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 “Wellington”

New hands at Martha’s Pantry

I also enjoyed a beautiful tea at Martha’s Pantry recently, now in new hands after sale by founder Mary.

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The cafe has been redecorated and is lighter and crisper, with an overall more modern feel.

The focus is, of course, still on tea and treats, so I couldn’t pass up the white Jasmine blooming tea and Dunedin cheese roll, with a baby cupcake to round things out.

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The tea was a thing of beauty (and fascination) from the initial bud floating in the carafe to the fully opened floral bouquet at the end. I particularly liked that it was a low-caffeine option, refreshing and different.

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The service was pleasant and efficient, and on a quieter weekday (they get pretty booked up with high teas on weekends), a very nice place to have a catchup with friends or even a business meeting.

And you can tick off your gift shopping while there too – flower fairies, cupcake soaps, traditional children’s games, bone china tea sets and more.

Cnr Karo Drive and Cuba Street.

 

 

 

The Flamingo has landed

The Wellington Hospitality Group strikes again with its new venture Flamingo Joe’s in the bottom of the new waterfront PWC building.

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These guys are pretty practiced at rolling in and starting as they mean to go on, so I can’t see any reason why this wont be a success for them either – bright colours, neon lights, buzzy ambience, a giant flamingo, views across the harbour and pleasant ‘metro pub food’.

Friday night was the soft open (in time for the footie at the Stadium methinks) and the place was rocking, the staff welcoming, and the harbour lights twinkling. And pleasingly, the staff knew what they were doing. No stuttering newbies, or first night botch-ups that I could see (I’m a little over places opening before they’re fully ready).

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There was a cut-down menu for the soft opening with a choice of opening bites, duck tacos and multiple flatbreads, with interesting flavours like prosciutto, feta, fig roquette and balsamic glaze, or bacon, prawn, garlic and cheese. Nice to have something a little different to the standard imitation pizza toppings.

We opted for the roasted duck tacos and buffalo chicken flatbread with spring onions, yoghurt and mizuna (Japanese mustard leafy green salad plant). The tacos were a little drippy to eat, but had nice rich flavours, and the flatbread was satisfyingly soft on the base with well balanced toppings.

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In today’s era of over-choice, the drinks menu was happily all on one page. Local craft beers sat alongside international favourites, low-carb and zero alcohol options, and pretty much all wines were available in 150 ml, 250 ml or bottle size.

I’ll definitely be back to check out the full menu in due course.

1-10 Waterloo Quay.

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Stunning Hiakai

Oh. My. God.

The new Hiakai at Mt Cook is stunning, and blows the rest of Wellington’s dining scene totally out of the water. And I don’t say that lightly.

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Based in a relatively nondescript modernised old villa, you will enjoy some history on the ground floor before making your way upstairs to the dining space. I’m not saying any more about that so I don’t spoil the experience and dichotomies present.

Then menu is chosen at booking time (how many courses and whether you want the wine or very inventive non-alcoholic matches) so there is nothing to do on the night but sit back and enjoy. Beware if you cancel too late or fail to show you will be paying for the experience anyway, and I have absolutely no problem with that given the level at which they’re delivering. They also cater to dietary challenges with advance notice and discussion.

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This is a journey through Maori and Pacific history in terms of ingredients and food evolution, thoughtfully designed and shared in detail by the servers for every single dish, including the first snacks. The only comparisons at this level I can think of are Steirereck in Vienna and Stone Barns at Blue Hills Farm out of New York city, both world top 50 restaurants. Truly.

We chose not to do the wine matches, but instead sampled a couple of drinks from the menu – wines for the rest of the team, and an excellent pea soda for yours truly.

I’m simply going to let the pictures and their captions tell the story for you.

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Every dish had us thinking they’d reached the pinnacle until the very last dish arrived (and there’s a couple of snack dishes I’ve missed photographing given the haze of deliciousness I was in).

The only teeny tiny thing I could fault was my pet hate of no fork with dessert and having to chase food around the plate to get it up.

But overall, I would have sold my first-born (luckily there isn’t one or it would have been the chip fiend’s first-born) or been happy for them to charge my credit card with virtually any price for this experience.

If you want to read a little more about Monique Fiso (a local Porirua lass), check out these articles from Viva and Stuff.

Groups of 6pax maximum given the style of dining, Wednesday to Saturday.

Book well ahead.

40 Wallace Street

 

Sunday brunch at Shepherd

Since Wellington Anniversary weekend was quiet around town, we decided it the perfect time to check out Shepherds new Sunday brunches.

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I’ve always like the food at Shepherd – playful, surprising, light, fresh and high quality. And the brunches don’t disappoint either.

The corn custard called to me while the boys were eyeing up a variety of smoked pork hash, cured ham and eggs on Leeds Street (Bakery) pastries, duck fat potatoes, and all manner of other dishes.

And then Chelsea came along and told them about their 2018 Wellington on a Plate ‘goldburgers’ being available as a special and that was it, game over.

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They’re gold courtesy of tumeric in the rice bun (again made at the Leeds Street Bakery in the laneway), with the beef enhanced by a little smokey pork, and accompanied by golden cheese, house chutneys and seasoned fries.

The corn custard meanwhile had a corn and red onion salsa on top, popcorn on one side and a delicious thick feta accompaniment on the other. When taken together, a fabulous mix of flavours and textures (the custard being the base layer beneath).

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The coffee here is bottomless filtered, the tea came in an eye-catching teapot and retro cup, and the service was relaxed (as befits a Sunday!) but professional.

Definitely in my top 10 Sunday brunch places around town.

Leeds Street Laneway.

From 1030am Sundays.

 

 

Three new winebars – Amador, Ascot & Glass

And all quite different.

Amador

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Found upstairs above Tommy Millions at the Press Hall in Willis Street, with a pleasant balcony to watch the world go by (albiet more peacefully in the weekends and at night!), Amador has a nice cruisy vibe.

With stalwarts Andy Gray of Hanging Ditch and Gordie Carlyle from the former Motel cocktail bar in charge, there’s an expectation of quality in both service and food. And it didn’t disappoint on our first visit.

To be fair we were using the WellingtonNZ advent calendar voucher for Laurent Perrier Rose bubbles and tasting board each (combined into one board below), so didn’t need to test their expertise for wine suggestions. But the service was prompt and personable, so I have no doubt they’d be happy to make recommendations when needed.

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The menu is very simple – daytime focus on bagels, and by night a couple of meats, cheeses and oysters. Yay for not overtaxing the brain!

There are a good number of wines by the glass, ranging from NZ classics like Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc through to European Destination of Origin certified wines.

The name Amador is a type of font, a further nod to the Dominion Post Press Hall heritage, and presently open 7.30am to 11pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 10pm Saturdays.

Ascot

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Ascot is at the other end of the scale – minimalist, rustic and low brow. A place for an unadorned natural wine and hotdog.

On the rooftop above 1154 on the corner of Cuba and Ghuznee, Ascot is found by climbing the stairs off Ghuznee (past Nightflower, another new cocktail bar halfway up).

I entirely failed to get a picture of my friend’s organic and cloudy-looking (unfiltered) wine because I was so focussed on the fabulous carrotdog in front of me, but can tell you it had a slightly sour nose and almost yeasty backnote to the taste. At one point we wondered if she’d actually grabbed a sour beer and was conning us, but no, it was actually a natural wine. Most interesting.

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The hotdogs are either pork or a whole carrot gently marinated and cleverly impersonating a standard dog in a bun. And kinda with the texture of meat too. I thoroughly enjoyed my carrot dog with curry sauce (the special of the day), and can see how Ascot fits the Cuba vibe nicely.

Cheap, simple and effective.

Tuesday to Saturday 4pm til late.

Glass

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Glass in Chews Lane is owned and operated by Jonathan Brookes, former Restaurant Manager of Whitebait, and confirmed kiwi-lad who lived and worked in French restaurants for some time.

Because of that background, Jonathan imports his own French wines (mostly natural), and showcases them alongside quality, and sometimes quite unusual, local wines. He and his staff are extremely knowledgeable about all the wines and can effortlessly match you with a cheeky little number that ticks all your boxes, or give you something to think about if you’re in an experimental mood.

The food is also carefully crafted using local, fresh and seasonal, with delicacy in the execution. There are a couple of smaller tapas-style options and a couple of bigger plates depending on whether you just fancy a small bite with your wine after work/before a show/after a show, or more substance because you’re parked there for the duration.

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I might have visited a few times since I live very nearby, but can attest to the consistency of the service and quality over those visits.

Roast duck breast with burnt purple cabbage and turnips anyone?

Brekkie to dins/supper Monday to Friday 7am to late, and Saturday 10am til late.

 

Seatoun’s new Arcimboldi

In googling Arcimboldi, a new cafe in Seatoun, I came across the Wiki page of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. An Italian painter best known for creating imaginative portraits made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books. That surely can’t be a coincidence?

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Turns out Arcimboldi is by Alice Hill and Leith Wix, from catering in Arrowtown to community (Italian-leaning) eating and drinking in Seatoun. And indeed there was a very happy sounding Xmas party going on in the back courtyard on the day we visited.

So to lunch.

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We had the option of the breakfast dishes, the lunch dishes or a whole page of pizzas (which I’m informed by someone who’s tastebuds I trust, to be worthwhile).

After much umming and aaahing I went for the gnocchi with tomato, bocconcini and basil; another went for the smoked Kahawai agria hash with poached egg, spinach, peas and herbs (above); and the third went for the toasted red quinoa, tomato kasundi, grilled broccolini, goat cheese, and pickled red onion salad with lavosh. Healthy lot weren’t we?

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All dishes were fresh, flavourful, and nicely presented.

We had been eyeing up the lovely-looking baking in the cabinet too, so ended up sampling a couple of muffins (be rude not to right?). Unlike many cafes who use a microwave to warm their baking, Archimboldi warm theirs in a mini oven so you retain crispness and lightness.

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There was also a wide range of beer, cider, wines, spirits and cocktails with fabulous names like Violet Bramble. Also non-alcs like Monsoon Ginger Beer and Blood Orange sparking San Pellegrino, and I might have spied a Chocolate Martini with a Hershey’s Kiss for next time too. Nice.

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There certainly looked to be a little of something for everyone, and I imagine Arcimboldi will be a welcome addition to the Southern burbs.

24 Dundas Street, Seatoun

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)

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

People’s coffee in Lukes Lane

I popped by the new People’s Coffee in Lukes Lane this weekend, their first flagship in the CBD (the mothership being in Newtown).

And liked what I saw. The food reminded me a lot of the Leeds Street Bakery (the Shelly Bay Baker instead), and the decor a lot like Goldmine by Lamason on Willis Street.

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We happened along while various toast specials are on the go around town, so figured it’d be rude not to sample their beetroot pickled eggs on toasted Bakers rye with turmeric almond butter, beetroot pint beans, fennel pickle and fresh rocket. Phew!

It was spectacular to look at and a very good balance of flavours and textures. If you’re in the area, get this under your belt forthwith.

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We also sampled Esther’s chocolate almond butter and orange marmalade on sourdough, which was certainly pleasant but might have been enhanced with a little banana on top to add a light fruity layer against the tackiness. No doubting the quality of ingredients though.

I like that they’re using the Oatery’s granola too, another tasty Wellington venture.

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People’s coffee is all about sourcing organic and fair trade through long-term cooperative partnerships, so you’re doing the world a service by popping into People’s for your fix of java.

Cnr of Lukes Lane and Taranaki Streets

 

 

 

 

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