Kayaking Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park – Oh Wow!

Site of Destruction….

A belated birthday present for Hound #2 was a 2 day, overnight kayaking trip on Doubtful Sound in the Fiordland National Park. Planned & booked months ago, the dates fell on an awkward period where we were 2 weeks into a kitchen / bathroom renovation / expansion and had to leave the house with most of the back ripped off. But operating under the theory that ‘shit happens’ we took off anyway…

Off to an Early Start…Crossing Lake Manapouri on the Ferry…Ferry Captain informed us all about going to Alert Level 2 – oh joy.

New Zealand at any given moment can have some very wild weather, as evidenced this past Spring with such massive amounts of rain that the South Island was literally cut in half  by floods & damaged bridges. And Fiordland is an area at the top of the wild weather list with rapidly changing conditions – mostly wet, windy & cold. It is a wee bit of a paradox to travel in Fiordland as you do want some rain so that the waterfalls come to life, but not incessant rain to make your kayaking time on the water totally miserable. We lucked out…the day & night before we set off on our kayak adventure got a decent dollop of the wet stuff but our first day on the water was perfect – still, calm water and no rain.

The Starting Point…

We booked out trip with Go Orange and met our great guide Cam just before we boarded the ferry.  After taking the bus over Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound, he whipped us (6 folks + Cam) into shape quick snap getting the kayaks to the water’s edge, shifting all the support gear too and getting us all suited up in thermal tops & leggings, fleece tops & hats, long John wet suits, paddle jacket & spray deck and life vests.

Let’s go kayaking!!!!

It is next to impossible in words or photos to accurately convey what natural awesomeness surrounded us  – towering rock mountains with sheer vertical walls that disappeared straight into the clouds & the dark water; at every turn a series of waterfalls ranging from mere trickles or slivers to big, gushing torrents; and dense & vibrant vegetation clinging to the vertical slopes that the movie wizards would be hard challenged to create with their CGI tools.

Cruise’n…Perfect Day – Enough Rain the Day & Night before to bring the waterfalls to life but still, calm & no rain first day on the water.

Our guide Cam was a wealth of information – from historical to the scientific (geology, flora & fauna, marine life, etc…). After several hours of leisurely paddling with lots of stop, rest & look time we headed for a rocky beach for some lunch. The weather co-operated and we had a good dose of sunshine and blue skies…

Our Lunch Spot…

After lunch, Guide Cam steered us to an area of the fiord that had suffered a major earthquake in 2009 causing the mountain in the picture below to be cut in half. You can see the crack to the right side of the photo centre but above the cloud bank it widens significantly. Guide Cam also pointed out several of what he called ‘travalanches’ where a huge section of vegetation, trees, ferns, palms, etc…rips away from the stone wall face & come crashing down into the water. Cam said he has heard several (sounds like a massive explosion or thunder clap) but has never actually seen one which he’d like to do!

Earthquake Crack – Just to the right of centre an earthquake split the mountain in 2.

Sheer Rock Walls that Go from the Top to the Bottom & Alive with Flora.

As the afternoon quickly passed by, Cam steered us towards our camp site for the night. After hauling the kayaks out of the water & resting them under a covered site (the NZ kea will cause mischief otherwise), we were all given a tent & Therma-rest sleeping mats to get set up ASAP before the evil sandflies devoured us. Go Orange maintains for the season an insect netted tent which offered a sweet respite from the blood drawing sandflies to cook our dinners (they provide gas cookers), chat and play cards. At 10pm it was time for a deserved sleepfull rest….

Overnight Camp Site

We awoke the next morning to a more typical fiordland day & weather – pissing rain and a slightly chilly temperature. We snarfed our breakfasts down & set about disassembling our tents & camp site and packing it away in the kayaks. Unlike the calm, glassy water of the previous say, a Southerly was moving up the Sound,  pushing the water into white caps & swells. It was at our backs which was the only good thing about it as our guide Cam kept looking over his shoulder to monitor the front & making some tactical kayaking decisions (skip lunch, make a bee line to the base, when to cross). He kept us close to the shore line for a good stretch which was calmer but he knew we’d need to cross to get back to the base camp. Crossing we hit a bit more water than we’d encountered before with swells crashing over the kayak’s bows but all ended safe & sound….

Stunning Rock Walls created when the Glazier Retreated…

Only to be shocked by the ferry captain’s announcement that the country had gone into Alert Level 3 and was headed for Alert Level 4 in 48 hours! Which set off a wave of panic as most of the crowd were foreign tourists in camper vans. We’d befriended a Swiss couple on the kayak trip & began helping them to hatch a plan as to where to go for the 4 week lock down. They decided to try & get to the North Island to warmer weather but were denied a place on the ferry in Picton. So they rang us & are now ensconced (maybe happily?) in our spare bedroom till things get sorted….

And in the ‘besides that Mrs. Lincoln how was the play’ category, we’d highly recommend the Go Orange overnight kayak adventure and all the better if you can get the great guide Cam…

On Our Way Home – Stretch the Legs Stop in the MacKenzie Country.

The Beautiful Boyle River Valley

Up River / Down River Views of the Boyle River

My fly fish mate Craig & I had been trying for more than a year to get a farmer to grant us access & give us gate keys to be able to drive into the Boyle River Valley, have a good fish & stay at the Magdalen Hut. But last season he made the decision to lease out his land around the river to some guides so it was a no go…he said to contact him early in the next season & he would work something out.

So Craig gave him a buzz first thing in the new trout season & the farmer was good on his word – it was just that the New Zealand Spring weather was not so good on its word and we had a wacky & wild start to the fishing season with torrential downpours which caused massive flooding and land slips…including on the farmers’s land. He said we’d have to wait till he could get the bulldozer and grater in to put the track back into navigable shape.

We finally got the thumbs up from the farmer & after a few hit or miss attempts at getting our respective calendars aligned, we loaded up Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover & toddled (that is how Gertie rolls) off to the Boyle River Valley.

Tried & True – Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover Gets Us There & Gets Us Out….

Given it was a Saturday and the weather was a stunner combined with the fact that the hut (only 6 bunks)  is part of the  St. James Walkway as well as the Te Araroa Trail, we were a wee bit nervous that the hut would be chocka with trampers. But our luck held out & we only had to share the hut with 2 nice Czech women.

One of the big advantages of being able to drive right to the hut (had to do a bit of 4WD – fun) is you can bring real food (and drink) since we were not having to worry about the weight to pack it in & out – yippee! So we tucked into a very tasty pasta & bacon dinner made by Craig and sampled a few decent Aussie reds & then to bed…

Up early to a cracker of a day (would be almost too hot) with an almost cloudless sky and not much wind (it was early yet). We decided to take the Land Rover back the way we came to an area where we could park up & scramble down the steep hill face to reach the river & then walk downstream to the end of the lower gorge & fish our way back up.

Mate Craig heads into the Boyle Gorge…

To say the day was a tough fish would be an understatement – we fished for 8+ hours, walked 13+kms and covered a damn lot of water but only sighted 6 fish (2 were on death’s bed as totally black) and managed to hook 1 good trout. It was a fantastic day for sight fishing with the conditions about as good as you could hope for and any water we could not see into, we fished blind. So no pool or run left unturned or touched…We ended the day with a foray into the upper gorge which leads to the Boyle Flats Hut as we had sighted several decent fish on a previous tramp. We went as far as we could go before the pool became too deep to wade & the bush too think to get through…

Me Fishing the Foam Line…sweet water…

We retreated back to the Magdalen Hut for a cold beer & a few sand flies….and devoured a lentil, carrot, celery, walnut & goats cheese salad I had assembled & finished off our Aussie red & sampled a very nice Sauvignon Blanc from Crater Rim

We would have to say that this fishing season so far, for us, has been not much to write home about as the trout are few and far between…our plans have been recently revised so that we go to rivers that actually have fish in them…down to the MacKenzie Country we think…

Birthday Tiki Tour To North Canterbury…

HOT OFF THE PRESS! 

If you don’t trust our palates then maybe you’ll listen to Winestatem with regards to Terrace Edge Wines!

“Whoop. Winestate Magazine have just published their best NZ Wines for 2019. We’re proud to say that of the 200 wines, six belong to us! EVERY. SINGLE. WINE we submitted for tasting got named on the list.

One could call that punching above our weight. We say it’s a reflection that small family vineyards create exceptional wines.

If you’re drinking our Syrah, Albarino, Rose, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir – you’re drinking some of the finest wine in the country.

Come and try them for yourself at our tasting room. Open Thursday – Sunday 11 – 4.30pm.”

Last week was my birthday and I did not want to do anything swish or expensive or OTT so we decided on a road trip north of Lyttelton with various stops along the way, but ending up @ Terrace Edges Vineyard for a wee tasting & toasties.

It was a cracker of a day weather wise so we piled into Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover & off we went…

Gertie…

First stop of the day was the Old School Collective, and the name pretty much says it all. A group of folks got together & purchased an old, abandoned school complex and proceeded to curate a group of independent, creative businesses (and a cafe called, appropriately The Office) to fill the empty spaces. The stores run the gamut from Twine Antiques (our favourite) to Good Dirt Flowers to Louise Who Pre-loved Clothing and even a Yoga Club. Twine was a standout – an antique shop that actually has antiques @ a fair price & not overpriced junk. Hound #2 made 2 immediate (right as we walked in the door) purchases & was very happy. After coffees & a shared piece of carrot cake @ The Office we continued…

A quick pop in visit @ the Brick Mill but it has changed & the one shop that held our interest has gone but Hound #2 managed to find a bargain plant pot…

Next stop was to be Mumma T Trading Lounge but it was not to be – as we strolled up to the shop they were carrying out the last of the shop goods & closed & locked the door!

With all this faffing around we were now hungry & thirsty, so onto lunch! We had been to Terrace Edge Winery a couple of times before & have always thought their wines (and olive oil & olives) to be top notch & pretty much have bought & enjoyed the lot. But we’d spotted on a previous visit a wee menu that offered toasties! So we sat down for the full vino tasting & ordered our toasties (a special combo deal – a toasties & a glass of wine of your choice for only $20 for white, $22 for red). I went with the Vietnamese Pork Toastie & washed it down with the excellent Pinot Gris and Hound #2 being a veggo ordered the Mushroom, Olive & Feta/Gouda Cheese Toastie & sculled it with a perfect Rosé. Delish.

Toasties!!!!

And as in our last couple of wine tastings @ Terrace Edge we liked the lot – and walked away with a bottle of the Rosé, the Pinot Gris & the Classic Riesling (that is what the wallet would allow) and some olives.

Terrace Edge’s Syrah Vineyard – As Steep As the French Rhone!

So if you are lost in North Canterbury or need a special place to take some mates or family, put Terrace Edge in the list & you won’t be disappointed….

Banks Peninsula Birthday Walk…

Onuku Farm Hostel – Super!

To walk the Banks Peninsula Track had been on our ‘to do’ list for some time, but Hound #2’s birthday was the final catalyst that pushed us into action. We set ourselves up to start the walk on Sunday November 17th so that we would be perfectly in mid-walk & be in Nature for the Big Day. The walk is superbly organised – all went like clock work the entire trip. To start, scooped up in Akaroa by a shuttle bus that took us to our first night’s accomodation – Onuku Farm Hostel.

What an amazing spot – beautiful facilities (the kitchens were better than ours at home), stunning grounds with sweet as views over the Akaroa Harbour and comfy as bunks, but also wonderful camping areas and special ‘star gazer sleepers’ (wee 2 person huts with skylight views to watch the celestial show). Worth a visit folks!

First Day’s Climb to the Peak – And on to Flea Bay…

The Banks Peninsula Track offers a bit of ‘glamping’ in that your big backpacks are shuttled from one accommodation spot to the next – excelente! So you are saddled with only your day pack. Makes for a much sweeter (and less sweaty) experience and lets you bring a bit more luxuries (vino, bubbles, decent & fresh food).

The climb up from Onuku will take some folk’s breath away – both for the wonderful views but also the climb is seriously steep…from 200 to 700 metres straight up hill. But you just need to take your time & stop to enjoy the harbour vistas, the flora & fauna & catch your breath before climbing on.

Descent to Flea Bay – Flora & Fauna & Waterfalls….and the Swimming Hole.

The descent from the peak to Flea Bay is a steep one & so different from the climb up in that rather than traversing grassy slopes, you are engulfed in the native bush of beech forests, palm trees & what seemed like hundreds of ferns of every type. Parallel to the track was a lovely stream with numerous waterfalls – Hound #2 HAD to skinny dip in the pool labeled ‘Swimming Hole’…ice cream headache cold.

Flea Bay

Our place for the night was a beautiful old farm house but with all the mod cons – good kitchen, hot showers, comfy lounge, sweet front veranda, etc…we took up the advertised offer on the kitchen white board to visit the resident blue penguin colony just around the coastal bend @ 7:30pm and they are not using the word ‘colony’ loosely – it might even be a city.

2nd Day’s Walk to Stony Bay – A Leisurely Coastal Stroll

Day 2’s walk is pretty much a coastal affair – not too strenuous but oh so postcard picture perfect. The forecast called for a threat of rather ugly weather but it seemed to be behaving itself…took some lunch time respite from the wind in a very cleverly built track shelter & made a short detour to observe the local seal colony.

On the Ridge Line above Stony Bay – 15 Minutes after this Photo the Skies Opened Up with Hail, Rain, Lightening & Thunder…

As we approached Stony Bay, the weather cranked its anger factor up a couple of notches but we sort of lucked out as the descent to the huts was through thick bush which protected us from the hail & rain…maybe not so much the lightening & thunder. We worried about our 2 German mates who were toddling along behind us at a slower pace. They ended up taking shelter in one of the rustic corrugated iron loos which I am not so sure is the best place to hide from a lightening storm?

Home Sweet Home – Stony Bay Cottages…Magical Place! Top Left: We called it the Harry Potter Shower with a huge tree going right through the middle; Kiwi take on a pool table; wee cottage; Main hut with 6-8 bunks, serious kitchen & dining area & a lounge area with open fireplace.

Our final night (and birthday night celebration) was at the Stony Bay Cottages – how magical! I wish I could just book myself a weekend here to hang out but you can only stay here if you are doing the track :-(. But what a perfect & fun night – I am guessing that Mark Armstrong (who owns the farm along with his partner Sonia) was the creative building force behind all the whimsical, recycled huts & buildings.

We made use of all the camp amenities – a wee game of badminton & then pool with our German mates, cold Moa beers from the well stocked camp store (have everything you need – vino, veggies, meat, bacon, eggs, etc) then wood fired baths with bubbles, then a delish birthday dinner of aubergine curry on rice with Pepperjack Shiraz (Hound #2’s fave) and a perfect bonfire side chat to end the night.

The Trail Back Home; Camp Store – Well Stocked & Very Fairly Priced; Wood Fired Bath…

Our Wee 2 Bunk Hut Complete with Resident Penguin on the Deck; Birthday Bubbles; Birthday Feast – Aubergine Curry on Rice.

Our final day was a walk out through the magnificent Hinewai Reserve – an absolutely knock your socks off place that much of the credit for its existence & continued growth (30 years old now) goes to the honourable Hugh Wilson. If you have never been, you need to go, and if you go, you should have a good squizzy of Fools & Dreamers which will fill you in on all the impressive details. If the Oxford Dictionary ever needs a definition or photo to explain the phrase ‘a labour of love’, well this is mos def it.

A Top the Ridge Line of Hinewai Reserve with Stony Bay in the Distance; Gorse in Full Bloom

Well, we liked this walk so much we most likely will do it again…It is hard in New Zealand to find serious value-for-money things to do, but this walk ticks all the right boxes. It costs $330NZ per person but with that you get the parking for your vehicle, shuttle bus to the first night’s accomodation, 3 nights of superb accomodation (you’d easily pay more than the $330 for just that in NZ), having your big pack shuttled from from place to place & stored at the Akaroa butchers for final pickup and, of course, the frigging walk!

Fire & Slice Woodfired Pizza – Sumner

Fire & Slice Pizza – Sumner

We had booked tickets to the Christchurch (in Sumner though) premier of the documentary ‘The Map To Paradise’ and thought it a prime time opportunity to try out Fire & Slice Woodfired Pizza.

After My Own Heart – Series 2A Land Rover….

Fire & Slice got me @ the Series 2A Land Rover in the entrance  😉 – what could possibly be bad about this place if they liked Land Rovers??? And we lucked out, as it was a quiet time on Tuesday night after what was apparently a CRAZY holiday weekend where they sold out of pizzas by 6PM on Saturday – that’s busy.

We had a good perusal of the menu whilst having a great chat with Pal Singh, the chef & owner. Decisions were made – I went for the Pepperoni Pizza & Hound #2 negotiated a not-on-the-menu Mushroom Pizza with Mozzarella & a smidgen of Blue Cheese

Wine was available (for $7.50 a glass – yay!) so we took two pours of an Italian red call Santa Cristina Rosco Toscana – a perfect pizza wine Pal Singh assured us and he was 100% correct.

Pizza Man Pal Singh…

After a short wait, 2 perfect pizzas arrived at our table – it was the best pizza we have had since returning to New Zealand 2 years ago…crust was perfectly crisped with some nicely darkened bits & covered in a wonderfully rich tomato sauce & just right melted cheese. And a deal to make ya squeal – total bill with 2 glasses of vino – $45. We will mos def be back Pal!

Mushroom & Mozzarellas & Blue Cheese Pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

Sizzling Miss Peppercorn

 

Miss Peppercon in Sumner

Hound #2 had requested as part of our Labour Day holiday weekend that I fire up Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover & head over Evans Pass to the village of Sumner so that she could collect some seaweed for the garden. And to really make it worth our while, I suggested lunch @ Miss Peppercorn

Miss Peppercorn is comfortably situated in the old Cornershop Bistro site (miss the Cornershop Bistro but Miss Peppercorn is a good replacement) and the menu offers quite an extensive selection of Szechuan seasoned plates (including vegan & vegetarian)…be very aware of the chilli symbols listed beside each dish as they mean serious business! The menu runs the gamut from small shareable plates all the way to serious sized mains meant to be communally shared & all at very reasonable prices (N.B. – since it is a ‘sharing’ menu & you all want to eat at the same time, you might want to make your server aware that you’d like your dishes to come out together, otherwise they will bring out one plate after another in succession. Someone at your table will be eating very early & another very late…).

Bang Bang Chicken Salad – Tongue Numbing Hot!

I opted for the Bang Bang Chicken Salad ($16.9) and made a fatal school boy error & failed to see the 2 chilli symbols listed next to the dish. A very tasty dish but after 5 minutes or so the edges of my tongue were going numb & constantly tingling…had to eat a wee bit of Hound #2’s fried rice noodles to calm things down.

Signature Fried Rice Noodles

Hound #2 really liked her Signature Fried Rice Noodles and would order again…a VERY generous serving so go when you are hungry…the table next to us had 2 MASSIVE bowls brought out in succession that would have fed a small army.

A Chop Stick Workout….

The unreal ice cream cones @ Utopia Ice Cream…worth a trip to Sumner on their own…

Cones @ Utopia Ice Cream to cool our mouths down…

Wellington Weekend…Part 2

Wellington’s Good Humour – Street Crossing Signs Doing the Haka.

Wellington Weekend Continued…

After our Moore Wilson Fresh visit, we felt our feets needed a wee rest, so we ambled back to our room & had a lie down & a bit of a read. And before you knew it, cocktail time had rolled around, so we freshened up & headed out the door.

Up front FYI: Not a lot of photos from Saturday night out as in some cases folks did not want them taken (Ascot) and other places it was very atmospheric (i.e., very dark – Capitol).

Our first port of call was a wine bar called the Ascot – a hot tip from a wine store guy. He said it was way better than the ‘stuck up’ (his words, not mine) Noble Rot, far more casual & cool (owner Cosmo Hawke calls it ‘lo fi wine drinking’), with staff that really knew their vino stuff. And all that info was spot on…not super easy to find, but the Ascot is a mere 3 flights of steps up to the rooftop where you will find a very cool space & interesting wines & gourmet hot dogs. Yes, gourmet hot dogs. Hound #2 had Googled the Ascot & was a tad puzzled to find it only got an overall rating of 2.9 with LOTS of 1 star reviews…but when you actually read the 1 star reviews, folks absolutely loved it. The bartender told us they did that on purpose to put off the Tripadvisor type of people :-). Like their thinking…

Capitol Restaurant

From the Ascot we zig zagged our way to Basque – a bar we had to pop into having lived in the real Basque Country in Spain for 2+ years. Well, the best we can say is they tried, but it does not hold a candle to the real Basque world of food, drink and culture that we came to love.

So onto the big dinner splurge of the trip – Capitol. When we did a reconnaissance trip more than a decade before to search out ideas & inspiration for my eventual restaurant London Street in Lyttelton, Capitol was one of our favourites & a model to admire. It struck all the right chords with us – excellent ingredients, cooked superbly in a casual & relaxed & intimate setting. Amazing to still see it going & I have all the more admiration for them in doing so.

We quickly made our beverage order – a bottle of James Millton’s Crazy By Nature Cosmo Red – yum – a wine to suit any occasion. For nibbles we opted for the fried squid with aioli. Perfect. Then I fell for the free range chicken breast with shaved brussels sprouts & bacon and Hound #2 picked fish of the day (Kingfish) on celeriac puree with grilled fennel salsa.

And a nightcap was had by all @ Tequila Joe’s…probably not needed & a big step down from cozy Capitol.

Harbourside Market – Every Sunday.

Sunday morning we were met with another striking day, so it found us up & at’m to check out the Harbourside Market. The market technically starts @ 7:30am but I’d ignore that time slot unless you only want some fruit & veggies. We were there a wee bit after 9am and most of the other stalls (coffee, meat, cheese, bread, etc) were still getting set up.

Common Sense Organic Food Shop

While headed off in search of another coffee, we stumbled across another old favourite – Commonsense Organic Food. We had visited Commonsense on our decades old recon trip and had been suitably impressed – as we were this time too. Hound #2 spent mucho dinero $$$$ on packet after packet of organic seeds for the garden. So glad to see Commonsense still here & thriving!

City Gallery

Then we felt like a bit of culture – so on to the City Gallery. The Gallery had a smart exhibition of Theo Schoon’s work – a bit of a controversial artist along with Gordon Walters as they apparently plucked many of their ideas & inspiration from a mental patient while working at a psychiatric hospital. Nonetheless, a fascinating exhibition  (the Gordon Walter’s exhibition  was on at Te Papa).

Theo Schoon’s works….and gourds.

Theo Schoon Quote and a Rita Angus (a contemporary) Painting

From the City Gallery we headed for the Wellington Cable Car – an easy-on-the-wallet $5 (one way) ride to the top of the hill to start a beautiful, relaxing amble downhill through the Botanic Gardens to the City centre with lots of nature pauses along the way to listen to all the bird song (LOTS of Tuis).

Once down at the main gate, we had a wee wander in the historic Tinakori precinct which is chocka with Wellington’s famous hillside clinging gingerbread houses, antique shops and is home to the  Premier House which is where the Prime Minister resides.

Cable Car Ride to the Top; Wander Down Through the Botanical Gardens

We had a 1pm booking in the tiny Hillside Kitchen + Cellar. Hillside is a vegetarian restaurant and we both agreed the experience was really wonderful, but we’d not rush back for the food – not bad, but just not quite ticking the taste bud boxes.

I started with the Wairarapa Carrot Tartare (which actually came with carrot seeds to take away & grow) which was my favourite dish of the meal and Hound #2 decided to try Smoked Broth & Dumpling Soup which also got a solid thumbs up.

Our mains were the same – Quinoa, Vadouvan & Walnut. This dish was served cold or at room temperature and for me it had an odd, almost incense-like taste which was not my cuppa tea.

Hillside Kitchen + Cellar

Top: Quinoa, Vadouvan, Walnuts; Wairarapa Carrot Tartare; Smoked Broth & Dumpling Soup

With the glorious afternoon still blazing away, we set off for the CBD to run a few errands & stopped off to lend support to the climate change protesters posited in front of Parliament – for an effing 81 days when we stopped by!

Tuatara Brewery – AKA The Third Eye

When cocktail time rolled around – so conveniently consistent – we decided to stick to our house rule & have beer before wine. To that end we set of to check out a few of the local craft brew houses. First pit or pint stop was Tuatara – VERY close to our hotel & an easy amble. I have always liked their beers ever since I carried them in my restaurant London Street (only in bottles, no kegs back then) almost 13 years ago. Quality is still there in spades & we sipped away on the Tuatara APA and the Session IPA.

The Garage Project

Next up was the Garage Project in the Aro Valley – a wee toddle but the evening was clear & crisp. The Garage Project has both a taproom and a cellar door for takeout. We first popped into the Cellar Door not knowing there was a taproom, so we did a few tastings & were told to march a block or so down the road to the taproom. All beers sampled were excellent – but one general complaint about all the Wellington brew scene is that for $12-$15 you should get or deserve a REAL pint – not this 400ml shite. Rant over.

We had made cheap dinner plans to hit Golding’s Free Dive bar & order pizza in from across the alley at Pomodoro’s, but our plan mostly fell to custard as Goldings was closed for a staff dinner…but luckily Fortunes Favours Beer was willing to accomodate us & our pizza.

Te Papa Museum

Monday morning we’d made plans to visit Te Papa – better to not be a weekend day as potentially far less kids & tourists. And we were mostly right & stuck to the art exhibition which was not a favourite of the kiddies.

Te Papa is truly a national treasure, and if I resided in Wellington I would make it a regular monthly stop as there is SO MUCH to absorb. Post an hour or more our minds were stuffed to the brim with information & visual treats so we headed off for a coffee before our lunchtime destination – Egmont St. Eatery.

Egmont St. Eatery

Grilled rice cakes, cockles, housemade XO sauce, slow egg & aromatic salad; Harissa spiced lamb, giardinera, labne, watercress pesto, polenta bread.

We are not sure when or where the term ‘eatery’ was first used or by who, but it is certainly the word de jour in the hospo business. That said, we thoroughly enjoyed a superb lunch @ Egmont St. Eatery. Being a Monday afternoon, we were able to walk right in with no problems.

My first & only choice from the menu was the harissa spiced lamb, giardinera, labne, watercress pesto on polenta bread & what a choice it was. Super flavourful with an excellent mix of spices & spiciness from the harissa and I absolutely loved the polenta bread. Hound #2 had an inclination towards the grilled rice cakes, cockles, housemade XO sauce, slow egg & aromatic salad and she did not regret her choice. And all washed down with Maior de Mendoz ‘Fulget’, Albariño, 2016, Rías Baixas, Spain. 

Well that’s Wellington done & dusted for a wee while – though Hound #2 is back in October to celebrate a sister’s birthday…with lots of recon filed away for her trip.

 

A Wellington Weekend…Part 1

Ride the Cable Car, Get this View & then Walk through the Botanic Gardens!

We felt a mid-winter’s break was in order – a change of scene, a change of faces, some new & different food & drink to try and of course, culture. We had not been to Wellington in over a decade, and our memories of it were still on the good side, so away we went for a long weekend in Wellington…

Noble Rot Wine Bar…

Since the Noble Rot Wine Bar was just around the corner from our hotel, we decided to break a Friday night rule – beer before wine – and popped in to a bustling joint (it was Friday after work). I opted for an old time fave, Samuel Gorge’s Grenache which was in peak form & Hound #2 went the bubbles route…

HUSK Brewery

The vino was a nice start, but our house rule rose to the fore & we were off in search of a bar/brewery nearby on Ghuznee Street called HUSK. This place covers a lot of bases – brewery, roastery & eatery…but it was the cervezas we were here to imbibe. Like many craft breweries / bars these days, they are quite accomodating & generous with wee tastings of a good chunk of their range and what a range it was. Hound #2 likes her stouts so a tipple of the Power of Voodoo White Coffee Stout and Shakeit Chocolate Milkshake Stout were quickly swallowed & loved, but she felt like something lighter, so a 1/2 pint of City of the Wind IPA. My choice was, appropriately,  I’m Afraid of Americans West Coast IPA. Excelente!

With a good beverage head start to the evening, it was now time for some food. So off to make our 8:30pm dinner booking @ Mr. Go’s.

This a fun & lively & affordable place folks – hard to go wrong here on any front. Packed & buzzing on this Friday night, we quickly settled into our assigned seats & perused the extensive menu. We started with a bottle of the Arriba Tempranillo which is a house fave @ home & put our order in…Hound #2, in the last month, has gone vegetarian & Mr. Go’s menu suits that preference to a ‘T’…

Mr. Go’s is designed to share & share we did: Kung Pao Cauliflower (Fried cauliflower, Kung Pao sauce, peanut salt), Tofu Popcorn (Marinated and fried tofu pieces, Fix and Fogg satay sauce), Green Beans (Dry pan-fried green beans, Chinese spices, pickled mustard greens) and Go’s Fried Rice (Bok choy, edamame, peas, spring onion, spring onion oil, furikake). Yum!!!

We awoke Saturday morning to yet another amazing day in Wellington (stayed stunning our entire visit) as for any folks that have never been, Wellington has a reputation (deservedly so) for having nasty, brutal weather…that’s why its nickname is Windy Wellington (you can add rain to that monicker too).

We quickly popped in to Hangar for some warming coffees & some edibles before heading to the Wellington waterfront / harbour. In Lyttelton where we live (on the Banks Peninsula outside of Christchurch on the South Island), we have a beautiful harbour too but access is very limited – you can always look but rarely touch. Wellington has a lot of public space waterside & we made the most of it & enjoyed…

Wonderful Wellington Waterfront…

Wellington Museum

One of the highlights for both of us was a visit to the Museum of Wellington – highly recommended & well worth your time…amazing use of modern holographic imagery to tell historical and mythical tales and the section on the tragic Wahine disaster is heart wrenching but informative.

Weeeeeeeeeeee!

Lunchtime came upon us faster than we thought (time flies when you’re having fun & food & drinks) and we made a bee-line for Pre-Fab on Jessie Street. This is a real hustling & bustling kind of industrial kitchen that was created by the folks who started the iconic Cafe L’affare, the place that kicked off the cafe scene in Wellington. Though we had to queue, everything moved quickly & within 5 minutes we had seats….

Prefab, Jessie Street

We’d previewed the menu beforehand & made our choices – the classic Rueben Sandwich for me & the Grilled Halloumi Baguette, Avocado, Smoked Beetroot & Dukkah for Hound #2. Both dishes nailed the hunger pains to the wall – some of the tastiest tucker on the trip for me.

Top: Reuben Sandwich – Yum!; Parrotdog IPA; and Grilled Halloumi Baguette, Avocado, Smoked Beetroot & Dukkah.

Post a wonderful lunch, we were in the hood of Moore Wilson’s Fresh – my absolute fave food store in all of New Zealand. I mean, what’s not to like or love here? One of the biggest & best offerings of food & et al in the country, with everything from fresh as fruit & veg to meat & fish to cheeses of the world to condiments galore…heaven. And it has certainly grown over the years, but managed to maintain its super high quality while expanding its breadth of offerings. Only draw back is: (a) we had no kitchen or fridge where we were staying so no cooking and (b) we had only brought 1 checked bag so not loads of space for transport home :-(…

Moore Wilson’s Fresh – Estupendo!

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!


Meat & Fish…

The Wine Section….

So onto Part 2 of the trip in the next posting….

 

Déjà Vu Melbourne…

We were in need of a pre-winter break so we packed our bags & headed to Melbourne to catchup with several friends and, of course, eat & drink! Melbourne is not too bad a town to spend a week or two…I often say it is Australia’s version of San Francisco with an overall awesome, energetic & creative vibe across multiple fronts – food & wine, culture, music & art, history, etc…

And we could not have lucked out anymore with the weather as most days it drifted into the low 20’s with beaming sun & the bluest of skies. And since we are serious walkers, it made our exploration all the more enjoyable to be free of many layers & no rain gear.

The Big Metropolis; St. Kilda’s Luna Park; Shrine of Remembrance

One of our first target destinations was one of our regular favourites when we lived in Melbourne – the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria in Fed Square). A stunning space to have a wander and experience a serious collection of art – and about 95% is FREE! And if the NGV ticks your boxes, then you need to toddle over to the NGV International just a hop, skip & a jump down St. Kilda Road (and it’s FREE! – except for special exhibitions).

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria International

Besides revisiting our old friend the NGV, we made a point of checking out some of our food stomping grounds that left us with a vey warm & flavourful memory when we departed Melbourne for the UK. We are not really the ‘fine dining’ types, but rather prefer excellent quality food, cooked well, in a relaxed setting & so our big splurge was to lunch @ Cumulus Inc. Andrew McConnell knows a thing or two about food & restaurants & this is our fave out of his bevy of joints (Cutler & Co, Builders Arms, Supernormal & Canteen, Marion, Meatsmith, Cumulus Up wine bar). And it is always a delight for us to be seated at the kitchen bar & get a first hand, close up & personal view of the food proceedings. We had some fun chats with the staff who, despite a busy lunch hour, had plenty of time to answer our questions and offer some insights into Cumulus Inc.

Cumulus Inc.

Bundarra Pork Cutlet & Pickled Witlof & Butcher’s Sauce; Tuna Tartare, Goat’s Curd & Crushed Green Pea

Excellent Juice from Stephen Pannell – Tinto

And of course when in Melbourne, you must visit the markets…it is a habit we have no matter where we be to have a good squizzy at the local market whether an established fixture (e.g., Queen Vic or South Melbourne or Prahran) or a farmers market (e.g., Vegout, Abbotsford).

Prahran Market

I was always impressed & amazed at the range of goods on offer at the Melbourne markets. I swear there is a better selection of European goods like olive oils, vinegars, olives, etc…in the Melbourne markets than I could ever find in most of Europe.

Queen Vic Deli Section

And of course where there is great food, there’s great drinks…so we made the rounds of most of my old wine haunts (Cloudwine – fave for hard to find vino & great prices, Prince Wine Shop, Blackhearts & Sparrows various establishments with extensive choices, The Wine House, City Wine Shop – small but excellent selection & food is great too & Wine Republic – amazing selection & best new find) & scooped up a solid half dozen (New Zealand’s limit) examples of Australian’s finest. Yum…

Melbourne’s Wine Stores…

Another Andrew McConnell joint – Marion Wine Bar

One of the things on our ‘To Do’ list was to have some top notch ethnic food as Lyttelton/Christchurch New Zealand is not as solidly blessed with such an extensive immigrant community as Melbourne does in spades.

We had an interesting Turkish dinner at Tulum with mates from Balaclava but one of our go to places is Don Don, a Japanese restaurant that is fast as and super cheap (by Melbourne standards) and damn good! I ordered our 2 lunches & before I could put my change back in my wallet, 2 steaming bowls were before me!

We had also read some good write-ups for a place called Paper Plate (Vietnamese) where the kitchen was manned by one of chef Geoff Lindsay‘s ex-fellas of Dandelion fame, but at a far cheaper price point. Super crisp & clean flavours – you could see & taste that everything was made from scratch…

Paper Plate in Richmond; Vietnamese Chicken Salad & Vegetarian Pho; Hanoi Beer

One Sunday morning we met some mates for breakfast @ Industrial Beans in Fitzroy – excellent food but busts the wallet @ $90+ for 4! But post breakfast, our friends said we had to see the mural of our Prime Minister (Jacinda Adern) painted on a silo in Brunswick. So we piled into their car & off we went…very touching & excellent job.

Industrial Beans & Grace, Fitzroy

New Zealand Prime Minister Mural in Brunswick

Melbourne Street Art; Melbourne’s Booming Skyline; Melbourne’s Infamous Laneways…

So if you have never been to Melbourne – GO!!!!! It is a city that has so many nooks & crannies to explore you won’t get bored…and if you do get bored of Melbourne, head out to the country to visit the Yarra Valley wine region or the wonderful Mornington Peninsula or hit up Daylesford or Kyneton for a savoury food experience.

Fishing New Zealand’s High Country Lakes with UK Charlie…

Lake Georgina…

I kept getting tagged by mates in a Facebook post by a local Lyttelton woman who was in search of fly fishing folks to take her visiting UK Dad out for a New Zealand fish. I decided to offer up my services if time & plans allowed & was shortly in communication with UK Charlie.

One minor hiccup was that UK Charlie is a ‘lake person’ whilst I am pretty much a 99.9% ‘river person’. Not that I wouldn’t mind at all taking him to a lake it was just that my lake knowledge & expertise is next to non-existent so I had not a clue as to where & when to go. Hit up a mate of mine who is not only a serious lake man but had spent the better part of this season fishing the lakes that surround Lake Coleridge. He messaged me with some serious details on each of the lakes & with those facts in hand (coupled with a Fish & Game notice of two 15 pound rainbows recently released), we made a bee line for Lake Georgina….

Stunning day @ Lake Georgina…

UK Charlie & I could not have asked for a sweeter day – the drive up was a stunner with UK Charlie regularly blurting out – “This is real New Zealand scenery…” and a day that was near on perfect – blue sky & sun, no wind and fish!

As we kitted up we were both a bit amazed at the level of trout activity already in progress – in any direction you cast your eye fish were jumping…lots of wee to mid size ones but quite a few big boys too. All morning long UK Charlie & I were into fish & it did not seem to make a damn bit of difference what fly you had on…I started with a Parachute Adams, caught fish. Switched to a Blue Blow Fly, caught fish. Put on a Yellow Humpy, caught fish. And UK Charlie was having the same success with a succession of oddly named UK flies like Boobies & Buzzers (?). UK Charlie was the first to connect with a couple of respectable fish – a decent 3-4 pound rainbow that I was able to capture in the photos below.

Fish On!

We decided to sit down for lunch @ 1:30pm and as we ate & talked, we noticed the surface activity has slowed considerably. So I re-rigged by shortening up my leader to 5 feet & putting on a bead head Wooly Bugger streamer to probe the deeper part of the lake centre. I had no action for the better part of an hour, hurtling my heavy rig to the lake centre & stripping it back…when all of a sudden there was a sharp tug & then nothing. A guide mate of mine taught me that when fishing streamers, many times the big fish will hit the fly hard to try & stun what they think is a fish & then circle back to eat it. So your best plan of attack is once you have the first big tug, stop stripping & let the fly sink…which is exactly what I did & all of a sudden there was another BIG tug & an anchor on the end of my fly line. And it was an anchor that made straight for the lake centre despite as much pressure as I could muster & my rod doubled over. UK Charlie just kept saying “That’s a bloody big fish…” but we never did see it – after just a minute or so of struggle my streamer came free with a chunk of lake moss the size of a rugby ball attached. One of the 15 pounders I do believe…

Lake Marymere…

UK Charlie was keen to go out again before his return to the UK in early March, so again a conundrum – what lake??? Just by pure accident, I’d had an reupholstery fellow visit my house to quote on some work & we got to chatting as he was a serious fly fisherman and he told me the story of his daughter. She was having a bit of a rough patch so he offered to take her fly fishing for the first time. He took her to one of his favourite lakes – Lake Marymere – where just after her 3rd or 4th cast with a fly rod she managed to hook & land (on 4 pound tippet) the fish pictured below.

Typical Lake Marymere Trout….

Reading up a bit about Lake Marymere it is a lake known for its big trout – both browns & rainbows. UK Charlie & I had yet again a perfecto day for fly fishing & we were just hoping the fish would co-operate…

Well the fish are there alright – we saw at least a dozen or more like the fish above, cruising about 2 rod lengths off shore & not wanting to give us the time of day, almost thumbing their fins at us daring us to make a cast. Which we did, and which they completely ignored. I am not at all sure how you actually might catch these fish – as well as we seeing them, they could clearly see us & there is next to no cover to hide behind except along one shore.

Lake Marymere & UK Charlie…

But it was still an awesome day out all the same, with typical New Zealand scenery making the day and a gorgeous memory for UK Charlie…until next time Charlie!!!