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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 “wine”

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

 

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.

 

50-50 at Pram Beach

I have been told a couple of times to check out 50-50 at Paraparaumu Beach, and OMG, it was really excellent.

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The decor is very austere, with three pictures on one wall, and simple brown tables in one big oblong room. But don’t be fooled.

Helen Turnbull (opened Rata restaurant in Queenstown for Josh Emett, also best emerging chef at Hummingbird in the 2014 Capital awards) crafts her dishes at a big kitchen bench at the end of the room, while long-time Wellington bar personality Eddy Kennedy runs the front of house as smoothly as a well oiled machine.

The menu has only four dishes per course to choose from, and you can go a-la-carte, or do a 6 or 9 course dinner ($75 and $95 respectively) where Helen presents from across the menu, or have a taste of everything for $120. So lots of choice in how you eat.

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Among our group of three, the stand-out dishes were all of them. But of particular memorability were the amazing flavours of the aubergine entree which the biggest vegetable-avoider of the group fell in love with (me too for that matter), the crispy pork belly with both fantastic crispness and tenderness, the super crispy but feathery roast tatties which appeared by magic with the mains, and the unusualness of the nectarine tart.

The drinks list is also small, but as you’d expect with Eddy’s background, interesting and well formed. We enjoyed The Bone Line Waipara non-typical chardonnay (was described well and double checked with us at ordering), and at $11 per glass was good value.

The beers include a Lakeman Primate pilsner, Kereru Come By Shepherd’s low alcohol ale and Duncans stout (to name half of them), and the non-alcs Kapiti chemex coffee, strawberry Sichuan fizz, apricot and tarragon iced tea, again all interesting and a little different.

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This is definitely a place all foodies should try, and do book as they’re getting really busy.

Wednesday to Saturday evenings (note closed as a one-off this week 21 to 24 Feb).

27 Maclean Street, Paraparaumu Beach

Luna Estate winery and Kitchen

I was recently invited to check out the new Luna Estate winery and Kitchen in Martinborough, after it’s recent revamp.

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Luna is where Alana once was, and also encompasses the former Murdoch James winery out the other side of town, now known as Luna Blue Rock (currently converting to a function centre without a cellar door). Owner Charlie Zheng, a Wellington Investment Director and passionate wino (I say that in the nicest possible sense!), has supported other Wellington institutions to expand (Mojo into China, for example) and has an eye for regional and global opportunities (the James Murdoch brand will continue as the export arm).

In the last year Luna have ripped out most of the sauvignon blanc and replanted with pinot noir to take advantage of the Burgundy-like growing conditions (now 85% of their crop), launched their first vintage to market, and refurbished the old Alana tasting room into the new Luna Estate cellar door and kitchen, with courtyard al fresco dining.

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The food is Mediterranean/North African inspired tapas and sharing style, courtesy of Exec Chef Lisa Howard’s travels in that part of the world. The portions are generous (you truly do only need the recommended 1.5 – 2 dishes per person), with the eats ranging from from light snacks (patatas bravas with citrus dip and passata), to salads (roast pumpkin with feta and mesclun), to mains (morsels of NZ lamb roasted in a Moroccan marinade), to sweet desserts (baklava with greek yoghurt). Lisa makes all sauces etc in-house, and likes to use local wherever possible, for example using Drunken Nanny Goats cheese, Olivo oils, and Elysian Foods.

We enjoyed patatas bravas, the chilli jam chicken nibblets, the Moroccan spiced sticky pork belly, the grilled asparagus with broccoli and almond salad, and the loukoumade donuts. The stand-outs were the patatas bravas (satisfyingly crispy and feathery, resting on a bed of lovely pesto-density passata), and the pork belly (sweetly and lightly sticky, and melt-in-the-mouth tender).

Both the 2016 Luna Riesling, and the 2015 Eclipse Chardonnay went well with all dishes and released pleasing aromatics and flavours once up to room temperature.

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The wines also include several pinots of course, a rose, a pinot gris, and a sauvignon blanc currently. With a side of Bootlegger sodas for those driving, and a handful of beers, including light versions. Good responsibility.

The coffee was again slightly more European in style (dark toffee notes), but went down well to conclude the outing.

If you have youngies along (or are just feeling frisky/inspired after lunch), there were various balls and cricket gear on the lawn to run around with, or a cute wee chalkboard for releasing your inner Picasso.

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This is definitely a place to enjoy some nice wines and fill bellies in a very pleasant setting. It can be busy with tour groups passing through for tastings, so it’d pay to book your lunch spot, and if you wanted a more intimate experience, ask for a table in their private room.

7 days noon to 4pm (cellar door to 5pm).

133 Puruatanga Rd, Martinborough

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tinakori Bistro rises again

If you like The Ramen Shop at Newtown, or Hillside Kitchen at Thorndon, you’ll totally enjoy the Tinakori Bistro’s newest incarnation by the same team.

The restaurant is now a French Bistro, with very French dishes, but all presented with a light hand and local ingredients.

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Asher (Boote, owner) has a particular penchant for suburban eateries that become a hub of the community, that celebrate local produce, and that suits the style of the locals. And he hasn’t missed the mark here; there was a constant stream of locals and visitors coming through during the Saturday evening (yes I eavesdropped here and there to get a sense of the localness!), and at least 30 people turned away.

If you don’t fancy a full meal, or its between lunch and dinner, you can just enjoy a glass of wine and charcuterie platter. And because Cult Wine is part of their stable, there’s a really interesting list of ‘bin end’ bottles, as well as each varietal by the glass.

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I really liked having a good old fried egg on top of the asparagus (none of this 60 degree trickery!), that the Bistro salad had little dressing but didn’t need it do to the flavour and integrity of the ingredients, and that the gnocchi was made from choux batter (a first for me).

The chip fiend particularly enjoyed the steak and dripping fries (surprise, surprise!), and the creme brulee dessert was the best I think I’ve ever had (read more about that in my Word on the Street post).

These guys will do well here, but it does pay to book.

Lunch Friday to Sunday, drinks and snacks Friday to Sunday between lunch and dinner, and dinner Wednesday to Sunday.

328 Tinakori Road

 

Italian wine at Petone

Michele Marai started Cangrande Italian Wine importation and distribution around five years ago, and has recently set himself up for retail – both online and a wee flagship store in Petone named Il Doge (pronounced eel doe-jay, in honour of the Duke of Venice).

This has been in response to people continually asking to buy the Italian wines they’ve experienced at restaurants around the city and region.

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The two points of different at Il Doge are the quality of the wines (his father back in Italy samples 300-400 per year and selects the top 40 for further sub-selection – that’s really taking one for the team huh!), and each being displayed with a label of its provenance, tasting profile, and most importantly, what food it goes with.

Turns out food and wine matching is a big deal for Michele (the Italian heritage), with many Italian wines drier and more rustic on their own than our Kiwi palates are used to, but wonderfully rounded with the right food. Aaaaha!

So on Fridays from 5.30 – 7pm Michele opens a wine of the week for sampling with tasty hors d’oeuvres (which I completely forgot to ask the source of, I was so entranced with the whole concept), to demonstrate just that.

We enjoyed the Isonzo del Friuli Northern Italian Chardonnay so much we subsequently took a bottle to dinner with us, and discovered it went well with Vietnamese food.

The biggest seller is the Valpolicella Ripasso from Valrona (the hinterland near Venice that Michele hails from), which ‘speaks to you about village life’ and is a gentler big red for those who aren’t into big reds. I loved Michele’s passion and eloquence when talking about his wines, totally infectious.

I ended up buying a bottle of the Amarone Campagnola (also from Verona), traditionally paired with horse meat (errr venison or rich stew), and with a slightly different production process – grapes dried indoors, macerated and oaked for three years – resulting in a chocolatey, jammy, dark minerally drop. Yet to be enjoyed, but the anticipation is great.

As well as an interesting selection of wines, you’ll find authentic Italian craft beers (the Vienna lager had a caramelly smoothness and was quite the moreish drop), balsamics, spirits and liquers – a bottle of the Amaretto very nearly jumped into my bag as well. Next time.

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So pop along on a Friday evening to taste and learn, grab a bottle for your next BYO dinner (or what the hell, just to enjoy at home!), and watch out for Italian food and wine matching events at a restaurant near you.

281 Jackson Street, Petone

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.

 

 

Delicious Wairarapa

I’ve been tootling around in the Wairarapa this weekend, so since I posted about it on Wellingtonista, I thought I’d share it here also….

Lots of delicious eats, and a rather fine 2012 Murdoch James pinot gris.

Murdoch James

Some of the other vineyard lunches out that way:

And some with platters and more cafe-style food:

We so need to get out of the city regularly and enjoy the lush offerings of the Wairarapa (hmmm, I wonder if I know anyone who needs a Wairarapa summer clerk one day a week….).

 

 

A Wharekauhau long lunch

For a luxurious experience without the need for a second mortgage, a long Sunday lunch at Wharekauhau is a feast for all the senses.

Wharekauhau decorA three course lunch with glass of Te Kairanga sauvignon blanc (swapped for a delicious Te Kairanga 2005 off-dry Riesling after a to-die-for Lustaw Pedro Xenemez sweet sherry starter for her, and followed by an Awatere Pinot Noir well matched to the beef for him),
Wharekauhau tablecomplimentary salmon amuse bouche, quality settings and service, in a private dining room overlooking Palliser Bay, was $105 each after the entertainment card discount (the starting point was $110 each before extra wines and discount).

Wharekauhau soupCompared to many dinners in Wellington recently with smaller courses,
shorter timeframes and not dissimilar costs, it stands head and shoulders above as value for money.

The wines were all of excellent quality, with the Foleys (owners) having ownership in Te Kairanga and Vavasour, and those wines featuring prominently beside a nice range of other NZ and Californian wines.  Wharekauhau lambI see in the media recently the Foleys are looking to acquire a few more Marlborough vineyards to add to the stable.

The menu provided three choices for each course, focused on locally grown or caught, and seasonal – their own vegetables, beef and lamb; Palliser Bay octopus and snapper.  The soup (butternut pumpkin, apple, parsnip with fresh horseradish) was crisp and refreshing, the lamb (roasted, with coffee, eggplant Wharekauhau dessertand jus) was tender, and the creme brûlée (vanilla with shortbread) rich and filling.

We also scored a complimentary cheese board by virtue of some mix-up in the kitchen.  Again, very good quality and well presented (and no dinner required for us that night!).

We were invited to explore the lodge and surrounds (indoor covered pool with bathrooms of elegance, fully equipped gymnasium, all weather tennis court, groomed croquet and petanque lawn, shady and pleasant pathways) and did so between mains and dessert (good suggestion!).
Wharekauhau pool

The lodge has a number of upstairs rooms for games, reading, leisure and socialising, all with different moods and decor, so one could easily find a spot that resonated.

Oh, and year on year on year lamb and beef award winners. What more can one say?

Three hours of feeding the senses for a delicious birthday treat -simply divine.

Turn south down Western Lake Road at the southern end of Featherston, and keep going for about 40km.

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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).

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