mildly spicy but warmed to slightly floral. Intriguing.

We skipped the desserts, feeling fairly nicely already, and departed on the long journey home (well it is uphill!) in time for one’s favourite tv show.

Would I come back?  Definitely yes for a nice occasion (make sure you take your entertainment book gold card).

Dragonfly on Courtenay

On the site that used to house Uncle Changs on Courtenay Place is a new Asian dining lounge called Dragonfly (classy website), an experience of sharing and enjoying a variety of dishes from south east asia.

We bowled in last night (Friday) around 7pm for a look and chancing of luck about dining there.  They didn’t have any tables available in the near future but invited us to have a drink and look at the garden bar out the back (very Matterhorn, lots of bamboo with a sail overhead), and offered that we could dine out there also.  The same menu applies throughout the premises.  Too cold for dining in the garden bar last night, and small tables/dim lighting in the bar meant we decided on just a drink and nibble this time.

There appears to have been a chunk of money invested here, a very sleek look (lots of black with red lighting), clever spaces for diners around a central kitchen, understated but effective wall hangings here and there, a hallway that feels a little like a secret tunnel, and separation of the diners and the drinkers (way down the back in the bar and garden bar, quite large premises all up).  The place is very inviting.

So to a cocktail (Thai Foon) for me, having read about it coming in a science lab style beaker  (yep it did), beer for him, and pork and chive dumplings to sample the wares.  A chat with the bar lad revealed that the Thai Foon included a Thai rum they make on site (thinner, lighter and sweeter courtesy of palm sugar).  Nice.  As was the cocktail.

In a display of excellent service, the maitre’d who’d escorted us to the bar came and found us shortly after we got settled, offering us first choice on a table that had become available. The waitress we had from then on was also very polished and ensured we understood the menu intention (sharing of small or larger offerings) and checked we understood the spiciness of the green papaya salad when we chose it.  And made sure our bar-ordered dumplings were redirected to the right place. Nice again.

The menu is interesting, not just for the offerings (Son-in-Law duck eggs with fried basil, shredded lime leaf, roasted rice and four flavour sauce; soft shell crabs; eggplant with candied cashew nuts and thai salads; southern clams wok tossed in hot and sour sauce; massaman peanut curry braised angus beef short ribs, baby potato and pea snaps with cardamom, cassia bark, tamarind and thai basil…..) but for the origami-style folded presentation.

The food is fresh and tasty, there has been a lot of thought go into the design and presentation of the premises, staff and food (down to plates and bowls), and they’re off to a slick and wobble-free start. I shall most definitely go back.  With friends.  A couple of times.

Havana bar and tapas

Thanks to one of the dinner clubs, there we were at Havana restaurant and bar in Wigan Street.

This is one of the gems of Wellington in my book (er, blog).  A fabulous building decked out Cuban-style with lots of nooks and crannies, to enjoy a drink or nibble.  And an eclectic mix of decor and art, which give all those nooks and crannies individual moods. Very cool.

The restaurant is in the half of the building that formerly housed the Havana roastery (now in larger premises up Tory Street), and specialises in tapas style sharing plates.  Delights such as hot red pepperdews stuffed with persian feta and toasted hazelnuts, sauteed prawns in kahmiri chilli and garlic, crisp haloumi with sweet red pepper relish and rosemary oil, pork fillet wrapped in jamon serrano with cranberry and fennel (pictured), grilled aubergine with persian feta and pomegranate, and on it goes… (drooling yet?).

Havana bar

Given there were five of us and we decided to choose two dishes each for sharing, we managed to cover a fair chunk of the offerings (including dessert tastings for some of the group).  All were interesting and well done.  The only disclaimer I’d make here is that you can expect to spend a bit as the plates are a small tasting size, and you may need a few.  You are essentially paying for the complexity and interest factor as opposed to quantity.

Also of note was the armchair in the ladies toilet (in case you need to wait for a friend?), and the upside-down decorated canoe hanging from the ceiling in the restaurant.

Havana stock a good range of drinks and bar nibbles (extracted off the tapas menu), including some interesting sounding cocktails.  I was eyeing up a rum with maple syrup concoction which sounded a bit like me should I be going back there for a drink sometime as opposed to dining.

All in all, a highly recommended experience.

Gladstone Vineyard, definitely worth the ride…

A weekend with no obligations, no children and no plans.  Yippeeeee!  Ergo opportunities to eat out.  So I will be selective in which ones I blog about to save your eyes from falling out.

Friday night ended up being Zibibbo in Taranaki Street.  I have posted before about their tapas, and still didn’t get to the desserts this time, but suffice it to say they are one of the best for classy food, very good service and a nice ambience.  A wood roasted portobello mushroom herb gnocchi with goat cheese sauce for me, and the special pork belly, blue cheese and mushroom mousse gnocchi for him (Zibibbo is Italian influenced after all!).  The group next to us had the ice cream cone sorbets for dessert and they looked truly impressive.  Zibibbo also do a range of wood fired pizzas in the early $20’s, so it doesn’t have to be an expensive night out there.

Saturday was looking the finest of the weekend, so a ride was required, and a (long-desired) jaunt to the Gladstone Vineyard via Martinborough (for coffee and access to the nice winding Longbush road ensued.

A meandering driveway to a picturesque garden beside the old homestead, with chunky garden tables and brollies, and even a kids play area on sand under the trees (and built from wood not modern glaring brightly painted steel or plastic). Which seemed to do the trick nicely for the kids present.

There was a large family group there for a celebration at one big long italian-lunch style table, so we could only choose a platter for lunch (presumably the kitchen was fully occupied dealing with the big group), which worked just fine.  The choices were a ploughmans platter (very substantial we discovered!), a seafood platter or simpler pate, breads and dips offerings.  The menu is not large and looks like it changes every couple of months, but did include things like courgette, mint and feta fritters, a pork belly salad, and a fish daily choice dish.

All wines on offer were their own (we had a wee sample of Sophie’s Choice, being a barrel fermented sauvignon blanc, yummo), and they are developing the vineyard towards biodynamic principles.  They had about 8 of their wines on offer by the glass – a riesling, sauvignon blanc, vigonier, pinot gris, Sophies choice (named for their golden retriever Sophie), pinot noir, auld alliance red and a dessert wine.  So pretty much a full range.

Again, we didn’t get to desserts, but the descriptions had me deciding to come back during a Wairarapa weekend (also on the planner sometime) for a full tasting session, and dessert and wine some afternoon under the trees.

They open Thursday to Sunday mid morning through to mid-late afternoon, and can be found in the pleasant countryside out behind Carterton.



Long Bar Malaysian, Brandon Street

We have been to Long Bar a couple of times over the years, and found it to be pleasant enough.  It does always seem to be busy, so must have a bit of a following.

Tonight we shared entrees of chicken wrapped in pandan leaves (meaty with subtle flavour) and fried pork dumplings.  As reviewed by Wellingtonista recently, the chicken is probably the more interesting of those entrees, although both were a pleasant way to start and quite well presented (no photos sorry as I forgot to take my phone, but see the photos on the Wellingtonista review above).

For mains I tried one of the vegetarian dishes (they do have a very extensive menu, so you will need time to contemplate all the options) – the mock lamb and vegetables in oyster sauce.  The mock lamb is made from mushroom stalks, and is really very tasty.  A colour, texture and look not dissimilar to lamb, but without the chewiness, and with a umami-type savoury taste.  Nice.  The dish overall was nothing startling being essentially just a plate (large) of vegetables with half a dozen or so pieces of mock lamb scattered through in a standard oyster sauce.  But definitely somewhere I could take the vego stepkids and have plenty of different choices for them.

Him indoors chose the kapitan chicken (a signature dish of Long Bar), being hot spicy chicken with onion on a bed of red crunchy cabbage.  And he did break out in a sweat with the acknowledgement that it was hot.  His other comment was that it probably had too much chicken by comparison to other components of the dish (and he’s a big protein eater).

Although the service is typically fairly sparse, it was efficient and our waitress did check that him indoors knew his dish would be hot and I knew mine was mock lamb when we ordered.  Good checking.

The service and food was prompt, and the place seems to run on a well oiled [non-smelly!] rag.  And is cheap and cheerful.  What more could you want for a quick, multi-choiced, vegetarian friendly inner city meal option?

Arashi, Courtenay Place

So off to Sherlock Holmes with friends last week, and a graze afterwards.  Given we saw Sherlock at Reading (as entertaining as number one, with a very clever finish…), somewhere cheap, cheerful and nearby was in order.  And so we proceeded to Arashi (thanks Andrea!) for a bite of Japanese.

This was a Wednesday night, and the place was full of large groups, so noisy as a noisy thing (not for you Mr Sharp), but still fun.

The boys opted for a Japanese $40 tankard of Asahi beer (which seemed to be the gift that kept on giving, for at least 7-8 glasses worth – very impressive!), whilst the girls tended towards the wines.

A variety of food was ordered and consumed (relatively promptly too), and all commented as  tasty and of pleasing quality.  Presentation again was very good (some non-Japanese restaurants could easily sustain a lesson or two…), with the pork dumplings arriving in their own wooden box, and those of us with tempura mains receiving them on wooden dishes that made one think of punts (boating variety).

The assorted tempura main came with about 10 pieces, of which 5 were a mix of seafood – large shrimp, crab, fish, scallop – and the rest a mix of vegetables – cauli, capsicum, pumpkin, bean  – all in a very light tempura batter with accompanying home-made dipping sauce.

The menu is fairly extensive, with a large selection of skewered dishes (being a kushiyaki restaurant), sushi, sashimi, rice, noodles, tempura etc.  For dishes in the $18-$20ish range, of good presentation and quality, this is definitely a place worth going.



41 Courtenay Place




Trade Kitchen

Well hello to all my loyal followers (yes all 15 of you!).  Last night was a dinner catchup with some ex-CCDHB colleagues.  A drink and nibble at Foxglove (will have to give you the low down on them another time, they’re a whole post’s worth) and then off to Trade Kitchen for dinner.

Trade Kitchen is another of those places that slides underneath the radar a little in terms of  profile, but actually turns out some very pleasant food at reasonable prices (in today’s market where a lot of restaurants are creeping up into the $30-$35 per main range).

The decor is subtle and reasonably sparce (I liked the big red fabric swathes around the xmas tree though), but still welcoming.  The food and drinks provided a good selection of the usual suspects, lighter and denser meals, and some rather pleasant wines – an unoaked chardonnay for me (not always so easy to get), and a rather tasty riesling for R (well what’s mine is mine and his is mine and mine is his – at least when it benefits me!…).

I chose the risotto of the day of chicken, mushrooms, asparagus, feta and strips of parmesan to complete.  The rest of the group chose a variety including free range chicken breast stuffed with pesto, spinach and mozzarella on warmed couscous, pinenuts, roasted vegetable salad and chermoula aioli (my second choice, mmmm), fish of the day, a scallop special and parmesan crumbed pork cutlet on porcini risotto and sauteed cabbage w almond and apple sauce (my third choice, mmmm mmmm).  They all looked good and were met with favourable reports.

We controlled ourselves in terms of dessert given we’d had wine and nibbles earlier, but the choices (and those that came to nearby tables) looked worthy.  Interactive and humorous service throughout completed the evening.

The only difficulty with the place was ventilation.  We were around the back (overlooking Customhouse Quay) with no opening windows or obvious ventilation on one of Wellington’s (finally!) warmer evenings, and were all glistening fairly well by the time we’d finished.

The brekkie menu looks good (especially the banana and coconut bread with citrus butter and honey – yep me the carbo girl), so might have to find an excuse to slide back along this way soon at the other end of the day…

Definitely worth a visit for something of good value and standard at this ‘corporate’ end of town.

Bangalore Polo Club, Courtenay Place

NOTE: The peanuts are no longer!

The dinner club ventured forth to Bangalore Polo Club (BPC to those in the know apparently) on Wednesday night and had a rollicking fine time.

BPC is as opulently decorated and almost OTT as imagined, with varying spaces for drinking, dining or quieter booth intimacy.  Of greatest initial excitement was the large bowl of unshelled peanuts on the bar for patrons to de-shell and consume, merrily dropping the remains to the floor (truly, it’s what they want you to do!). Apparently in the tradition of the Singapore Raffles Hotel (Mr Google hasn’t been forthcoming on where that tradition sprang from originally), with the shells oiling the floor as they get walked on before being swept out at the end of the night. Everything your mother taught you not to do, but deliciously naughty fun!

BPC originated in India around the Bangalore Badgers polo team, with a mix of English and Indian influence.  Ergo being greeted out the front by a couple of lovely wooden maharaja-style gentlemen.  In the rear dining area there are several large animal heads on the wall, a veritable flock of birdcages hanging from the ceiling with lights in each, and cleverly disguised large screen tv’s in big gold ornate picture frames looking like large mirrors (thankfully not on, a rest from the rugby was due!).

Food ranged from pizza to curries to laksa to full meals and most things in between.  So a wide selection, and at reasonable prices.  Between six of us we managed to try a good variety (of course my friends know dining with me involves sharing a mouthful!) and everyone enjoyed what they chose.  I had a very pleasant cauliflower risotto of caramelised cauliflower (the caramelising was fairly subtle though), tallagio cheese, roasted almonds and crispy sage.  Good overall balance, and not gluggy or fatty.

I had to photograph (on my cellphone in fairly dim light, but it will give you an idea) Kate’s slow roasted pork hock.  A verrrrry impressive hunk of meat occupying most of her plate.  Almost matching the visions we had last week of how pig’s head was going to look on a plate at The Larder!  And melt off the bone tasty too.

The only slightly out of step note was the music.  Whilst we enjoyed the 70’s and 80’s easy tunes (those of us old enough to know them), we had imagined music somehow matching the tradition of the place.  Having said that, not sure if Bollywood all night would have helped or hindered the overall experience.

So definitely give it a try when you’re after something fun.  And suggest you book as it was full to bursting on a Wednesday night.  Apparently check out the toilets too, which I didn’t end up remembering to do.  Next time…


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