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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!

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.

Akarua Wines & Kitchen

Akarua Wines & Kitchen

Akarua Wines & Kitchen (265 Arrowtown – Lake Hayes Road, Arrowtown)

 

Previously known as Walnut Cottage, Akarua is a cutesy little cottage located just out of Arrowtown, not much further than Millbrook. After pulling into the gravel carpark, we made our way to the entrance across the sun-streamed patio and outdoor tables. We were welcomed at the door and seated immediately, despite not having a booking. Given that it was winter, we were torn whether to sit inside or out, but the sun-streamed patio really was too good to turn down.

As we sat, our waitress told us about the daily specials and we were all super impressed to hear that all of the fish dishes were actually different types of fish (not just the stock standard ‘tarakihi’ – which is delicious mind you). I found the roasted parsnip and pear soup just too delicious sounding to resist, and I was stoked to see the big bowl of fried ciabatta that came out for the table for dunking. The meals were all very well balanced, delicate and absolutely beautiful to look at.

The prices were definitely above average, but it was definitely a ‘pay for what you get for’ type lunch because the food really was outstanding. I had a warming glass of mulled wine that was extremely aromatic.

Around the back of the restaurant (by the toilets) is a massive sandpit which seemed like a really good way to keep the kids entertained while the adults enjoy a longer lunch. I would definitely recommend this spot!

Greytown

Greytown

 

Such an easy getaway from the flurry of the city and sub-par weather that epitomises Wellington, yet it is somewhere that I have always only thought of as nothing more than a town that I pass through on my way home to Hawkes Bay. Not this time though. We only left Wellington Saturday after lunch, and a short 90 minutes later we were at our Air BnB. It didn’t take us long to settle and so we wandered down to the main street for a mosey.

 

Greytown is full of charming cafes, boutique shops and high quality second-hand shops. So many knick-knacks there for the taking; it’s amazing how quickly you can chew through time when absorbed in shops like these. There are also some delicious eateries – see my posts on 2 Short Whites and La Pancetta for just 2 of Greytown’s gems, but if you were in the mood to purchase some goodies to takeaway with you, check out The Lolly Jar for a sensational selection of sweets, or Schoc for some of the regions finest crafted chocolate.

Don’t worry about the excess consumption; Greytown has so many nearby tracks for walking and cycling (there are numerous bicycle hire places on the main street); the Rail Trail is suitable for both cycling and walking and is only minutes away from the town. If it’s a rainy day check out the Cobblestones Museum, or head across to Martinborough for the cinema or some more wining and dining (Poppies is a must visit!).

Abbey Cellars Winery

Abbey Cellars Winery

Abbey Cellars Winery (1769 Maraekakaho Road)

There is a lot of sentimental value attached to Abbey Cellars for me. My childhood home (that my family built) has the address of 1769 Maraekakaho Road, but rather than the winery it is now it used to be a horse breeding farm, known as Crianza. Over the years, all of the surrounding properties (also farms at the time) slowly sold up, and the land was converted from paddocks to growing vines. Eventually my family sold up shop also, and moved into Havelock North. It was very nostalgic visiting though; it looked like the house itself had barely changed.

On another note, Abbey Cellar is so beautiful. The winery looks like a big church, and has a lovely picnic area where you’ll frequently find live musicians over the summer. The platters and food are delicious, and they also offer this really great beer tasting (see the photo above) which came at surprisingly good value!

 

Melbourne

Melbourne

People have described Melbourne to me as being like ‘Wellington on steroids’ and after visiting there myself, I can’t really disagree. Think fashion, coffee, culture and sport; it is a continual hub of activity and a foodie’s dream. The public transport system is excellent (a possible point of difference to Wellington), there are so many beaches just a stones throw away, and it also serves as a gateway to the Yarra Valley. It is so easy to escape the big city life in Melbourne.

Despite being in Australia (which therefore means it should be tropical), Melbourne has weather not dissimilar to that of Wellington, although on average it would be a few degrees warmer and lacking the wind. Easily one of the most livable cities I have ever been to, I have a number of friends that are spread across the city and all absolutely love it. On my most recent visit I managed to scrape in about ten days; long enough to really get a feel for the place, but which has left me wanting so much more.

 

Getting around

The most efficient way to get around in Melbourne is to buy and top up your ‘Myki’ card at the first possible opportunity, and then swipe it on and off when you use the trains, trams and buses around the city. Fares differ depending on what zones you travel through, but there is a daily cap, and travel within the inner city is completely free.

Getting to and from the airport

Despite the extensive train network Melbourne has, there is no train line that gets you to the airport. Not the end of the world, but a slight inconvenience because the airport is about 25km from the city – which can create quite an expensive taxi ride. The best way to and from the airport is via the SkyBus which costs $36 for a return trip. It takes you from the airport to the Southern Cross train station, which is basically a depot for a huge number of trains, trams and buses. There is also a free hotel transfer available, for if you caught the SkyBus. The trip takes about thirty minutes, but I would allow slightly longer if you have a flight to catch.

Sleeping

My family stayed at an Air BnB in Southbank which proved to be an absolutely ideal location for both access to the CBD, and also for the Australian Open (our real purpose for visiting Melbourne). Anywhere in the CBD is going to be super convenient, but probably also expensive – so we felt Southbank was a good compromise.

We almost stayed in St Kilda, which is only a short tram ride away and has the added benefit of the beach. Proximity to the tennis won out, but I suspect that had we not been going to the Australian Open we may have ended up staying out there.

Activities

Obviously the longer you can spend in a place, the better the feel you will get for it. I do think that based on my recent 10 days there (admittedly a lot of that was spent at the tennis) you could get a pretty decent taste of Melbourne over just a long weekend. Here’s some ideas on what you could do:

  • Melbourne CBD: Eat, drink, shop is the easy answer. For me to suggest eateries is an absolutely ridiculous idea as there are just so many and I didn’t have time to visit more than a few (but the few I did visit I have reviewed here). But we can go beyond that. If you are heading up north, make sure you visit Chinatown in addition to the nearby Greek and Italian Quarters. There is also the museum up this end of town and a bunch of shops. Walking back towards Flinders Station, pay heed to the numerous laneways that are dotted about the place, the most famous of which is Hosier’s Lane. If you’re lucky you may even catch an artist at work. Captain Cook’s Cottage is an interesting visit, and you can picnic in the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens afterwards. St Pauls Cathedral is not far from Federation Square, both of which are essentially across the road from Flinders Station. By night, visit the Crown casino complex (it is massive) and Southbank in general for some great bars and restaurants.

 

  • South of the Yarra River: Get your walking shoes on and go for a wander. Visit the Shrine of Remembrance (to commiserate the soldiers who lost their lives at war) and meander through the Botanical Gardens, which plays home to the Government House as well as a venue for the Bowl, a venue for many a concert in Melbourne. While you are out this way, if you’re sporty you may be interested in doing a tour of the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) which I have to admit that I actually found really interesting despite not being the biggest cricket fan. Finish up this journey by going for a stroll along the river, where you will end up back in town.

 

  • Beaches: I had no idea Brighton Beach was so close to Melbourne. Growing up I had always been very aware that somewhere in Australia these adorable little boat sheds existed, but had no idea where until very recently. Thankfully I found out about Brighton before I left. It’s pretty easy to get to as well – just jump on the Sandringham line from Flinders Station – although you will have to walk for a wee bit when you get there (well worth it though). Another great day trip is to Williamstown. Also a beach, you can actually catch a ferry there and you’ll get some amazing views. It’s a cute little seaside village, with lots of cafes and boutique style shops.

  • Yarra Valley: You can either hire a car or do an organised tour – because there was six of us my family opted to do an organised tour. For AUD$130, we got taken to 5 different wineries in the Yarra Valley (one of which we had the most delicious sit-down lunch at), as well as a dairy farm and a chocolate shop. It was such a great day out, and if you go there with the intention of drinking all the wine that they offer you, you’ll come away thinking it was well worth your money (although you mayn’t remember all the events of the day…).

 

  • St Kilda: In my opinion St Kilda is one of the coolest suburbs of Melbourne (and I think it’s a common opinion to have). With the beach right there, St Kilda is super outdoorsy, with people swimming and kite-surfing and doing all sorts of other exercises. It is a young, hip area – you see people of all sorts wandering around – it’s really great. There are heaps of funky cafes, bars and restaurants and lots of interesting shops. It is also the home of Luna Park; which is somewhere you have to visit once, but I think the novelty wears off with age!

Rochford Winery

Rochford Winery

Rochford Winery (880 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, Yarra Valley)

I love eating at wineries. The food is always presented so beautifully, and it is rare that it is not of the highest quality as well. I was extremely excited to be visiting the Yarra Valley, and excited to sit down for a meal at one of it’s most established wineries. Rochford was especially cute; with it’s Cellar Door and gift shop right as you walk in, and then a winding stair case leading up to a viewing gallery which literally gives you a three-sixty degree view of your surroundings. There was nothing on the day that we were there, but Rochford frequently plays host to a number of winery concerts and festivals – and it had a great set-up for it. The food was as delicious as I’d hoped; all of the elements intricately arranged on the plate for maximum presentation points as well.

Amisfield Vineyard & Bistro

Amisfield Vineyard & Bistro

Amisfield Vineyard & Bistro (10 Lake Hayes Road)

All I knew about Amisfield is that Princess Kate and Will had eaten here when they came for their visit to New Zealand. Based on that, my expectations were high – and they were certainly exceeded by the absolutely fantastic experience that we had. It was a birthday celebration, so collectively we decided to do the ‘Trust the Chef’ menu, paired with the wines to match. After asking whether we had any dietary requirements (no beef) they told us that the chef intended on just cooking what he pleased, therefore our food mayn’t be the same as the tables next to us – how exciting!

As demonstrated by the photos above, we were treated to a number of delicious courses which included delights such as smoked eel, a beetroot number (which came with blue cheese crumb), a fish chowder and then my delicious dessert – wild sorrel icecream with a pistachio sponge. The most interesting dish that day was the toasted sandwich – which was actually a dessert. It came with Amisfield’s own olive-oil ice-cream, candied olives and what looked like half an olive tree! It was such a cool dish to see, so beautifully presented.

After lunch we definitely needed to move some, so we went and had a wee explore of the grounds. Again, so stunning – although it took us awhile to move past the petanque pitch as everyone’s competitive sides came out. All in all, it was a lovely afternoon and I’m sure that if Kate and Will walked away half as happy as we did, then they would have been pretty satisfied customers!

Poppies

Poppies

Poppies (91 Puruatanga Road, Martinborough)

Ever since I moved to Wellington Poppies had been on my bucket list. All the people at work talked about it, my friends talked about, even people I didn’t know talked about it. I knew I had to get there and I just had to find an opportunity. An overseas friend came to visit New Zealand, and I thought perfect, here’s that opportunity. We turned up at Poppies, only to be told they were well and truly booked, because it was Valentine’s Day after all. To us Valentine-less gals, that thought had not even crossed our minds!

The following year, I actually had a valentine of my own, and made sure to make the booking well in advance. We turned up for our 12pm booking, only to be told that they had no booking for us, and not even my call to make the booking had been logged. As I tried to (unsuccessfully) hide my dismay, the maître d offered to take my number and give me a call if a table cleared up early. Of course, we jumped on that opportunity and headed home to lie by the pool… and wait.

Luckily for us, a phone call came about an hour later and we headed straight back to Poppies. We were seated outside, and being an extremely beautiful day we were both stoked. The wine tasting room inside was pretty full, so Shayne Hammond (the partner to Poppy herself) came out and conducted our very own personal wine tasting. We were so happy. The wine was absolutely delicious – favourites being the rose, and also the dry riesling.

And then the food, wow! The food at Poppies is all the same: giant, big platters that come out with a massive array of antipasto goodies on them. They are so delicious, and so beautifully presented. We were literally in heaven. We weren’t ready for the dream to end, so we ordered dessert on top of the platter. Both desserts sounded sensational and we almost ordered both; thankfully we didn’t, because it was big enough for the both of us.

Overall, a very successful day out. A trip well worth making from Wellington, even better if you can make a weekend of it.

Pork Bolognese Pappardelle

Pork Bolognese Pappardelle

Continually on the hunt for delicious meat recipes which omit the beef, I was so happy to stumble across this delicious pork bolognese recipe. I love home cooked food so much, and to make something so rich and tasty with such ease is what everyone should be looking for! Pappardelle too, is one of my favourite pastas – I love the thick wide pieces of pasta so this recipe really is a match made in heaven for me.

Collect

  • 500 g pork mince
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 2 T mixed garlic
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • Pappardelle
  •  1 capsicum, diced
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1/4 c cream

Create

  1. Cook the mince until browned, set aside.
  2. Add wine, garlic, onion to medium heat and cook until translucent.
  3. Add pork to mix, as well as the tomatoes and capsicum.
  4. Stir in the basil and thyme.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Add cream and finish for 5 minutes.
  7. Toss sauce through cooked pappardelle and top with basil.