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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)!

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.

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.

The Old Quarter

The Old Quarter

The Old Quarter (39 Dixon Street)

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!

 

Franks

Franks

Franks (116 The Terrace)

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!

Sal’s Pizzeria

Sal’s Pizzeria

I got told my life was going to change when Sal’s made its way to Wellington; well it has, and I’m not sure that did. Sal’s claims to have authentic New York style pizza, which may be right, but it’s certainly doughy and cheesy and greasy, so you have to be in the absolute right mood for it.

Located on Cuba Street, Sal’s feels very ‘American diner’ from the moment you step inside. With sports blasting from the TVs, a big drinks fridge and uphosltery styled seats (appropriately red) I instantly felt transported to the USA. The pizza was cheap, and you can also order a variety of different bready knots and pinwheels etc (pictured above are the garlic knots, they were pretty tasty).

Probably not my preferred pizza option in Wellington (#classy) but even if I was getting takeaway I still think I would choose elsewhere before I got Sal’s again. But if that kind of pizza floats your boat, by all means there was nothing wrong with it.

Bastardo

Bastardo

Bastardo (82 Tory Street)

Replacing what used to be Pan De Muerto, Bastardo is brought to us by the same people behind Cicio Cacio and is just as delicious. The place aims for an Italian-American theme, and manages to pull it off beautifully. All of the wait staff are foreign, which only adds to the ambience.

The menu is very Italian, albeit no pizza. A complimentary basket with a variety of breads, olive oil and balsamic comes out not long after you order. The bread is so scrumptious that I had to make a mental note to stop eating it, because I wanted to save myself for my actual dinner! Between the four of us we ordered a range of pasta and carne dishes (including the chicken parmigiana and the rolled pork belly).

The drinks menu is interesting: in addition to a generic range of Italian aperitifs, soft drinks and beers, there is Italian wine which can only be ordered by the bottle. If you want to order wine by the glass, you have to order the ‘house’ wine, which is whatever bottle of wine is opened each night to keep the restaurant’s turnover rolling, as well as making it exciting for the customers! You never know what you’re going to get, but given that it’s Italian, it’s guaranteed to be good!

The food was yum; I wish that I had ordered the pasta as my own dish. I don’t even like blue cheese, and that pasta dish was still sensational. The pork belly was probably the highlight of the mains though, everything was done just right. The chicken parmigiana was tasty, but probably the weakest on the table (it was definitely quality, but a pub can also do a quality parmy – there was no wow factor about it).

For dessert, excitement levels hit sky high. We had seen the trolley circling all night long, and were ecstatic when it finally our turn to preview the goods. There were about five or six desserts on offer, bite size goodies (the perfect size really) which all only cost a mere $5 each. Ranging from tiramisu, lemon meringue pie, chocolate truffles and caramel mousse, it was hard to say no to any of them! It was such a neat way of doing it, we all agreed unanimously that despite the desserts being so cheap it was certainly a money-maker for the restaurant – those who would normally decline would be so much more tempted by a measly $5 dessert, and those gluttons (like us) end up ordering 2 or 3 – and spending what you would on a dessert elsewhere anyway.

The place was great, I have a soft spot for Cicio Cacio and think that it still trumps Bastardo, however Italian food is always a winner in my heart.

Orpheus

Orpheus

Orpheus (24 Allen Street)

If I had to give this place a star rating, I would probably give it two stars. One for the decor, and one for the pork sliders, which were exceptional. Other than that, Orpheus fell flat in every regard.

We arrived to our booking and were seated, only to be forgotten about for the next 20 minutes, with no water or even menus. We weren’t in a rush, so didn’t particularly mind, but in hindsight it seemed to set the tone for the evening. We both ordered cocktails, and after the waiter came and double checked what we had ordered (as he hadn’t written them down) we finally received our drinks.

We were dining on a GrabOne voucher, and so for $55 we were entitled to receive two starters and two mains between us. The menu prices were out of this world! Well no, they weren’t quite, but after seeing what you get for each of those prices, then I think you’d agree. As entrees we ordered the pork sliders and the calamari. The sliders were so yummy, I could have eaten 10. No complaints on the calamari, it was crispy and tasty. But it was from there that our time started to significantly worsen.

Never before have I been asked by a waiter “Your mains are already ready. Did you want them now, or did you want us to leave them for a bit?” And sure enough, when we looked over we could see them already served, sitting under the heat lamps. Ew. Naturally we said bring them over now, but when we got them my fries weren’t even hot! I ordered the pork ribs, curly fries and corn cob and Andy ordered the chicken and waffle combo. Although the fries were only luke-warm they were still pretty nice, better than the corn which felt like it must have been cooked from frozen for about half an hour, and the pork which was quite fatty (but tasty). The waffles were very stodgy, and the fried chicken was pretty good, but the sauce that tied them together only kind of worked. It wasn’t sweet maple as you’d expect, but when eaten in combination it tasted alright.

We weren’t tempted by dessert. We’d already spend another $40 on drinks on top of the $55 voucher, and I think we were both slightly protesting what felt like an already overly expensive meal. Lucky we had the voucher though – that was a definite saving grace.