Entries Tagged 'Reviews' ↓

Clooney

Had a night in Auckland on our way to Awakeri for Christmas this year to see Cousin Grant who was there for a few days. Before dinner we did a little circuit around the block from our hotel to see the Sky Tower all lit up in red and green for Christmas and seedy Santa on top of Whitcoulls – although he’s been spruced up for his 50th anniversary and wasn’t so seedy anymore, the mechanical eye and finger gone.

Dinner was at Clooney – thanks to a recommendation on Twitter after The Mister asked if anyone knew a good place to eat in Auckland. They were fully booked when we rang but they kept our number and the day before had rung to let us know of a cancellation. The restaurant seemed in a rather out of the way place at the back of Victoria Park Market, but I suppose everyone drives everywhere in Auckland so that probably goes unnoticed and it only took us 15 minutes to walk from downtown anyway which was great. The first thing that struck me about the restaurant was the clientele – a crowd arriving via stretch limo in all their finery which made me feel rather self-conscious in my jeans, never mind my Helmut Lang top purchased at Barney’s … I had every right to be there!! Anyway, once inside I realized it didn’t matter – it was so damn dark! Lights really low, black string curtains around each black circular table, dimly lit staircase to the bathroom, barely any light in the bathroom – thank god I didn’t need to apply lipstick or it may’ve ended up all over my face!

Clooney

The menu is extremely flash, poncey food (as you’d expect me to say) – venison, duck, lamb with strange things, oysters, scallops, tasting plates etc but they did have a goats cheese cappalletti with baby roasted beets which I had, and it was delicious.

Clooney

Everyone else had the poncey stuff and reported that it was fantastic. Cousin Grant commended us on our choice of restaurant which I thought was high praise coming from a New Yorker working in the financial scene who eats out a lot! The service was excellent and attentive and almost invisible with black clad wait staff reaching through the black string curtains around the table to deposit food or whisk away plates! The atmosphere was good too – a little quiet and exclusive when we first got there (7.30) but filled up quickly and wasn’t too noisy. All tables were round and seemed to be set for 4 or more although I’m sure they’d set the edge tables for 2 if need be.

It was great to catch up with Cousin Grant again although a little weird to see him out of New York.

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Clooney, 33 Sale Street, Freemans Bay, Auckland 1010

Icing sugar

A pet peeve of mine in cafes is the use of too much decorative icing sugar – it gets everywhere and there’s no need for it!

Too much icing sugar

Certainly, this is a little lemon sour cream cake from Aro Bake but they didn’t bake it to be sour or so lemony that it requires extra sweetening – I’ve had a naked one and they’re perfectly delicious. So all this icing sugar is unnecessary and if it must be used, go easy on the plate where it ends up spreading onto the table and cuterly making it sticky and certainly don’t put it on the napkin! That means the napkin is dirty before you even use it and trying to flap the icing sugar off it in order to use it gets it all over the place even more.

Grrrr Photo Espresso on Victoria Street, I was just beginning to like you.

Flash food

I’m not really one for posh foods and fancy restaurants (even those that don’t have foreign muck). I never feel quite right in them, mostly because I’m already anxious before we get there that everything will have crab fluff or truffle somethingorother and that I’ll be dreadfully under dressed – my wardrobe is either jeans and Chuck Taylors or long black dress fit for a black tie event. So my attire and desire for a plate of mashed spud always makes me wonder if they look at us and think we’re not really ‘supposed’ to be there – never mind that we can afford that $50 main course and do know what a Julienned carrot or taleggio cheese is!

Anyway, last night it was The Mister’s birthday so the choice of restaurant was not mine and not made with me in mind and I had to look as though I belonged and behave like I enjoyed every moment there (god I sound like a nightmare to take out to dinner …. SHUSH now … ) So we turned up at Martin Boslely’s (SEAFOOD) restaurant and I strutted to the table with an air of ‘I-have-a-thousand-in-100-dollar-bills-in-the-pocket-of-these-faded-fraying-jeans’ – yes I’m sure the diners at the other 9 tables in the 10-table restaurant were looking at us in our Chuck Taylors, jeans and blazers but with me wearing no make-up, clutching my iPhone with my sunglasses still on my head I hoped they thought we were the nouveau riche and had every right to be there with them all in suits entertaining their Japanese business men, or for mother’s birthday, or investment bankers yapping on their phones slurping oysters (yes simultaneously) or the special degustation treat that a rather down-trodden husband was taking his very yappy wife on (don’t forget I have hyper-vision when I’m driving and hyper-hearing when I’m dining!)

The menu was full of stuff I don’t like (knew that was coming), nothing vegetarian and lots of choice for The Mister. We had a couple of glasses of champagne (and had enough class not to ask the guy if he was coming back as his bottle had clearly run out seeing as the glasses were only half full and surely we weren’t going to be charged $30 a piece for that?) and The Mister had the most enormous plate of whitebait. He was in heaven! Yaaaay it was his birthday after all 🙂 Then he had a medley of venison, pork pie, beef and quail, more heaven apparently and I had the fish n chips. Hopefully the fact that The Mister was ordering from the upper end of the menu meant that no judgment came my way when I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, in my jeans.

And now to the point of this post. Wow. Best fish n chips of my life. I chose snapper as the fish (yes, poshness of the restaurant meant you chose from fish caught that day) and it came as 4 battered logs with a takeaway box of chips (to be honest this was the most exciting part of the dinner for me!) The batter tasted a bit like the $4 slab of battered shark from the local fish n chip shop but so much more refined, pure and soft and healthy. Fish n chips and champagne is one of my favourite meals so I too was in heaven!

Fantastic fish n chips

Hope we get to go back there but despite our act for the evening … I made sure I didn’t take too many photos of the meal and did a bit of uninterested-in-the-pomp-just-here-some-dinner phone tweeting … we’ll have to save it for very special occasions!

Trying different beans

We’ve got a bit out of sync with the coffee beans lately – all because we were out of town one Saturday and unable to get them from Customs Brew Bar and then a long weekend full of baking meant we drank more coffee at home than normal. So The Mister had to go down to Customs on Tuesday morning to see what they had … we knew Ralph’s Brazilian wouldn’t be an option as they’re the quickest to sell out at the weekend. However, he recommended Guatemalan Palhu Estate. After the last time I tried beans on our Supreme Friend’s recommendation and I reported back to them that the coffee tasted like a banana skin in the compost, I thought I better pay closer attention this time. I even sipped the espresso just after it came out of the machine before turning it into a latte. So from espresso to last drop of latte, as the coffee cooled, here’s my range of flavours:

  • molasses
  • that savoury flavoured edge that a caramel toffee often has
  • Marmite
  • flax
  • cup of tea (eeeuuw gross, I hate tea, so it was a rather unpleasant ending)

How did I do?

Why we love Capitol

Some people might think going to the same restaurant all the time is pretty boring and not really making the most of city living or getting out of your comfort zone. We don’t care and this is not our experience – we love going to Capitol and this is why:

  • the food is excellent. Always.
  • they know our names
  • we often get our favourite table at the front in the window
  • the Head Chef stops by our table for a quick chat (surely that’s a sign you’ve ‘made it’ if the chef comes out to see you when you dine in their restaurant?!)
  • we always get wine in the special big glasses
  • if I order whatever it is that has whitebait on it, without the whitebait, the whitebait comes out in a little side dish from the chef for The Mister
  • I am happy to go there on my own, the staff take turns at chatting with me to keep me company
  • we’re never made to feel bad if there’s a huge line of people waiting and we’re almost done
  • on special occasions we’re allowed to ring up with advance warning of a visit as strictly not allowed to make a reservation but we’re welcome to give a head’s up
  • sometimes, if I’m really lucky and if the menu doesn’t have anything on it that I like (actually has only happened once) they’ll do a special sauce to go with the pasta, just for me
  • did I mention the food. Consistently delicious and is just as it says on the menu.

Last night I took a rare break from the risotto currently on the menu (pumpkin and mascarpone) and had leek ravioli, without the whitebait, and it was divine. They do the best beurre blanc I’ve ever had, just a tad on the lemony side which doesn’t make if feel so naughty. Because let’s face it, that’s a lot of melted butter to eat in one sitting.

Capitol, 10 Kent Terrace, Wellington

Fratelli

Last night before Ignite Wellington we decided to have a quick dinner somewhere we hadn’t been before. Very hard to pass up a chance to go to Capitol and always hard to find somewhere that fits my criteria … deep breath …

  • No curry (any nationality)
  • No Japanese
  • Not a seafood place
  • Bit dubious about Chinese
  • No spicy Cajun, Mexican etc
  • Somewhere that has vegetarian choices or something I’ll eat that’s not chicken
  • Not too loud
  • Don’t want to leave with hair smelling of grill
  • Mid-price

Basically a cafe or Italian restaurant.

We were joined by a colleague who we don’t know very well who thankfully was happy to go along with our decision so that the choice of restaurant didn’t become awkward.

The Mister recalled seeing or reading about an Italian restaurant on Blair or Allen streets and we found it: Fratelli. And it was feast night that night – basically a limited, almost set, menu with a choice of a few mains and pizzas. Loads of the choices were something I’d eat!

I went for the semolina gnocchi with broccoli and red onion – man it was devine! The gnocchi was the most delicate thing ever! And the portion size just right. The others had pork tagliatelle and spinach risotto – reports that both were excellent. We’d let them know we only had an hour and the service wasn’t rushed and we had time for bread and mains. Fitting in dessert might’ve been a push but we didn’t want it anyway.

The restaurant was about half full, not bad for a Tuesday night, and I really like the idea of feast night. We’ll definitely be going back.

Fratelli, 15 Blair Street, Wellington

Felix

Have not been to Felix for coffee or lunch or dinner or anything for years! I lost my patience with the cafes along Wakefield Street some time ago when they all seemed to close so early on week nights meaning there was nothing cafe-ish in that part of town. Back in the day when I was at university Lido and City Limits (where Finc is now) used to stay open quite late and you could always get a hot chocolate and a piece of cheesecake on the way home from the movies after 10.30pm.

When Felix opened I went a few times because of the orange. Of course. Last night we had our apartment Body Corporate AGM on Cuba Street and decided that we’d give Finc a go for a quick, light cafe meal, but they were closed. Sigh. So Felix it was. The orange teddy bear light is still there and the orange roof 🙂

207 - 26 July 2010

I had a bowl of minestrone with toasted ciabatta and The Mister had a burger. Both were excellent. It was a bit chilly in there, I could only see one heater, and as inviting as the bench seat long the windows or high stools around a communal table looked, they were just too cold to sit at being so close to the windows. So we sat at the back at the bar. Which was OK, we like sitting at the bar, except there were no foot rests on the stools or the bar and even The Mister’s feet didn’t touch the ground so you can imagine how high up in the air my feet were swinging! Wasn’t particularly comfortable but as we were there for a quick meal, it was over pretty quickly.

We might add it to the list of options for dinner on the way home when it gets a bit warmer.

Wellington coffee again

After going around ‘reviewing’ coffee places in New York and necessitating a new section on my blog ‘Reviews’, Wellington cafes are not safe either. It’s been a while since I’ve openly commented on some, probably because we became regulars at a few places and I’m scared of upsetting people, but even though guys in cafes are greeting and hugging us like old friends which is absolutely fantastic, we’re experiencing their coffee for the first time all over again. And we want to get out and about and try some new places as well so I thought it about time to note down my thoughts again.

Our first coffee back in Wellington (apart from my own grainy attempt as the poor machine had to waken from it’s freezing 4-month slumber) was at Customs Brew Bar – man, that machine and that man Ralph are are partnership from the coffee gods. A flat white out of the slayer is like some kind of nectar. The consistency is like thick silk and the flavour is, hmmm, not sure how to put it without downplaying it, well it’s the pure flavour of coffee. No aftertaste or tones of something or aroma of anything other than good coffee. It was great to hang out in the cafe as well, it’s a cozy little spot, fairly quiet after New York, but nice to catch up with Ralph, eat his baking and excellent toasted sandwiches and use the wi-fi (snaps for that!)

Coffee at Customs

Next day, I caught up with our Supreme Friend in the Supreme Woodward Street store (bit of a Supreme groupie for those who don’t know) to get some beans and deliver his present from Intelligentsia in Chicago – not really the weather for a t-shirt but he was so appreciative that I didn’t regret squeezing it into my suitcase and finding a place to bring the packaging for it back undamaged. We snobbed on about coffee for a while and I told him all the cafe stories, especially about Saturdays Surf and he was most intrigued by the style of making coffee that has each one made individually, using a single milk jug. I got some ‘different’ beans, some that he told me smelled like a Perky Nana (banana chocolate) bar, which smelled to me like a banana cake. It was a different taste indeed when I made coffee with the beans later in the week, and despite being laughed at once for my description of the taste of a Riesling (although commended not long after for such a great description) “eeeuuuuuwww it tastes like the smell of a lemon rotting at the bottom of the fruit bowl” I again pulled out a doozy for the taste of this coffee “oh, it tastes like compost”. I try to be honest, and when I reported this to our Supreme Friend he said that it was not the feedback he’d been hoping for but 10 points for the ‘unique’ description!

During the week we’ve gone back to Fuel and actually the coffee was better than expected; we’ve had very sweet Supreme-style flavour for 4 months so we though the harder more peppery Fuel roast would seem sour but it wasn’t too bad. The Fuel taste.

Gotham had a rocky start (coffee-wise) when we stopped by earlier in the week to meet our boss – it was the busy morning tea time and the coffee was full of froth, to the point that the waitress asked if we’d finished our coffee when she was clearing the plates because it looked like we’d left half of it. However, this morning’s cup breakfast was superb. Good and thick and the Saturday morning taste I remembered.

Despite the rain this afternoon we went across the park to The Garage a.k.a. People’s – we’d been dying to get back there deciding when we were away that it was probably the closest thing to a New York-style espresso bar, especially an Eastside one where people hang out in a cramped some-what eclectic cubby-hole. It was great! The big table, shared by everyone, one person proud of making good coffee, not much food apart from a few cookies and a constant stream of people coming and going. The windows were totally steamed up and as we approached I thought that you probably just wouldn’t go in there if you didn’t realise what the place was because you couldn’t see anything!

198 - 17 July 2010 People's

I like RBC’s stuff

Called into RBC yesterday to get some coffee beans – didn’t stop for coffee as it was a bit late in the day. There was a bit of a queue though with Downtown banker types getting a late afternoon wake-up coffee so I had time to stand and look around. The cafe is kind of part way between Soho and the Financial District so it has some of Soho’s eclectic-ness and some of Wall Street’s staunchness. I like a lot of the stuff they have.

Cool chalk menu – lots of cafes have them, RBC’s descriptions of their beans very helpful! Also on the blackboard theme, their little chalk board outside changes daily. Again a lot of cafes have these boards out front with changing pictures or messages – I guess in Wellington these would blow away!

RBC bean menu 167 - 16 June 2010

TVs – usually they have the news on one screen but they can be forgiven for playing the soccer world cup when those games are on. Their second TV is a live feed from the doggie daycare place next door that has a rehabilitation pool – we’ve never seen a dog in the pool yet but as one of the guys was telling customers the other day it’s for dogs recovering from surgery, amputation or just plain fat dogs!

RBC TVs

Also spotted their single group La Marzocco machine – not sure when they use it but they have all sorts of coffee paraphernalia and it was cool to see one of these machines up close. Maybe we’ll get one eventually!

RBC single group Lammy

RBC NYC, 71 Worth Street, New York

Balthazar

Last week we went to Balthazar for dinner after work – I was a little bit nervous that it would be full of skinny trendy Soho people and me with my laptop in my Bloomies bag and jeans looking a bit too start-up would stick out, but it was so busy and crowded that I don’t think anyone noticed. Although a few people would’ve seen us in passing because we were seated right near the front door at a table that some discerning diners up and left from claiming they ‘didn’t like the menu’ – more like they didn’t like everyone coming in the door and looking right at them. We grabbed it to save having to wait an hour and it was rather entertaining watching everyone arrive and picking from their body language and bags whether they were tourists, locals, with reservation or without!

It’s a French restaurant and the food was pretty spectacular.

Menus were like those we’d been given in restaurants in Paris

118 - 28 April 2010

I had duck cottage pie (something rather different for me and it was delicious although not quite enough mash!), The Mister had duck confit (also delicious apparently)

Balthazar

I had pavlova (not usually into pudding but wanted to try it, it was excellent), The Mister had profiteroles (delicious)

Balthazar

And while we were there Ewan McGreggor stood close to our table (we were by the door remember) waiting for someone to find him a table. We kept calm and didn’t get out the camera – trying to blend in a be aloof in a French/Soho kind of way!

Balthazar, 80 Spring Street (between Broadway & Crosby), Soho, New York