Tuesday 15 November 2011

Wellington Gastronome - a giveaway and a photo tour of Welly

Cable car

It was a happy collision of events. In the same week that reading Max's article on Wellington in the September issue of Gourmet Traveller had piqued my interest in visiting New Zealand's political and food capital, Positively Wellington Tourism contacted me to invite me along on a weekend-long blog junket to check out the food and drink scene in Wellington. Seeing as I'd never even been to New Zealand's North Island before (see a post about my trip to the South Island here), it was an opportunity I felt I couldn't refuse.

The junket was part of the publicity for PWT's current tourism campaign in Melbourne to promote Wellington as a cool dining destination - culminating in a two-weeks-only pop-up restaurant on Gertrude Street Fitzroy, run exclusively by Kiwis and using Wellington produce.


The restaurant, called WLG, is operating in the Rue de Fleurus site at 153 Gertrude Street (formerly known as Claypots and conveniently located just across the road from The Everleigh). WLG opens TONIGHT and runs every night until 27 November. The three course menu is a ridiculous bargain at only $35 per head, plus $30 per bottle of NZ wine. Other details about the restaurant, including about the five chefs who've designed the menu and will be running it, can be found here.

Ticket reservations for the restaurant were available through the Time Out website but have already been snapped up - however they'll still accept walk-ins each night, so you may get lucky. OR you might like to enter the Melbourne Gastronome WLG ticket giveaway - I've got a double pass to the restaurant to give away to a blog reader. The pass is for two people for dinner at 8pm on this Sunday, 20th November 2011 (so don't enter the competition if you can't attend on Sunday night, obvs). To enter, leave a comment on this blog post stating your favourite New Zealand import in Australia - cultural, culinary or otherwise - before NOON on Friday 18th (if I don't already know you through blogs/Twitter etc, make sure I know how to contact you in case you win). I'll announce the winner on Friday afternoon (via both Facebook and Twitter, so keep your eyes peeled), and I'll email the winner their PDF double pass.

Wednesday update: Photos of the restaurant and meals served on WLG's opening night can now be seen on Shellie's blog. I was also invited along last night, and was particularly taken with my main (slow-cooked venison in Tunisian brik pastry with veal sweetbreads - mmmmm - broadbeans, peas and pancetta), my dessert (licoricello panna cotta with vodka lime parfait and pistachio wafer) and the laid-back Kiwi charm of a waiter sporting a truly outrageous moustache.


So, a photo tour of Wellington (apologies, I'd half-drafted this post last week but I've been struck down with illness over the last four days and am currently running a fever, so this post will be light on analysis).

I went to Welly a few weekends ago, accompanied by three other Melbourne food bloggers (Ed, Penny and Shellie). During the two days I attended three of the restaurants whose chefs will be running the WLG pop-up.


Lunch on Saturday was at Logan Brown, one of Wellington's most upmarket restaurants. If the facade looks a little imposing, it's because the 1920s building used to be a bank.

Logan Brown

Lovely high-ceilinged interior. We had a good chat before lunch to head chef Shaun Clouston (one of the WLG chefs) about the provenance of his produce.

Logan Brown

I was particularly excited about trying the local shellfish that we can't get in Oz, like tua tua surf clams from Cloudy Bay (similar to pipis), and Tio Point Bluff oysters and Mahurangi Pacific oysters. Sensational.

Tua tuaOysters

Special mention also to the chestnut flour pappardelle with porcini mushrooms, macadamias and gorgonzola, and the Whangamata scallops with cauliflower cream, coppa wafer, apple and preserved lemon. Some beautiful organic biodynamic Urlar wines, too.

Chestnut flour pappardelleScallops with cauliflower cream

In between restaurants I made a beeline for some of the tourist sights: the Wellington Cable Car (see photo at the top of this post) up to the Botanic Gardens and lookout over the city, and an hour at New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa.

Te Papa

Such a great museum! One of the best I've been to in years, I wish I'd had more time to explore it - especially the exhibitions about the geology and flora and fauna of New Zealand, and the Mana Whenua exhibition about Maori culture (including a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi, which I studied at uni).

Te PapaTreaty of Waitangi

On the Saturday night we went to dinner at The Larder in Miramar, a suburb 15 minutes drive away that is also home to Peter Jackson's Weta studios (filming for The Hobbit movies is currently underway, but alas I didn't spy any Middle-earth inhabitants).

The Larder

Chef/owner Jacob Brown takes great pride in the relationships The Larder has with its suppliers: to reinforce the point, black and white portraits of various suppliers adorn the walls of the restaurant, and Jacob (also appearing at WLG) can tell you an anecdote about each one.

Pea and asparagus soupProducers

Culinary highlights included my carpaccio of peppered venison fillet with spiced pear, pear jelly and beetroot; Penny's pig's head baked in brik pastry with seared chicken livers, radish and cress; and my main of pork belly with crumbed black pudding, apple calvados puree and pepper caramel. A Valrhona fondant and parfait were also excellent.

Carpaccio of venisonPig's head in brik pastry
Pork bellyFries, asparagus, salad
Vahlrona chocolate fondantParfait

Back in town, we went for cocktails at Matterhorn, recently voted one of the 50 Best Bars in the World by Eater.

In addition to flying back some Martinborough pinot and a bottle of the suddenly-very-trendy-in-Melbourne Lighthouse Gin (hand-crafted and hand-distilled in the Wairarapa), I also bought a bottle of Smoke & Oakum's Gunpowder Rum, an outrageous, you'll-love-it-or-you'll-hate-it small batch blended rum infused with tobacco, chillies and actual muzzle-loader style black gunpowder. It's... a little intense.


Although I was in Wellington for less than 48 hours, I liked that my schedule allowed me some time to explore the town on my own. One solo expedition led me to breakfast at Sweet Mother's Kitchen.

Sweet Mother's Kitchen

SMK was kooky in all the right ways, decorated with lowbrow trinkets and staffed by friendly kids who kept swapping ridiculous afro wigs. The casual (yet ambitious) home cookin' menu, which included Creole, Cajun and Mexican dishes, has no equivalent in cafe-saturated Melbourne - I'd LOVE to know what my N'awlins/Texas expert (and cuisine purist) friend Burger Mary would've thought of it, had she been with me. Those beignets were damned tasty.

Sweet Mother's KitchenBeignets

Just some photos of buildings in the city centre that caught my eye.


On the Sunday morning we all visited Wellington's weekly food and wine artisan City Market, where we were welcomed and shown around by one of the Market's co-founders, the personable Rachel Taulelei (owner of seafood supplier Yellow Brick Road).

Yellow Brick Road

Lots of produce from the City Market will be served at the WLG pop-up in Melbourne.


More local colour at the Market. I really liked that Crooked Cider Lars was selling - it was cloudy, very dry and made from proper cider apples. If only I hadn't already reached my customs alcohol limit, sigh.

Emporio CoffeeCrooked Cider

Outside at the regular Harbourside Market, loads of red kumara plus bananas SO CHEAP they'd make an Australian weep.

KumaraCheeeeeap bananas

Our last meal was at Capitol, another restaurant whose head chef/owner Tom Hutchison will also be cooking at the WLG pop-up. Photo of Ms Jeroxie taking a photo.


Shellie opted for something sweet at Capitol, French toast with shaved apple and passion fruit salad. The dish I was taken with was the seared scallops with parsnip puree and pancetta crumble.

French toast, shaved apple and passion fruit saladSeared scallops, parsnip puree and pancetta crumble

And finally, a word about coffee. Welly is officially crazy for coffee: there are over twenty coffee roasteries in the Wellington area alone (a remarkable fact when you consider that the city's population is less than 400,000), and the third wave coffee movement has definitely made its mark.

Memphis BelleFlight Coffee

I stopped in at the Memphis Belle Coffee House, the home of Flight Coffee (best ethically traded coffee in New Zealand, according to this year's NZ Coffee Awards). From the coffee station offering Chemex, Syphon, V60 Pour-over or Swiss Gold brewing methods, I chose the Chemex for my Brazilian Moreninha Formosa. Seriously cute little cafe.

Flight BomberChemex

And so ends my weekend blog junket to New Zealand! If you're in Melbourne, be sure to enter the giveaway above for a chance to check out the WLG pop-up for yourself on Sunday, otherwise you might like to try your luck with walk-ins if you're wandering down Gertrude Street during the next fortnight.


(Obvious disclaimer due to nearly-all-expenses-paid nature of blog junket to New Zealand, care of Positively Wellington Tourism)


Romany said...

AMAZING POST! I love Wellington! My favourite New Zealand import? It's gotta be Dan, the man who provides an excellent man-nerd role model for my boyf, and the man who married my bestie Aiden last weekend (here's a pic! http://instagr.am/p/Tx0sZ/)... Feel the love! I hope I win! (Rombloggy on Twitter).

Bloggers Block said...

Another great MG post... boy your photography is just getting better every update!

Without a doubt my favourite 'special occasion' NZ import is when the family comes over to Melbourne every few years and brings a feast of 'Pāua' (of which I have many recipes in case some want some)...

And without a doubt my favourite 'everyday occasion' NZ import is rather unashamedly 'Watties tomato sauce'!

Kymberly said...

Burger Rings. I can say this only because I am a New Zealander.

Anonymous said...

Does Les Mills count? I'm addicted to those classes...probably as a side-effect of my addiction to food :P

HJ said...

Cookies and Cream - Kohu Road Ice Cream, also the Chocolate one, and the Golden Syrup! SO so good.

glassinthegrass said...

Great post, made me miss Wellington.. just a little.

NZ import - has to be Monteiths cider. Great representation of NZ brewing in Australia, and practically spearheaded the cider revival recently... the pear cider is so delicious I can no longer drink it.

@glassinthegrass on Twitter

FiNominal said...

Great post, looks absolutely fantastic over there!

Gotta love Rusty Crowe (cept when he's throwing phones), their wine and pavlova - if it's true that the pav ACTUALLY came from NZ, as every Kiwi I ever meet tries to convince me of!

Esz said...

This would be the best thing to win ever!! Woo.

My fave import is my boyfriend ;-P Hehehe.
He doesn't sound Kiwi though - even though he moved here when he was 23....the only time you can spot a hint of an accent is when he says "accent" - or "ecksent" hehehe

non-Blondie said...

Argh! I really want to go to WLG with my friend Nadia, ee went on a van-venture around the South Island at the start of the year so are well overdue for North Island experience.

Plus, we've both just finished exams, so it would be the best wind-down ever!

Favourite NZ import...hmm...I am partial to a Monteiths although that may not be the most innovative thing!

Fingers crossed I win - charlesdegirl@gmail.com

ozmouse said...

great post Claire! Nothing like celebrating what Enzed does so well... food and wine!

My favourite export is central otago pinot noir! only in NZ!


miss.spiked said...

My favourite import from NZ to Australia is .... me. ;) On a culinery side it would be a punnet of Green Lipped Mussels (marinated in Garlic) - found at the supermarket between the cheeses and dips. Yum! :)

Smiffo said...

Definitely got to be a Pinky bar or Pineapple Lumps. Yum!!


Jess said...

Great post!

My favourite import would have to be Grainwaves!
After we graduated Uni, a group of us went to South Island for a roadtrip and we bought a packet of grainwaves at each petrol station. That stuff is amazing!

Jessica Purbrick-Herbst said...

Possum socks - lease Aussie ugh boots for dead....

Sharlene said...

As an expat Wellingtonian (24 years) I was more than a little homesick when I saw all your lovely photos and dscriptions of a city that I was born in.

And I cant believe how lucky you were with the weather - all that blue sky.

My favourite New Zealand import would have to be ME

(oh and pineapple lumps)

I was devastated when I heard about WLG too late to get a table.
But abit excited when I heard about a second chance - I am crossing everything....Would even give up my stash of pineapple lumps if I win!

Anonymous said...

This post has made me want to visit our friendly neighbours bad. I'll settle for a meal at WLG, for now. My favourite NZ import? Definitely Crowded House.

lení said...

love the post - makes me want to visit nz! Favourite import - green lipped mussles & my friends possom gloves (so soft!!).

Also have a love/hate relationship with Whittaker's peanut slab.

(lenkavod on twitter)

Caz said...

Yum! I've been to Wellington but I was a poor, travelling student at the time. I'll definitely have to check out WLG now I can afford to eat something other than tinned spaghetti :-)

Best NZ import? Tough choice between 42 Below vodka or an Otago pinot. Bluff oysters are definitely up there too!

mark said...

best import from nz: sauvignon blanc! perfect crisp and fresh wine which matches well with many fine foods here and over there.

glad you got a culinary tour of wellington and try some of the local treats!

joni said...

Social Roasting Co, Racecourse Rd, Flemington - Those guys from NZ are lovely, their coffee is wonderful and they make really delicious food. All with a good social conscience.

Great post. New Zealand is beautiful.

gagwood said...

My favourite NZ import
Is neither market nor shop bought
But a cafe which I can see no match
The most delightful and tasty Batch

Hopefully this cheap rhyme
Is tacky enough to command your time
And give me the chance to wine and dine!

Kim Taylor said...

Oh the memories. I grew up in Wellington & have a pretty identical picture of the cable car from when I was a child.
I, too, missed out on tickets to the restaurant & would dearly love to go & take a great mate of mine who is also a Wellingtonian.
My fave import is Phoenix drinks. I particularly love Phoenix feijoa which is hard to find here but is now at my downstairs restaurant (Mopho - yay!!).
Also Rashuns & chocolate fush mmmmm.
Love the blog, thanks
Kim Taylor

Monica Anti-wrinkle Advisor said...

Once when we visit my Aunti who lives in Wellington, she brought us to The Larder. Great restaurant with a mouthwatering foods and desserts. Wanna visit again to explore more of the other restaurants you have featured.

KGL said...

Wellington it's been so long! Best import - Pineapple Lumps!

Mel said...

Most definitely 42 below feijoa vodka, love it with lemonade and a squeeze of lime!

Kate said...

Wow - that all sounds fantastic! My partner and I are set for our first trip to NZ just after Christmas. We're primarily doing the south island but I insisted we fly into Wellington as I'd heard it's foodie capital of NZ. We have around 48hrs, probably just shy of, so your blog is fantastic!

Best import - mates who we can disown....hehe - NZers are just like Aussies, unless they do something stupid, then their Kiwis...all in jest of course! If I'm the lucky one (please please please pick me, it's not far from home and I'm town for once!!!), I'm spbeef on facebook.

Mike said...

I cna't go past the Amisfield Pinot Noir. When has the Otago region ever done anything wrong :P

becschep said...

Well, my favourites aren't quite imports... I visited Marlborough Sound and was lucky enough to stay in one of the few homes in the area. Entirely falling down and dilapidated with no electricity or generator, if meat was on the menu, it was the green lipped mussels that we walked out into the sea and collected. Throw them on the hot plate, dowse with lovely local white wine, lemon and some sizzling garlic - divine!!! To top it off, kumara roasted in the hot coals of the fire, split open the piping hot belly and pour over some condensed milk. Yummo!

Beaker and Boo Take On... said...

My fave import from NZ is Phar Lap.....its not a trip to the museum until I see Phar Lap....Though he was the most amazing thing when I was a kid (not the racing horse, just his stuffed dead body....fascinating!). And so tall!!!!

roti_chanai said...

Thanks for the post.

Read about WLG a few days ago and was disappointed to find out that tickets were sold out in less than half an hour.

My favourite NZ import would be the feijoa fruit. A friend introduced them to me a few years back and I try to make sure I get them when they're in season each year.


Marg said...

Great photos! I definitely think there might be a NZ trip in my future.

My favourite import is something(not very fancy) that I'm a little addicted to - Charlie's honest lemonade. Pretty bottles, sugary goodness, pretentiously faux-casual stories on the labels and honesty (whatever that means in a vaguely fruit related drink context), it's got everything!

Sprae said...

My favourite NZ import would have to be their awesome produce and wines. Personally, their wild matured oysters are some of the best in the world.

'Manda said...

By far and away the best NZ import to date is the Epic Brewing Company's beers - specifically the Hop Zombie. a) hello, what other beer has effin' "ZOMBIE" in its name?! and b) it is probably THE BEST imperial IPA floating around Australasia right now. Pity they are so hard to find these days!

Jess said...

Your post makes me want to go to Wellington even more!

Showing my boozy side by saying that New Zealand's wine (Sav blanc) is amongst my favourite NZ imports, and always a trusty choice even if you've never tried it before!

(@jesslomas on twitter)

Nola said...

Okay I can't help myself - I have to enter this.

Favourite NZ import is my best mate Seamus - giver of beer, eater of burgers, smoker of Port Royals and atendee of pub trivia.

Most certainly a good advocate for the expat Kiwi population, he will bring me back possum fur clothing items and duty free gin when returning from vaction back to the motherland.

Best of all he has a holiday house in Marlborough that I must one day put to good use.

Anonymous said...

Possum fur products - from gloves to nipple warmers!!

Susie S

Jason said...

My favourite import is Coffee Supreme and all the NZ grown champion baristas that are keeping the Australian economy pumping!

claire said...

Well the giveaway competition has closed, many thanks to all who entered. To ensure an impartial judging process I delegated the difficult task of choosing a winner to my Mum, and the winner is...


Sharlene, congratulations and please send me an email ASAP (click on my profile photo for address) so I can send your confirmation for your WLG dinner to you.

According to my Mum, honourable mention runner-ups in the giveaway competition (no other prizes, sorry) go to:
- Gagwood, for taking the trouble to write a little poem;
- everyone who said their favourite import was their partner/friend (my Mum thinks you're very sweet); and
- everyone who said their favourite import was products made from possums (because Mum can't stand the little buggers!).

Thanks again!

greenbeenfood said...

they did the right thing sending you...great post, love your snaps & that pop up rest sounds extremely cool...crazy @ $35p/p!

Anonymous said...

This post is UH-AMAZING! Yum, yum, YUM!!

Michael Ryan said...

Favourite NZ import-hospitality staff