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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.

 

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!

 

Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ

Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ

Genghis Khan (25 Majoribanks St)

Genghis Khan is one of those places that I had always wondered about, as I’d walk past it frequently on my way up Mount Victoria. It was seemingly mysterious, tucked halfway up the hill and having never really had Mongolian BBQ before I wasn’t sure what to expect. Upon entering, I was taken aback by just how massive it was. It is exactly like one of those Chinese restuarants around Courtenay Place which seem so ridiuclously huge, with nobody in them. This was much the same, although as the night went on the place certainly filled up – and people seemed to stay for ages.

The menu had a range of drinks (all super cheap – house wine was only $4) and a bunch of starters to choose from. I would recommend skipping the starters and going straight to the all-you-can eat BBQ. For only $21.50, it is such a great deal. It works like this: from your table, head over to the buffet area. Pick up a bowl and fill it with your choice of noodles, vegetables, meats and sauces. There are a bunch of pre-determined recipes written on blackboards if you are struggling with the choice. You then pass your bowl to the chef, who will flash fry your meal in front of you in about 30 seconds. It’s fascinating to watch, the BBQ must be SO incredibly hot. After that you grab your bowl from the chef and take it back to your table. Make sure you bypass the condiment table, where there is a further array of sauces to choose from. Back at your table the waitress will have delivered you some fresh Shao Ping, which is a homemade bread that is kind of a cross between roti and a steamed bun (it goes really well with a bowl of peanut sauce from the condiment table). Once you’ve finished your bowl, you can go back to the buffet, grab another bowl and start the whole process again. As many times as you like!

The space is really big; it can accommodate some seriously large groups. The staff were also very lovely – very friendly and helpful when explaining what to do. I think Genghis Khan is certainly one of those hidden Wellington wonders – but people that do make the visit, would almost certainly bookmark it as somewhere to return to.

La Bella Italia

La Bella Italia

La Bella Italia (10 Nevis Street, Petone)

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.

Jano Bistro

Jano Bistro

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.

Entrée

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.

Jano’s Canned Spaghetti: Tomato, spaghetti, parmesan, truffle

Main

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.

Festival Dish: BBQ: Beetroot, chickpeas, quinoa, watercress, L&P

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.

Friday Night Takeout (inspired by classic takeout favourites): Organic chicken, prawn, potato, gochujang, dangmyeon

Dessert

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!

Pavlova: Mānuka honey, almond, milk, kawakawa
Flat White: Flight coffee, Whittaker’s 72% Dark Ghana, Soy

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

Wellington on a Plate 2017

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

Willy Wonka Choc Burger: Chocolate brioche, dark chocolate mousse, vanilla, chocolate & berry gelato, peanut butter brownie, white chocolate chips & salted caramel sauce. Matched w Garage Project Hazelnut Bruin

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 

Crispy Sichuan Pork Burger: Crispy pork, strange-flavour sauce, quick pickles, steamed bun and lazi fries. Matched w Garage Project Pils n Thrills
Dessert: Sichuan ice cream biscuit crumb, with pistachio and fried bao

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.

Haiku Burger: Longbush free range pork | A mixture of our preserves | Soft steamed white bread roll (note the haiku!). Matched w Garage Project Hāpi Daze

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

Three Little Piggies: Apple-smoked pork cheeks with bacon, mustard slaw and baconnaise in a Brezelmania potato bun. Matched w Garage Project Loral Royale

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

Delta Chook & The Smokey Two: Mississippi-style crispy buttermilk chicken pieces with candied bacon, chipotle cream, tomato ragout, beer battered pickles, herb-infused spring onions and rocket in a Zaida’s bun. Matched w Garage Project Hazelnut Bruin

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

The Impossible Burger: An ‘impossible’ vegetarian patty with pickles, American cheese and Dime special sauce in a house-baked potato bun. Alternatively (and pictured here), The Not-So-Impossible Burger: A ‘a-not-so impossible’ vegetarian patty (Made in NZ) with pickles, American cheese and Dime special sauce in a house-baked potato bun. Matched w Garage Project Hāpi Daze
Banana vermicelli fritter, kaffir lime custard, coconut cream sorbet and white chocolate

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

Hāpi Meal: Smashed BBQ pork patty with smoked bacon, Garage Project Hāpi Daze-brined pickles and housemade American cheese in an Arobake milk bun with shoestring fries, Hāpi Daze battered chicken nuggets and mini soft serve. Matched w Garage Project Hāpi Daze

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

Carolina BBQ Pulled Pork: Pulled pork slow-cooked in spices, cider vinegar and chipotle BBQ sauce with apple and radish slaw in an Arobake brioche bun, with hand-cut fries. Matched w Garage Project Hazelnut Bruin