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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!

 

Thai Lagoon

Thai Lagoon

Thai Lagoon (8 Alexander Road, Raumati)

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.

Ubud

Ubud

We left Nusa Lembongan at 8am and caught a ferry to Sanur. From there, our pre-organised taxi driver (courtesy of our Lembongan hostel) met us and drove us to Ubud. It only took about 1.5 hours, so we were there by mid-morning. Our Air BnB was lovely, and our host organised for us to be picked up almost immediately and taken on a tour. We went to a number of spots across the course of the day, and our driver Gede would just wait for us at each spot.

First we went to the Tegallang rice fields in Gianyar. This would have to be one of the most photographed sights of Bali, and it was easy to see why. Loads of people (unsurprisingly) but still worth the trip. We actually ate lunch at a wee restaurant overlooking the fields, and it was such a beautiful setting for a meal. It was a really nice way to appreciate the fields from afar, because there is not much else to do there besides walk around the fields (and then you are right up close). After lunch we headed down into the terraces; it was extremely hot and I was very glad for my waterbottle. We probably spent about 45 minutes walking around and taking plenty of photos.

From here we headed to Tirta Empul Tampaksiring, a temple where people go to bathe and be cleansed in the holy water. The queues were massive, and to be honest the water looked pretty grotty (especially when filled with so many bodies) so none of us were keen to get in. We ended up walking around for a bit and then moving on. Leaving the temple actually required walking through so much market space, where the vendors were all highly competitive and almost confrontational. I think we all actually ended up buying something – probably mainly to shut them up! It was definitely fun though, and provides for an interesting experience.

 

From here we went to Mount Kawi. This was a temple with a lot of steps! We noted that both temples we had visited had made all four of us (i.e. the boys included) cover up our shoulders (they lend scarves). We set off down the steps (sooooo many steps) into a wee temple valley, where there were lots of temples (slash remains) surrounded by pretty dense bush. It was rather beautiful. The hike back up the hill was much harder, and we were very relieved to see a sign for ice-cream as we approached the top.

The last stop of our tour was Monkey Forest. It was such a cool experience, and that’s coming from someone who is extremely hesitant about monkeys. It is quite a big park in which you can just wander around and watch the monkeys play. You can also buy food to feed them (they will happily climb all over you) but I was much happier watching from afar. They can get pretty aggressive – I would definitely recommend leaving your valuables in the car (sunglasses being a classic example of things they love to pinch!).

Ubud was certainly the most cultural feeling place we went to. There is some very cool markets and shopping generally. There are loads of places offering massages, and The Yoga Barn is certainly famed for its yoga and all round zen habitat. I think that of all our destinations in Bali I thought Ubud was the most interesting and had the most to do (with the obvious omission of no beach). The food was also extremely delicious (check out that post here).

Feijoa cake with lemon icing

Feijoa cake with lemon icing

Feijoa cake tends to go down alright, and when it’s that time of year, I’m always looking for something different to make with the excess of feijoas. This cake is pretty easy, and tastes delicious!

Collect

  • 125 g butter
  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 c mashed feijoa pulp
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 T hot milk
  • 2 c plain flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 3/4 c icing sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juice
  • 25 g butter
  • 2 T hot water

Create

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C fanbake.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add mashed feijoas and mix lightly, ideally retaining some of the texture.
  5. In another bowl, stir baking soda into hot milk, and then add it to the feijoa mixture.
  6. Sift in four and baking powder, and fold until combined.
  7. Pour into a greased cake-tin. Bake for approximately 50 minutes.
  8. Leave in tin for 10 minutes before putting on a cooling rack.
  9. Once cool, make the icing. To do so, mix the icing sugar, lemon juice, second measure of butter and hot water into a bowl. Add extra lemon if you want it more tangy. Spread over the cake.

 

Mama’s Homemade Muesli

Mama’s Homemade Muesli

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.

Collect

  • 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

Create

  1. Set oven to 150°C fan bake/grill.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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!

Rata

Rata

Rata (43 Ballarat Street, Queenstown)

Over the last year or so, I have developed a real appreciation for fine dining. I love the opportunity to eat food that I know has been put together by people with the knowledge and flair needed to create really interesting and well balanced food. Good chefs have a knack for making you like things you didn’t even think you liked, because they know how to pair it with foods that really complement their flavours. Given this wee spiel, you must realise that I was extremely excited to be going to Rata, one of Josh Emett’s creations.

After starving myself all day (well, not really, but in my mind I was) I couldn’t wait to get there. I had no idea it was so centrally located. We arrived and had our coats taken by the wait staff. After being shown to our seats we were left to ponder our surroundings. The great feature wall is absolutely stunning; the quality of the photo was great, and added a real ‘foresty’ vibe to the place.

The waiter took our drinks orders, and with our adventurous cocktails on the way, he filled us in on the specials. The beef wellington sounded to die for, but unfortunately for me, I’m not eating beef. As an entree I ordered the Southland cheese roll (we all did actually), which came with kale, pickled swede, hazelnut, honeycomb and fig. It was so tasty, I really loved the honeycomb addition.

Following the cheese roll, I ordered the venison as a main. It came with a cocao tuille – and I was extremely interested to try venison with chocolate. Lastly dessert was a manuka honey custard (it came to me recommended by our waiter) which icnluded walnut sponge, pear and a gingernut crumb. Everything in each of our meals was so intricate, and well thought out. The balance of textures was really great – when you are in a setting like that you can take the time to really think about the food that you are putting in your mouth, and it excites me to see it done so well.

 

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.

Espressoholic

Espressoholic

Espressoholic (136 Cuba Street)

A Cuba Street institution, Espressoholic is a cafe serving up all-day breakfast style food round the clock. It’s funky; upcoming gigs and show posters line the walls, the cabinet food screams ‘eat me’ and the place is divided into two; a dark room and a light room (which is really just one room painted black and the other painted white).

The food is super cheap, with decent portions and is easily half decent. The thickshakes are nom (albeit a little creamy for my taste), the burgers are tasty and the cabinet food rightfully screams ‘eat me’ because it’s all delicious.

A perfect pit-stop on a day of Cuba Street shopping, good coffee and an ideal spot to people watch.