The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

Wellington on a Plate is nearing it’s end for 2016 but there’s still a good weekend’s worth of time to get out and about and try the things you’ve been meaning to, but haven’t got around to yet. I was lucky enough to be able to do that on an electric bicycle and it’s one of the most fun dinners I’ve had.


A handy guide with map, menu and safety rules – like Don’t drink and bike! Same laws apply to bikes as they do to cars.

Frocks on Bikes organised the progressive dinner, À LA CARLESS, showing off just how fun and easy riding a bike can be. Frocks on Bikes aim to help more women of Aotearoa enjoy everything that bikes have to offer; the convenience, fun and sustainability, without the need for special clothing or extreme levels of fitness and despite being outside their target market: I’m on board.


Ryan from  Switched on Bikes walked us through using the bikes, which buttons did what, the importance of brakes and taking it as easy as we needed. Ryan started Switched on Bikes just last year. He hires out e-bikes to anyone who wants to get around Wellington on 2 wheels and even runs guided tours for those that want to see Wellington from a different viewpoint.


We got to test the bikes out on the wharf and being a regular non-lycra wearing cyclist I was well impressed with the electric motors. All it takes is one pedal revolution and the motor kicks in, boosting your speed to the level you set the computer at. One touch of the brakes and the engine cuts out, slowing down to your pedalling speed as needed. Wind became an irrelevance!

After Kath and Leah of Frocks on Bike talked us through the safety briefing the 14 of us headed off in a snake like fashion on our mystery progressive dinner. Not knowing exactly where we were headed but already having fun with our assisted pedalling we rolled along the waterfront, bells ringing with obnoxious glee, and up Tory street to our first stop at the Nam D container.


Grilled king prawns coated in spring onion oil


After finding space for our bikes (ANZ did not appreciate the idea of them being left anywhere close to their courtyard) we were treated to grilled King Prawns coated in spring onion oil and skewers of five spice beef wrapped in Betel leaves, both of which were wonderful and warming for our next mystery destination, on the way to which we would meet our first ‘challenge’ – The Brooklyn Hill.

I know!! We all biked up the Brooklyn Hill to enjoy a meal AND we arrived without being short of breath or needing to panic-strip. You know that feeling. When you check Metservice and see it’s going to be as cold as spending time with the Night’s Watch. So, you put on seven layers of clothing to leave the house but, by the time you’ve been sat on the bus for 30 minutes, heater cranking and surrounded by the other 200 people who thought catching the bus would be great, you arrive at work and cannot shed layers fast enough. For some reason that forecasted bitter southerly hasn’t eventuated and you’re now far too overdressed, looking a little more than rosy cheeked.

Well, there was none of that!! We just tapped our electric motors up a notch and made sure to pedal at a steady rate, passing a few regular cyclists on the way, cruising up the hill with surprising ease. I bike to Newtown everyday and you may not have noticed but Adelaide road, between the Basin and Countdown, has an incline. It’s not huge, but it’s there. I notice it. Everyday. BUT THIS! The Brooklyn Hill became marvellously insignificant and there was the benefit of arriving at Salty Pidgin.

Here we sampled their Dine Wellington menu where I selected the Chicken breast with whole rice and crispy shallot and rocket salad. It was crisp and succulent with the sweet shallots and peppery rocket pairing nicely with the Choice Bros Strung out on Lasers Gose I had alongside.


Master stock cooked free range chicken breast with whole rice and crispy shallot and rocket salad

The filo pressed beef cauliflower was a hit with the rich beef and bacon emulsion balanced by the crisp pear and bitterness of the witloof. We followed up the main courses with the Armagnac chocolate bubba with sour apple and licorice creme fraiche. No photos of that as I’d inhaled mine before pausing to remove the lens cap. The bubba seemed to be a miniature muffin, soft and sweet with the slight tartness of the sweet licorice creme fraiche and the crisp apple being a great combination.

We then set off back down the hill through Central Park stopping for photo opportunities and the essential zip on the large flying fox. Flying through the dark to where the line runs out and being sent rushing, tilting upwards resulted in many whoops and squeals of delight. Many of the locals on the ride had no idea it even existed – I tell you it’s worth a visit!

From there it was a lovely cruise down the hill with the city lit up and laid out in front of us. We then wound through the sidestreets and laneways to the waterfront, with plenty of people stopping to wave as the 14 of us rolled by.

Returning our bikes to Ryan at Switched on Bikes we then made our way across the road to Charle Noble Eatery & Bar to finish the evening with their Sage at Sea cocktail. The whisky based concoction, alongside the Darjeeling marinated figs and Zany Zeus labne (greek yoghurt), was a wonderful, warming end to our night.


Thank you to Frocks on Bikes and Switched on Bikes. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening making my way around the city with ease. No lycra or fluoro clothing required, just a warm jacket, a pair of gloves, a helmet and the opportunity to see Wellington from a two-wheeled perspective. I’d highly recommend getting to your next Wellington on a Plate event on a bicycle!


First up, a brilliant interpretation of a Shakespeare’s Richard II.

Richard II is a few years into his kingship and is starting to flex his power. After some dubious decisions regarding his empire he takes the chance to seize land after the death of John of Gaunt  thus setting Gaunt’s child, Bolingbroke, against him. Richard seeks support from his allies but previous bad decisions means he is abandoned by those he thought he could trust.

Director James Cain directs a great cast including Hayden Frost (Richard II) and Maggie White (Henry Bolingbroke) as the main players. Frost is excellent as Richard II, showing the qualities that helped him be king as well as the reasons for his downfall. White is staunch and unyielding, relentless in the pursuit of the goal. There are plenty of other familiar Wellington faces on stage as well, all doing a sterling job. A scene between Patrick Davies (John of Gaunt) and Brianne Kerr (Duke of York) is one of my highlights as it shows the desperation the two have for their families and country in the face of Richard’s increasingly strange decisions.

Lucas Neal’s set uses the full height of the Propeller Stage which is great to see. (Try not to sit higher than 3 rows from the back if you can otherwise the lights will get in the way of the action.) It’s neatly lit by Tony Black’s design which includes some nifty hand held lights. Lisa Kiyomoto-Fink’s costumes highlight the factions & who supports who, helping to clarify the story.  Movement designer Maggie White gives us visual interest on the smallish set while Flinn Gendall’s sound design provides just enough atmosphere without distracting from the action.



Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Brother and sister, Vanya and Sonia, live in their parents’ old house which is now owned by Masha, their successful movie star sister. Masha visits for a weekend with her boyfriend Spike in order to go to a costume party down the road. Budding actress Nina visits and cleaner Cassandra has dire warnings for everyone.

Gavin Rutherford (Vanya) and Rachel Henry (Sonia) open the play with a wonderfully dreary morning routine. They have a good rapport that is accentuated when Erina Daniels (Cassandra) arrives on stage. She is showy and dramatic, a complete contrast to the other two who seem as if they don’t have a life outside of the house. Their life is interrupted by the arrival of Emma Kinane (Masha) with boyfriend Simon Leary (Spike) in tow. Kinane can switch character motivations quickly which she plays to full effect. Leary spends a lot of his time with his shirt off which pleased the students behind me. Finally Harriet Prebble (Nina) arrives on the scene like a stone dropped in a bucket of water sending ripples through the lives of the others. (Except Cassandra who is a marvellous law unto herself.)


Five & Dime WOAP dishes. Clockwise from top left: Wellington slushie, almond gazpacho and truffled white miso oysters, pineapple fritter, grilled sardine puttanesca.

Five & Dime WOAP dishes. Clockwise from top left: Wellington slushie, almond gazpacho and truffled white miso oysters, pineapple fritter, grilled sardine puttanesca.

There’s only three days left of Wellington on a Plate, but there’s still a vast array of festival dishes and burgers to choose from, so if you can face the combined WOAP and rugby crowds this weekend, here are some of our highlights.

Five & Dime hide a surprisingly sophisticated kitchen behind their tiny bar, and their Dine Wellington menu consisted of four courses of delicate innovation. Almond gazpacho was delightfully subtle, almost bland on its own but the perfect foil for the jewel-like pickled grapes, leaves and other colourful delights that floated on its creamy surface. Instead of beer or wine, for an accompanying festival drink we chose their “Wellington slushie”, a crisp but fruity concoction of Lighthouse gin and hibiscus.

We followed this with line-caught Albacore tuna ceviche (which more resembled kokoda or ika mata with its coconutty sweetness), grilled sardine puttanesca, and breaded salt and pepper lamb cutlets that were a surprisingly successful blend of east and west, combining Sichuan spices with a hummus base. Dessert was spectacular: sticks of pineapple fried in kataifi-like shredded pastry, accompanied by mouthwatering daiquiri Kāpiti ice cream, with diverse accompaniments such as salted caramel praline, lime zest and dark chocolate rendered into dusts, blobs and wafers.

Five Boroughs WOAP dishes. Top: beef pot roast. Bottom: baked buttermilk pie.

Five Boroughs WOAP dishes. Top: beef pot roast. Bottom: baked buttermilk pie.

Their sister establishment Five Boroughs sticks to heartier fare. I couldn’t face the infamous Turducken Down burger (my arteries would never talk to me again), so instead went with their short Dine Wellington menu. The braised beef pot roast from Island Bay Butchery was adequately tender, while still retaining enough texture to get your teeth into, with a rich meatiness enhanced by fresh herbs and a touch of spice in the comfortingly heavy sauce. The potato gratin was a little light on the promised emmental, but when put together with multicoloured baby carrots the whole dish was a success.

Again, the dessert stood out. The baked buttermilk pie had enough tang to offset its innate heaviness, but the sauces elevated it to another level. A dense pool of Wellington Chocolate Factory chocolate hid textural surprises of hazelnuts and pretzel praline, and just a smattering of rhubarb cut through all that sweetness.

WOAP burgers at Grill Meats Beer (top) and Park Kitchen (bottom).

WOAP burgers at Grill Meats Beer (top) and Park Kitchen (bottom).

Grill Meats Beer made a wise structural choice when designing their Lamb Shank Redemption: braised shank tends to fall apart in a sloppy mess, so they put it on firm spiced lamb patty to hold it all together. The result was not just good engineering, but good eats, with intriguing textural and flavour contrasts between the two presentations. Adding roast pumpkin, beetroot, feta and pine nut aioli created such a winning combination that I’ll even forgive their insertion of pointless, scratchy baby kale. The accompanying Garage Project Persephone was a bit tart and unbalanced on its own, but when I drank it along with the burger, both food and drink sprang into magical focus.

Out in Miramar, Park Kitchen went for a radical interpretation of burgerhood that is sure to annoy the purists. The convoluted name (Beef Pat Tie “Wellington”) gives a hint that this takes some cues from Beef Wellington, and indeed the beef is entirely contained within the brioche bun, with salad elements stacked separately on the tray beside it. It’s not even topologically equivalent to the Platonic burger, and the supposed Wellington-ness extends only to the enclosure of the meat, not to the inclusion of pâté and duxelles, which are replaced by smoked beetroot and smoked provolone. Nevertheless, in the way that James K Baxter could write “sonnets” while dispensing with their canonical rhyme scheme and yet make them entirely his own, this “burger” is successful in its own right.

The Bresolin. L-R: Fowl Play burger, Captain Nemo's Demise.

The Bresolin. L-R: Fowl Play burger, Captain Nemo’s Demise.

The Bresolin stuck with a much more conventional approach, and in fact on paper their Fowl Play didn’t seem much different from their standard fried chicken burger. Pickled jalapeños were the main difference, but the American cheese slice and Mississippi-inspired ‘comeback sauce’ completed the Deep South connection. The result wasn’t groundbreaking, but we both finished our burgers before we knew it: it’s ridiculously, dangerously edible.

Their festival cocktail, Captain Nemo’s Demise, is a little edgier, at least in its choice of intensely savoury accoutrements. Gin goes comfortably enough with rosemary, honey, lemon and bitters, and the sea salt rim brings a touch of Margaritaville to the party. But things then get even saltier, with a white anchovy, garlic-stuffed olive, cornichon and pickled chili all harpooned together atop the glass. Stranger things have happened at sea, but rarely this deliciously.

Ti Kouka's WOAP dishes. Clockwise from top: TKFC burger, Cherry Bomb pannacotta, pulled confit chicken.

Ti Kouka’s WOAP dishes. Clockwise from top: TKFC burger, Cherry Bomb pannacotta, pulled confit chicken.

If the Bresolin’s burger offering hints towards fast-food stylings (one of the staff described it as “like McDonald’s, only edible”), Ti Kouka makes their homage explicit with their “TKFC burger”. There are many similarities, but with hints of exoticism in kimchi salt, tasso ham and smoked cheese. Many of those subtleties got lost in the mix, but the result was, like the Fowl Play, declared to be moreish and well-balanced.

The festival dishes were a little more adventurous. I chose what was effectively a very sly take on a chicken Caesar salad, only with pulled confit chicken that had been crumbed and fried, resulting in a glorious textural contrast between meltingly tender confit and crispy crumbs. The egg has been fried after poaching, providing an intriguingly firm white, and the Caesar-standard ingredients of iceberg lettuce, croutons and sardine aioli (in place of anchovies) was enlivened by a few items not mention on the menu, including crisp lavosh-like wafers and what I took to be rich nuggets of bacon.

Dessert also provided studied contrasts in flavours and textures. Panna cotta was flavoured with Garage Project’s Cherry Bomb porter, its silky wobble complemented by firmness and crunch in the form of cocoa husk and coconut rough. There’s something both melancholy and hopeful about cherries this far out of season: their deflated softness recalling the faded glory of last summer, while their sweetness looks forward to the summer to come.



It’s only 3 days till DCM‘s very delightful & very Large annual bookfair. Over 75,000 have been sorted and packed ready for sale starting 8am this Saturday at Shed 6, Queen’s Wharf. This year it’s a one day event running for 12 hours from 8am till 8pm. At the bookfair you’ll find classics, cook books, science fiction, sports, Graphic Novels, fiction, kids books, CDs, DVDs, and sweet sweet Vinyl Records.


DCM works with people in Wellington who meet the New Zealand definition of homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. They support them to find and sustain housing, to access their correct benefit entitlements and manage their money, and to connect to primary, mental health and specialised alcohol and drug services, as well as to whānau and other supports.

Their evidence indicates that the homelessness situation here in Wellington is (just like Auckland) getting worse. Over the last five years, the overall number of people coming to DCM and experiencing all forms of homelessness has increased by 35%. However the increase in the numbers of people coming to DCM who are “without shelter” (sleeping rough or living in cars and sheds) is most concerning: over the last five years this number has doubled – from 100 people per year to 203 people.

So please, come on down to the Bookfair, bring a friend, let all of your contacts know about it, and help support the people in our city who need us most.




that is in caps on purpose

So get shopping this Saturday and help make the world a bit better for a lot of people.

If you would like to help immediately with a donation,
please join and share the facebook event even if you can’t make it


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