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…

Riverside Market Opens – Wow!!!

Christchurch’s New Riverside Market…

The latest addition to the constantly emerging & dynamically changing Christchurch CBD scene is the Riverside Market…and wow, what an addition! Mr. Peebles & his team have pulled out all the stops & not spared a dime or an insightful thought with this stunning creation. As reported in the Press / Stuff, the first week has seen a tsunami of folks coming in for a look & hopefully a shop. The fit out is tastefully done with a wide range of excellent character features (e.g., the timber beams, old clock, lighting) – it is a building all Cantabrians should be proud of (like our new library).

Riverside Markert Top Side View….

I have always dreamed of starting a food hall as it combines the best of both worlds for – a convenient one stop shop (like the supermarket) but with independent, quality producers (not like the supermarket). Very few folks these days have the luxury of time or the desire to run around town to all the far corners of the city to round up their food supplies. And the Riverside Market pretty much nails it out of the gate…

Top Notch Butchery – Butcher’s Mistress

The folks who appear to really be hitting their stride are all the food service joints, which at lunchtime had throngs of people queued up out the door…with some decently sized corporate offices in combination with the government sector (Justice & Emergency Services Precinct, the Police HQ and City Council) the lunch time demands should remain healthy for some time.

Little Fish Fishmonger and Fish & Chips

But I have my fingers crossed for the real food folks – I think they may have a few more hurdles to get over to make it hum like the food court guys. There are several challenges here:

(1) how many CBD folks are going to actually shop for veggies, fish, meat, etc & take them back to the office?

(2) it is an in between time of year for the veggie guys so stalls like Cultivate are a wee bit sparse on their offerings.

(3) Although one of the veggie stands was pretty fully stocked, I am not sure where all that produce came from – not a very ‘locally grown’ display or offering.

(4) Pricing – I am all for supporting locally grown vegetables but the yams were $20 a kg while I can buy them @ my Lyttelton Farmers Market for $10.

Veggies!!!

So if you have not been, please go & support this stupendous effort & keep it humming along for years to come…and take a posse of friends too & spread the wealth ;-)….

Bread & Cheese – Bohemian Bakery & Charing Cross Cheesery

An Old Favourite – Mediteranean Foods – Estupendo!

Cured – Tasty Venison Charcuterie

Mucho Places to Grab a Bite….

Top Left: Chicken Rotisserie, El Quincho – Argentine BBQ, Shaka Brothers, Riverside Kitchen

 

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….

 

Grater Goods…A Vegan Revelation.

Grater Goods Deli & Butchery

Hound #2 had a list of Friday errands to run so we hopped in Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover on a bright, crips sunny day & toddled off into town (Christchurch). Lots of very basic, boring things to do like pick up dry cleaning, visit the new, monstrous Durham Street New World (our life is so exciting) & then we had planned to check out a mate’s pre-auction warehouse viewing session but we had more than an hour before that kicked off.

So…lunch!!!

For the month of June, Hound #2 is going vegan for reasons I won’t get into but it creates a bit of an eating quandary…but I had read about Grater Goods (vegan deli & ‘butchery’) in several local publications & I had just missed out on their amazing Mushroom Market the prior Saturday. So this lunch option was proposed & readily taken up…

The Blackboard Menu

Grater Goods is housed in an old industrial building hidden away at 105 Orbell Street & conveniently located round the corner from Junk & Disorderly (always worth a squizzy). We perused the blackboard menu & queried “How can you have a Rueben sandwich without corned beef???” to which Flip Grater offered a very acceptable explanation of exactly how they do it with vegan ‘meat’ and vegan ‘cheese’…so we took the bait – with fries.

Inside Grater Goods…

Man oh man…what an awesome sandwich! I would seriously have a blind folded meat eater taste it, and mos def not be able to say if it was not a real (with meat) Rueben sandwich. And the fries were top notch too & I have no idea how they make the mayo or aioli but delish just the same.

The Vegan Rueben – Estupendo!

So if you are in the neighbourhood…or not, do yourself a favour & take a chance & have the vegan Rueben…you will not be disappointed.