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Category: Local Cuisine

Little Penang

Little Penang

Little Penang (40 Dixon Street)

I don’t think it would be an outrageous call to state that Little Penang is basically a Wellington institution. Located in the heart of the city, Little Penang has made a name for itself by serving extremely cheap, hearty and delicious Malaysian food. It doesn’t serve alcohol, but the atmosphere is always so vibrant and loud that you would never guess that was the case (until you tried to order some of course!).

These days there are two Little Penangs – one is located up on The Terrace, conveniently placed to nab those CBD workers during their lunch breaks, and of course the other is on Dixon Street. At both locations you are greeted upon entry by a huge blackboard with the basis of their menu written up in chalk. There is also hard copy menus available if you prefer.

For absolute cheapness, I would recommend the curry and roti option – it is less than $10 at both locations! (I have noticed that the prices on The Terrace are slightly higher than those at the Dixon Street branch.) There is a variety of curries available, both vegetarian and meat options and varying levels of heat. The cabinet food, especially the pork steamed buns are tasty and cheap. I always find it hard to go past the noodle dishes, which at $13.90 are an absolute steal, because I almost always get lunch out of it the next day too. If you are feeling like dessert, the pandan cake is pretty good (coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of Asian desserts).

My boyfriend has spent almost two years in Wellington and had somehow (it still baffles me how this happened) missed every single opportunity he had to go to Little Penang. We are currently doing alphabet dating, and for my J date I took him to Little Penang “JUST ‘coz” I thought it was basically a crime he hadn’t been there already!

Goldmine

Goldmine

Goldmine (171 Willis Street)

Prepare yourself for a somewhat mixed review. I think my high expectations are what let me down, because overall I suppose you could say the place was pretty good. Owned by the masters at Lamason, Goldmine is yet another CBD venture that has recently opened its doors. It has a very pleasing aesthetic, the food was well presented, and the staff were beyond friendly. My only concerns were the taste of the food itself… and the grammar on the menu (kind of kidding, but not really).

There was a large group of us that went for breakfast the other morning. Now, the brunch/lunch menu looked absolutely fantastic; it had everything on it you would expect to see on that of a hip Wellington cafe’s (think Buddha bowl, smashed avo on toast, Korean glazed chicken burger for example). But the breakfast menu was a little bit disappointing; beyond bacon and eggs, pancakes, and the classic granola and chia bowls, I thought it was a little un-imaginative (again, maybe it was just my high expectations). Fortunately, the staff were extremely accommodating and let a few of us order off the brunch menu (despite being 7.30am on a Tuesday), and even let two of the girls order chilli eggs (a dish that had previously been on the menu, but a revamp of the menu saw it removed), which is an outstanding dish. I had mushrooms on toast with hash – the hash was divine, but the mushrooms were under-sauteed and lacked creaminess. The pancakes were the low-light of the morning though – the maple syrup to pancake ratio was basically non-existent, which created for some serious stodge. The portion sizes were decent though!

The scones in the cabinet looked delicious, and given that the coffee was good I think there is a high chance that I will give it another go. Maybe I’ll go at lunch time and indulge in some smashed avo!

Goa

Goa

Described by Lonely Planet as a cocktail of sun, sand and spices, it breaks my heart to say that I was somewhat disappointed by Goa. I think that the reason for this was not necessarily due to Goa itself, rather it was just a run of bad luck for us (a combination of not enough time, atrocious traffic and poor accommodation choices being the main factors). Although we absolutely tried to make the best of a bad situation, I still don’t think I’ll be rushing back there anytime soon.

We were told that Goa International Airport was about an hour from Goa. We must have struck hideous traffic, because it took us well over an hour and a half to reach our accommodation. Our hotel, Alor Holiday Resort, was subpar, and you had to pay for wifi. We were staying near Calangute Beach, so we headed down there for sunset. Now people say that Goa’s golden sand beaches are the best for miles around. There are many different beaches stretching along the coast, each with its own reputation. Calangute (where we stayed), along with Baga, is famed for its cashed-up tourists (just what I wanted to hear!). It is supposedly a party area and by night the markets are very vibrant and a mass of colour, with vendors selling almost everything you can think of. The beach itself was (surprisingly) lovely though, a great place to watch the sun go down. The night was completed by an absolutely mouth-watering meal at Souza Lobo (the kadai chicken I ordered was fantastic, and the desserts were even better).

Unfortunately for me, our full day in Goa was not spent worshipping the sun at a series of glorious beaches. Rather it was spent sight-seeing. It turned out to be pretty interesting – we visited Old Goa, which is full of rich history and impressive architecture. As the former colonial capital of the state (colloquially known as ‘Rome of the East’), the convents and churches are stunning. The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Portugese influence remains hugely prominent in the buildings today. I would recommend about 1.5 hours to explore the area (there are vendors and shops selling ice-cream and coconuts etc) and make sure you check out the St. Augustine ruins – they were superb.

Goa was annexed by the Portugese in 1510 and remained under their rule for 450 years. The rise of Old Goa under the Portugese was astonishing, but the city was abandoned in the 1600s following cholera and malaria outbreaks. From Old Goa we drove maybe half an hour more to do a tour of a spice plantation. You pay 400R and get a tour of the area (it only lasts about 20 minutes, but this is enough in the heat and humidity) and then you get a free buffet lunch. As a regular user of herbs and spices, I like knowing about their origins, but if you don’t care the tour might not be for you.

If I were to go back to Goa I would definitely stay somewhere that was right on the beach, and preferably one of the nicer ones! Unfortunately for Goa, I think there is going to be a fair few places I visit before it gets its second chance.

 

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!