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.

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Cooking Japanese is easy!!

And now for something completely different!!

I’ve started doing a bit of Japanese cooking at home (Cafe 91!) and rather than buying things like teriyaki sauce pre-made I’ve started from scratch and it’s fairly simple stuff.

Well the teriyaki sauce was but the tempura batter wasn’t as simple haha.

Of course you need the right ingredients but for teriyaki sauce there are only 4: soy sauce, sweet cooking wine (mirin), cooking sake (ryorishu) and brown sugar.Sauce

And there’s is a great cookbook available Sachie’s Kitchen by well-known chef Sachie Nomura which you can buy from Cook the Books

So my teriyaki recipe is “borrowed” from Sachie’s Kitchen but I’m sure she won’t mind as I’m promoting her book!!

So you can get the mirin and ryorishu from either Japanese Lifestyle at 75 Dominion Road or Japan Mart   435 Khyber Pass Rd Newmarket. Both are handy enough to Ponsonby. Better range at Japan Mart. Easier to get to and better parking at Japanese Lifestyle.

So here’s the recipe for the sauce for teriyaki chicken.

75ml mirin; 75ml cooking sake; 75ml soy sauce; 35g brown sugar

Mix these ingredients in a small pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Using chicken breasts or thighs (I cut the breasts length-wise into schnitzel size – about 20mm thick), dust them with flour and cook them for 2 to 3 mins each side. Then add the teriyaki sauce and cook until thickened and lightly caramelised. Garnishing with toasted sesame seeds gives a nice flavour boost. Serve with rice, noodles or stir fry vegies. Not a bad thing in the whole dish. 10 mins prep, 10 mins cooking. The trick is to get the sauce to caramelise.

This time I did a stir fry with udon noodles to go with it.VegiesStir fry

Here we are all plated up. Deb’s in a bowl. Mine on a plate. Funny old preferences.

Deb'sGeoff's

I promise you that you will enjoy the nicest teriyaki chicken ever. Deb said it was better than R….n!! I thought it was sensational.

There’s more to come in this new menu/recipe series. I’ll be featuring dishes and meals that you can easily cook at home. Nothing too complicated. No processed food, no preservatives, no MSG. And I’ll aim to present ideas that will take less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

Now where’s that recipe for tempura batter so I can have another go!!!

Busy Busy Burger Burger

Well we finally got a table at Burger Burger on our third attempt. Previously we had tried but when confronted with 30 to 40 minute waits had flagged it. That’s how popular this latest addition to Ponsonby Central is.

And it was worth the wait. Mimi Gilmour (of Mexico fame) and the team have done a wonderful job in transforming the space into a vibrant, bustling, and yes noisy place, to go to for a burger PLUS.IMG_3886

We scored two seats at the counter – I like sitting at counters; plenty of action and interesting stuff happening. Service was prompt and we were greeted pleasantly by our waiter. Simple menu choices – voilaMenu

I had the Special – hawaiian burger with bacon & pineapple, Deb had the fish (as they always seem to do!!). Both were tasty and more-ish.IMG_3890IMG_3889

For a side it was a toss-up between the potato skins w truffle aioli and the kumara crisps but the skins won out and they were excellent. It might have to be the kumara crisps next time (it’ll be Deb’s choice haha) as the couple next door had them and they looked very tempting. I only just stopped myself reaching over and nicking one!! I’m told the charred broccoli w garlic butter & almonds is a stand out so I’ll be having that next time as well.

IMG_3888

The “No Nonsense Refreshments” list offers a bit of everything from milk (Lewis Road of course), shakes, homemade sodas, Isaacs cider (on tap, yeah) to good old Lion Red – some clever retro stuff here. There’s also an appealing list of wine, champers and cocktails on offer

Burger Burger has had lots of very positive reviews and it deserves them all. It’s a great spot for a quick “feed” and is a welcome addition to Ponsonby and to Ponsonby Central. What a great “destination” PC is turning out to be. I just love going there.

Busy busy Burger Burger is well worth the wait. We’ll be back soon.

VOP: Petit Bocal – good enough to bottle!

Those of you who follow Poncentric will know I have a penchant for all things French so it should come as no surprise to hear that I was keen to try Petit Bocal located at 177 Sandringham Road, Sandringham and it obviously qualifies as a VOP (Venturing Outside Ponsonby). And what do I mean by “good enough to bottle”? You’ll find out later for those who need a little help with the imagery!!

We had a family brunch there recently to celebrate un anniversaire. It’s a lovely café decorated to evoke memories of Paree and things francais. And a number of staff are de la France so it has a great authenticity about it.IMG_3662IMG_3658

It was very busy at 11.30 on a Saturday morning and finding a table for 8 was a bit of a challenge. So we squatted at various tables until we managed to take over the large central table which met our needs perfectly. My apologies to the three people who got progressively squeezed out by our advance!

Coffee to get things started was top notch (my favourite – Supreme) as was the super juice [berry, vitamin c and echinacea]. Just in case you didn’t know Echinacea is a very popular herb, especially for the treatment of flu and colds. It is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family. So there. And they stock orangina [hooray] with those so cute bottles. So cute that Deb took away the empties haha.IMG_3659

The menu was very exciting with a number of twists on old favourites. Not surprisingly I was drawn to the breakfast bruschetta diced tomato, avocado, red onion and basil with crispy bacon, poached eggs and citrus hollandaise and crispy bacon (salmon gravlax also available). IMG_3665

Others had variously the bagel [w cream cheese, home cured salmon gravlax, rocket, red onion and capers] and the gluten free bacon, spinach and poached eggs served on potato with citrus hollandaise and w salmon gravlax or bacon.IMG_3672IMG_3663

Eating my breakfast bruschetta I was in heaven. I love the tomato/avo/onion/basil combo – even more so when it is finely chopped. The bacon was delightfully crispy, the eggs perfectly poached and the citrus in the hollandaise lifted it well above the normal fare. It’s a long time since I’ve had such a glorious brunch.

My companions were similarly captivated by their selections. I got a “teaspoon” of Deb’s potato and it was divine. You don’t share yours she said!!

The staff were a joy to deal with. Geraldine (from Brittany), Nathan (from Marseilles), Coco, Jimmy (the barista) and Georgina can take a bow for all contributing to what was a very memorable celebration.

This delightful café got everything right and I can’t wait to go back.

Next time I might also sample the “patisserie” selection that included fantastic looking cinnamon brioche and passionfruit and chocolate cronuts. Check them out.IMG_3657

So what was that “good enough to bottle” bit. Well “bocal” means “jar” so go figure.

Vive la France

Gusto Italiano: An Italian Italian

Gusto at Three Lamps has been one of our favourites on the strip for a long time. Good food, friendly service, nice ambience. It’s what I would call an Italian Italian – a more classic Italian restaurant – somehow more authentic that other offerings.

So in need of somewhere to go at that end of P Road it was an easy choice. We’d actually VOP’d and been for a drink at our friends Al and Juls’ house in St Mary’s Bay!! And we had our friends Barry & Jan with us – refugees from Wellington who also have a place in Herne Bay – more interlopers you see.

Now Gusto take bookings which is great so in we go at the appointed time to be greeted enthusiastically as always by Armando. Gosh it makes a difference when the maître d makes a bit of a fuss. That’s the second time in a week if you recall my Prego review.

Normally I’d be up for the BRUSCHETTE FANTASIA (Four flame grilled ciabatta slices rubbed with garlic, dressed with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) but this night no one else wanted starters which can be a bit awkward if you’re the only one!! So sadly no bruschetta!

Armando delivering a complimentary garlic pizza bread went some way to allaying my disappointment.

I can sit for ages drooling over menus and this one was no exception but I set my mind early on on the SCALOPPINE AL PROFUMO DI BOSCO (Milk white veal scaloppini pan braised in butter with onions, white wine, fresh herbs. Served with button mushrooms and seasonal vegetable, topped with truffle pesto). Barry ordered the same.Veal

Deb had Risotto del Giorno (salmon risotto special)Risotto

and Al, Juls and Jan all had the RAVIOLI BURRO E SALVIA (Made in house fresh pasta pillow shapes, filled with mixed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and basil pesto, pan sautéed in a sage butter sauce finished with shaved parmesan).Ravioli

A fantastic array of authentic Italian fare and everyone declared their mains to be excellent.

So I said, as you do, what about dessert. Same response as the starter – no thanks. Damn I ran the very real risk of going without dessert as well. Fortunately there were a few coffees ordered so after tossing up between the TIRAMISU and the PANNA COTTA I sneaked in an order for the Dolce del Giorno – MIGNON CANNOLI – wafer pastry with fresh ricotta, candied fruit, chocolate, pistachio and a pinch of vanilla & cinnamon – exquisitecannoli

FOOTNOTE

Can’t keep away from Gusto. We were back there last Friday night to use up a voucher before it expired – yes I’m a grabonegroupontreatme user!! It was a three course meal which gave me a chance to have the BRUSCHETTE FANTASIA which I missed last time and for Deb to have her favourite CALAMARI IN PADELLA (Polenta coated calamari rings, pan sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and parsley accompanied with Gusto home-made mayonnaise).bruschette - Copy

For main I had the ARROSTO DI MAIALE (pork belly marinated with rosemary and white wine, seasoned and slow roasted, dressed with a sweet & sour tomato sauce, served with pumpkin mash & mesclun salad. TDF.pork

Deb had the POLLO ALLA GRAPPA (free range chicken breast braised in butter with onion, Italian grappa, cream & parsley and served with excellent seasonal vegetables. I had a little taste – loved it.chicken

Time for dessert – well we’d paid for it so…. back to the CANNOLI I’m afraid – excellent again and Deb’s PANNA COTTA hit the spot.panna

Another fantastic night at Gusto and the service was topnotch as always. Thank you Armando. And now he’s starred in Ponsonby News. Check out the great article about this authentic Italian restaurant. Love it.

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

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.

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!!