Most that know me know just how much I adore Leeds Street. It’s quaint, quirky and oh-so-Wellington. So when I saw this event advertised it felt like a match made in heaven (it also included Egmont Street Eatery – what a bonus!). I got tickets as soon as they came on sale and after marking it on my calendar, I felt like a child with an advent calendar in the lead up to Christmas. I started a blog post on Leeds Street months ago and have refrained myself from posting it until after tonight night.
After what seemed like forever, the night finally rolled around. With a skip in my step I made my way to Egmont Street Eatery where the festivities were to begin. We were greeted by our lovely host Delaney, and sipped on a yummy bubbly while we were introduced to the friendly folk at Egmont and tasted some delicious canapes. After sampling a pork and chive dumpling, crayfish with a miso-flavoured sauce, fried quail and my first ever caviar, I knew we were going to be in for a real treat. My excitement levels hit sky high as I realised we were going to meet a number of the culinary entrepreneurs behind Wellington city’s artisan lanes across the course of the night.
As the name suggests, we progressed from Egmont Street Eatery around the corner to Leeds Street, where we kicked at Goldings. Massimo (founder and chef of Pizza Pomodoro) came out to greet us as we all enjoyed a Garage Project beer from Goldings with some of Pomodoro’s pizza. Massimo was originally from Naples, Italy and he moved out to New Zealand almost 20 years ago where he has been cooking Napoli inspired pizza in Leeds Street since 2000. Joining him in Leeds Street about 10 years after was Sean Golding of Goldings Free Dive Bar, and together they nurtured the gem that would soon eventuate. They struck gold when they formed a deal: people drinking at Goldings could order pizza from Pomodoro and it would be delivered to them for eating as they continued to enjoy their Goldings experience. Bingo!
From Goldings we made our way across to a new restaurant called Shepherd. I was astonished that I had never heard of it, so I was relieved to hear that it hadn’t even been open a week. Mr Elliot Shepherd (of Ti Kouka and Leeds Street Bakery) had teamed up with Sean Golding to transform what used to be a 7 bedroom student flat into a funky and sophisticated restaurant, complete with its very own internal greenhouse growing vegetables and herbs. For dinner we were served this absolutely mouth-watering pork with crackle and apple cider jus – it was so rich and tasty! I know I’m not the only one who left Shepherd vowing to come back again soon.
Dessert time, and where else but Wellington Chocolate Factory? We were greeted by our very own Mr Willy Wonka and his sidekick Oompa Loompa before being introduced to all that was set out on a magnificently covered table in front of us. As a chocolate-lover I went weak at the knees. Not only were there smashed blocks of different flavours of Wellington Chocolate Factory’s chocolate scattered across the table, there was also a chocolate waterfall and both Fix and Fogg and Red Rabbit Coffee had put their heads together with Wellington Chocolate Factory to create truffles, showcasing their peanut butter and coffee delights respectively.
When Mr Wonka announced that somewhere in the room lay a hidden golden ticket, it was game on. I was so determined to find the ticket and be the next Charlie Bucket that I almost forgot to try the second of the truffles. It was really hard to find and most people gave up searching after a few minutes, but persistence carried me through and I found it! My prize was to pick a block (any block) of Wellington Chocolate Factory’s chocolate to take home with me. A souvenir from what had been such a great night so far; I couldn’t have been happier.
Last but not least was a nightcap at the Hanging Ditch. Here we meet Benji, and he explained to us the origin of the name (interesting tale; ask about it sometime) and the components of the cocktail we were about to consume. To make the cocktail Hanging Ditch had paired up with Six Barrel Soda, the last of the goodies that comprises Leeds Street. It was the perfect way to end the adventure that had been, and I was sad it was over. At least I had a souvenir to take home with me (long may it last!).
Thanks to Delaney, and all the eateries that participated in making the Progressive Laneways Dinner such a fantastic evening. It was so informative, interesting and entertaining (and I can’t forget delicious!) and it really showcased Wellington’s exciting culinary and craft beer culture. See you next year!