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!
The first place we stopped off in Bali, Canggu is essentially Australian owned and Australian based. Canggu isn’t a patch on Kuta or Seminyak when it comes to drunk Australians though, and the Australian influence sure creates a good recipe for brunching options. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that with so many Australians around, good surf is inevitably not far away.
We stayed at the Lay Day Surf Hostel. For only $16/night it was pretty decent, although you could probably get somewhere cheaper if you wanted. The hostel was supposed to be a ‘party hostel’, it wasn’t at all – but our jet-lagged selves were somewhat relieved to see that it didn’t live up to its name. To describe it as ‘incredibly social’ would be entirely accurate; everyone tended to lounge around the pool area making it a fabulous way to meet new people. The facilities were decent, and the location wasn’t too bad either.
Canggu is definitely a beach town. There is one main street, with stacks of cafes, bars and shops that touch on both rustic and boutique. There are a fair few stray dogs (my least favourite part), and stacks of scooters. If you are in Canggu predominantly to surf and you stayed close to the beach, you could almost get away without even a scooter (although a scooter does allow for better exploration). Nearby is Echo Beach, which also has good surf. The beaches themselves weren’t particularly nice for swimming though, so if you don’t actually intend to surf, you really only need a couple of days here. My favourite thing about Canggu was the vibe and the food – brunching was 10/10 (you can read about it here)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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: 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
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.
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.
An institution I was told; I was yet to be impressed. My brother’s choice (a steak house, so not surprising), my mum informed me that my family had been coming here for years, and that I had probably been here as a child. The place is very, very cool. Deliberately old-school, dingy and exclusive feeling. The place was massive, it was packed, AND there was a second storey, which was also packed! The menu was your typical bar menu, but add on about $15 to the expected price and it was basically what we were looking it. I have to admit I was rather impressed by the MASSIVE steak menu; probably every different cut and every different sauce I would have thought possible. Unfortunately for me, beef is off limits so I opted for a classic chicken schnitzel, fries and salad. It was tasty, and almighty delicious, but rather expensive, and more than what I think it was worth. The staff were super friendly and our food came out pretty quickly.
Conclusion: considering that it’s not really my kind of place, I really enjoyed the experience and the food was good. Too expensive for my liking though; it just felt like well cooked pub food to me.
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!
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!