Category Archives: Drink

Ponsonby Road Eateries: So much choice, so little time

I’ve starting writing a column for Ponsonby News so thought I would “post” my column on Poncentric. It’s quite long but worth the journey!

So much is written about the eating establishments in Ponsonby. There is so much choice, so little time!

There are at least 85, yes 85!, eateries on the strip alone catering for cheap(er!) and quick to finer dining. From Ponsonby Food Court to SIDART every taste and budget is catered for. And I love the way that the various eateries are really onto it. Just today I see that old favourite Prego is promoting a dozen bluff oysters for $22 served au naturelle – as they should be apparently – although I am rather partial to the tempura treatment!

Prego Oysters

Prego Oysters

So, of the 85 eateries, 15 have been reincarnated in the last 2 years – that’s almost a 20% churn. Not an easy business to be in with more competition than any other business I would think. And I’ve been to 51 of them!! And did you know that starting with Bird & Boy and heading towards Three Lamps there are 14 establishments in a row that sell food. Ok so I included the butchers next to Prego and the Lucky Taco truck that is parked on the other side of Prego but you take my point I’m sure!

And speaking of Prego it is one of two restaurants that have really stood the test of time – SPQR is the other. Prego will turn 30 next year and SPQR has cracked 22 years – a remarkable achievement and testament to the vision, imagination and fortitude of their owners – Kelvin Gibson and Chris Rupe respectively.

If you look for common factors between these two hugely popular restaurants you’ll find it, I think, in their underlying philosophies – imaginative dishes using fresh and seasonal ingredients, simply and beautifully cooked by staff that have been their forever. Consistent high standards of food and service creating a memorable experience and an emotional connection. And of course their longevity has created a loyal constituency that now spans generations.

Whenever I visit these restaurants I’m always torn between the old favourites and the newer dishes and while I have tried the newer dishes on occasion, I’m somewhat inevitably drawn to the old favs. Isn’t that why we go back, again, and again?

Another contributing factor to their success I suspect is the extent to which they have embraced social media. Many of the eateries on the strip have an active social media strategy where we are bombarded, and pleasurably so, with photos of the delectable and the divine; enticing us to try them. Here’s a selection! Clockwise from left: Dizengoff plum cake, Mekong Baby curry, Ponsonby Road Bistro steak and yummy potatoes, Gusto Italiano bruschette (the best) & calamari.

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And I wanted to comment on another aspect of the dining options on the strip. There are two, what I would call, food halls on Ponsonby Road – not wishing, of course, to denigrate either by calling them food halls. The Ponsonby International Food Court, to give it its full title, is, in my experience, a most satisfactory destination for a quick meal. Granted it is an older style “food hall” but the eclectic range of high quality food on offer surprises and satisfies. I’ve never had a bad dining experience there and we would go at least once a fortnight.

And weren’t we all pleased to see that grotty old building on the corner of Richmond Road morph into the fabulous Ponsonby Central with its wonderful array of fine eateries – Blue Breeze Inn, Burger Burger, Dantes Pizzeria, Tokyo Club, Toru, Chop Chop, Foxtrot Parlour, Bedford Soda & Liquor, El Sizzling Chorizo and Maldito Mendez. I love them all.

And here’s a selection of treats (from top clockwise): Gorgeous assortment from Blue Breeze Inn, Foxtrot Parlour best pies (sorry about the photo but I only remembered to take it after I started haha), Burger Burger but of course.

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And now for a bit of history. If my memory serves me well, an early trip to Ponsonby Road for us was to dine at the famous Ivan’s.

Ivan’s was a casual restaurant, located where Chapel Bar & Bistro now is, which operated between 1964 and 1995. It offered simple, affordable food like sausages, steak and chips, eggs and buttered white bread right up until it closed in 1995. I can still taste the half a dozen battered oysters I had as a side dish with my steak, eggs and chips!

Yes some of you might remember Ivan’s but do you recall what came next before Luke Dallow opened Chapel in 2005! Well let me help. Ivan’s closed in 1995 and up popped the Anglesea Grill which had an 8 year run before being replaced by Charlie White’s for a short time and then it was transformed into Chapel.

So I got a bit interested in the history of Ponsonby Road restaurants and in researching this topic I came across a fantastic post by Jesse Mulligan on his Auckland Food Blog from June 2011 titled Auckland’s Best Restaurants, August 1980. Jesse’s post was based on a list of Auckland restaurants provided to him by an old corporate colleague.  The list was dated August 1980. I’m not sure if the list was conclusive; perhaps it only included the top end as it was compiled to inform the corporate lunch set back then! Notwithstanding that caveat, according to the list there were only 11 restaurants on Ponsonby Road.

Goodness me hasn’t the landscape changed. The names are very evocative of the era and include some very (in)famous eateries – Toad Hall where Prego is, Bronze Goat where Mad Mex currently is on the corner of Pollen St, Carthews where Tin Soldier now is, Deerstalker on the site currently occupied by the recently opened Ponsonby Workingmen’s Club, Oblios where Bolliwood is now, Orsinis in the now beautifully restored Allendale House on the corner of Crummer Street (now home to the ASB Community Trust) and Wheelers at the current Freeman & Grey address. And not to mention Bistro 260, Café 161, L’Escargot D’Or and Pabulum rounding out the 1st Eleven. Just writing this I am slightly overwhelmed by the memories of what were iconic restaurants of their time.

Don’t you just love Ponsonby. And by the way you can check out what Poncentric is up to at www.poncentric.com and https://www.facebook.com/poncentric

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VOP: Odettes Eatery – a most satisfying dining experience

We’d been keen to try Odettes Eatery ever since it opened and a recent family birthday celebration presented the perfect opportunity for our family group of eight including a five year old. And although it was a VOP (Venturing Outside Ponsonby) it felt like Ponsonby! So Odettes is located at the City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St and parking was easy (although it was a Sunday!).

It was a Sunday brunch and we were delighted to find that they take bookings for 6 or more – so helpful when you have a larger group.

It is a lovely setting – great décor, plenty of space with a seamless indoor/outdoor flow. Our table was inside but it felt like it was outside. There is outdoor seating with a large (permanent) “gazebo” like structure and even a bit of lawn that you could almost picnic on!

We were pleasantly greeted and seated, water and menus arrived promptly as did our wait person for coffee/drinks orders. No rush with our somewhat lengthy perusal of the menus.

The brunch menu is an eclectic mix of exotica. No eggs bene I’m afraid which is no bad thing when you sight this menu with its strong Eastern Mediterranean influence.

Variously we ordered the Carew Almond Milk Bircher (marinated berries, puffed wild rice and toasted almonds), Smashed Avocado (chilli, rocket, coriander on toasted rye with poached egg & bacon) and Baked Salmon Salad (swiss chard, kidney beans, buttermilk). All were declared tasty and moreish.

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I’m a bit of a sucker for the big brekky and Odettes Complete did not disappoint – poached eggs, whipped feta, heirloom tomato, avocado, bacon on sour dough. I loved it. The poached eggs were perfectly cooked, the whipped feta added a delightful flavour dimension and the avocado was the perfect ripeness – and plentiful. And a special mention of the bacon. Bacon can be very hit and miss but in this case it was perfect – smokey, streaky and cooked just short of crunch – just how I like it.

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The coffee was Millers – not many eateries carry this brand – and it really hit the spot. The staff were friendly, helpful and attentive without being intrusive.

Clare and Joost have done a fabulous job in setting up what for us will be a “go to” restaurant. It’ll be for lunch next time – a quick perusal of the lunch menu had me almost placing an order there and then. Can’t wait to tuck into those Soft Shell Crab sliders and the Duck Pastrami! We’ll be back soon.

All in all it was a most satisfying dining experience. Thank you Clare, Joost and the team.

The Great Grey Lynn Sustainable Business Walk

Hello everyone. This is my first post for 2015 and, surprise, surprise, it’s not all about food!! And it’s a VOP (Venturing Outside Ponsonby). And as it turns out it was the most interesting and inspiring two hours I spent in a long time!

The invitation from Martin Leach from Ponsonby News said “be inspired and visit sustainable businesses in the Grey Lynn community”. And it was hugely inspiring.

The Grey Lynn Business Association organised a walking tour yesterday aimed at showcasing successful and like-minded Grey Lynn businesses who embrace sustainable business practices.

So I arrived at Bread & Butter Café (34 Westmoreland Street next to Farro Fresh) at 4.30pm not quite sure what to expect. A group 50 fellow travelers was treated to an interesting presentation from Isobel from Bread & Butter and so the journey began.

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With a reputation for being at the forefront of sustainability and organics Bread & Butter only use certified organic ingredients; unbleached flours, wholemeal flours, nuts and seeds that have not been chemically aged or heavily sprayed with insecticides or fertilisers. They do not use additives, premixes, stabilisers and other artificially altered ingredients.

For those of us not completely tuned in to the sustainability/organic ethos it was a bit of an eye opener!

Next stop on the walk was Nature Baby at 433 Richmond Rd in the West Lynn village. They specialise in natural & organic products which nurture both parent and baby.

Nature Baby is a family business established in 1998 by Jacob and Georgia who had a vision where their children could grow up in a pure, beautiful, chemical-free community. More inspiration for us all. Just love the passion.

IMG_7416 A slight detour off Richmond Rd to the Wilton Picnic Patch (formerly the Wilton Street Community Garden) had the group absorbed in the history of the garden and able to sight the fruits (and veges!) of the labour of a dedicated group of volunteers led by well-known gardener and author Fionna Hill (“How To Grow Microgreens, Nature’s own Superfood” and “A Green Granny’s Garden – the Confessions of a Novice Urban Gardener”.

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Much needed refreshments at this stop were provided by Simon from All Good Organics whose Karma Cola, Lemmy Lemonade and Gingerella really hit the spot.

From the garden to the roaster, our next stop was at Kokako Coffee Roastery located at 606 Great North Road, Grey Lynn. Eight years ago owner Mike Murphy purchased a rundown coffee roastery and turned it into a hugely successful business that has sustainability as its primary focus. Mike and his team are strong advocates for Fairtrade and the ethical procurement of their green beans, cocoa and sugar. All Kokako Coffee and Drinking Chocolate has ‘third party verification’ from both Fairtrade and Biogro NZ, to ensure it meets stringent Fairtrade and organic certification standards.

The bonus at this, our last stop, was the food and refreshments – much needed, especially by Martin Leach from Ponsonby News and I, after the uphill walk! Thank you to Kokako Café (just across the road in the old Grey Lynn Post Office building) for providing the fantastic dips and bread – the basil pesto was awesome. Interesting how the numbers on the walk grew significantly at the fueling stop!

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At this stop we heard from Mike about the history of Kokako and the philosophy behind his business. Next up was Simon from All Good Organics who have completely embraced the Fairtrade ethos.

Wendyl Nissen, well-known magazine editor in a previous life talked about “Wendyl’s” range of products which are all handmade at their Grey Lynn shop and 100% natural. They have all their ingredients listed and contain no fillers, chemicals or synthetics. They all use simple ingredients like baking soda, soda ash, borax, vinegar and oxygen bleach.

Finally Grey Lynn Business Association Chair Jennifer Northover thanked everyone for attending what was for me the most interesting two hours I have spent in a long time.

So in two hours I went from novice to convert. Inspired by the commitment and passion of the individuals and businesses that have embraced the ethos of sustainability, organic ingredients and fairtrade principles I will have a very different view in future of what I buy, where I buy it and what’s in it.

These businesses are making a real difference. You can too by buying right.

VOP: Waiheke – Lunch at Cable Bay Vineyard & Restaurant – Faultless

This is part two of our celebratory weekend on Waiheke Island.

Having got established in the lovely house we’d rented for the weekend (Waikare), had coffee and food at Café Delight and dined at Oyster Inn we were ready for the big lunch at the Cable Bay Vineyard & Restaurant. Deb had been particularly keen to try Cable Bay and as it was her/our anniversary she got to choose!!

Anyway the family party of 8 set out by taxi van on a rainy and cold Saturday. Cable Bay has a gorgeous setting with panoramic views of the gulf.View

We arrived to a very welcoming greeting from the duty manager/maître d’ Alan and were seated at a table near the floor to ceiling windows that had it been a fine day would have yielded a splendid view out over the water.

Still a lovely fire provided much needed warmth and atmosphere and we were soon perusing the menu.

A bottle of champagne promptly arrived (Deb’s favourite Veuve Cliquot, ordered secretly by Rebecca) and we were soon toasting the special event.

Menus in hand we then proceeded to scan the wonderful offerings. The fact that it was lunch time meant not a jot as I ran through entrees, mains and desserts – this was going to be the full monty.

Quel choix!!

To start we liked the look of everything so we decided to get one of each: Green olives, pickled garlic, rosemary, orange, fennel; Freshly Baked Ciabatta, EVOO, whipped butter, tapenade; Duck Liver Pâté, sherry jelly, almonds & brioche toast and Salted bluenose brandade, lemon peel, parsley & sour dough.

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And just in case you didn’t know, EVOO stands for extra virgin olive oil – I knew that!! And of course you did know that brandade was an emulsion of bluenose and olive oil – of course you did!

Despite the wind and rain outside we thought we were in heaven at this stage. A wonderful array of flavours and tastes and we hadn’t even got to the entrees!

More awful (in the nicest possible way) choices to make for the entrée. Variously we had the Cured salmon, crème fraiche, squid ink, cucumber, grapefruit, fennel; Braised game & carrot open ravioli; Roast artichoke, crayfish, shitake, bresaola (air-dried, salted beef), truffle jus and local oysters, chardonnay vinegar sorbet & lemon.

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I had the crayfish dish which was absolutely divine. Everyone else declared their choices exquisite.

It couldn’t get better surely!

Crikey this is turning into a long lunch and an even longer story haha.

Time for the mains.

If you know me you will know that I always go for the pork and the Free range pork, parsnip cream, braised quince, swiss chard, mustard was just sensational and perfectly matched with the Cable Bay Vineyards Syrah 2012. I really like parsnip and am rather partial to quince so there were so real bonuses with this dish.

If you Deb you will know that she always goes for the fish and the Line caught fish, roast cauliflower, mussels, caper, lemon & nasturtium did not disappoint – moist as it should be (and often isn’t) and flavoursome.

The rest of the gang variously chose Beef fillet, braised shin, black garlic, charred onion, leek, brown butter potato; Merino lamb rump, green wheat, carrot, date, yoghurt & chestnut  and the Spelt & potato gnocchi, walnut milk, grilled cos, broccoli, maple.

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They all sounded wonderful, looked amazing and the tastes and flavours were sensational. It doesn’t get better than this.

And we still had dessert to go!!!

No, well this was actually where a bit of sanity prevailed.

Given the special nature of the event, I had ordered in advance what turned out to be a gorgeous decadent chocolate cake which had the added bonus of being able to be cut to requested size. Deb was in charge of portion management and the first slither was handed to me. I said “that waver thin piece can’t be for me”. She said “well it should be” and it was passed to someone, could have been any of the others, for whom it was more than adequate!!

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Soon it was time to depart – they needed to set up the dining room for dinner haha so our long lingering gorgeous lunch came to an end.

We literally loved the whole Cable Bay dining experience. Wonderful and warm service – nothing was too much trouble. Unbelievably superb food. One of those “we’ll always remember” experiences. And full marks to Cable Bay for being so helpful in organising the celebratory cake. They made our big day very special. Thank you Alan, Josh and Liz.

Can’t wait to go back.

So if you’re looking for a superb outing, a day trip to Waiheke for lunch at the Cable Bay Winery & Restaurant could not be beaten. In a word – faultless

New Zealand’s First Pop Up City

New Zealand’s First Pop Up City: Paradise by the dashboard light

Well almost. It was actually paradise by the Silo light and Meatloaf would have loved it. Too obscure – then go listen to Bat out of Hell.

WHAT IS HE ON ABOUT!! To explain

Last night we went to an event at Silo Park. Actually it was the first Pop Up City event I’ve been to.

The Capital - Invite (Wed)

The best of the Wellington food and drink scene was captivatingly on display in the a-mazing Silo 6. Organised by the best PR team in the world – Jade & Rebecca from Raw PR – this was a not to be missed event and it delivered big time. For those of us who are foodies it was “paradise”.

From Logan Brown to the Six Barrel Soda Co the best of Wellington was on display to sample, and sample….and sample.

And a nicer bunch of Wellingtonians you would not find.

So I started with the pork roll from Ti Kouka Café which was excellent. Then to the silo that housed Scopa and Duke Carvell’s No. 6 and of course it would have been rude not to sample the Fusilli pasta with pork & fennel sausage and the bait fish bagel respectively. Both fantastic.

Scopa's Fusilli Pasta with Pork & Fennel SausageBait Fish Bagel from Duke Carvell's No. 6

Those mazes are a bit confusing so I found myself back at Ti Kouka Café where it would have been poor form not to sample their pork roll (again).

So changing tack I headed into yet another silo to find the lovely Lucy from Grill Meets Beer serving hop & hoisin braised reserve short rib, brioche bun & yum yum slaw. I can tell you it took me longer to say that than it did to hoover down the bun!!

There was a queue forming to my left and upon investigation I discovered it was the paua fritter queue! So I joined it – as you would. Yes it was the queue to Logan Brown’s exquisite wild paua fritters, wasabi mayo & avocado sammies. When Shaun asked who should get the next batch I suggested he should serve the elderly first – well I thought it was funny!!

Lucy from Grill Meats BeerWild paua fritters, wasabi mayo & avo from Logan Brown TDF

In need of something to wash all that food down Rebecca steered me into the drinks silo which not surprisingly was very popular but being a foodie and not a drinkie I sought out the non-alcohol Six Barrel Soda Co where I guzzled a charming raspberry lemon soda. And from my observation a few more should have tried the non-alcohol option haha. Oh and bumped into Deb & Jade on the way. And sorry for the photo quality – a combination of poor technique and weird lighting haha.

Rebecca & Joseph Six Barrel Soda CoIMG_4422

By this stage it was time for “afters” so the next silo stop was for coffee, chocolate & cookie. Although to get there I had to go via the Logan Brown silo where another paua sammie was quietly scoffed!

Wild paua fritters, wasabi mayo & avo from Logan Brown TDFIMG_4421

The Wellington Chocolate Company were serving a fabulous chocolate foam with a slice of choccy on top so that got the tick. And the packet of salted caramel cookies were secreted in my pocket to be enjoyed with a cup of tea when I got home.

Chocolate Heaven from the Wellington Chocolate FactorySalted Caramel Cookie from Leeds St Bakery

What a fantastic night. Those Wellingtonians sure know how to put on a veritable feast. But you’ll have to go to Wellington to experience it. So jump on the interweb and “grab a seat” to have a wonderful culinary experience.

Great concept, beautifully executed. Thank you team.

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.

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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.

VOP: Ostro, as good as we hoped it would be

Well we finally managed to get a table at Ostro last Saturday night after booking 4 weeks ago! So our party of 8 fronted to Josh Emett’s latest offering in the Britomart precinct on Saturday night at 7 o’clock high on expectation based on what we’d heard. Yes and it was VOP (Venturing Outside Ponsonby)!

We were one of the larger parties and scored a great spot in front of the glass wall which allowed the first 4 to arrive the get the seats with a view out over the wharf area/car storage area!!! Gorgeous early-summer evening and with the gentle breeze zephyring through the open panels on the glass wall we were set for what turned out to be a most enjoyable night.

Service was prompt and in fact pleasantly attentive throughout the evening.

To the menu. I hate it when there are about 3 items for each course that you’d love to have. Normally I then spend the night looking longingly at other people’s plates and thinking “I wish I’d had that”!

I started with the SMOKED KAHAWAI OMELETTE with hollandaise and watercress

Smoked Kahawai Omelette

Smoked Kahawai Omelette

while others had the OX TONGUE TWO WAYS with mustard, cornichons, sauce gribiche and grilled sourdough, MARKET FISH CEVICHE with meyer lemon, avocado, red radish and cucumber

tongue croppedMarket Fish Ceviche

and the  ‘CURIOUS CROPPERS’ TOMATOES with fresh herbs, compressed watermelon, avocado and cucumber. All were declared very tasty. I particularly liked my omelette which was light and flavoursome. I was dying to try the two way ox tongue and tried to put the evil eye on Tom but there was no offer forthcoming. Had it been Deb I’d have nicked a bit off her plate; but she’d never have had it in the first place. Al wanted me to specifically refer to his curious croppers tomatoes – curious choice is all I’d say!!

For mains we covered a fair bit of the field. The ROAST SCAMPI RISOTTO with Marlborough saff ron and parmesan was one of the dishes that I could easily have had but I felt like a steak so went for the Grain fed, 250g WAKANUI SCOTCH with béarnaise and a jus which I just loved.

steak 2rissotto

Others had the HONEY-GLAZED GRILLED POUSSIN with harissa and blackened tomato, the BRAISED DUCK AGNOLOTTI with Parsnip, pickled pear and duck crackling, RICCOTTA & SPINACH TORTELLI with Tomato, basil and parmesan and the LINE-CAUGHT TARAKIHI Candied grapes, fennel and toasted almonds

We shared sides of MIXED LEAF SALAD with lemon and avocado oil, FRENCH FRIES with fresh herbs and STEAMED ASPARAGUS with picada – all passed the test.

Verdict on mains? Well I’ll leave that to my fellow dinner guests. Tom said the Scampi risotto was scrumptious, Marie said the fish was gorgeous, Deb declared the poussin “perfection on a plate”, Lena loved the rissotto, Murray said the duck was excellent, Juls rated the tortelli really nice and I can’t remember what Al had haha. Ah yes I can after texting him, it was the tarakihi which he pronounced very nice!

For dessert there was a fair bit of couple-sharing going on with the BOMBE ALASKA with Orange & mascarpone parfait with lemon sorbet and the CHOCOLATE & COFFEE MOUSSE with Hazelnut beignet and milk sorbet. No sharing for me though!! I had my own Bombe Alaska and it was gooood. Of course with me not sharing there was no chance of getting a taste from anyone else!!  Both desserts were declared very yummy.bombe alaska croppedDessert mouse cropped

So all in all it was a most enjoyable evening and Chef Cobus Klopper and the team at Ostro did a fine job.

And here’s the party of 8! Merry Christmas to all.

Party of 8 - has been having pot luck dinners for over 30 years!!

Party of 8 – has been having pot luck dinners for over 30 years!!

VOP: Food Truck Garage: a very pleasant surprise

Shall we go out to brunch on Sunday said my friend Al. Good idea. Where? How about the Food Truck Garage? Quick check of the menu. Uh oh! No eggs benny!! Looks like it’s more lunchy! Alright let’s give it a go.

So we arrived at 11 just as they were opening – scored an outside table. Waiter arrived promptly with water (always a good sign), coffee orders placed. So far so good.

A quick squiz at the menu confirmed my worst fears – no eggs anything!! However my eyes were drawn to the Tokyo Slaw and I started to feel better. Good coffee arrived and we settled in for what turned out to be a very pleasant experience.

Al & I had the Tokyo Slaw with poached free range chicken. The slaw was a ripper – red & green cabbage, snow pea shoots, edamame beans, crushed almonds, green apple & teriyaki dressing – and the chicken plentiful and tender. A most enjoyable eating experience.IMG_2154

The girls had the “Chilli Chickette” meet pattie (not a typo if you don’t mind). They call it a sandwich, we’d call it a burger!!  It was free range chicken & courgette pattie with spicy harissa, red cabbage, rocket, red onion, cucumber, coriander, mint and Greek yoghurt – sound a mouthful? It was, and a tasty one at that. Oh and the buns are made of spelt flour!IMG_2157

Sides of Bakes (chips) being skin on agria potatoes, golden kumara & beetroot w. homemade tomato sauce and Little Tokyo – a smaller version of their Tokyo slaw. All delicious.IMG_2153

So I went from doubter to believer in about 4 bites!!

Michael, you’ve done a great job in keeping faith with the concept. And thank you for not having eggs benny on the menu. It meant I had to try something else and I loved it. As lesson for us all!

Excellent healthy food, friendly & attentive service. You’ve gotta go there!

Mexico: don’t you just love it

This is the third post I’ve done about Mexico (the restaurant) – they must be doing something right. And of course they absolutely are.

Ponsonby Mexico this time. Friday night. Stroll up Norfolk Street. Turn right and we were there. And as a bonus there was a street side table available for the grabbing. Fortunate as it was full and jumping inside!

Actually it was the first time we’d been back since the opening night so were keen to consider the full menu option. As you would. Water arrived promptly, menus already on the table (I like that), waitress arrived, order taken. 5 minutes. Great. Drinks: Margarita (of course) pour madame and Virgin margarita pour moi – to mix my languages – just felt like bursting into French haha.

Ordered 2 soft shell tacos (pan fried fish w/ salsa gribiche, chipotle mayo, red slaw and braised pork belly w/ pomegranate, spiced cabbage, sesame), Mexico fried chicken and a quesadilla (chipotle chicken, portobello mushrooms, oregano & salsa borracha).

The fried chicken arrived in no time, closely followed by the rest. Even before the drinks!

 

Anyway, to return to the virgin margarita. I often like to sample the non-alcoholic fare and I liked the sound of it – rose water, apple juice, lime juice, sugar, cinnamon rim. It was divine.

That fried chicken though – that is the standout offering for me – being a bit of an old fan of the Colonel. Actually a bit of a new fan as well. Only tend to have it when Deb’s out – then I can tell her I had chicken and salad without having to fib!! But I digress.

The tacos and the quesadilla were scrummy. Oh yes we had a vegetable special as well – little roast potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce – sooo nice.

Mexico smorgasbord

Mexico smorgasbord

Meantime all was abustle around us with the passing Friday night revellers. Such fun.

For completeness (of course!) we had to try the desserts – Deb had the chocolate tart, the Mexican donuts special for me. The donuts were splendid – five mini donut balls with gooey chocolate in the middle.

TDF Donuts

TDF Donuts

So another enjoyable night at Mexico. Food was excellent, service was friendly and attentive and maître d’ Josh was a star.

Thanks again to the wonderful Mimi and her team. Oh and Mimi, get those donuts permanently on the menu please.