Vista delights with steak on pearl barley dish

I’ve not generally been very enthusiastic about VISTA the indoor outdoor café in Oriental Bay. I’ve been there frequently enough over the years, never finding much to complain about, but never having a great experience either. At least not until today. To be fair my low-ish regard for this place is somewhat at odds with the prevailing opinion in Wellington where it is rated highly for food, location, service and general ambience. Certainly it is pleasant to sit outside on a good day and sip some wine, and I have done that.  And inside the food is sound, but not
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Elements Cafe lets me down

Elements Café in Lyall Bay ought to be good. It won the award for best café in Wellington last year, and generally it doesn’t disappoint. It did on Sunday for me anyway, and with one of its signature dishes – the liver with caramelized onions and mushrooms. This dish used to be served on mash but now it comes with toast or rather it comes with soggy ciabatta as the base. It’s soggy because of the rather nice sour cream and meat juice sauce poured over the dish. I’d asked for an extra piece of liver, and yes there were
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Whangamata is my favourite beach place

  Whangamata is my favourite beach resort because in summer it combines reliable weather with good swimming and enough shops and other attractions to occupy my time enjoyably. In January it is buzzing, so much so that the police draft in extra officers, close streets and keep a watchful eye on proceedings over New Year. Not that there has been any trouble for many years. If you want fishing and deep sea activities then go to Whitianga, where deepwater activities are top rate, but the beaches and swimming are second rate compared to Whangamata. At the northern end of Whangamata
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An attractive government city: Kuala Lumpur’s Putrajaya

It’s hard to imagine government buildings being interesting but Malaysia’s administrative centre at Putrajaya about 30 minutes outside Kuala Lumpur certainly is proof to the contrary. Putrajaya is a planned city and government shifted there in 1999 after downtown KL became too crowded. However Kuala Lumpur is still Malaysia’s capital. It is home to the King and Parliament, as well as being the country’s commercial and financial centre. In Putrajaya every government agency makes a solid statement with its own building with its own style. No expense has been spared in this strenuous assertion of Malaysian prosperity and prestige as a
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Marche Francais gets extra points for olives

At Marché Français a diner can have endless fun with the French style café menu picking out what looks good and enjoying the sight of other dishes. I was with a group of seven which lunched there recently, in my case after a long absence. The best thing about the place is that it is as French as ever. Some customers struggle with the staff’s heavily accented English. Equally the staff may well have difficulty correcting deciphering customers’ requests. I have learned from experience not to use my rather fractured and garbled French to native French speakers. It only upsets
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Dragonfly intrigues and delights

Oddly for a Chinese style restaurant (and also for me) I thought the dessert was the best of the three courses we ate. Not that the others were bad – they weren’t, but the apple pie was particularly special. Dragonfly is riding the crest of a wave of popularity, which taken at its peak leads on to the restaurant equivalent of fame and fortune. It was named as one of David Burton’s twenty best modern restaurants in Wellington – a list which includes the very over-rated Charlie Nobel’s where the food is only average and where staff may deign to
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Picnic in the gardens; pleasant occasion, dull food

Lunch with friends on a fine spring day in a garden setting ought to be a pleasurable occasion, but Picnic, the cafe in Wellington’s Botanical gardens only half pie delivered the expected delights. Half pie is a deliberate expression, meaning it was halfway, kind of ok but not really very good. And it was, in fact, the lamb and kumara pie that let them down. Picnic is certainly popular and there’s been good sized crowds each time we have been there. The setting – either inside the café itself or out in the open air garden air – is pleasant.
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Virtuoso will be shortlived

Virtuoso is the new café on the corner of Manners and Willis Street the site where many similar operations have started optimistically only to come adrift. Most recently it was a Mexican café and restaurant on the site is on what used to be called Perrett’s Corner. The Perrett family ran a chemist shop there for many many years before it became Perrett’s Café and Bar somewhere around 2011. Now Virtuoso is poised to follow the footsteps of failure that have befallen some many hospitality operations in that venue. Why? In a town crowded with cafés, bars and restaurants, the
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