Delhi

Delhi

Talk about a smack in the face. Or maybe something slightly more pleasant; a bucket of ice cold water tipped over you on a really hot day – an idea which would actually go down a real treat on your typical day in Delhi. This is India at one of its most extremes, and because this is where a lot of tourists begin or end their Indian journey, it tends to have a lasting impression – and often not a good one.

Home to over 20 million people, as well as the infamous Delhi-belly, Delhi is fast-paced, dirty and at times extremely frustrating. Traffic is dense, scams are aplenty and it is extremely hot and crowded. Dig a little deeper however, and you can see that the city is almost certainly underrated. With good food, abundant shopping and a rich culture, Delhi is certainly a well-intentioned capital, and a place that should be approached with an open mind.

 

The city is full of enchanting sights, and below is a short list of some of the must-dos while in Delhi:

Qutab Minar: It costs 500R to get in as a tourist (vs. 30R for Indians!), and at 73m high it is the tallest brick minaret in the world, and the second tallest minar in India. It is about an hours’ drive from the city and I would recommend you allow yourself at least 1.5 hours to explore. There are a few coffee shops at the end of the road if you need replenishing.

Red Fort: A historical fort that served as the main residence of the Mughal emperors for nearly 200 years. It pays to keep your ticket beyond entry at these kinds of places, because there is a tendency to inspect tourists randomly for tickets.

Humayun’s Tomb: 500R entry fee (again, 30R if you are a local). So far, this list is three from three UNESCO World Heritage Sites (these are the only three in Delhi) and this one was by far my favourite. The place is massive; contrary to what the name suggests, Humayun’s Tomb actually consists of massive grounds, with beautiful structures. The tomb of Humayun (a Mughal Emperor) is actually probably the least exciting part of the whole place.

The architectural splendour that is the President’s Residence. Not far from town, and virtually overlooking the India Gate, the residence (formally known as Rashtrapati Bharan) has over 300 rooms. Security is high; as tourists we weren’t allowed to stop and get out of the car, we just slowed to a crawl so that we could take in its beauty and steal some snaps, but we had to keep driving.

The India Gate is a monument (just a monument), but I suppose you can call it spectacular. Fortunately there is no entry fee, but instead you will be greeted by stacks and stacks of vendors – selling all kinds of trinkets and food, from toys to grilled corn, to handbags and sweet potato. There is something for everyone, so prepared to be pestered. The earlier in the day you go, the smaller the crowds will be – by quite a significant difference, actually.

Old Delhi: check out India’s Muslim history and Jama Masjid Mosque – which is the largest mosque in India.

The Lotus Temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship, which serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian sub-continent. This means that the temple is somewhere that anyone can go and worship – the particular religion does not matter. It is absolutely stunning as a structure; it is shaped perfectly like a lotus flower. Unfortunately it was closed on the day we went, so we could only view it from a distance.

Shopping. The Dilli Haat Market offers textiles and trinkets. There is an entry fee, but once inside you will find yourself at a massive open air food plaza and craft bazaar. So many colours, smells, noises and even textures! Something to be cautious of during your Delhi adventures is locals doing anything they can to get you to their emporiums. Probably for a commission, tuk-tuk drivers and chatty people on the street are all about getting you to visit their ‘brother’s shop’ for a ‘quick look’. Unfortunately we had a nasty experience with our tuk-tuk driver, who after about 3 stops at various emporiums we had to make it very clear that we weren’t interested in shopping (it was day one of our holiday and our only full day in Delhi) and he got very grumpy and just dropped us home without taking us to any of the other stops.

New Delhi’s Shri Lakshmi Narain Temple (Birla Temple). A beautiful temple in New Delhi that made me feel as though I was wandering through some kind of candy land out of Willy Wonka- the place was absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos (but I took one of the outside), and because it is a Hindu temple you are not allowed to wear shoes. Despite a massive sign saying “no tips”, rest assured you will be asked for a tip for the storage of your shoes.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib: number one place to visit on Trip Advisor, and with good reason. There is a special room for tourists to leave their shoes in (sounds like a scam to me!). We learnt that it was polite to walk in a clockwise direction, and it was certainly easiest to move with the people than against. There is a big beautiful man-made lake right outside the temple itself. Because it is a Sikh house of worship, it is essential that no hair is showing, so don’t forget your headscarf!

 

Give Delhi a chance… but I still wouldn’t recommend staying more than 2 nights there. I think the best way to do it is to write a list of all the things you want to do (using my list as a base is a great place to start) and then hire a tuk-tuk/driver to see them (possible a tuk-tuk for the inner city sights and a driver for when you head further afield).

Potato Bake

Potato Bake

This is not just your boring old potato bake. This potato bake is oozing with cheese, with creaminess, and some good ol’ fashioned ‘erbs. It is so ridiculously tasty that I swear I coudl just eat it as a main dish, but I try not to, and to date, have only made it as a side. It’s cheap and easy, but you do have to allow a bit of time for the potatoes to bake in the oven.

Collect

  • 1 kg floury potatoes (I would recommend Agria), peeled or scrubbed
  • 50 g butter
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 stalks fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 T chopped thyme (fresh)
  • 1.5 c cheese, grated
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 c cream
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c chopped chives (fresh)
  • 1.5 T cornflour mixed with 2 T milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 c grated Parmesan

Create

  1. 160°C fan-bake. Grease a baking dish.
  2. Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water for about 15 minutes or until they are 3/4 cooked. Allow them to cool slightly before slicing.
  3. Heat the butter in a pan, add hte onion and cook until soft. Add the rosemary and thyme.
  4. Layer the bottom of the dish with potato and sprinkle with grated cheese and onion mixture. Repeat, layering the potato, cheese and onions (make sure the cheese is the top layer).
  5. Add the milk, cream, mustard, chives, cornflour mixutre, salt and pepper to a bowl and whisk to combine. Pour over the potatoes and and sprinkle with the Parmesan.
  6. Cover the dish with foil and pierce the foil in the few places to allow any steam to escape.
  7. Bake in the oven for appoximately one hour. Remove the foil and turn the temperature up to 190°C for about 15 minutes until the cheese on top is golden brown and bubbling.
Terra Mia

Terra Mia

Terra Mia (28 Buckingham Street)

We smelt this place before we could see it, and it was pretty hard to go past once we had got that whiff. We opened the door for a peek, and were greeted by a series of ‘Ciaos!’ and a wonderful cabinet display of sweet and savoury pastries and cakes. There is a range of items on the menu; for a lighter, more inexpesnive option I would recommend the paninis (of which there were numerous flavours, or you could design your own) or if you don’t mind the splurge, the pizzas are fantastic! We opted to mix it up and share a pulled pork and mozarella pastry with a pizza. The baze of the pizza was perfect – crunch and doughy and chewy but not too heavy. We also ordered coffees, and as per usual the All Press beans delivered. At the back of the restaurant there is a wee shop with a few different pastas and sauces available for purchase. Apparently Terra Mia hosts a few different events, for example a table at the Long Lunch as well as a regular gnocchi night are both items on their agenda!

Kobe (Millbrook Resort)

Kobe (Millbrook Resort)

Kobe (Millbrook Resort, Malaghans Road)

Millbrook Resort is such a perfect getaway. With everything from golf courses (yes, plural), tennis courts, cafes and restaurants, a gym and pool, function facilities – it really is a one-stop shop. Although I haven’t spent much time there other than at the gym, tennis court and driving range, I can finally say that I have ticked off one of their eateries. Kobe it was, and Kobe did not disappoint.

The decor of Kobe is unlike anywhere I have ever been before. I loved it from the moment I set foot inside. Wooden ceilings, beams and loads of natural light, Kobe has the interior feel of a really modern bach or studio. The chefs are cooking in front of everyone, (there are tables that directly face them) and their backdrop is the glorious snowy (depending on the time of year) mountains behind. It is positively gorgeous! Decor: 10/10

The menu is modern Asian, and there are a few European options with simple Asian twists. The plates are designed for sharing, and basically my only criticism is that even though in theory they can be shared, the dishes on the plate are not particularly great for sharing at all, unless there is only two of you. As a group of 5, we found it really difficult trying to taste each individual component of a dish, because there just wasn’t enough the way the meals were arranged. However, everything was delicious; I would really recommend the duck! Taste: 9/10

The duck, my favourite!

The staff were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable of the menu (excusing the advice to share) and suggested that we put some of the food we were ordering on hold because it looked like we had ordered a lot (don’t worry, we got through it!). Overall it was a really enjoyable experience, and although there are places in Arrowtown that I like more, I would have no hesitation in going back.

 

Tanuki’s Cave

Tanuki’s Cave

Tanuki’s Cave (319b Queen Street)

Japanese food, cheap, quirky and convenient – what more could one ask for?! At the upper end of Queen Street, Tanuki’s Cave is a great spot for a pre-dinner show, evening snack or late night visit. It’s grungy, dark and vibrant. Most of the tables are seated around the bar, so I wouldn’t recommend it for big groups unless you can book a table in advance (because you are sitting in a line, next to the people you came with). There is a range of sake’s, beers and wines as well as a few non-alcoholic drinks, and a large menu where everything is priced around $6 – $15. Lots of the dishes come out on skewers, so make for great sharing. The food comes out quickly, so I would recommend ordering a few things between you and just adding on as the food comes out. Make sure you go downstairs when you visit, because there is also a restaurant upstairs. My favourite: the deep-fried chicken and cheese balls (pictured above)!

Olaf’s Artisan Bakery

Olaf’s Artisan Bakery

Olaf’s (1 Stokes Road, Mt Eden)

Tucked off Mt Eden’s main street, Olaf’s is an artisan bakery serving a range of baked goods and coffee to eat in or take away. The cabinet has a range of fancy and not so fancy cakes, tarts and baguettes, and the shelving behind the till is stacked high with loaves of fresh bread. The atmosphere is unusually stiff, I find it a little (unintentionally) formal, but you don’t really notice it so much when the place is full. It serves wonderful coffee, so it’s great spot to go for coffee and cake, and it is certainly somewhere that I would often go to meet friends for a catch-up as it tends to be easy to get a table.

Circus Circus

Circus Circus

Circus Circus (447 Mt Eden Road)

And a carnival themed cafe it is. Large, loud and festive, Circus Circus may seem small when you first walk in, but not dissimilar to a circus tent, it is deceptive and enormous inside. You’ll be greeted by a tall skinny cabinet, filled with large slices of a variety of cakes as well as some savoury goodies as well. The cheesecakes all come highly recommended!

The menu is large and reasonably priced. There is something for everybody on the menu, and the portions are decently sized. We had the chicken burger with fries as well as the chicken curry and we barely had room for dessert! The coffee was also good.

The place is extremely family friendly so there were lots of children running about. The place was big enough though that you barely noticed them! It had a busy vibe, I really liked it but I probably wouldn’t come here if I was after some peace and quiet.

XuXu Dumpling Bar

XuXu Dumpling Bar

XuXu Dumpling Bar (Corner of Galway and Commerce Streets)

Talk about a secret little hideaway. This place is in such a central location, yet it is such an easy place to miss. Right across the road from the Britomart Train Station, it makes for not just a delicious stop, but a convenient stop – especially as the food comes out extremely quickly. My partner and I stopped in on our way to Matilda the Musical, and boy were we in for a treat. The cocktail menu is large (albeit pricey), each sounding just as delicious as the next. The dumpling menu was exciting too; quite a few to choose from. Ironically, our favourite savoury dish of the night was the pork steamed buns – they were so hot and flavoursome we had to really resist ordering more.

I would aim to save a little spot in your tummy for dessert, because the dessert dumplings are not just unique, they are also delicious! We tried the chocolate fondue dumplings (which are pictured above, and were designed to look like little mandarins), made from a kumara (/sweet potato) pastry and had decadent chocolate ooziness inside. Believe it or not, the banoffee dumplings actually took the win in terms of taste (also pictured above), the little pieces of fresh banana combined with the sweet caramel were of just the right consistency to create a bite full of goodness!

Cafe Hanoi

Cafe Hanoi

Cafe Hanoi (Commerce Street)

Cafe Hanoi is in a great location; tucked away in the Excelsior Building right down in the heart of Britomart. It’s extremely inconspicuous; it would be too easy to walk straight past and not realise you had done so, if not for the Cafe Hanoi sign on the front door.

It’s vibe is fast, funky and fresh. The tables are relatively crammed, but the place still has the feel of being spacious. The menu is fun; designed for sharing, there are a range of smaller plates and larger dishes, accompanied by an extensive drinks menu with loads of cocktails and also plenty of dessert options for afterwards.

As is common with Asian fusion style restaurants, the menu is quite pricey, but when you go in a group of four or five, you certainly get to try a fair few dishes for the price that you pay. Pictured in my photos are the rice paper rolls, which were well constructed and came with a tasty dipping sauce; the vegetarian curry, which had the most delicious sauce and included some interesting vegetables within; and, last but not least, the cinnamon donuts, which at $2.50 a piece, were an absolute steal. They were so hot, cinnamony and doughy, plus the sauce was so tasty it could have been eaten just by itself. Yum!

 

Pickle and Pie

Pickle and Pie

Pickle and Pie (2 Lombard Street)

Described by the place itself as a ‘take on a NYC delicatessen’, Pickle and Pie admittedly doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Located on Lombard Lane (oppose La Maison coffee), a small alley way whose development has been severely hindered by the continual scaffolding that seems to surround the street (but which has now finally gone), its interior is light, spacious and breezy.

It is open from 7am – 7pm, enabling itself to be an option for both breakfast and early dinner, as well as coffee, lunch and snacks throughout the day. The menu is small, but still rather accommodating, with a range of pies, salads, cakes and tarts, and sides such as pastrami fries. There is also a ‘dinner of the day’ which gets annoucned via Facebook each day at 3pm. If you really like the food, there is a shelving unit encasing a wide range of pickles, chutneys and condiments available for purchase; all of which sound equally as delicious as the last.

It was more expensive than I would have liked, for example a pie was $10, and to add mash it was a further $10. However, when my partner and I visited, we shared a pie (without mash, duh), the halloumi salad, the pastrami fries and a pecan pie for dessert and overall it came to under $20 each. All in all, a good spot, great for catching up with people and a welcome addition to the area.