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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!

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.

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.

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

 

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.

 

Oikos

Oikos

Oikos (382 Broadway, Miramar)

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!

 

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.

Logan Brown

Logan Brown

Logan Brown (192 Cuba Street)

I sometimes forget as I’m walking up Cuba Street, that nestled among the op shops and emporiums, the hipsters and musicians, lies Logan Brown; one of Wellington’s finest dining restaurants. Located in an old bank, even once you spot the building from the outside it’s still hard to believe the class and quality that lies within.

Bookings are absolutely essential. There are a range of dining options available; including the degustation, a la carte menu (both somewhat pricey) and also the great value bistro menu. For only $45 you can go to Logan Brown and indulge in a three course set menu (with options available) provided you are out by 7.30pm. It is an incredible way to sample some of the delights that Logan Brown’s chefs have to offer.

Logan Brown also plays home to a number of events, especially during Wellington on a Plate. Last year I went to a fabulous night celebrating the cuisines of some of Wellington’s refugees (read about it here) and they also host the annual 1920’s themed speakeasy. The cocktail menu at Logan Brown is exceptional and expansive, lots of classics with lots of twists.

Logan Brown is a restaurant that should be classed as a ‘must-visit’ on everyone’s list for fine-dining. It is a unique experience and I am sure you’ll walk away happy!

  

Danger Danger

Danger Danger

Danger Danger (132 Courtenay Place)

Danger Danger is a retro-themed bar on Courtenay Place. Bordering on tacky, but with a certain charm about it, by day it serves up jugs, pizza and burgers and by night it turns into more of a club. Slightly unattractive is the stench of alcohol that hits you as you open the front door, but you soon look past it as your eyes hone in on the neon lighting, high tables and music videos screening from the walls. There is an upstairs part to it as well, so overall the place is pretty massive.

Danger Danger offers great bargains most nights of the week – whether it be two for one burgers, two for one pizza or cheap jugs, all of them make the food really great value. While the food itself is nothing to write home about, it’s better than average, so makes for a very cool spot to grab a drink with friends after work.

  

Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia (14B Pacific Ave, Mt Maunganui)

I can safely say that even after living in Italy, my appetite for pizza and pasta has never once faltered. I love it. Comfort food at its best; I must admit that my default is to usually order pizza. Not on this occasion; as orders from around the table were taken, I realised that this would be a good opportunity for me to try a pasta dish.

Mamma Mia is tucked away just off the main street of the Mount, and although it looks only small it actually fits a surprising amount of people. It is BYO (corkage is free), but has a few wines and beers available also. The staff are authentically Italian, and are super pleasant and knowledgeable. Although it took awhile for them to come take our order, I am happy to attribute that to the fact that our large group chatted for a long time before making it obvious we were ready to order.

The food itself was pleasant. I had been warned that the pasta portions were small, and I can understand how a guy may think that – but the sauce on the Wild Pork Ravioloni was rich enough that the serving size was entirely adequate for me. We were full, but it was hard to say no to dessert: especially when it calls for chocolate lovers and requires 20 minutes notice to bake! A bunch at the table ordered it and we weren’t disappointed – who can deny a chocolate lava cake, steaming hot and oozing chocolatey goodness! The tiramisu was also wonderfully authentic. Needless to say, we went home having eaten way too much (always the way when I eat Italian!).