Tucked off Mt Eden’s main street, Olaf’s is an artisan bakery serving a range of baked goods and coffee to eat in or take away. The cabinet has a range of fancy and not so fancy cakes, tarts and baguettes, and the shelving behind the till is stacked high with loaves of fresh bread. The atmosphere is unusually stiff, I find it a little (unintentionally) formal, but you don’t really notice it so much when the place is full. It serves wonderful coffee, so it’s great spot to go for coffee and cake, and it is certainly somewhere that I would often go to meet friends for a catch-up as it tends to be easy to get a table.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Pipi Cafe in Havelock North would have to be one of the most iconic spots that the village has to offer. When it first opened I remember thinking it’s bright pink decor was a bit of an eye-sore, but over time it has certainly grown on me and most over locals. Part of its charm has come from the publishing of its very own cookbook (which you can buy from their website) as well as the Pipi Food Truck, which makes its way around town, visiting different gigs and events and sometimes even making it as far as Wellington.
Pipi Cafe is on Joll Road, so just a few minutes walk from the main roundabout. You can’t miss it, seriously, it is bright pink. The place is usually busy (thus bookings are recommended), but it has a few different seating areas (the covered area out front as well as the wee courtyard outback in addition to the main body) so even if you have to wait you’ll probably be able to get a table before long. Once you take a seat, feel free to grab your own drinks from the fridge. The staff can be quite brisk, but not all – so don’t assume the worst!
The cuisine is Italian themed and I would highly recommend the pizza. The bases are so delicious, and you can get some quirkier pizza flavours in addition to the classics. I love the walnut and rocket pizza, but I always find it hard to go past the specials (I have previously had pulled pork; roast apricot and chicken; and fish and yuzu – all were 10/10). They come in three sizes, and takeaway is possible (although a relatively expensive form of takeaway in my opinion). There is also a standard menu with a range of meat dishes and pasta. The flounder is a fan favourite, if you don’t mind having a whole fish served to you! I think that although the pizza would be some of the best in HB by far, I am less of a fan of the rest of their menu. However, I am a massive fan of the giant jar of jaffas that sits next to the till when you pay – way better than mints!
Spaghetti bolognaise is such a winter classic, and my not eating beef this year has thrown a real spanner in the works. Finally though, I have found a recipe that replicates spagbol pretty darn accurately, except with the added bonus that it’s healthier and there is no beef. It takes just as long as cooking meat (it has lentils as a substitute) and is a good way to use up any veges that may have seen better days!
Collect for the bolognaise
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 carrots, grated
2 t dried oregano
1 c stock (vegetarian is fine, but you could use beef if you wanted that additional flavour)
2/3 c red split lentils
1/4 c tomato paste
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 t brown sugar
2 t balsamic vinegar
2 t soy sauce
1/2 t salt
2 c water
400 g pasta
Boil a large pot of water to cook the pasta.
Splash some oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery and oregano for 6-7 minutes, until softened. Add stock and simmer for 1 minute, until nearly all evaporated.
Add the lentils, tomato paste, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, salt and water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cover for about 20 minutes until lentils are cooks. Season with salt and pepper. If the liquid appears to evaporate too quickly, just stir in some more water.
Serve with salad (spinach and parmesan tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar) and top with toasted pine nuts, basical and cheese.
Lazy Sunday mornings always call for pancakes, and what a better way to mix them up than by adding some good ol’ mashed banana and some delicious chocolate chips. Always a hit with the boyfriend, they are a pretty easy dish to whip up without much notice, so long as you have the classic baking ingredients on hand. Serve with some fresh banana and crispy bacon to make this into a hearty meal.
1.5 c flour
1 T sugar
2 t baking poweder
0.5 t cinnamon
1.25 c milk
3 small – medium bananas, mashed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla
1/2 c chocolate chips
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix.
Stir in milk, banana, egg and vanilla.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
Heat some oil in a pan. Pour spoonfuls into the pan once it’s hot.
Cook for a few minutes (turning earlier if the pancakes start to bubble). Flip pancake and cook for another minute or two until golden.
This meal takes a little longer than most of the other recipes on my blog, but it presents really beautiful and is incredibly tasty and fresh. Slow cooking the pork means that it stays tender and can soak up the flavours of the dish. As you may have guessed by now, I love cooking with pork (probably due to a lack of beef eating) and any chance to try my hand at crackling is welcome.
Collect for the pork
600 g pork (shoulder or leg is ideal, but any cut will do, cut into chunks
2 t Chinese five-space
1 t brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1.5 T oil
2 T lemongrass, finely chopped
3 x garlic, finely sliced
3 T soy sauce
2 c water
2 t brown sugar
Collect for the salad
1 packet of udon noodles
2 c mung bean sprouts
lebanese cucumber (otherwise normal is fine), with the seeds removed, cut into match sticks
1 c coriander
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1/3 c chopped peanuts
2 large chillies (optional)
Combine the pork with the five spice, first measure of brown sugar, salt and pepper. Coat thoroughly and set aside for 10 minutes.
Heat oil. Fry lemongrass until fragrant (less than a minute), add pork and garlic and cook until the pork is browned.
Add soy sauce, water and brown sugar. Simmer, over and cook for approximately 1 hour (or until the pork is tender). Don’t let the liquid reduce too much; if it begins to look like it is running out, add some more water, sugar and soy sauce.
Once the pork is cooked, prepare the noodles. Pour boiling water over the noodles for five minutes (or until soft). Drain the water and add the mung beans to the noodles.
Divide the noodles between the bowls. Top with pork and salad.