Birdwoods Gallery is a cutesie little spot just outside of Havelock North. It is such a great spot to visit when you are showing off Havelock (and the greater HB region) to visitors as it just does everything right. It used to be just a sweet shop (think old school lollies in glass jars, lining the wooden walls in a one room cottage) with an art gallery next door, but over time it has expanded to also include fresh fruit ice cream, a (very large) gift shop, a cafe and an acre or so of grounds with a pond, ducks, and numerous statues to explore.
The cafe offers a small selection of kitchen made goods, a cabinet with some quite large, delicious cakes, tarts and slices and a drinks menu (they are fully licensed). The food is good; we found the pulled pork burger to be tasty but quite small (and not really pulled pork, but it was still yum), the artisan grilled chicken sandwich to be essentially a glorified toastie (which was still nice mind you, albeit a tad overpriced) and the beef and cauli pie to be exceptionally hearty, filling and just downright yum.
There are seating options both inside and out; it was such a beautiful day that we all opted to sit outside. There are blankets available in case the wind picks up, and the inside toilet is well worth a visit! Make sure you save some room dessert – whether it be the cabinet food, the sweet shop next door or a real fruit ice cream; you won’t be disappointed!
Not a bad spot for a catch up with friends. Or a post-work drink. Or a quiz night. Actually, Bethel Woods has a fair bit going for it! It has a super cool buzz, with its southern American decor down pat, a cute rooftop bar upstairs, and plenty going on in the restaurant itself. The soundtrack is always full of bangers, and the menu is reasonably priced with decent food (the quality is not the best, but it is better than average) and okay portions. It’s at the opposite end of town to basically everything else, which makes for a nice change, and it’s know to do host decent functions too. Not somewhere I would go out of my way (personally) to visit, but would never resist the suggestion of going there.
As a massive lover of Mr Go’s and Chow, I was always destined to be a fan of The Old Quarter. Named after the Old Quarter in Hanoi, the menu is exciting, innovative and certainly ‘modern’ Vietnamese. The chef has come from 16 years at Chow, so you can expect food of a similar nature; fresh, funky and delicious.
The Old Quarter is nestled amongst a shoe shop and a Mexican restaurant. It used to be Satay Kajang, a Malaysian BYO restaurant that had certainly seen better days. The Older Quarter is a drastic improvement; it is no longer dark and dingy, rather there are modern comfortable booths, bold wall decor a bright, bustling atmosphere. The staff are friendly, happy and attentive, more than willing to offer their recommendations for dishes and serving sizes.
The menu was broken up into sections (bao, curries, salads etc) and you should expect to pay between $14 and $20 for most of the dishes. We were advised that the array of food we had ordered would be ample; which was a shame because I would have quite happily ordered more. Between us we ordered the pork bao, the crab bao, the cashew peking duck, the salt and pepper calamari and the pork three ways (spring rolls, patties, and fried).
I’m one of the world’s biggest fans of bao, and this bao was no exception. The crab was exceptional (I had been unsure about it when we ordered it) but the spicy mayo really cut through the richness of the fried crab. The pork was incredibly flavoursome, and the coriander finished it off perfectly. The other meals were all great too.
If you are in the mood, there is a bunch of cocktails available (including a vietnamese espresso martini) and a decent sized dessert list. We wanted dessert, but there was no way we were going to be able to fit it in. Maybe next time!
Yum, yum, yum, this place has the goods! People had told me that it was a good place to visit out in Petone, but I never really paid any attention until we spontaneously decided to go. This place is seriously awesome! It was like a big Italian warehouse, with so much happening and so much to look at, all at once! The walls are thoroughly decorated with all things Italian, and there is different tills lining the wall; there is the pizza man, the coffee man, the meats and cheeses man, the desserts… the list goes on. AND, on the other side there are a few shelves of Italian goods, if you want to transport yourself to an Italian supermarket.
The menu is authentic (there are plenty of Italian words used throughout!) and not too badly priced. The staff are lovely, charismatic and passionate about the food (like all good Italians). Both the pizza and the pasta dishes are of decent portion sizes; I had wanted dessert so badly but just absolutely could not fit it in.
This place is DEFINITELY worth your time. Even better, it’s not just a restaurant AND supermarket AND mini Italian museum, they also offer cooking classes and plenty of events. WOW.
For a romantic getaway, Raumati is just the place. There is so much more going on here than anyone ever told me, and if I knew we would have made this trip a whole lot sooner.
For a romantic (and delicious) date night, I highly recommend Thai Lagoon. The staff are so accommodating and fuss over you just to make sure everything is perfect. The prices are really reasonable, and the portion sizes were decent. We had a great time choosing our order, because the menu was typically huge. This was seriously some of the nicest Thai I have had in a long time, and I certainly didn’t expect to find it in Raumati!
Make sure you book, because the Saturday night we went it was literally booked out.
Oh how I do love Franks. It’s exactly the sort of place I picture when I want to go somewhere spacious, light and zen-feeling to blog. Unfortunately for me, it’s at the opposite end of town to where I work so I don’t often make it here (Lucky for me though, I have been on secondment ON The Terrace for the last few weeks, and because it’s so short term, I make every excuse to visit Franks!). It’s deceptively small downstairs; when you walk in, more often then not there is a queue of people lining up at the teeny weeny counter. That teeny weeny counter though is always covered in several delicious looking donuts, and other delectable treats (but the highlight is the donuts!). This is the extent of the menu, so get in quick. After making your order, head upstairs to where it is far more spacious (although still quite a small spot overall) and take a seat. There is one big shared table, and a number of smaller ones. Franks is funky, tasty and in my experience, the staff are always super friendly. Highly recommend!
I absolutely ADORE the muesli my mum makes. I have tried so many times to replicate, because surely, how hard can muesli be! And although I have made loads of delicious muesli in my time, none of them ever seem to replicate what my mum makes. Finally, I managed to coax the recipe out of here, and part of the reason I actually wanted to post it up here is so that I can never lose it again. I made it yesterday, and after this weekend is over I’m going to have to start rationing it if I want it to last (because mind you, it’s pretty darn expensive to make!). Of course, if you use this recipe you can mix it up as you like – for example swapping out the apricots for other dried fruit, or including extra nuts and seeds.
5 c rolled oats (the whole-meal ones are great, slightly more chunky than just the plain ones I would normally use for porridge)
2 c bran
2 c long threaded coconut
1/4 c honey
1/2 c rice bran oil (or olive oil is fine)
1 c dried fruit (I use apricot)
1 c chopped nuts (I mainly use almonds and cashews, with a few hazelnuts/walnuts/macadamias thrown in for good measure)
1/4 c pumpkin seeds
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1/8 c sesame seeds
Set oven to 150°C fan bake/grill.
In a baking dish add the rolled outs, the bran and the coconut. Melt the honey, add the oil and pour the mixture over the baking dish. Toast until golden.
Take out and add dried fruit, seeds and nuts. Add back to the oven but keep a very close eye on it so that it doesn’t burn!
Jano Bistro is somewhere I have only been twice, and both occasions have been for Wellington on a Plate. After they were shortlisted as a finalist last year (and eventually going on to win the Festival Dish award) we really wanted to eat there and were so delighted with our meal that I couldn’t wait to go back in 2017. I went with different friends this time, none of which who had been to Jano before. Between the four of us, we basically ordered two of everything in the menu below, and shared where we could.
The choice of tinned spaghetti or At the Beach (feat seafood)… interesting. I was unconvinced before we went there, but was intrigued to try both nevertheless. I ended up favouring the seafood dish (somewhat surprisingly actually), which had cured salmon, a corn and saffron broth, and rēwena bread croutons. It was absolutely delicious, and the small amount of paua present gave me the opportunity to try it (chewy) without it being too overbearing on the dish. The tinned spaghetti was also very tasty, very creamy and the truffle flavour was quite strong. It came with a transparent tomato jelly disc (it kind of looked like a contact lens!) which was a peculiar addition.
The Festival Dish was vegetarian (again). It had spectacular presentation, it really did look like a BBQ. The beetroot and chickpea sausage rolled in quinoa was absolutely mouthwatering. The L&P dipping sauce, and L&P jelly cubes were both unique; tasty, and it was nice to have something to dip the sausage into (even if it did just taste like L&P). There was an absolute excess of beetroot in the dish, which meant that it certainly wouldn’t appeal to everyone (it didn’t at our table anyway). I personally really rated the dish, all of the elements sat nicely together.
The other option was the Friday night takeout. This dish sure made up in meat where the other option lacked! There was a deep-fried chicken croquette (which was my favourite element on the plate), a potato puree (oh-so-silky), a dried crispy noodle, a kimchi slaw (which was in fact quite potent, some of the others didn’t like it) and a chicken galantine with a crispy topping.
As per usual, dessert for me was the real winner on the night. The Soy Flat White was absolutely, positively incredible, and the pavlova was tasty and beautiful and all things great. At the start of the night they asked us for our names, and when the coffee came out with our names written on it, we understood why! The bottom layer of the flat white was a chocolate ganache, topped with chocolate puffed rice and finished off with a coffee and soy mousse. It came with a piece of coffee and chocolate brownie, which was so rich and fudgey it virtually melted in your mouth!
The pavlova was a sphere, filled with manuka honey ice-cream and surrounded by a almond crumble. The pavlova itself was kawakawa flavoured, meaning that overall the dessert was very light feeling and fresh tasting. Although I am definitely a chocolate kid, and the idea of the flat white was epic, I think this dessert sat with me the best. 10/10 on all counts for both desserts!
It was a great night at Jano. The food was yummy, the portions were possibly a bit small (the eternal problem with fine-dining!) but the staff were super lovely and engaging. It is such a cute spot, that I really would like to eat there on an occasion that isn’t just WOAP!
Wellington on a Plate 2017: boy that sure rolled around fast. This year, my focus was more on burgers than the events, although I did make a trip to Jano to experience their Dine Menu (as the Festival Dish winners last year, it felt rude not to!). Below is a brief summary of the eight burgers I indulged in, in ascending order.
Coming in at last place (or 8th in this case) was The Library. It was the only burger I had that was genuinely disappointing. After seeing photo of its supposed decadence blasted across social media, it was underwhelming to get the burger in real life and find that it was basically just chocolate flavoured bread with what felt like Neapolitan ice-cream. All the extras were present in such minuscule amounts we actually had trouble identifying them. It would have been better if it had cost $11, but the $19 we paid was just too much. Rating: 3/10
Seventh place is WBC. Somewhat hard to believe (and it actually received a highly recommended in the official competition), because I did really enjoy the burger. The flavours were bang on, and the chips were well seasoned and tasty. The only problem was there was only about 4 of them! Also I wasn’t entirely sold on the pork patty – somewhere between a glamorous pork schnitzel and a mince patty… it was nice, but maybe it could have been nicer. I also had the dessert, and in classic WBC style the dish was quirky and interesting with Asian influence. I was fascinated by the dessert with every mouthful! Rating: 6/10
Another burger whose flavours really hit the mark was the Haiku burger from The Ramen Shop (this place just continues to please!). Using Longbush Free Range Pork in a bao bun, it was basically like eating an over-sized dumpling! The textures teetered dangerously close to being too mushy, but thankfully the picked veges saved it by adding that essential crunch. I did hear feedback from others though that thought the texture just lacked, and I could see why. This was the first savoury burger, and at $14 I thought it was finish the competition ranked a whole lot higher than it did. Rating: 7/10.
Dillingers provided a pleasant burger and it slotted right in at number 5. Yet another pork burger (and it’s certainly not the last) this was on my short list of 5 based on description only going into the competition, so it was nice to see it retain its top five ranking after tasting. The bacon mayonnaise was delicious, I just thought the burger itself was a little small (the hearty portion of shoestring fries ensured we didn’t walk away hungry though) and the beer match was not quite as good as some of the others I had. Rating: 7.2/10
Last years winning beer and burger match sure put up a good fight for a repeat. Laundry never fails to please, especially when it comes to burgers. The Garage Project Hazelnut Bruin appealed from the get-go, and followed through nicely. The pork burger came with candied bacon and so many fries (unfortunately I didn’t really think the fries were particularly nice) but the beer battered pickles were a real winner. Very much a hearty American style burger, the flavours combined well. Rating: 8/10
In similar fashion, Five & Dime’s Impossible Burger was the epitome of an American cheeseburger with a hearty patty, gherkins and oh-so-much cheese. The only catch: the burger was completely vegetarian! To be perfectly honest, I went to Five & Dime too late to receive the actual Impossible Burger, instead we received the Not-So-Impossible Burger. No qualms though; it was the only burger I ate that made the official WOAP Top 5, and I can understand why all the vegetarians would have voted for it. It would sit higher on my list, except that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of cheesy greasy burgers. Having visited with my sweet-toothed gal pals, of course we got the dessert to finish! Each flavour and texture of the dish was perfect, similar to WBC’s dessert it had Asian influence, and was quirky and delicious. I just wish there had been more! Rating 8.5/10
Silver medal is awarded to Bebemos. Admittedly I’m considering more than just the burger itself (which was still pretty good) when I give it this rating, but the entire experience was absolutely epic, from start to finish. Done in good ol’ fashioned Happy Meal style, it came in a Garage Project Hapi Daze themed box, with everything individually wrapped, just as McDonald’s would. Convenient for Bebemos too, minimal dishes! The burger tasted like a home-made burger, with a fresh bun and a big dense patty (pork, but to me it tasted like beef), and it came with (sub-par) shoestrings and Hapi Daze beer battered nuggets. Also, we can’t forget the toy! Kudos to Bebemos who must have sourced goodness knows how many old school toys from back in the day. To finish up, we all got a soft serve ice-cream – and in a waffle cone too! Rating: 9/10
Overall winner (in my humble opinion) for the 2017 WOAP burger award goes to Neo. A pulled pork burger may be a simple concept nowadays, but when it’s done right, it is certainly hard to beat. And boy oh boy, Neo did it right. The chips were yum and the burger was better. The slaw was so fresh and delicious (the apple is just the best addition). Hopefully Neo keeps this burger around for awhile, because I highly recommend y’all try it and I know I’ll be keen for round two! Rating: 9.5/10