Different to Wellington cafes

When I was packing to come home from our trip to San Francisco and Portland, I realised most of my coats and scarves smelt like coffee … lovely … and better than the turmeric smell I used to come home with when I was a fresh young PA working at Davis Trading in Petone – direct importer of food ingredients … every spice and flavour you could think of plus some other strange things I’d certainly never heard of until I spent 18 months there (rollmops, prawn crackers (yes I was surrounded by foreign food!)).

Anyway, reflecting on the cafes I’d been to in San Francisco and Portland – a general comment about baristas – they’re all about the same age, perhaps around 30 and seem really committed to coffee as a profession.  Didn’t get the impression or see anyone following a recipe, taking shortcuts (with the extraction or reusing milk (in fact most times jugs washed out between customers)), or looking like they’d been rostered on and were waiting for the end of their shift. We’re getting quite a few places of this quality around Wellington now, but we still have our fair share of cafes slamming out the coffees to go with muffins or toasted paninis. Perhaps being about the craft and appreciation of coffee rather than primarily about food or getting through a morning tea rush is what makes the time taken to do it properly possible. And the customers there like me were waiting for a perfect coffee not a flat white that tastes different every time you visit.

As for the customers – there are always half a dozen people in a cafe whether together or on laptops; no-one wears a suit and those in meetings have a yellow work pad; all the cool dudes have little beards; the cafe smells of coffee, not whatever last thing was cooked on the sandwich press and is now lingering in the air. And this is definitely what I wish for in Wellington – no-one stays just 15 minutes or as long as it takes to drink coffee – they stay, they use their computer, they use the cafe’s free fast wi-fi, a group swells and trickles out as acquaintances come and go, whether it be bike couriers, students, other guys from the office; no-one clears the cups noisily (in fact you put your own cup on the bench when you’re done). Hanging out is serious business. I’m going to try more of this in Wellington – will be interesting to see how long I feel comfortable staying for.

Stumptown - Division

Supreme Woodward art installation

Remember a while back when Supreme opened their revamped Woodward Street store I went down and took a bunch of photos and commented on the little ‘exhibition’ space in the brick wall? Well the minute I saw that space I knew what I wanted to take to put there one day – and that day came last week when our Supreme Friend tweeted that he was looking for something new to put in the space.

I rushed down there with the treasure that I knew I wanted to display – just on loan – my New York prism!

Supreme WW art installation

Supreme WW art installation

Oh how easily the little Vespa model was cast aside so I could ‘install’ my treasure. We discussed all sorts of lighting and signage options but for now, one of my orange cards serves as the art credit. Feel very famous!

Supreme WW art installation

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!

Nikau – Wellington

Have finally got back to Nikau since coming back from New York. With it not being open on a Sunday it’s slightly more inconvenient for us to go, having so much to jam in on a Saturday. However, we called in for Saturday breakfast this weekend.

We we welcomed back with hugs like old friends and it was great to see familiar faces there and a few new hair styles. We were out of view of Kelda (boss chef) but somehow she got wind we were there and came out to say hi and welcome us back – we felt Very Important.

Didn’t have a date scone (gasp!) as it was breakfast time, so had my old fav toast and peanut butter – something I hardly have at Nikau with us never usually being there for breakfast. Their homemade milk toast is really good – I only need one slice as it’s delicious and thick and you can actually taste milk in the crust.

205 - 24 July 2010

My coffee was delivered in my special cup (even after all these months!) – good texture and well made although I have decided I really don’t like the flavour of Supreme’s Fair Trade Organic beans – it has a very distinctive ‘green’ taste, quite acidic, but I have no choice until they switch beans which I don’t think they’ll do being an organic cafe. It was great to be back and next visit will have to be for a date scone.

I’m thrilled to see Nikau is blogging again too – well done guys!!

Nikau Gallery Cafe, City Gallery, Civic Square, Wellington @nikaucafe