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 “tapas”

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…


Poquito espresso, cocktails and tapas

UPDATE: Now under different ownership, but still a lovely wee hideaway with tasty bites and drinks.

In the former premises of Schoc chocolate on lower Tory Street, is a new espresso, cocktail and Spanish tapas bar – Poquito (meaning a little bit).

Open some pretty long hours (from 7.30am weekdays and 9.30am weekends to late most nights), you’ll be able to drop by here for a tipple or a nibble whenever the urge strikes.

Poquito tapas

The tapas include items like anchovy, olive and cheese poquito bites (very tasty, but beware the desire to drink more with them!), toasted pita bread with various hummuses, devils on horse back (soft datey deliciousness, not prunes), grilled bruschetta, mixed olives with treats (not ordered so can’t reveal the treats secret), and warm bean salad with chorizo and chickpeas.

There’s a range of wines, beers and cocktails on offer, with some interesting cocktails.

Poquito cocktails

The ones that caught my eye were the Monkey Business (fig infused monkey shoulder whisky, chocolate bitters, orange slice), Rhubarb 75 (rhubarb infused wodka vodka, cava, lemon, vanilla syrup) and Beetle Juice (Hendricks gin, homemade beetroot juice, celery salt, cucumber, basil, hot sauce, worchester sauce, lemon juice).


I settled for the Monkey Business, which went well with the tapas selection.

There is also daytime snack food (still evolving as the clientele settles in), and the coffees meet the grade.

Poquito plants

This will only ever be a light snack place given the kitchen is the bench behind the bar, and it has a limited number of tables, but it’s a peaceful spot (especially down the back by the plant conservatory), and provides something different and interesting in that part of town.

11 Tory Street.

Bebemos South American

On an unexpectedly free evening, we decided to tootle along to Bebemos at Newtown.

BebemosI had heard of this new South American Bar in connection with Little Beer Quarter (an owner in common I believe), and a bit of googling suggested an interesting range of craft beers, a few Argentinian wines, and a mix of South American foods (primarily Brazilian).

He had a couple of different tap craft beers, and I chose the one apple and elderflower cider they turned out not to have currently, so reverted to a simple ginger beer (having had a three-course wine matched lunch earlier in the day already!).

The tapas to share as a starter turned out to be more generous than expected (and tasty), so we were clearly not going to make it all the way through the menu this time (doh – the dulce de leche ice cream sundae will have to await another occasion).

The tapas shared were pao de queijo Bebemos tapas(baked Brazilian cheese puffs served with acai relish) and crispy Brazilian rice bolinhos with parmesan & chili mayo.

To follow was the Gaucho burger (beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and chimichurri) served with rosemary and garlic fries for him, and steak and cheese empanadas for her.

I particularly liked that the empanadas were hand made and irregular, with a delicious pastry both firm and melt-in-the-mouth tender (not chewy). Nice.

Bebemos wallThe decor is welcoming, with both indoor and courtyard dining.  Staff were friendly and welcoming, although there was a tiny feel of still being new and not having hit a rhythm yet.

I will definitely pop into Bebemos for a beer and tapa again if in the neighbourhood.

Corner of Riddiford and Hall Streets, Newtown (at the first intersection just past the public hospital).

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






El Matador, upper Cuba Street

NOTE: Their sharing meat platters are fantastic, share with friends and a few sides, and don’t be fooled by the platter being for two, its got enough meat for four easily…

El Matador Cafe, Asador Grill and Bar is a recently opened Argentinian restaurant in the old Munchen Burgers space next door to Logan Brown.

El Matador had very quickly decided not to take bookings after the initial ones (we had booked thankfully being a bigger group) so if doing the bigger group thing, go early or late and be prepared to wait (not much waiting space).

There is an air of authenticity and charm about the place though which will take them a long way.

The service was fairly slow (they were very busy) and we had a Mexican waitress who was doing her first night ever, so probably a little nervous of a group of 7 asking questions about ingredients and dishes.

El M kitchen

To summarise, several of the mains came out wrong, one or two a bit cool temperature-wise (the meat), the 6-hour cooked lamb dishes were not 6-hour tender, the sides of spinach and feta were spinach leaves only, one of the tapas ordered as an entree came at the same time as the main and a second never appeared, the boys who ordered tomato sides with their steak and potatoes got tomato but lost the potatoes etc etc.

To give credit, they provided complimentary empanadas to the boys who had to wait for their correct mains, and one somehow couldn’t take offence as the place had a buzzy vibe and they are clearly trying hard amongst the initial swamp of activity.

The desserts were superb in taste and interest (and price at $8 – $10), and definitely uplifted everyone’s experience, with the favoured desserts being Quemado oranges with almond brittle ice cream (very good but alas well inhaled before I could photograph!) and panqueques con dulce de leche (pancakes with caramel) (simple but delicious, also a breakfast option).

Unexpectedly there are more NZ wines on the menu than South American, with a few Spanish and French thrown in.  So being a white drinker I tried the Argentinian Trivento Torrontes 2010 and found it rather pleasant.

Overall?  A revisit in 3 months or so to see how they’re coping.  Keep an eye out and take advantage of their specials (tapas Tuesdays, wine Wednesdays, Fugazzeta Fridays) and maybe focus on tapas and desserts there as the more interesting offerings.

196 Cuba Street

And a breakfast image taken at a later time. Pretty fine..

El M pancakes


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.

Foxtail tapas and cocktails

The last fine afternoon predicted for a while, a friend here from USA, and strolling the waterfront, ended in drinks and nibbles in the Foxtail Cocktail Lounge at Foxglove.  The old Greta Point pub transplanted in days gone by, and upgraded from the previous Loaded Hog iteration.

This place really is fairly classy.  Whether it be drinks, nibbles, sunning out on the deck, or brunch downstairs watching the water and world go by, those who bought it and have spent the big bucks know what they’re doing. Having said that, I haven’t plucked up the depth of wallet required for dinner there yet, but do have it on good recommendation that the desserts are pretty fine.  And the brunch I had once in times past (orange and cardamom french toast) was superb.

The tapas were prompt, and mostly importantly, interesting.  The goat cheese and mozzarella balls with apple and manuka honey come with their own individual test tube of deliciousness to squeeze into the ball before munching (many variations of the squeeze technique and number of holes created were encouraged to see if one could avoid the finger drizzle or ball explosion!), the Japanese crisps invoked memories of kettle fries, and the home made hand cut chunky chips with smoked tomato ‘Hellmans’ mayonnaise were suitably chunky with a tasty accompanying girly pink mayo (for the metro blokes in the group, one of whom has in recent times been seen ordering a pink girly cocktail…).

The bar lad obligingly created a personalised drink for my friend, and was very personable and helpful all round.  Lounging on couches in the corner checking out the action on the water, or the attempts of those trying to leave the bar again through the wardrobe (yes one side really does have coats in it and no secret exit), was all suitably entertaining.

On a sunny day the upstairs deck with the round cane hammock-like chairs (loungers?) is very appealing, with additional decks and tables on either side of the building available for those occasional (!) Wellington windy days.  Inside are many and varied spaces, especially upstairs, so you can enjoy a quiet intimate time or a larger louder group event.

Definitely a place to call for a drink and nibble while wandering the waterfront, and potentially one of those places that you just stay and stay with a constant changing vista outside to watch, and before you know it, it’s lunch time or dinner time or cocktail time.

And I can confirm all successfully made it through the correct side of the wardrobe on the way out…

Avida (greedy, covetous, open-mouthed…)

According to the Spanish online directory, that’s what Avida means.  Such is the reincarnation of the old Black Harp on the corner of Featherston and Johnstone Streets into a lighter brighter spanish-style tapas bar.

The place is a bit classier feeling, with segregated dining, leaners and loungey area. There is a popular gas open-flamed fire separating the dining and leaning area imparting a warm glow (aptly named Flamebuoyant apparently, hmmm), but alas open to kids or happy punters putting their hands in and copping a good burn (apparently one or two have had to be headed off).

As others had reported, there’s a bit of disorganisation around the tables and dining area. You can’t book, they don’t have tables for two so you get sat at a bigger table (if available, which seems a waste) or share with others, they don’t tip out just the drinkers from the area to make way for the diners, etc etc etc.  So be prepared to eat at high leaners, or just have nibbles with your drinks so you don’t need low tables (which is really what they’re aiming at anyway), or share a table with others, or eat elsewhere if you want a sit down dinner.

I had read about the Catalan grilled bread (bit like an oval shaped pizza), but knew it was fairly generous and would probably fill us up before we got to the real plates, so parked that for another time.  I did get to eyeball one delivered to the couple at the other end of our table, and it looked worthy with loads of ingredients on the top, the crispy bottom and softer interior.  Next time.

There are a range of nibbles, small and large plates, sides, and 2 or 3 full meals to choose from. I chose ox cheek with creamed cauliflower, mushrooms and lemony enhancements and a side of wilted spinach with goat cheese.  R chose a chicken, bacon, chickpea, black pudding chorizo broth.  Not a lot of 5+ a day hiding in that one!  Although designated as sharing plates, both were pretty much meal sized (especially with a side).  And both were very pleasant, with generous amounts of meat and flavoured nicely.  I liked that the choices were not necessarily mainstream combinations.

In terms of presentation, there is a whole wall of wine behind wire mesh which looks impressive (to my tidy anal mind – although not sure how easy it is for them to unlock and get more wine out from behind customers if they run out down behind the bar), the beer taps come from large shiny silver pipes running from the ceiling, and you can watch the (gas-fired I think) fully glass-walled bread oven at the end of the bar where they cook the Catalan grilled breads.  Helpful conversation starters (or diversions!) if required.

So, not sure how it’d be on a Friday after work, but for a mid-week nibble, quite pleasant, and reasonably priced.





As a PS, I have finally gone back to sample the Catalan bread (it’s now February 2012) and one or two other tapas.  Although pleasant, the catalan bread was a little difficult to eat as the toppings are perched on top of the bread with nothing holding them on.  If using fingers, everything just falls off.  Think they’re pushing hard to justify at $18.

The honey and goat cheese puffs were very pleasant and I had a wonderful sticky time, while the seared gamefish (tuna) bocadillos (mini burgers) with tartare sauce were nicely presented, although remarked to be a little underwhelming taste wise. Suspect the thin layers of tuna were overshadowed by dressing and bread.

So perhaps not as good a value for money as last time, but still a very pleasant place to enjoy an after work drink and nibble.

Concrete Bar in Cable Car Lane

Well these guys have been around a long time and seem to be still going strong. AND they have fascinating toilets.  If for no other reason than checking out the toilets, it’s definitely worth a visit.  And let me know if you figured out in less than 30 seconds or not how to make the water cascade down onto the long sloping washbasin!

Concrete do lunch mains during the day, tapas in the evenings and (recently started) brunches on Saturdays from 10am-2pm.  The menu looked pleasant for all dining options. But mostly they are probably relatively famed for after work corporate socialising and cocktails.

On arrival we were given a sample of Gosset Excellence Brut champagne (well I am a tv star now of course), rather lovely drop actually.  And as a promotion they were offering it up for $10 a glass instead of the usual $20, so that decided me on the tipple for the evening.

A $39 deal for 4 tapas beckoned, so we sampled pork and potato balls, mini beef burgers, quesadillas and battered feta mushrooms, with a side of fries (can take the boy out of South Auckland but can’t take South Auckland out of the boy…).  Very nicely presented as you will see below, and all very tasty.  Certainly was sufficient in quantity in place of an evening meal.

The staff were very efficient, pleasant and knowledgable, and the place was getting close to standing room only, ala the Friday after work experience.  Some of the tables looked a little tired (scratched), but other than that it was pleasant and one didn’t have too far to weave home (am sure champagne bubbles rise straight to the brain more quickly than other drinks).

I see I’ve used the word pleasant a few times, that’s probably a very good summing up of the Concrete experience really.  And whilst we’re talking tapas, standby by for another tapas-ish entry later on the weekend.  I have grand plans for attending The Library’s Saturday afternoon sweets and treats experience.  Yum yum….



Concrete main inside header




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