Monthly Archives: February 2014

Prego: A CLASSIC

To quote fashion designer Ingrid Starnes “with so many new restaurants opening in town we are spoilt for choice, but the classics are worth remembering”.

And that’s exactly what I thought as we sat down for lunch at Prego recently. We went for lunch as it was the only time we could get most of the family together for Ben’s birthday lunch!

Prego has long been a “go to” restaurant for us. We have been many times and it never fails to deliver.

As we went at lunchtime we were seated straight away. As an aside I still haven’t quite come to terms with so many of the restaurants not taking bookings. At times this doesn’t bother me but for special occasions I still like the certainty of being able to book.

Anyway getting a table was no problem on this occasion.

As always we started with the Pizza all Aglio (garlic pizza bread w divine garlic aioli). As you can see that was very popular – devoured before I had a chance to take a snap!!bread

and a large Calamari Fritti for the 6 of us. You really can’t go past these two delicious offerings.

calamari (2)

Being lunch I think we all went light for the main (well light-ish)!

I’ve always loved Prego’s pizzas so it was the Capricciosa (Ham, mushroom, tomato, artichoke, anchovy, caper) for me – as always. I especially enjoy the artichoke, anchovy and caper part. Deb had the Insalate Caesar (Cos, egg, pancetta, crouton, Grana Padano, anchovy mayo) which she declared as excellent. I’d like to be able to comment on this but wasn’t allowed a taste!

Caesarpizza

Rebecca had the Pesce (Market fish, coriander, dill & chervil risotto), birthday boy Ben & KLowe had the Fettucine Alfredo (Ham, mushroom, black pepper, parmesan, cream) and Dan, being another great fan of their pizzas, had the Pollo Arrosto (Chicken, pumpkin, pinenuts, pear relish & rocket).

fish2 mains

It was one of those meals where I could have eaten any of the selections. Everyone was very satisfied with their choices. I managed to snag a little bit of fish (lovely and moist) and a spoonful of the pasta sauce (sooo good). The CLASSIC Prego had struck again.

Being lunch we didn’t have dessert but, in need of a birthday “cake”, Brandon arrived with one helping of their excellent Budino di Datteri (Sticky date pudding, vanilla poached pear, ginger ice cream,   hot caramel, pistachio crumb) with one lit candle and 6 spoons – perfect. That is a stand out dish and my attempt to sneak a second spoonful was met by a stern frown from Rebecca,….and Deb.

cake2 (2)

I don’t normally talk about the drinks side but ever since I was in the UK last year I have developed a real taste for cider. Such an under-rated drink but perfect for a lovely summer’s day – and of course for a cold winter’s day. So I had the Monteiths Crushed Apple Cider and it was sensational.

cider

And no I’m not on Monteith’s books haha.

And the other thing I love about Prego is the service. Brandon, the maître d, was very friendly and attentive and our waitress Emilia from Argentina was a sweetheart.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of all these new places opening up. Sometimes though it’s so comforting to go places like Prego which has stood the test of time and delivers every time. You know the food will be great. You know the service will be prompt and attentive. You know you will have a good time. CLASSIC

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VOP Coromandel: Well you have to don’t you for your summer holidays!!

Part 2 of our Christmas holidays – a bit late I know but at least posted while summer is still with us haha.

So after Christmas in Auckland, New Years in the Bay of Islands and a side trip to glorious Waiheke Island we headed off to Whangamata in early January for 2 weeks of R&R – we thought it would be rest and recreation but it had a fair dose of rock n roll!

For the third year in a row we rented a gorgeous European style villa right on the beach. Got there on the Saturday and by Sunday had the call from Rebecca (#1 daughter) saying that as she and Dan (partner) were working that week could we look after the new puppy. “Hadn’t you thought of that when you decided to ‘rescue’ the puppy from the SPCA”? How old – 12 weeks, toilet trained – well sort of. Greaaaat! So off I go to meet Dan half way back to Auckland to pick up the gorgeous Sybil!! The things we do!

New balls please! Jandal

New balls and jandals required thank you!

Anyway enough of the domestics. Here’s the pick of the cafes and eating places in the area:

Barside Espresso

We are always on the hunt for great coffee and as Supreme is our favourite brew (being regulars at Good One cafe in Ponsonby!!!) were delighted to find Barside Espresso. The coffee travels well and with friendly baristas it’s the perfect spot to get your (double) shot. Best in Whanga.

El Barrio

We always make a beeline for El Barrio as it does great coffee (Atomic) and a wide ranging menu. We go most days. First up we were there in the afternoon and had the eggs bene, Angus beef burger, Caesar salad and the chicken nibbles & curly fries for the 4 year old. All were pronounced excellent. I had the burger and it was one of the better ones. Full marks to owner Charles for providing genuine chicken drumsticks on the kids menu rather than those awful “nuggets” most places serve.

Next time Deb & I went in for coffee late morning and spied the toasties in the food cabinet so had the ham, cheese & pineapple and the meat lovers. Both were tasty and generously stacked.

Tasty toastiesGreat toastie

They have a Mexican influenced tapas range which we hadn’t tried before. In chatting to the very affable owner Charles he suggested we tried the fish (snapper) soft shelf taco w fresh salsa & hot sauce. It was very yummy.

The only night the café is open is Fridays so off we went on our last night for dinner with Al & Juls (last heard of in my Ostro review haha) and Juls’ brother Tom for an evening of sampling from the wonderful tapas menu – more fish tacos plus mussel fritters, scallops, fish sliders and calamari – all enhanced with a Mexican edge. Loved the lot.

Lovely tacosTasty calamari

El Barrio is the place to go to in Whangamata for great coffee and tasty food. It has two very pleasant outdoor eating areas that are well shaded and a cosy inside area that is always bustling. Staff are friendly and attentive. All in all Charles & Sandie do a fantastic job in creating a very pleasant cafe experience.

Waihi Beach Hotel and Eatery

The news that the Hip Group (Richmond Road Café, Ortolana + +) had opened in Waihi enticed us to make the trip from Whangamata to Waihi for lunch (an easy 40 minute drive).

Hip have done an excellent job in creating a very pleasant cafe space with an easy flow indoor/outdoor area. Being regulars at Hip establishments in Auckland we were keen to try their newest offering.

Scored a lovely table on the deck – essential given we had Sybie with us. And pleasingly no-one had a problem with the bundle of joy’s presence. The brunch/lunch menu is typically eclectic with everything from eggs bene to chopped liver to trevally escabeche (yes it is the correct spelling – a typical Mediterranean cuisine which refers to a dish of either poached or fried fish) on the breakfast side. More lunchy was the chicken cotoletta (an Italian word for veal breaded cutlet), flat iron steak and fish & chips. Amongst the 4 of us 2 had the fish & chips, one the market fish (Deb of course) and the 4 year old had the kids’ fish n chips.

The battered fish was trevally which I don’t recall ever having had – we used to use trevally for bait! – and which I faced with some trepidation. I need not have been concerned. It was very nice as were the chips and the little green salad complemented the dish nicely. The market fish was not so well received with Deb declaring it lacking in taste – the only real blemish on what proved to be an enjoyable experience.

Somehow tastierHealthy fish

Well actually there was one other small issue! The maître d’ had 4 attempts at providing us with the bill and eventually it was “sorted” by deduction!! Put it down to teething problems perhaps.

Service was attentive, the outdoor setting pleasant and there was a real bonus in having the ice-creamier on site for pudding as the 4 year old called it.

Delightful settingLoved the icecream

I know – gross

The playground is great for the littlies and the retro style accommodation block offers rooms at a very reasonable $120 per night.

All in all it was well worth the trip from Whangamata and Hip have certainly lifted the bar in this part of the Coromandel.

So we headed back to Auckland very reluctantly after 2 glorious weeks in Whangamata. Couldn’t wait really to get back to the joys of living in Ponsonby!!

Mekong Baby: Worth the weight!!

We’d been wanting to go to Mekong Baby since it opened but had not managed to secure a table – normally because I always left it to the day, or day before, to book and they were always booked out. And of course you have to contend with the “two sittings” – 6pm or 8.30pm.

Anyway I remembered that I should book when I was sitting next door at Diz having a coffee. So in I went and yes they had a table for the following Saturday night at 8.30. I asked for a table where Deb and I could sit side by side – very romantic don’t you think!! Actually I’m a bit deaf so need Deb sitting on my right so I can hear her (in noisy restaurants). Actually anywhere really! Didn’t want to have to resort to texting each other as we’d had to do in Prego one night haha.

So we rocked up at the appointed hour and were shown to a table in the corner (ok so far) that had the seating side by side (still ok) but then we realised that they’d simply turned the 2 person table around and expected us to sit side-by-side in a one person space (now not ok!).

Over comes Steve the manager to sort things out and eventually seats us at the 4 person table next door and side by side – after first telling us that there was enough space for two…..ah no there isn’t Steve!! Still they recovered the situation well and our first drinks were on the house. Well done Steve.

Gee this has taken a long time to get to the food!!

The Small Beginnings section of the menu provides an almost “impossible to choose from” range of wonderful sounding Asian influenced dishes. Deb settled on the Citrus Cured Wagyu, Peanuts & Chilli which she declared excellent. My Crunchy Oyster Omelette w green onions, sprouts, siracha (chilli sauce) was tasty and plentiful.IMG_2965  Sorry remembered the photo after we started!!! #classicponcentric

The Little Bigger section of the menu offered an equally difficult choice across an enticing range. Deb’s Green Fish Curry w okra, choy sum was delectable from the spoonful that I was allowed to have!IMG_2967

I was finding it difficult to choose between the Lamb Shoulder (recommended by Rebecca) and the Pork Belly. In the end I went for the Braised Pork Belly w caramelised chilli & soy, Asian slaw.IMG_2966

It was a good call – tasty, succulent and plentiful – I couldn’t eat it all which was a bit of a first for me! And we still had dessert to get through. We could skip dessert said Deb. Yeah right.

So after a bit of a breather we checked out the dessert menu and found it impossible to resist. Ice-cream Sundae for Deb (coconut & burnt palm sugar ice-cream w lemongrass jelly & peanut praline) didn’t touch the sides. I had the lime-papaya meringue pie which really hit the spot.IMG_2968

IMG_2969

So our first experience with Mekong Baby was worth the wait and the weight – the portions are generous!IMG_2970

Happy campers. Excellent food, attentive service (special thanks to T-Ann; you were awesome) and an active Maître d (so rare).

Good onya Mekong Baby. We’ll be back.