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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!!

Christmas snapshots………………..groan

Hello Poncentricsters. Welcome to my 2014.

No these aren’t the holiday snaps where you’ll wade through a whole lot of photos – boring. But they are snapshots of where we went over the holiday period with a few eating highlights.

We were in Auckland for Christmas and headed to Whangamata on January 4th but had a number of VOPs in between.

For the last 3 years we’ve had Christmas day brunch at two Auckland hotels. It’s the only time we can get the whole family together and it’s a great way to start the big day. First year it was at the Hilton Hotel on Princes Wharf which was a wonderful setting. For the last two years we’ve been to the Langham Hotel which has a much more Christmasy feel and has the wonderful “Eight” restaurant. Well worth a thought if you’re looking to have a break from cooking on Christmas day.

We had friends (Ian & Gill) arrive from the UK on December 28th for 10 days on their honeymoon – Ian’s 66 and first marriage!! We’d gone to their wedding in Scotland last August.  Caught the ferry to Waiheke for the day to show our friends from the UK one of our top “tourist destinations”. We opted for the Fuller’s Waiheke Explorer Tour package which was great value at $52 each return (ferry only $36) that included ferry travel to Waiheke Island, a 1½ hour scenic tour of the island, plus unlimited bus travel for the rest of the day. It’s a great way to make the most of a day trip to Waiheke and see all the best sights.

We had lunch at the wonderful Oyster Inn. I love the setting and décor and the staff are always friendly and attentive. Our friends hadn’t had oysters before so that was a bit of a treat for them. Well Ian liked them, Gill tried one!! They are a bit of an acquired taste. I had the tempura oysters which were fabulous but more about the food in my review of Oyster Inn.

First time oyster eater

First time oyster eater

Guess who had fish n chips

Guess who had fish n chips

Couldn't not have the pav!

Couldn’t not have the pav!

Hard to resist the lemon tart

Hard to resist the lemon tart

Headed up north for New Year’s Eve with the UK visitors. Hadn’t been to Paihia for many years so we were excited about checking the area out. Stayed at the Copthorne Hotel at Waitangi which is in a great location and a moment of serendipity had us upgraded to the Hobson Suite. The view from the deck of the suite reminded me very much of Fiji.

Could have been in Fiji

Could have been in Fiji

But don’t eat there – enough said. Lots to do around the area and interestingly there was a high proportion of visitors were from overseas.

Found a great little café in Paihia called The Upper Deck (upstairs The Mall, 76 Marsden Rd). We had breakfast there both days – the coffee was great, food was excellent, staff friendly and the view from the deck was fantastic. No better way to start the day.

Great view over the beach front

Great view over the beach front

Guess who had the big brekky!

Guess who had the big brekky!

Deb had the healthy option

Deb had the healthy option

Had dinner at 35 Degrees South restaurant in Paihia. Lovely setting over the water and the food was very nice. Caught the ferry over to Russell for the obligatory wander around but found a lovely café that does great seafood chowder.

Seafood chowder for 4!

Seafood chowder for 4!

And there’s a great bush walk (Paihia View Point 1.5 km – 1 hour return) which is a very pleasant ramble through regenerating native forest to a view point overlooking the bay. The entrance is off School Road, 700m from the Paihia shops. It’s all uphill to get there but so worth the effort. From the viewpoint you can see the Bay from Opua to Waitangi and over the Russell peninsula to Urupukapuka Island and Cape Brett in the distance. Gorgeous. The walk back is downhill – such a relief.

Awesome views

Awesome views

So we really enjoyed both being in Auckland for Christmas day (you should try it) and re-discovering the wonderful Bay of Islands with a side of Waiheke Island.

Standby for the next set of snapshots as we VOP to the Coromandel.

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.

RUBY ‘THE DREAMERS’: Sometimes I wish I was a girl!

Just to prove I’m not one dimensional and obsessed with food, I went to the RUBY ‘THE DREAMERS’ Autumn/Winter 2014 fashion show last night.

The Boiler Room on Level 2 at Victoria Park Market was the perfect venue for what turned out to be a glorious night of wonderful fashion ideas.

Now I am a bit biased here as we have a bit of a connection to Ruby but that said, from the design to the DJ it was a smooth and highly professional production.

The Ruby Planners

The Ruby Planners

As you will know from my previous posts my photos are not that flash (haha) but I did manage to get a couple of snaps of the range – conscious as I am that older men taking photos of young women is not the best form! Well that’s what Deb keeps telling me.

IMG_2026IMG_2024

Deanna has designed a gorgeous range and the show was beautifully styled by Amelia.

And the show was much enjoyed.IMG_2039

And much enjoyedIMG_2045

Yes I know but I told you the photos were ….!

Loved the range, fantastic venue, wonderful staging and splendid music. And we were home by 9. Perfect!!

In stores in February – can’t wait

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.

Andiamo: an oldie but a very goodie

It’s a while since we’ve been to Andiamo at 194 Jervois Rd Herne Bay. It’ll be a much shorter time before we go again. We had a lovely brunch there last Sunday. I did a quick google search before hand to check out the menu. Deb doesn’t like to do this – she likes the surprise of opening the menu and discovering all the good stuff there and then. I’m a Virgo so I like to peruse the offering in advance. Actually Deb’s a Virgo too!!! Oh well each to their own.

Anyway they have a wonderful Weekend Brunch menu.

I had the LAMB KIDNEYS sautéed with mushrooms and bacon, cream seeded mustard sauce, with toasted five grain. Absolutely divine.

The others had the MEDITERRANEAN TOAST – ciabatta with Manuka honey smoked bacon or smoked salmon, avocado, roasted vine tomatoes, basil pesto and fresh parmigiano. They said it was great.

Photos? Well actually I forgot, in my enthusiasm to get started, and only remembered after I’d finished. It was like a demolition derby!!

So the photo below is slightly gross but testimony to the delicious food served at this fine establishment. Something they’ve been doing for an amazing 29 years.

Andiamos

The service was professional, friendly and attentive. It’s a great spot for weekend brunch and competitively priced in case you were thinking that it might be a bit pricey. And it’s MUCH better than most of the other eating places on the strip. Very much a cut above.

I loved it and will be back soon. I might try the savoury mince next time!

 

Supreme: Just when you thought it couldn’t get better

It’s always been the go to place for great coffee but now Supreme/Good One Café at 42 Douglas Street Ponsonby has gone one better. Closed recently for a revamp the space has exploded to create a setting where (in their words) “the focus has moved from cafe to coffee with a specific brew bar and retail space taking centre stage”.

I was in there on the first day of the new look and it certainly impresses on first sight. I went in the old entrance…(apologies for photo quality – still haven’t quite mastered the iPhone camera – wish I could get them as good as http://www.katherineisawesome.com/)

Old entrance

Old entrance

Instead of the new entrance

New entrance

New entrance

And was confronted with this. Big wow factor here. And the old communal table is still there you’ll be pleased to know.

photo 5

And this

photo 1

But wait there’s more

photo 3

Absolutely transformed and looking good. And still the same great team to provide the best coffee drinking experience in Auckland!! Other than Diz of course haha.

Good one Good One!

 

 

Mexico is here; Mimi you are a star

Mexico Ponsonby had it’s opening last night and was it a blast. Located just a few doors along from Juliette Hogan at 164 Ponsonby Rd it is a most welcome addition to the Ponsonby restaurant/bar scene adding a dimension that hitherto was missing from the local offerings.

Mimi and her team have done a fantastic job in creating the “Mexico” look in a smaller space and it works so well.

Anyway opening night saw the young and young turn out in force plus me – although I did find one other person in my demographic haha.

I arrived to be greeted by the bouncer (the omnipresent Matt Williams who I’ve known for all his life).  So far so good. Mimi in the background as it turns out.

Matt

However I didn’t reckon with the second line of defence, Uh oh as Oli would say.

“Oi you. I don’t recall your name being on the list?” says Mimi.

Mimi

She didn’t really but it makes for a laugh. She was actually saying “Rebecca where are you”.

Those margaritas were to die for and I thought that’s what I was going to do after a couple of those babies – phew. The finger food was divine – especially that fried chicken – can’t get enough of that.

Margarita

Mind you for a moment there I thought I was at Dizengoff when the Dizzies arrived. Jackie and Calla in shot; Troy and Dan not in shot.

Diz crew

Things were obviously starting to hot up at this stage so it was time for me to say buenas noches and wander off home.

Thanks for a great night Mimi and crew – can’t wait to go back for the full menu treatment.