Archives for Food

Buy carefully on London Food Tours

Food tours are enormously popular in many major cities around the world, and often in areas with unique cuisines. London presents a special challenge as Europeans generally look down upon English cooking as stodgy, provincial and unimaginative. John Bishop found there is plenty to be delighted about as he took three food tours around London, with some history and culture thrown in. View article as PDF
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Low lights of Louisiana

Baton Rouge, the capital of the state of Louisiana, presents a medley of experiences for visitors, both in the city itself and as a jumping off point for the state’s many natural attractions, including swamps, alligators, fine historical houses, and special French flavour not found elsewhere. View as PDF
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Nice and greasy

The workingman’s cafe has a long and respectable tradition in England, selling an unfashionable cuisine: the fry up. John Bishop visits three of London’s finest Nice and greasy
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Poor service reflects bad organisation in Day’s Bay Cafés

When you’re eating a rather indifferent toasted sandwich at ten past two on a fine September afternoon having first tried to order to order food at 12.45, you know things have not gone well. We called into Chocolate Dayz in Day’s Bay for lunch, a place which served me a stale, partly uncooked vegetable frittata the last time I was there. I stood in the queue to order food. I was tenth in line, and the line doesn’t move quickly. Twenty minutes later I am finally in front of the lady taking the orders. (Two other customers had abandoned the queue and gone elsewhere).  On the way to the front, I noticed a small sign by the till that meals would take about 45 minutes. Will it really be that long, I asked? What about if I order something from the cabinet? Yes it will be about that long, and no, ordering from the cabinet rather than the menu won’t hasten delivery. It’s now ten past one. I’d already wasted 20 minutes: to wait another 45 minutes (or more) looked
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Profiling three Kiwi Chefs in New York in the Listener

  As a result of my travels in the US earlier this year I’ve had a piece published in this week’s Listener on three Kiwi chefs making a go of it in New York, including the big guy Matt Lambert whose restaurant holds a Michelin Star. The others are Pauli Morgan of the Nelson Blue bar and restaurant and Mark Simmons of the Kiwiana Café in Brooklyn. A pleasure to talk to all of them.
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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 adventurous, but that is not a strong criticism in a town where there are plenty of experimental places if you want that sort of thing. VISTA is much more about being solid, reliable and predictable. But for my money it was (and is) a bit pricey for what it delivers. Eggs any style on ciabatta is $11, which is at the higher end of town, and with bacon and sausage (or another item) added, you hit $20 and you haven’t
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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 two pieces there, so I guess they got that right. The dish would have been rather sparse with just one. The bacon was lovely and I had an egg as an extra too. But the basic compilation was askew. The supposed caramelized onions were tasteless, and there were just two paltry slices of mushroom. Frankly this was ordinary. On the plus side the service was prompt and attentive, and the prices were reasonable, but I left feeling depressed. A popular
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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 is a marina which opened in 2009 and is based on the harbour inlet. Apart from providing moorings for dozens of yachts, the area around the wharf has developed into a lovely place for young children to frolic and paddle unchallenged by waves. The main beach faces east and runs several kilometres to another estuary, this time with the Otahu River. The town now has 3471 permanent residents, but this swells to two or three times that in peak summer
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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 and confuses them. I ordered a tarte provençale, the classic pastry tart with onions as a base, layered with sliced tomato with black olives mixed in. Or in my case just three little pieces. I casually mentioned this to the waitron, as she was clearing the table, as the chef had asked for feedback, and out of the kitchen came five black olives on a serving spoon to make up. A nice touch, nicer for being unexpected. A small crème
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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 serve you if they can be bothered. Popularity is not a reliable guide to quality or authenticity but Dragonfly doesn’t seek the label of best genuinely Chinese restaurant. On the contrary it is determinedly modern and innovative, which is precisely why it resonates with the younger dining out regularly set that filled the bar and tables on the Saturday night we visited. Our little party of two shared the spring rolls which were three long rolls in a firm case
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