Category Archives: Food

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.

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.

Ponsonby Road Bistro: first time visit, won’t be the last

I don’t know why but we had never been to PRB – until last Saturday night that is. Rebecca is a regular there and it has always been on my (ice) bucket list haha.

So there we were, party of six, with our southern visitors Pork & Ant.

We got there at 7 – early enough to be able to negotiate a table in the front section which was great because I like light and open! We had a few minutes before the rest of the party arrived so sat up at the bar for our first drink – always a pleasant thing to do.

Service was prompt and friendly. A bottle of Taittinger Brut Reserve NV for a little celebration to start  with followed by excellent breads and fantastic chicken liver pate with chutney & toast

I’m always interested in restaurants that have sardines on the menu – many in Europe, not so many here. I like sardines (from the tin mind you) mixed with vinegar, spread on toast, cheese on top, grilled and then with a spread of mustard pickles. Divine. Most people go oooh! But I digress.

So I ordered the sardine (one biggie) which was very tasty and I enjoyed the flavour blend – it had been marinated in bay, lemon, garlic & paprika and was served on a slice of Catalan tomato bread. The others shared a couple of calamari entrees. No sharing of the sardine I’m afraid!!

Entree cropped

By this stage the champagne bottle was sitting upside down in the ice bucket so while the others had a red and a white I opted for English cider (Aspall Crisp Suffolk Draught) which comes in a 500 ml bottle and which I found very refreshing. I’d only really started drinking cider when we were in England in July and I find it a most agreeable alternative.

For a main I had the chargrilled scotch fillet with chunky chips and a parsley-garlic butter which I thoroughly enjoyed as did the other three carnivores. Pork & Deb had the miso & sesame crusted Stewart Island salmon with a salad of asparagus, broccoli & soba noodles and cucumber- yuzu-ginger-soy dressing which they declared superb. (sorry but remembered to take the photo well after I’d started!!)

Main cropped

By this stage of the evening the sun light had disappeared and the restaurant lighting kicked in so it was necessary to use one of the most important apps on the iPhone – the flashlight haha – to read the dessert menu. As I was perusing the menu I was distracted by a beam of light from behind. Turned around and there was an old mate pointing his torch at me – so I’m not the only one to use this approach!!

Actually it’s the “puddings” menu (love it when they call them puddings!!). It’s short in length but packed with tempting variety. However it was an easy choice for me and, while the others shared two puddings, I went for the (not shared) warm Valrhona chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce & crème fraiche. Heaven.Dessert cropped

It was a lovely evening and Blair has perfected a menu/service combo that has seen this award winning bistro stand the test of time. And we had excellent and friendly service from Jay our Welsh waiter.

We’ll be back.

Orphans Kitchen: It’s fantastic – if you’re game!

We’ve been meaning to go to this new Ponsonby Rd eatery for some time now having been given a voucher for my bday!

So we went last Friday night and what a treat. Tom & Josh have done a wonderful job with the set up. I love the high tables & stools – it gives it a communal eating feel which is quite European but Kiwis don’t seem as keen on it, as you are, in effect, sharing what is a cosy space. More on that later.

Crowd

It’s a small menu with 4 “smallers” and 4 “largers” and 2 desserts but this was not a problem. It was a menu which with my choices proved to be quite gamey and delightfully so.

For smallers Deb had the ora smoked salmon, celeriac, granny smith and horseradish which she pronounced as somewhere between delicious and sublime. I had the alpine merino tortilla, feijoa, millet & sheep’s milk yoghurt which I pronounced delectable. You don’t come across hogget on a menu very often but it was beautifully cooked and of a mild gamey flavour which made the dish quite unique. Sorry about the photo below – I’d eaten the first tortilla before I remembered to take the photo!!

Entrees

For mains, sorry largers, Deb had the beef rump with aubergine, black garlic & backa which was very tasty. I had one of the tastiest meals I have ever had with the wild boar boilup, kumara, doughboys, watercress and flax seeds. It was sensational. Served in a large bowl in the cooking juices, they give you a spoon to get the last drop. Again, on the nice side of gamey, or was that pleasantly smokey.

Mains

There were two sides to choose from so we had one of each: Tina’s wedge salad and kumara chips with smoked sour cream. The wedge salad is in the photo above – Tina had obviously smashed open the iceberg lettuce and poured a delicious dressing over it.

Two desserts so we had one of each. A divine dark Valrhona chocolate, tamarillo, black cardamon and …oops took a photo of the dessert menu and missed out the bit after “and” haha, and a TDF Banofee with young coconut and banana.

Choccy Pud

Banofee Pud

For me the meal was 11 out of 10. Such wonderful tastes and eclectic combinations. Friendly and attentive service (thanks Ana) and it was nice to see Josh on the floor serving and chatting – you don’t see enough of that in Ponsonby restaurants – but that’s another subject for a blog posting!! And I did a quick trip to the kitchen to thank Tom and team for the wonderful meal – not enough of that done either!

Oh and back to those communal tables. We had 3 couples on ours and we ended up having a most interesting chat to the ones nearest us. You can if you want to or not if you don’t. Sometimes it’s nice to share a conversation as well as a table.

And finally Tom tells me they’ll be changing the menu soon. I said leave the boilup on the menu or there’ll be trouble!!

Can’t wait to go back.

VOP: Wow Al Brown you’ve done it again with Federal Deli

VOP: Wow Al Brown you’ve done it again with Federal Deli

We’ve ventured outside Ponsonby again – this time to try Al Brown’s new Federal Deli. And we loved it. Sunday night was probably a good time to try it as we had no problem getting a table. Super friendly and attentive service with the water poured literally as we sat down.

For starters we shared amongst 4 of us MEAT SCHTICKS (pea & pastrami croquettes w/ habanero mayo) and SMOKED KAHAWAI CAKES (w/ NZ wasabi & lime mayo) – plenty to go around. And the water kept coming!

For mains we shared SPIT-ROAST CHICKEN (half bird) and VEAL SCHNITZEL (w/ sage & lemon) – again enough for 4. The schnitzel was the best I’ve tasted. And the water kept coming!!

Fed 3

And for dessert we shared NY CHEESECAKE and LEMON MERINGUE PIE. And still the water kept coming!!!

Couldn’t fault anything. It’s casual but efficient, that is, the good part of efficient.

We’ll be back there for breakfast soonest. Well why wouldn’t you with these yummies on offer:

MORNING GLORY breakfast salad w/ haloumi, portobello, poached egg & dukkah GRIDDLE CAKES blueberry buttermilk pancakes w/ cinnamon butter & strudel crunch LATKES crispy potato w/ salmon lox, crème fraiche & dill TREYF pickled pork, poached eggs & horseradish hollandaise on rye SMOKED HASH smoked mullet w/ fresh herbs & poached eggs MISH-MASH pastrami hash w/ poached egg

And finally they’ve got these wicked postcards with a brilliant tag line: Raising Auckland’s cholesterol since 7am

Fed 1

What’s not to love. Well worth crossing the border for!!

What will they think of next?? DIY donuts!!

We had lunch at Foxtrot Parlour in Ponsonby Central on Saturday. Tara Grogan has a great little café going there. Love her pies – I had the thai chicken and Deb had the chicken provencal. Both were so0 tasty and with great pastry – which so many pie makers don’t get right,

But the “what will they think of next” award goes to Tara’s take on the humble donut. Not only do you get to chose the filling you want – choccy, berry coulis plus one other that I forget – but you get the syringe so you can do it yourself. What a fun idea. I didn’t do a very good job with the injecting so I’m going to have to go back for more practice haha.

Donut

At a time when cafes and the like have to try and differentiate themselves this is a very novel idea – well done Tara. Now all we need is a steak & kidney pie please!!

To market, to market

Over the last couple of years a lot of new food stores have opened that encourage the daily trip to the market to buy fresh produce so reminiscent of the European life style and I love it. Nosh has been around a while and do it well and Farro just off Richmond Rd has added an exciting new dimension. A special mention here for their coffee. They’ve got Supreme and Allpress and their baristas are very friendly. And they do a mean “sub” sandwich on Fridays.

As well as great restaurants Ponsonby Central offers fresh fruit and veges in a market setting and the long established Bhana Bros on P Rd have responded to the challenge, refurbished and expanded their range of food products. And they sell a wicked bunch of flowers.

And speaking of Ponsonby Central the Produce Market opened last weekend and it is fantastic. Amongst other things we bought Top Shelf’s Beetroot & Onion Feta Spread – soo yummy. And I couldn’t talk about Ponsonby Central without mentioning Tim and the boys & girls at Neat Meat – what a great job they do and so friendly. We’ve taken our own marinade along and they’ve vacuum packed it with the butterfly lamb. Brilliant

What’s not to love about living in Ponsonby?Beetroot spread