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.

 

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Irun – A World of Markets…

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Mercado Mercairun, Irun, Basque Country

The Hounds have made several Irunian forays for a variety of reasons but we had a ‘reminder’ note to venture back to have a damn decent squizzy of a covered market we’d discovered on out first outing. Post a quick Google search to track down the market’s exact location, we soon discovered Irun has not just 1 market (Mercado de Uranzu), not just 2 markets (Mercado Mercairun), but 3 (Mercado de Urbanibia)!!!!

Due to a rather late rising, we decided to make a beeline for Mercado Mercairun which is the 2nd Irunian covered market we’d yet to lay our eyes on or to sample their wares…

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Anyone for a Steak? Seriously Aged Beef Here…

Well it’s all here in spades folks – pick your section & be prepared to be excited & also overwhelmed. As it was Saturday, and late in the morning, the market had probably already seen its early dash but mucho folks were still queued up at the most popular stalls filling their trolleys with everything from succulent steaks to a charcuterie cornucopia to gleamingly fresh seafood.

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Fresh Off Da Boat…In Every Shape, Size & Colour

Although Spain certainly has its share of supermarket chains like most other Western countries (and they are heavily utilised too), it is refreshing and awesome to see a community or town or city that wholly embraces a market(s) & heartily shops this way. Markets like these provide the best of all food worlds: like a supermarket, they offer the convenience of one-stop-shopping, but with the mega advantage of choosing and buying from small, independent businesses (in many cases artisanal) that actually may give a shite about the products they sell. And clearly long term vendor/customer relationships were in evidence here with some stalls having folks stacked 3-4 deep with quick & snappy banter being fired across the hall.

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Not To Be Outdone, The Veggie Section On Splendid Display…

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Top Notch Charcuterie…Pata-Negra de Belota Is As Good As It Gets!

In the up & coming Local Food Hound posts there will be one about the 3rd market – the Mercado de Urbanibia – which I stumbled upon pretty much by accident. It is an outdoor market that is held in the massive Plaza de Urbanibia with more than 150 stall holders selling everything from socks & shoes to superb charcuterie, cheeses & olives….you know an outdoor food market is good when the temporary stalls need to employ a ticket turn dispenser! I really wanted to buy some olives but the last number called out was #62 and my ticket was #85! Next time…

And I’d be a wee bit remiss if I did not mention & include a follow up post on the stupendous Vinoteca Mendibil – easily one of the best vino stores I have visited since moving to España!

Miller’s Farm Shop, Kilmington, Devon

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Miller’s Farm Shop is our true local – just a hop, skip and a jump through the back lanes & a scary crossing of the A35 and you will find yourself, as the web site proudly proclaims, somewhere ‘absolutely splendid’. We love farm shops that are seriously food focused (e.g., Washingpool) and Miller’s is mos def in that category. It has a tiny amount of kitsch (we actually found some super Land Rover cards there) but that, thankfully, is kept to a bare minimum so that the food component shines.

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As it is our local, we have been to Miller’s numerous times and everything (veggies, deli products, meats, cheeses, etc) always looks top notch and the service is excellent too – we’ve never been there when someone has not offered us assistance or insightful advice as we wandered the aisles. It is really nice in this day & age of overbearing, impersonal Big Box Superstores that you get to experience a family run business started in 1985 by Malcom Miller & is today absolutely chocka with his kids.

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When you first walk in you are in the full on veggie section which has all the usual suspects but also a few nice twists. Need some seriously hot chillies? The Habaneros are here. Recipe calls for a bit of fresh lemongrass? Miller’s has got it. And we also like the fresh looking (vs. tired Tesco’s), well priced, rightly-sized herb offerings.

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And if you are tired of Tesco’s Finest or your local CostCutter plonk, well Miller’s has a decent selection of good quaffers at a fair price. And if beer or ale or cider is more your thing, you’ll be alright at Miller’s as they carry a good selection of local beverages.

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We are huge fans of ethically raised meats and it pleases us to no end that Miller’s has a very good offering. We have used the Otter Valley Poultry free-range chicken on several occasions with superb results. And it is wonderful to see the Wyld Meadow Farm meats on offer as we first encountered them at the Bridport Farmers Market and were suitably impressed with an amazing Sunday roast of rolled lamb shoulder.

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And the deli & larder side of things is not at all forgotten at Miller’s Farm Shop. If you are short of spices or need the odd condiment or your olive oil is low or you are craving some great pasta tonight – it is here at Miller’s. It is really nice to see quite a few items that you will not or ever see in Tesco’s, which appears to be mostly fixated on making you buy Tesco home brands. It has been one of our small surprises since moving back to the UK that our specialty food goods choices seem to have been far more extensive, half way across the world in Australia, than here.

Keep up the great work Malcom & Crew – we’ll see you soon.

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Washingpool Shop, Farm and Kitchen, Bridport, Dorset

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We have been making an effort to visit as many of our local farmers markets as we possibly can and with some good results but it will be the summer season that brings them forefront & centre. A very good adjunct to the farmers markets are the numerous farm shops dotted about the counties. They seem to offer a consolidated (good range of local products from many producers in one spot) and consistent delivery method (most open 7 days a week versus farmers markets once a month) for many of the great, small producers.

We had read a Guardian article where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage fame was asked to name his favourite local farm shops and at the top of his list was the Washingpool Farm Shop in Bridport, Dorset. With a break in the winter gloom we set off in the Land Rover for a bit of a squizzy.

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Farm shops, just like people, though genetically the same in their general makeup, offer up a wide variety within the farm shop genre. Some seem to add a bit more bric a brac or gift items to the mix whilst others stick with a strong food centred focus. But so far in our farm shop tiki tour, Washingpool is clearly one of the food centric shops which pleases us immensely.

Washingpool is an 80 acre farm that grows the farm shop veggies (in season) and raises pedigree Red Ruby beef cattle and free range pigs as well as offering numerous Dorset and Southwest regionally sourced products.

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And there is lots to do at Washingpool besides shop – there’s the Farmer’s Kitchen cafe for morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea, accommodation options, fishing and a series of regular seasonal events (see above).

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We were seriously impressed with the local meat selection with not just the Warmingpool lamb for sale but other locally farmed meats such as the beef from Higher Silkhay farm (pic below) and the oh so tempting  stuffed pork belly roast (we bought & ate it – praise the lard) from Devon-based Wallace’s Hill Farm (they also raise Bison, Red Deer and Wild Boar). Wallace’s have a farm shop of their own which just may have to be put on the to do list.

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And we were oh so happy to see a decent display of local charcuterie which included our mates from Capreolus Fine Foods (we blogged about them in our Bridport Farmers Market piece) who make & offer a superb selection of smoked & preserved meats. And a new kind on the block for us, the Dorset Farms folks whose award winning ham & bacons are most definitely going to be tried.

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River Cottage: Pig In A Day

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WARNING: If you are vegetarian or vegan or just generally against the eating of meat, the following post and pictures may not be to your liking…may be a good time to leave. 

A very generous Hound #3 procured a full day course at the River Cottage Cookery School aptly titled a Pig in a Day for Hound #2’s birthday. This is a porker of a day for anyone who wants to demystify the art of butchery and gain hands on experience, or build up their confidence to tackle the world of charcuterie.

The day began at 9:30AM with a tractor ride down a steep & winding lane, past River Cottage HQ and the Cookery School’s old barn home (destroyed by fire but being rebuilt) to the ‘temporary’ tent headquarters. Though it is a tent, it is a damn fancy tent with a full on commercial kitchen, dining room & bar & cookery school instructional classroom.

RCTent

We were greeted with piping hot coffee & tea, juices & amazing duck rillettes on house-made English muffins – awesome savoury start to the day. Laid out on a sizeable solid wood butcher’s block was the English Large White Pig. Our instructor, Steven Lamb (Head of Events), told us that River Cottage had been struggling to find a source of organic, free range pork ever since their original primary supplier outside of Dorchester, Dorset had stopped rearing them as it was not economically feasible.

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This course is mos def hands on. Steven Lamb solicited (and sometimes made) folks to jump right in during the butchering sessions & grab a knife or saw and work through the various pig sections to extract the tenderloin, the loin (our lunch), the chump, etc…until all bits & bobs (including the head) were accounted for.

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Besides the butchery session, we were also treated to a variety of methods on what to do with the various cuts of meat. We have always been fascinated with the world of charcuterie (preserved meats) but a wee bit timid in attempting it solo, with no instruction. A bit like mushroom foraging – we would not want to make a simple mistake using a book & end up in the A&E.

So it was immense fun to jump right into the making of everything from bacon to prosciutto to sausages & chorizo. It is a small wonder that fresh meat, packed in a seasoned salt cure for a few weeks & then hung to air dry for months & months could end up as such a scrumptious taste treat. The only other natural thing we can think of that gets better with age is wine – not a bad complement to some damn good, home made charcuterie.

RCSausages

Included in this awesome day is a delicious lunch – we had the roasted pork loin with great au jus & savoury potato cake & fresh garden kale. And dessert (see below) was a stunner too – all washed down with a couple of decent biodynamic / organic tempranillos.

If you are tempted to attend this course – HURRY! They are tres popular and get booked out in a nanosecond…check the course calendar & get yourself to a Pig in a Day! You will come away with your brain hurting with so much new information.

RCDessert

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Local Butchers: Mulberry Manor Meats, Seaton

Mulberry Manor Meats

With the big, dark shadow of a massive Tesco’s hanging over the wee town of Seaton, we are indeed most lucky to have not one, but two independent butchers. Besides the very good GW Meats who we have already blogged about, we also have the Mulberry Manor Meat Butcher (18 Fore Street, Seaton, EX12 2LA, 01297 20915) in easy access from our home. Since moving here in November 2012, one thing that has stood out to us is the seriously excellent quality of the local UK meat (Devon & Dorset seem to be in top form) and the continued presence in many small towns and villages of the independent butcher.

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MulberryManorMeatWindow

Mulberry appears to be striving for a smaller selection (they almost seems to be ordered in for the that day) in the “less is more” vein of thought. Their beef comes from Orkney Island in Scotland and the lamb & pork from farms just outside of Axminster, Devon. In addition, Mulberry Manor also offers several take home meals every day (e.g., chicken kiev or shepherd’s pie or pollo parmesan ). One specialty that Mulberry Manor carries that we are keen to try is their Barbary Duck Breasts, brought in from France. Barbary ducks are a slower growing duck which yields a larger quantity of leaner, darker meat (especially the males) – yum. Another of their offered cuts we have tried several times are the lamb chump chops and they were superb.

The Mulberry Manor Meats’ delivery truck – now that’s a classy butcher’s delivery truck.

And this is one of Hound #1’s absolute favourite shops to stop in…

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Darts Farm – Farm Shop and More

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On our way to explore Exmouth we got sort of sidetracked into the town of Topsham and stumbled (you really cannot miss it!) upon Darts Farm.

Darts Farm started in the 1970’s as one of the small farm shops you would find dotted around East Devon, selling it’s local produce at the end of the farm gate. Well, it’s not small anymore. It is a giant retail complex of mostly food (though there is an Aga showroom, outdoors store, tile & paint shop, florist and a spa). Though big, it is still run by the 3 sons of founder Ronald Dart and claims to “continually endeavour to keep to the original values at the heart of the business…(Darts Farm) is the product of passion for farming and providing good quality, local produce to a community that cares about its cultural heritage.”

There is a cafe (which we might have gone to for lunch, but for the enormous queue) as well as what is regarded as or heralded as one of the best fish & chip joints in the country – the Fish Shed.

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There are all sorts of food stuffs and a great deli section (where Hound 3 stocked up on her favourite chorizo).DartFarm-charcuterie

And you will find the Gerald David & Family Master Butchers in residence (Hound 2 is always drawn to the butchers… as would Hound 1 be if he had been allowed out of the car). These folks have won Devon Life’s Best Butcher Award 3 years running and it was not too hard to see why. We learned in a brief chat that the beef we were perusing was raised & slaughtered (they have their own abattoir) on the Dart farm. DartFarm-butcher

DartFarm-meat

Having gotten accustomed to the Seaton retail world, our one visit was kind of overwhelming – we will return.