Back in January when we went to Nelson, one of the places Annette and Terry took us to was Jester House cafe. They won an award for top cafe in NZ in 2013/14.
You know how Melbourne cafes have a certain ~~thing~~ in common – the coffee, the food, a certain kind of aesthetic with the decor? Jester House Cafe is nothing like that. No blond wood, exposed bricks, or single origin coffee here.
They have a cafe cat – but more impressively and much more quirky – they also have tame eels! How many cafes do you know that can claim that?
Hello! We return to sunny, lovely, Nelson where on one of the evenings Annette and Terry took Alastair and I out to dinner.
This was our view during the night.
Oh Nelson, stop it.
We were at Harbour Lights Bistro, located on the waterfront (as you can probably tell from that photo) and it used to be a dairy (milkbar for the non-kiwis) before being converted into a restaurant. That view is wasted on a dairy, so I dare say it was a good change.
Some pictures from our trip to Nelson over Australia Day (as mentioned briefly in the Cafe Vue post). Only a little bit of food content here folks, but there is a cute cat photo. That doesn’t grab your fancy? Well, there’s also numerous shots of beer. Is that better?
Alastair and I had a lovely, relaxing visit in Nelson – visiting Annette and Terry, Alastair’s mum and step dad. We didn’t do terribly much. We did a lot of this – having a quiet drink on Annette and Terry’s deck, watching the view.
As mentioned in previous posts, in February we spent a long weekend in Welly as our friends Ben and Lisa officially become Benisa.
Bro flew over earlier and alerted me via sms of the goody goody gum drops ice block. Squeal!!! Goody goody gum drops is a bubble gum flavoured ice cream with chewy gum drops. You used to only be able to get it as a scoop ice cream in dairies or in tubs at the supermarket, but recently some genius had the idea of covering the ice cream in chocolate and putting it on a stick. Seriously, genius.
Here I am at the train station with my good goody gum drops ice block. The ice block had a good ratio of gum drops versus ice cream – I had about 8 gum drops in that little block. There was always nothing worse than having a scoop of goody goody gum drops with only a couple of gum drops.
It’s small though and it started melting very quickly. I wish I had bought another one. Someone should start importing these into Australia – I would so be there.
The day we flew out of Wellington, we had yum cha with my parents at Regal Chinese Restaurant. We’ve been to Regal a couple of times with mum and dad for yum cha – there’s always a good selection of food and my parents seem to like it.
There’s not much to say about yum cha that I haven’t said before so this post is light on words and heavy on photos.
Fried taro dumpling (wu gok).
Deep fried crescent dumplings (ham sui gok).
Steamed BBQ pork buns. One day I’m going to try making these. From scratch (including the BBQ pork). I have made my own BBQ pork before, so I’m halfway there.
Steamed pork dumplings (sui mai).
I think these were pork and ginger dumplings.
This looks like the more well known radish cake, but it’s actually taro cake. It’s made in a similar way to the radish cake but using taro. This was really good! I don’t see taro much in Australia, and eating this reminded me of how much I like it.
Speaking of radish cake, Mum used to make it when we were younger. We would eat it for breakfast with a chilli and garlic sauce. Radish cake is yet another thing I’m going to make one day.
My favourite savoury dish – chicken and sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf (lou mai gai). Here’s a tip if you’re ever at yum cha: don’t let them cut the parcel open (they’ll want to, with their scissors). If it’s cut, you get leaf bits all in the rice. Unwrap it instead!
One of these prawn dumplings (har gow) made a beautiful dive off my chopsticks and somersaulted its way under a chair.
I think these were chive dumplings.
Rice noodle rolls (cheong fun) – love ’em!
A basket of chicken feet (fung jiao).
And, as always, I refuse to leave until I’ve eaten an egg tart.
Regal Chinese Restaurant 7-9 Courtenay Place Wellington New Zealand Phone: +64 4 384 6656
One doesn’t normally have lunch surrounded by cowboys, nuns, Vikings or Flintstones characters. Unless it’s during the Wellington Rugby Sevens that is! Our visit to Welly for Benisa’s wedding coincided with the Rugby Sevens weekend and party people were out in full costume. The Wellington Sevens isn’t just about rugby – it’s customary for attendees to go in fancy dress, and judging from the outfits we saw, costume shops all around Wellington must do a roaring trade during that weeend!
That Saturday, Alastair and I headed down to Queens Wharf with Bro and Malcolm (Alastair’s father) to see the Leonard Da Vinci exhibition at the NZ Academy of Fine Art. The exhibition showcased about 60 machine models based on Da Vinci’s original drawings. It was a very interesting exhibition, with the models grouped in themes: war machines, flying machines, nautical and hydraulic machines.
After the exhibition, we stopped at an eatery close by for lunch, which happened to be One Red Dog at Queens Wharf. It was packed full of people going to the Sevens, with about 80% of people in the restaurant in fancy dress.
We ordered two medium pizzas ($21.50 each), an antipasto plate ($28) and a serve of wedges ($9) to share amongst the four of us. When the food came out, I realised that not only was there too much food, but all we had (inadvertently) ordered was carbs and cheese!
The first pizza was the Fastest Indian – a tandoori chicken pizza with red onions, poppadoms, buttered chicken sauce and garlic yoghurt.
The second pizza was the Texan – a spicy chicken pizza with onions, red capsicum, jalapenos, sour cream and chipotle bbq sauce. Erm, how did we end up with two chicken pizzas? I dunno!
And here’s the antipasto plate. Several different types of cheese, grilled pita bread with melted cheese, ham, salami, smoked salmon, pickles, more cheese, olives, more cheese and caperberries. I particularly liked the caperberries.
And the wedges… we so didn’t need the wedges.
Fortunately we got asked if we wanted to take the leftovers, so our extra food wasn’t wasted – plus it meant Bro had pizza for breakfast the next day!
One Red Dog Steamship Building North Queens Wharf Wellington New Zealand Phone: +64 4 918 4723
When Alastair and I went to Wellington the other weekend, my parents happened to be there too and I happily accepted their offer to pick us up from the airport. My folks were staying with family friends, and since Alastair and I had a couple of hours to kill we went to hang out with them for a while.
The whole extended family was also there – and when I say extended family I mean three generations, which includes the grandma, three of her children plus their partners, eight grandchildren, half of whom have boyfriends, and three dogs. And us. In one house.
Everyone was gathered at the house for an early dinner. Alastair and I were meeting his father, Malcolm, for dinner later, so we weren’t planning to eat. At least, that was our intention. We weren’t prepared for the “persuasiveness” of a Chinese grandmother.
We tried to tell her that we ate on the plane, and that we were going out for dinner in an hour but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Eat! Just a small amount! Go on!” We soon figured out that there was no way we were leaving the house without consuming something.
Which may explain why, when we eventually met up with Malcolm, we weren’t that hungry! For dinner, Malcolm had booked us a table at St Johns Bar. Located on the Wellington waterfront, in the 1930s St Johns was an ambulance building, before being converted to a music venue and finally into a bar/restaurant. Inside it was very sleek – with a large dark chocolate timber bar in the middle of the room, and tables and chairs hidden away behind a partition in the back.
As we’d had the mini dinner, we skipped starters and went straight to mains.
Alastair ordered the Duo of Lamb ($34). On the plate were lamb cutlets, served medium rate, and braised lamb shoulder wrapped in rice paper with celeriac puree and redcurrant jus. It looked really good!
Malcolm had the fish of the day, which I think was grouper. He said that it was one of the best fish dishes he’d ever eaten – high praise!
And I ordered the pork belly. The pork belly had a manuka honey glaze and was served with sautéed green beans and fried potatoes ($29). The belly was nicely tender and you could definitely taste the flavour from the manuka honey, which to be honest didn’t really work for me. And the crackling… oh the crackling… see it sitting on top of the pork tower? Doesn’t it look AMAZING? It had the looks, but in reality it was incredibly hard. So hard that I had concerns about breaking my teeth!
(I managed to eat it in the end – I was very careful.)
For dessert, Alastair and I shared a serve of tiramisu. Malcolm ordered the same thing, and he was rather amused by the size of the plate versus the tiramisu. It was admittedly a small portion compared to the plate!
We had a very pleasant catch up with Malcolm – St Johns had a casual, unfussy atmosphere and the food was mostly good.
Details of more Wellington eats to come – including the discovery of my favourite Kiwi ice cream of all time – now in ice block form! Ohmy!
St Johns Bar 5 Cable Street Wellington New Zealand Phone: +64 4 801 8017
As mentioned previously, our weekend was spent in New Zealand for my father in law’s 60th birthday. Alastair’s sisters had organised the weekend, and had kept the fact that we were coming along a surprise. Malcolm was very moved when we showed up, which made the trip completely worth it.
View from a random winery
Alastair’s sisters had booked Macolm’s birthday lunch at a local winery – Wairau River Wines in Blenheim. Blenheim is located near the top of the South Island, in the Marlborough region, which is the largest wine area in New Zealand. Marlborough produces about half of New Zealand wines, with (surprise surprise) Sauvignon blanc being the predominant wine produced.
Lunch was a three course meal with two choices for each course. For entree, Alastair had the Marlborough mussel chowder and toasted herb bread. I stole a taste (as per usual) – it was creamy with chunks of fennel, potatoes and of course, mussels! But I thought that it was just a touch on the salty side.
I had the cauliflower and blue cheese soup with toasted herb bread. Ooooh boy, this was good! It was definitely the better of the two soups. It was super creamy, with a lovely smooth texture, and just a hint of cauliflower and blue cheese. I completely cleaned my bowl!
For mains, Alastair had the individual chicken, leek and tarragon pie with a mixed green leaf salad. Under the pastry lid were large chunks of chicken in a pale sauce. Does anyone else think that the best part of a pie is that skin between the lid and the filling? When Alastair pried off the pastry, he found that skin! Yummo.
I had the smoked fish and potato cakes with a soft boiled egg, proscuitto, caper and parsley salsa and watercress. The fish and potato cakes were soft inside, and slightly crusty on the outside. There was a distinct “smoked fish” flavour and I particularly liked eating the fish cake with a bit of boiled egg.
The desserts were a rhubarb and apple crumble with vanilla ice cream or a crème brulee with poached plums. Both Alastair and I had the crème brulee. It was perfect – the caramel on top cracked under my spoon and the custard underneath was smooth and creamy with specks of vanilla seeds.
Strangely though, other people found all the vanilla seeds all at the bottom of the custard while mine were scattered through the custard. The poached plums were very tart, but good eaten with a bit of custard. I noticed that most people left their plums behind (I ate mine because I’m a glutton).
It was a very pleasant lunch and very filling. So filling that there was no need to eat dinner that evening. And I’m not usually the type to skip dinner (glutton).
Blenheim seemed like a nice town and I’m astounded that I lived in NZ for 20 years and had never been there before. Isn’t that always the way – seeing the country you live in isn’t as attractive as seeing other countries? Fortunately some of Alastair’s family live in Blenheim so I’m sure there will be reason to visit again in the near future!
Wairau River Wines Rapaura Road, RD3, Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand Phone: +64 3 572 7950
We got back yesterday from a very brief three day visit to New Zealand. We were there for a special occasion – to attend Alastair’s father, Malcolm’s, 60th birthday party.
We flew Jetstar (a budget airline) so there’s no plane food to show you, but I do have some random bits from our trip. The flights were okay, but the plane felt very, very cramped. Fortunately it was only a few hours across the ditch and I had freecell and ABC vodcasts to entertain me.
We flew to Christchurch on Saturday morning and had breakfast at Melbourne airport. Once you pass customs, the food options are very limited. It was rather disappointing.
I had a bacon, egg and cheese foccacia ($6.50). Not a very healthy breakfast but it tasted okay and was reasonably priced (for airport food, that is).
Alastair had a chicken pie ($6.50). A pie for breakfast!
Once we reached Christchurch, we picked up a rental car and headed to Blenheim. On the journey there, we stopped in Kaikoura for a late lunch/early dinner.
It was 5.30pm when we reached Kaikoura – and the town was dead. Admittedly, it was wet and cold, so perhaps it was quieter than it would normally be. We decided to eat at a pub called The Whaler, as it was the first one we came across. There was no one in there apart from us and the staff! I imagine that it would be much busier in the warmer months. It was quite a nice place – all dark wood and a blazing fireplace in the middle of the room.
Alastair had the lamb shanks which were braised and served with a sweet pea potato mash with caramelised onion, green beans and jus ($27). It was a whopper of a meal, with two large shanks that had been cooked until the flesh was falling off the bone.
I choose a smaller meal and had the baked catch of the day served on an onion potato cake with a blue cheese and avocado sauce ($15). I don’t know what the fish was (and I didn’t ask) but I wasn’t that taken with it – it had a very firm, heavy flesh, which wasn’t overcooked or dried out but still really solid. It had a strong fishy flavour. Now I wish that I had asked what it was so I can steer clear of it in the future! Anyway, the avocado and blue cheese sauce was good, creamy and with only a hint of blue cheese flavour. The pink stripey thing in the salad had me stumped, but the little salad was good with a sweetish, tangy dressing. (Oh! Google tells me that the pink stripey thing is a Chioggia beet. Gosh I love the internets.)
The Whaler 49-51 West End, Kaikoura 7300, New Zealand Phone: +64 3 319 3333
The next day was Malcolm’s birthday lunch at a winery (post to come), so Alastair and I only had a small breakfast. We opted for a savoury muffin, which was full of bacon, capsicum, cheese and corn. Mhmm tasty. It was pretty good, but would’ve been even better if it had been warm. The red sauce on top was a tangy chutney.
The coffees came with a little biscuit mushroom. Cute!
Giorgios 71 High St, Blenheim, New Zealand Phone: +64 3 578 3828
We left Blenheim the next day, getting up early as we had to drive back to Christchurch. When we got into the car at 7ish, the temperature was -2°C. Brrrr! We went into town and had breakfast at the first open cafe we came across.
Alastair had the open omelette with tomato, rocket and mozzarella ($15).
I had the scrambled eggs with a corn fritter and bavarian sausage ($16). The eggs were fairly light and not overcooked.
The coffee was really very good – the initial taste was quite sour, but it had a aftertaste that was smooth and very pleasant. I had two….
After breakfast we headed back to Christchurch. The road out of Blenheim was quite twisty, and as we drove back on the inside of the mountain I felt the effect of the windiness more than the drive in. The winding road, along with the coffees, and a full stomach from breakfast meant that soon I was feeling a lot less than average. After fighting it for a while, eventually I asked Alastair to pull over – and let’s just say that breakfast tasted a lot worse coming up than it had going down!
It was a shame I was feeling so car sick because the drive back to Christchurch was beautiful, with snow capped mountains and ocean views along the way. We stopped in Kaikoura briefly on the way back to Christchurch. Not a great pic – I blame the car sickness. I was obviously feeling better though because I wanted to take a photo!