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!
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
A new found spot out in Miramar, Oikos virtually couldn’t be any closer to the airport. It’s tucked away in a building that I wouldn’t have given a second glance to had I not already made a reservation there based on others’ recommendations. Owned by the same people who own The Greek Food Truck, you can expect it to be good. I had actually had second thoughts about going there because I was feeling a bit tentative of the menu; however I’m so glad that I did, and I’m pretty sure anything we had been served that night would have been delicious.
We arrived in the pouring rain and were excited to see how cosy the place looked. After stripping off our coats we made ourselves at home and took a look around. It was extremely modern feeling, a cool space that I would typically associate with some of my favourite brunch spots, so it was neat to see this same vibe being carried over to an evening meal. We were informed of the specials and encouraged to share – my favourite! I had already poured over the menu so it wasn’t long after and we already had plates of food on the way.
The flavours of the food retain parts of the authentic Hellenic cuisine, while at the same time giving it a modern, sophisticated twist which makes it all the more delicious to try. The wait staff were great; they were extremely accommodating to us needing to be out by a certain time (we were off to a film festival movie after) and were happy to provide us with suggestions and recommendations based on our preferences.
The food is definitely best eaten tapa style – the portions are too small to just serve one, but it would get expensive very quickly to order multiple just for yourself. The flatbread and the roast potatoes were both to die for, as was the (chocolate) baklava (photo bottom left) and milk & honey Greek donuts (pictured top right). This place is still only relatively new, but I suspect it won’t stay a secret for long – the whole experience was absolutely superb. One of the most pleasant dinner choices I’ve made recently, and to think I was skeptical initially!
A cosy little pub in the corner of Arrowtown, how could you go wrong? Everywhere needs somewhere warm to go after a day on the slopes and The Fork and Tap has a pretty good name for itself. Live music each Wednesday night, a massive blackboard with a bunch of beer and cider options (including craft beer – I was stoked to see Garage Project on the menu) and an expansive food menu, stocking all the bar classics and more. We turned up on a Saturday night and were definitely lucky to get a table. The place was buzzing, the staff were super friendly and the meals were all decently priced. After seeing a whole bunch of people eating fish and chips as we arrived, our table was sold and we basically all ordered the same. We were not to be disappointed; the fish was fresh, the batter crunchy and the chips well seasoned. I would have no hesitation in going back next time I’m in Arrowtown.
A festive wee spot in the heart of Mt Maunganui, The Barrio Brothers serves up some delicious food and clearly has a good time doing it. The staff are all super friendly; they all seem to love working there! The menu is classic Mexican, with a number of tapa style sharable snacks, plus some bigger meals that you can then go on to eat for dinner. The cocktail menu is tasty (not that I ever look past the margaritas) and they serve margaritas (both frozen and unfrozen) by the pitcher – with flavours changing daily.
If you want to visit here, I would definitely recommend booking as the place always seems pretty lively!
There is a lot of sentimental value attached to Abbey Cellars for me. My childhood home (that my family built) has the address of 1769 Maraekakaho Road, but rather than the winery it is now it used to be a horse breeding farm, known as Crianza. Over the years, all of the surrounding properties (also farms at the time) slowly sold up, and the land was converted from paddocks to growing vines. Eventually my family sold up shop also, and moved into Havelock North. It was very nostalgic visiting though; it looked like the house itself had barely changed.
On another note, Abbey Cellar is so beautiful. The winery looks like a big church, and has a lovely picnic area where you’ll frequently find live musicians over the summer. The platters and food are delicious, and they also offer this really great beer tasting (see the photo above) which came at surprisingly good value!
With its distinctive logo, beaut location, and expansive menu, this South American tapas bar is also a constant on the craft beer scene. With so many beers both on tap and bottled, it can be a tough time choosing. I feel a bit sorry for the staff there actually, because they must get absolutely peppered with questions relating to the beer – and on the past two occasions I have visited the wait staff had to admit they weren’t as across the board as they should be. But I don’t blame them – the menu is enormous, and it would take a huge amount of time and passion to know all there is to know about the beer on that menu.
The place is funky; perched on the corner of one of Newtown’s intersections, it has both an indoor part and outdoor seating (mostly covered, and pretty sheltered – especially with the heaters that they crank). The menu is pretty reasonable; lots of beef and chorizo (true South American style) – I would definitely recommend sharing so that you can try more of the things on offer. You can order a customised platter, which allows you to pick any three small plates, and works out to be cheaper than if you’d ordered them separately.
Combine coffee and beer, and what do you get? Husk. Tucked away in alley, it is somewhere you would never have noticed until now. But combining a cafe with a brewery is genius; and the fairy lights in the alleyway make it oh so easy to spot. The place is spacious; an ex-boxing gym means that it’s aesthetic is slightly grungy, but it only adds to the ambience. Husk opens daily at 7am, serving Karamu coffee since ages ago. The scones are massive and the breakfast menu is fresh and delicious; it also changes regularly. It is also open late, serving a massive selection of beers (obviously) also since ages ago. The fried chicken is to die for, and there is a large selection of small plates to share (I definitely recommend going tapa style). So far, Husk has had a strong social media presence, hosting different events and bringing different deals to its consumers regularly. Great for after-work drinks, and would be a cool place to host a work function.
Finally, an excuse to go to The Ramen Shop (not that I should need an excuse, but I will happily take one!). Needing a quick meal before heading off to No Lights No Lycra (give it a go if you haven’t already), The Ramen Shop seemed like an appropriate stop. I’d heard a bit about it; it entered a burger into the Burger Welly competition for Wellington on a Plate, and it used to be a pop-up ramen shop until just a few years ago. With a series of long wooden tables (canteen style), a window seat and then a few smaller tables, The Ramen Shop had a very communal feel about it. Everything was affordable but still looked delicious. After making my order I took my spot at one of the long wooden tables and settled back to enjoy the scene. Looking around, I could see (and hear) people slurping from their bowls in every direction and scooping up their noodles with chopsticks. There were people of all ages, including two children who looked like they were those of the owner. The food certainly didn’t take long to come. We had ordered steamed buns with pork, which actually came out more bao style (sliced with filling, as opposed to a whole bun with a filled centre). Those were delicious, as was my pork belly ramen. Although the chicken karaage itself was tasty, the broth that it came in tasted a bit too much like fish for my liking. There were lots of other snacks on the menu, which I would love to try given the opportunity.
On the weekend I went home to the lovely Hawke’s Bay. Always a pleasure and never a chore, I love visiting all my friends and family, and wherever possible eating as much delicious food as possible. I had the good fortune of some colleagues accompanying me and then going one step beyond and fishing with my Dad. A successful day out on the water saw a great haul of fish and stacks of delicious meals ahead for all of us. I thought I’d mix it up and try make a beer batter to go with the fish – it’s hard to get more Kiwi than a solid dose of Fish’n’Chips. The beer batter itself is actually really easy – just choose a beer that tickles your fancy, and get pouring. It pays to use a firm white fish – for example terakihi works well, just so that it doesn’t dissolve in the pan as you fry. This recipe is just for the beer batter, and the fish goes great served with chips and/or salad.
2 c self-raising flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 bottle beer
oil for frying (try keep it neutral if possible)
Put the flour into a bowl and whisk to combine.
Gradually add in the beer until the batter is mostly smooth. Lumps don’t matter – they will go yum when fried.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Add oil to the pan so that the bottom of the pan is at least covered.
Heat oil until it is extremely hot.
Season the fish with salt and pepper.
Dip the fish into the batter to coat, draining any excess liquid.
Fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and the batter is cooked through.