Have you heard about the Wellington pop up restaurant? In Melbourne for two weeks only, it’s a little taste of Wellington, New Zealand, in the form of a three course meal. As soon as the tickets were released, I pounced on them and booked a table. Why was I so keen? Well, as long time readers of this blog will know, Alastair, Bro and I all grew up in Wellington. Yes, I am a kiwi (ex-kiwi?) and I still have a soft spot for my old hometown.
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
On our last evening in Wellington during our long weekend there, we met up with Alastair’s father, Malcolm, for dinner. He booked Zibibbo, located on Taranaki Street in the old Police Station building.
Alastair and I rocked up a bit early, and headed upstairs to the restaurant. There was some confusion about whether it was too early for us to be seated. We offered to go downstairs for a drink, but were told somewhat vaguely that it was fine.
Our table was located just beyond the entrance and in front of the kitchen. It was a rather draughty position to sit in, and I felt cold the entire evening!
Alastair and I shared one of the specials for our starter – Bluff oysters ($25 for 6, $45 for 12). We opted to have them natural (the other option was battered and deep fried) and they came with a bowl of tangy thousand islandish sauce and buttered brown bread. The Bluff oyster season starts around March each year, and it is eagerly anticipated by oyster lovers. I never liked oysters when I lived in NZ, and I think it’s because of Bluff oysters. They just don’t seem to excite me! They were very popular though and these were okay, although unexciting (to me) – I saw many, many plates of oysters leave the kitchen.
For mains, Alastair and I both choose lamb. This was a brioche crumbed braised lamb with salsa verde and thyme jus ($29.00). It was an interesting way of serving lamb. The very tender braised meat was shaped into a log, covered in brioche crumbs and baked (I think). The tenderness of the lamb was very enjoyable, but I found that the meat and the jus were a touch too salty. The creamy mashed potato on the side helped with the saltiness though.
For desserts, I had the vanilla bean pannacotta with poached apricots ($14) and Alastair had the blueberry crème brulee with lemon financier ($13.50). The pannacotta was great – creamy and silky with little specks of vanilla seeds, and the poached apricots were a nice fruity contrast.
Alastair’s crème brulee was mostly good too, although I noticed some spots on the top had gone past caramelisation and were actually burnt. He ate his blueberries but left behind the lemon financier. I took a bite, and found it light and zesty. Malcolm had the chocolate fondant cake and he said that it was one of the best chocolate cakes he had eaten. High praise indeed!
All in all, it was a mostly good meal. Service seemed a tad distracted, and we found it hard to flag someone down to order coffees after our desserts were cleared.
When we left, I realised why I had been so cold the entire evening. The weather had completely changed from when we had entered – there was a bitterly cold wind blowing and whipping the heavy rain sideways into us as we walked to the car. Ahh yes. This was the kind of weather I had been expecting during our visit. Wellington, I love you, but I sure as hell don’t miss the weather.
Zibibbo 25 Taranaki Street Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand Phone: +64 4 385 6650
After drinks and cheerios, we felt a bit peckish. Since we were already at the Southern Cross, we took the easy option and decided to eat there.
We asked for a table in the dining area, and unfortunately got seated in the darkest corner of the room, so excuse the shite pics! The “stone grilled” section of the menu intrigued us – you choose your desired meat/s, plus chips/potatoes and salad/green vege. The meat comes out on a slab of volcanic rock, letting you cook it to your liking. Gimmicky? Probably…. but we are suckers for a gimmick!
Alastair and I shared the “A Taste of the Cross” ($58, serves 2). My eyes widened when our petite waitress appeared carrying our meal – a plank of wood about one metre in length, on top of which was bread, dips, a bowl of nuts, a bowl of olives, the volcanic rock, potatoes and vegetables, smoked salmon, avocado, salad and a cup of pulled pork. On top of the slab of heated rock were two pieces of completely raw rump steak, two mussels, two oysters and two spoons holding scallops.
The meat sizzled away on the extremely hot rock and the seafood sat quietly cooking. Unfortunately I was overcome by the novelty of the big plank being plonked on to our table, plus was um… taking pictures, and only noticed the oysters after they had been on the hot rock for a couple of minutes. It was long enough for them to cook. Gak. While the meat was cooking, we ate the mussels and scallops. Well, I ate a scallop. Alastair dropped his one on the floor!
The rosemary roast potatoes were okay (although I must confess that I very rarely dislike potatoes!) but didn’t have much rosemary flavour. The green vegetables were okay too, although a couple of the green beans had some brownish spots.
We only nibbled at the bread and dips. I think one dip was capsicum and despite appearances one seemed to be blue cheese. There were also olives that were marinated with preserved orange. I wasn’t really a fan of the preserved orange and left the olives after trying one. I did eat most of the bowl of mixed nuts though.
The pulled pork came in a ice cream sundae cup, and it was spiced and smokey. There was a bit too much food though, and we didn’t eat much of the pork.
When we had finished eating, the rock was still hot, so we sat and chatted and plonked random things on the slab. Naturally we had to ask about the rocks, and found out that they are heated in a kiln for several hours. They can cook for 30 minutes and stay hot for an hour and a half!
It was a fun meal and definitely a gimmick worth trying at least once.
The Southern Cross 35 Abel Smith Street, Te Aro Wellington, New Zealand Phone: +64 4 384 9085
Alastair and I flew into Wellington on Friday morning for a long weekend. It was a very busy one – we attended a wedding, had a couple of drinks with friends, had dinner with Alastair’s dad, and went to a wedding lunch, a wedding dinner, a day after wedding lunch, day after wedding drinks, plus many, many walks (in high heels) up the stupid hill to our hotel on the Terrace.
Wellington from the Majestic Centre
Somewhere in the middle of all that stuff, we managed to have a quick walk around Wellington. I hadn’t been back in almost four years, and wasn’t terribly surprised to find that not much had changed since my last visit. Most of the shops and restaurants were still the same, the bucket fountain was still there, and it was still windy.
On Friday, after a quick sleep, we met up with mum and dad to give them some tech support. They had especially brought their laptops down from Auckland, and Alastair patiently answered all their questions (sucks to be the IT guy, huh?). Alastair needed a bit of strength first though, so we walked down the road to get a coffee. We walked into a place that looked cool and hip, and Alastair went up to the counter to order us some coffees. I’m not sure what the problem was, but he had issues ordering a latte – maybe it was the accent, or perhaps the guy was new, but eventually Alastair had to flag down someone else to place the order!
The picture above wasn’t from the place in question. This coffee was at Old Bank Arcade on Lambton Quay. We had a quick bite to eat there before going to the wedding ceremony. The coffee was good and we returned on Sunday morning. I felt like a soy latte on that morning and although I didn’t take a photo it was the BEST soy latte I’ve ever had. It tasted like chocolate, caramel and soy. Yum.
At the Old Bank Arcade, I had a smoked salmon and rye bagel for breakfast. I did take the pickle out and eat that first though.
On the soy latte day, I had a mushroom croissant. Alastair had a danish on both days.
On Friday evening, we caught up with one of my friends for a drink. She suggested the Southern Cross. Later that evening, we met up with one of Alastair’s friends. He made it super easy for us by suggesting that we meet at Southern Cross. And where was the day after wedding drinks held? Yup, the Southern Cross!
While there we wanted something to nibble on before dinner. Normally we would get a bowl of hot chips, but then we discovered you can buy a bowl of cheerios – so cheerios it was! It made me think of birthday parties that I attended as a youngster where cheerios and tomato sauce would always be served.
These photos were taken from the 28th floor of the Majestic Centre, Wellington’s highest building. There’s no public viewing facilities in the building – we were there for the wedding cocktail luncheon. The view from up there is gorgeous. The room that the function was held in appeared to be a meeting room – what a waste of a view!