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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!

 

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.

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!

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!

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

 

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.

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.