30 July 2013

More Wellington Wanderings...

This weekend actually now seems an age ago, despite being only a matter of weeks.  How time flies.  In a matter of days we will be entering August here in NZ & Spring will only be a matter of weeks a way.  In that respect I love the seasons, you really need to have Winter in order to appreciate Spring.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672);
Writer, Poet, First Woman To Be Published In Colonial America

In the meantime here are a few more bites & bobs from that wonderful weekend in Wellington.

Post a pre dinner drink at Prefab, where they were hosting their first evening with live music, we headed to Ombra on Cuba Street.  Ombra is an Italian bacari or backstreet bar serving simple, delicious rustic Italian food. In Italian Ombra means shade or shadow & in Venice it refers to a small glass of vino.  The menu is made up of small Italian tapas & there is a large variety of dishes  to choose from, so most definitely something for everyone.

It’s prior incarnation would you believe was Peaches & Cream & no not an ice cream parlour but a sex shop! The space has been stripped back & is now more reminiscent of its original 1922 fittings & fixtures; the original front door & long leadlight windows.

You can’t book & we arrived about 8:30 on a  bustling Friday night & had a half our or so wait for a table. We were lucky to find a little space at the bar to sip on proseco & bellinis while we waited & it was most definitely worth the wait.  

We ordered several small plates & they just kept coming.  Beetroot gnocchi with sage, butter & Grana Padano were little pink clouds of heaven, perfectly light atop the cheese & topped with the butter & sage.  We could have scoffed a bucket of these little beauties.  The aromas emanating from our pizzette topped with porcini, scarmoza & truffle were intoxicating & it was also scoffed pretty quick smart.

Also arriving at our table peposa, Tuscan braised ox cheeks that were rich & tender.  Pork sausage & polenta was rustic & satisfying  & the grilled squid with ink mayonnaise was cooked perfectly. A salad of  rocket, radicchio, pears, pecorino & honey provided a little welcome freshness.

And after all that we still found room for dessert!  Like the main menu they are tapas size so provide the ideal little sweetness to finish off a meal. Unable to decide we share a trio of tiramisu, saffron & honey panacotta & a chocolate & caramel mousse.  All were quite delectable but for me it was the tiramisu, lovely & light & just the right amount of sweet.

The only issue with the menu really is that you can’t sample it all in one sitting, so Ombra definitely makes you wish for return visit. So it will definitely be on the menu when I make a return visit to the capital.

Corner Cuba and Vivian streets
Ph: 04 385 3229

For Saturday breakfast we headed back to Prefab. Bustling would be an understatement, but people were being seated left right & centre as tables became available with admirable efficiency.  We were ensconced at our table in just 5 or 10 minutes, no issue on lazy long weekend in Wellington. Coffees & teas ordered we got on to the more serious business of food.

For me the Berlin Breakkie as I have always had a hankering for the continental.  I thought this was a steal at $16 for what turned out to be a platter that could easily have satisfied 2.  Fresh bread, baked on the premises, cheese, tomato, meats, jam, egg...it was a feast.  Just as well it was a long leisurely breakfast, just as they should be on the weekend.

I have to mention the bread...baked on the premises, I may be with my Wellington friends that they do indeed bake the best baguettes!  Now only if they would expand to Auckland....

14 Jessie St
Ph: 04 385 2263

Post breakfast a little walking in order along with a little retail therapy. In amongst the usual shopping if you are in Wellington & you love chocolate & who doesn’t?  Make sure to visit Bohemein chocolates, if only for their sea salt caramels, quite possibly the best chocolates in the world. A couple of close seconds would be the chilli chocolate & the pineapple & black pepper.  A little slice of chocolate heaven.

Bohemein Chocolates 
109 Featherston Street
Ph: 04 499 79 13

A great find was Swonderful boutique.  Just as we had admonished ourselves with “no more shopping!” this little boutique across the road as we neared our hotel caught our eye & lured us in for just last minute purchase or 2.... It is a beautiful light & airy space with vintage inspired clothes & lots of other beautiful treasures from local crafts people. It is a little nostalgic treasure trove of lots & lots of very pretty things!

214 Cuba Street

And if you like a cuppa you can’t go past t Leaf T.  A veritable treasure trove of teas.  t leaf T is owned and operated by Wellingtonians John and Amanda Van Gorp - who aim to bring you New Zealand's ultimate tea experience & on that count they succeed.  They have New Zealand's most extensive & adventurous range of teas & infusions.  From black teas to green teas to white teas plus oolong, fruit & herbal infusions they have a little bit of everything.  And of you want to taste they’ll even brew you a cuppa.

t Leaf T
Dukes Arcade
1 Manners St 
Ph: 04 470 7714

Refreshed from the tea we felt in need of just a little sustenance & the Six Barrel Soda Co was the perfect spot. The factory cafe is on the corner of Eva & Dixon Streets where they serve their classic soda fountain style sodas made from fresh, all natural & seasonal ingredients alongside some food.  It’s a small menu but it is worth a visit for a soda alongside a slider & fries.  These mini burgers are just the perfect size for a late afternoon lunch post a large, late breakfast & before the evenings festivities.

The soda is the star though & current flavours are kola nut, lemon, cherry & pomegranate, lime, raspberry & lemon, hibiscus, sarsaparilla, vanilla cream, ginger and celery tonic. We came home with the highly recommended celery tonic, a tonic is it so wonderfully light & refreshing topped with some soda.

Six Barrel Soda Co
33-35 Dixon Street

Dinner, we felt like light & spicy & checked out Restaurant 88.  I would recommend booking as when we arrived at 7:30 on a Saturday evening they were fully booked.  We weren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves as we had been looking forward to some Vietnamese delights. It was only as luck would have it that a table was just leaving as we arrived & we were able to be squeezed in.

To start Bo Nuong, Vietnamese grilled sirloin with lemongrass.  Tender BBQ marinated beef served with noodles, roasted peanuts, crispy shallots & coriander was so full of flavour & textures, it certainly awakened the taste buds.  And for a little freshness the classic Vietnamese Spring rolls which were bright fresh & delicious.
For me the main event it was prawns & prawns for me. Prawns #1;Wok tossed tamarind tiger prawns &  prawns #2 stir-fried in a Saigon tangy almost sweet & sour sauce.  Sweet, sour & a little spice.  However, I did have a little plate envy on this occasion. If you do find yourself here go for the drunken salt & pepper baby chicken with lotus leaf wrapped rice.  The baby chickens are poached in herbal wine & then fried until crispy.  The chicken was golden crispy on the outside & all juicy & tender on the inside & the lotus leaf wrapped fried rice was, well hard to explain but savoury & flavourful. The food bright & fresh & the service, well just lovely, friendly, welcoming & attentive. Certainly one to check out if you are passing by.
Restaurant 88
88 Tory St
Ph: 04 385 9088

And to finish our trip to Wellington, well that would be breakfast at Floriditas. We left laden with loaves of their bread & jar of their Seville orange marmalade to to tide us over until the next visit.

161 Cuba Street
Ph: 04 381 2212

Until the next time Wellington, it has indeed been swell!

27 July 2013

In Season:Leek & Potato Soup

A welcome quiet weekend with just a few movies to catch at the NZ International Film Festival, leaving the remainder of the weekend to cook, photograph, write & give this little blog a little TLC, a tad lacking the last week or so with me jetting off to Melbourne for a long weekend full of fun, food & shopping.

I was in the mood for soup & there were leeks in the weekly veggie box. So leek & potato soup it would be. One of Winter’s treats & a welcome change to an assortment of pumpkins & a plethora of greens that have become regular features in amongst the Winter veggies.  It get’s to the last stretch of Winter & they start to lose a little of their allure as I count down the days to Spring.

The leek is a sister to the onion, the white stalk delicate; sweet & tender but don’t forget the green bits. I can’t bring myself to throw half the leek away & the green bit are just fine in stocks or soups. Be gentle when cooking leeks, unlike their sister the onion they are not so nice if browned but come in to their own when a little care is taken, a few more minutes & a medium low heat, preferably in some melted butter with just a little sea salt.

Leek & Potato Soup

Serves 6


6 leeks
4 medium potatoes, I used agria, peeled & rinsed
100g unsalted butter
1 onion, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ltr hot chicken stock
3-4 tbsp cream
Salt & white pepper

To serve
Parsley, finely chopped
Blue Cheese - optional


Cut off & discard the roots & dark green tops of the leeks, but leave behind the light green.  Cut the leeks lengthways & then slice across into fine strips. Rinse the leeks in cold water to remove any grit & then pop them into a colander to drain.  Cut the potatoes into wedges & & slice them finely.

Heat 100g of the butter in a large pan over a medium heat until it foams.  Add the onion & the garlic cook for a few minutes until translucent but not coloured.  Add the leeks & season with salt & pepper, give everything a stir, cover & cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every now & then.

Add the potatoes & add the stock.  Bring to the boil & cook for another 10 minutes until both the potatoes & leeks are cooked through & soft.  Blitz the soup with a hand blender until smooth & add the cream & blitz again.  For super silky smooth soup pass the soup through a sieve.

Taste & if need be adjust the seasoning.  Served topped with a swirl of cream, a little parsley & if you like, I think a few crumbles of blue cheese would be a quite delicious topping.

Et voila a velvety smooth leek & potato soup. Serve alongside some crusty bread & a perfect light lunch for a wintry weekend.

If you like this you might like this Vegetable Soup
Three years ago Supper Club #2


19 July 2013


What a weekend.  As always good times to be had in Wellington. We arrived on a wet & wild June evening & hit Matterhorn for cocktails & a little dinner. Matterhorn is a bit of Wellington institution, ensconced at the end of a corridor up some stairs on Cuba St. It was originally a Swiss coffee house back in 1963 before ending up as a cocktail bar & restaurant.

For me a little aperitif, a Botanical Gimlet; gin, lime juice, coriander, mint, orange & lemon bitters & lemon sugar.  The perfect herbal tonic to wake up the taste buds before diving in to some very tasty morsels.

We opted for sharing, my preference as that means a little taste of everything & the avoidance of any plate envy.  On the meaty side some slow cooked merino lamb with an anchovy, mint salsa verde on the side. The meat was tender & full of flavour, the salsa verde delivering just the right amount of sharpness.  However it was the crispy pork belly with house made kimchi that was my pick of the night. Being a fan of the pickle, I could have eaten buckets of kimchi, sharp & tangy it made for a trinity of deliciousness with the pork & the golden, crunchy crackling.

The other star of the night...the potatoes.  Off the chart golden & crispy they were ambrosial!  Given that they were roasted in wagyu fat & topped with a beurre noisette & slivers of toasted almonds it is not surprising that they were up there in the sublime & most definitely moreish category.

Along with the cocktails & the scrumptious food the service also hit the spot.  Friendly, attentive & also very kindly recommended the Hawthorne Lounge  for a post dinner cocktail & for that they get extra credit. It is a little bar hidden up some stairs; you need to know where to look to find this little gem. And once you find it you will want to return.

It is most definitely a lounge, leather sofas around the fire & even marshmallows; if you feel like a little toasting.  It is all about the cocktails here & to finish off the evening I picked the Bardstown Bitters for my night cap.  Bourbon, bitters, orange peel & some other aromatics I can’t remember served over ice, fireside it was the perfect way to end the evening.  If you don’t see anything on the menu that you like just them know what you do like they will whip something up especially for you.  My travel buddy loves passionfruit & they made a wonderfully fruity concoction to order.  This little bar, we wanted to take back to Auckland.

106 Cuba Street
New Zealand
Ph: 04 384 3359

Hawthorne Lounge
82 Tory St
Te Aro
Ph: 04 890 3724

After a little snoozing & taking it easy as one should on a long weekend away for a little breakfast we headed to Nikau Cafe, a lovely little spot almost hidden away in the Wellington City Art Gallery.  On a coffee free*kick it was green tea for me & some very good coffee for my breakfast buddy.

I am not really one for a sweet breakfast so I bypassed the fresh & poached fruits with zany zeus yoghurt & I am not a fan of porridge so the porridge with cardamom & date compote was not going to do. I almost had the scrambled eggs with herbs but then I spotted the toasted rye with salmon & horseradish creme fraiche & I was sold.  This is my kind of breakfast, good bread, fresh smoked salmon & sharp hit from the horseradish to waken up the taste buds.

Nikau Cafe
City Art Gallery Civic Square
101 Wakefield St
ph: 04 801 4168

*Yes coffee free for almost a month! I am surprised, but clearer headed & a lot more relaxed!

After breakfast a little culture by way of the Andy Warhol exhibition; Warhol Immortal at Te Papa. A great collection of some of his iconic images & his words...

“In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes” 

...more pertinent & relevant today than ever in the 24/7 social network, reality TV, You Tube, ever connected world that we live in.

It is great exhibition featuring many early sketches & then moving on to the more famous screen prints of famous friends, celebrities, socialites & rock stars that we are all so familiar with. The exhibition is on until 25 August, so if you're in Wellington check it out.

As he once said: ‘Isn't life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?”

Post the art a little lunch with friends at Floriditas, for it is not a trip to Wellington without, at least a couple of visits to Floriditas.  It never disappoints & we enjoyed lovely long lazy lunch with friends over few glasses of vino.

To start a just a little nibble of  bread, dukkhah & soft feta cheese before heading in for the main event. The fish pie looked delicious & many customers would seem to agree as a multitude of these making their from the kitchen to hungry patrons.  I opted for the radicchio, ricotta & caramelised onion fritters which were the perfect light lunch post breakfast & an eye on dinner!

And to finish a perfect little sweet treat, thanks to Marc for some delectable little bambelinos, just the name rolls off the tongue, as do these sugar coated, custard filled little balls of deliciousness straight in to your mouth.  No matter how full you feel, you will always be able to find a little spot for a bambelino!

161 Cuba Street
Ph: 04 381 2212

And all of that was just the first round, post which a siesta was in order pre the evenings festivities, more to come on this soon.

15 July 2013

Ottolenghi’s Romaine, Pineapple & Gorgonzola Salad - IHCC

This week things are getting a little fruity over at our Ottolenghi IHCC. Surfing through the web I came across this little number a romaine, pineapple & Gorgonzola salad.  I think only Ottolenghi would think of pairing pineapple with Gorgonzola.  I like pineapple & I love Gorgonzola so I was too intrigued not to try.  As it happens, it would also be the perfect companion for the ham at our street’s annual mid winter Christmas progressive dinner.  

Pineapple...wonderfully sweet hinting at pina coladas & rum punch which makes it the perfect foil for all those delicious summer cocktails & can transport  you beachside, under some palm trees, watching the sun set which which works for me, for now, until I get to head to some real Summer sun. 5 weeks to go & the countdown to Vanuatu has begun!!

There are quite a few ingredients to this salad, but once the pineapple is roasted & dressing whisked up all you have to do is pile everything on a platter & drizzle over the dressing.

Ottolenghi’s Romaine, Pineapple & Gorgonzola Salad

Serves 8 or double up to feed a crowd.

For the salad
1 large pineapple, peeled, cored & sliced into 3mm-thick rounds
1 tsp caster sugar
400g romaine lettuce leaves, torn into 5cm pieces
100g watercress
100g walnuts, broken
200g celery sticks, sliced diagonally into 2mm pieces, plus any leaves
1 granny smith apple, quartered, cored & cut into 2mm slices 

For the Gorgonzola dressing
80g Gorgonzola dolce
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
200ml Greek yoghurt
40ml buttermilk
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp chopped thyme leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil


Pre heat the oven to 150C/300F. 

Lay the pineapple slices on a parchment-lined baking tray, sprinkle over the sugar and roast for an hour.  Remove, set aside until cool, then tear each slice into quarters.  Don’t worry if some are browner or crisper than others, that will just add flavour & texture to the salad.

For the dressing, put the cheese & vinegar in a bowl & whisk until smooth. Add the yoghurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, thyme, garlic, a third of a teaspoon of salt & a little black pepper. Whisk again & set aside until just before serving the salad.

Pile the pineapple, romaine, watercress, walnuts, celery & apple on a serving platter, drizzle the olive oil over the salad & toss gently. Spoon the dressing over the salad, without stirring, & serve. 

The perfect companion for ham.  The pineapple sweet & a little caramelised & that blue cheese dressing...wow!  It is the best blue cheese dressing I have come across, just perfectly balanced.  The sharpness of the blue alongside the sweet pineapple, a little crunch from the walnuts, bright fresh apple, pepper watercress & fresh romaine all add up to a quite spectacular salad.

If you like this you might like these...

And for more Ottolenghi fruitiness check out IHCC over here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...