Eat and eat and eat: win a voucher for Rata Cafe

welly on a plate

 Congratulations to Angus who won last week’s prize. This week, to celebrate Wellington on a Plate, thanks to the lovely Positively Wellington Tourism, we have a $100 voucher for Rata Cafe at Zealandia (the bird sanctuary in Karori) to give away.

If you’re the lucky winner, you might want to use it to have lunch in order to get your bearings before a night tour of the sanctuary (the cafe is only open until 5pm, mind) or when you take advantage of the special winter rate of admission to the information centre.

Of course, if you’re just in it for the food, we wouldn’t blame you! Rata has a particularly spectacular deck overlooking the sanctuary, and a menu (PDF) that offers up free range and organic goodness. As part of Wellington on a Plate, they’ve got a special deal for $25

Reviews in brief: the Recovery Room

If you’re looking for a fairly affordable dinner, let me recommend the Recovery Room in Newtown to you. We’ve only mentioned it  before in a post that we archived due to infighting, so it’s time to talk about the food.

During the day the cabinets are stuffed with large fresh-looking sandwiches and luscious cakes for food on the go, but there’s also a menu offering standard cafe food. I stopped in for a quick dinner the other night, and was delighted with what I found. The Recovery Room is BYO seven days a week, but if you didn’t bring your own bottle, they have a blackboard wine list that we think is based on the specials on Vine Online, offering an interesting selection with all bottles at $32 and glasses for $8.

To eat, I had pork belly with celeriac slaw and crushed potatos. The pork was moist and fell apart beautifully, but it really needed a good grilling to get the crackling going properly. My mother had the fish of the day, which was warehou, cooked with lemon juice and capers. Both servings were generous and the flavours were excellent, good value for $23.50 each. We didn’t really need the grilled sour dough bread with balsamic and olive oil, but it was tasty nevertheless. The dessert menu featured white chocolate creme brulee and rhubarb crumble, but we were too full to indulge. Service was friendly, and the room was warm. The Recovery Room does all the things a neighbourhood cafe should do. Nothing’s too fussy or frilly, the simple flavours of the food stand for themselves.

What’s for lunch, Lower Lambton?

Because we are so almighty powerful and capacious, we’re frequently opening up branch outposts of the Wellingtonista Towers. Previously we’ve asked you what we should be eating for lunch in Molesworth, Mid Lambton and Mercer Street. Now we want to know what to eat in Lower Lambton. So far we’ve discovered good coffee and crazy-tall scones at Trade Kitchen, but mostly it seems like Wishbone is getting most of our money. Where can we pop out to in order to grab a quick sandwich? What hidden gems are in the area? Where should we avoid? Have at it in the comments.

Flying in and switching off

The Oaks complex sometimes seems like a hospitality Bermuda Triangle: fast-food joints and dodgy convenience stores jostle with bars of almost unrelenting crapness. But something’s about to land that looks much more promising: Memphis Belle Coffee House.

Memphis Belle Coffee Shop - Dixon St

With a barista who just came second in the regional champs, a serious-looking range of Flight beans from their Napier home base and glimpses of an interior that looks vastly more sophisticated than its predecessor (not that that’s saying much), Memphis Belle might just put the Oaks curse behind it. It should be opening this week, and definitely seems worth checking out.

On the other hand, it looks like it might be lights out for a bar that was never exactly this fly’s favourite place: Electric Avenue. There was a skip outside this weekend, gradually filling with neon-painted MDF as the gaudy interiors were ripped out. It’s quite possible that it’s just a particularly violent renovation, but it all seems rather sudden, and their Facebook group has been silent for a month. Is there anyone out there who will admit to being a regular and can confirm or refute its demise? And what are the chances of getting a decent bar to replace it? Given the location in Munter Central, I guess the most we could hope for is a bar that can at least spell its street address on its website.

A well named cafe

Newtown: It’s a bit shit. Hence it attracts flies, like myself.

I love Newtown. It’s full of dive bars and not-so-dive bars, great cafes and restaurants with food from all over the world. I mean, why travelt he world when you can go to Newtown? (as the Tshirt says).

But Newtown’s a little rough, to say the least. And that’s what makes it more interesting than other southern suburbs. That and photo opportunities like the one (after the jump) that got sent to us yesterday.

Play Four Square in Wellington!

Foursquare has arrived in Wellington – and we’re one of the first Australasian cities to be included!


But, you say, "I thought Four Square was a chain of over-sized dairies with a charmingly retro Dick Frizzell logo!" To which we’d say, "Ho ho, you cheeky post-ironic urbanites, we mean Foursquare, the location-based social networking game that’s taking the world by storm!"


You may remember back in September we wrote about Twitterplaces, which rather sadly shut up shop almost immediately thereafter. Well, Foursquare was the inspiration for Twitterplaces: when you go to a new place; a bar, restaurant, park, anything, you "check-in"; and then you can see who of your friends are there.


Four Square Wellington LeaderboardAnd that’s just the beginning. There’s an overview of it all here, but here’s the basics.


You can leave tips for things to do at each place, or add other people’s tips to your list; you earn points for check-ins outside work hours, and you can earn badges for various "achievements", like the Bender badge (when you are out for four nights in a row), or the Gym Rat badge (when you are a regular at places tagged as a "Gym").


And: you can become Mayor of a spot by being the person checking-in most often in the last 60 days (though perhaps one should exercise discretion as to where one checks-in if one doesn’t want to become Mayor of a supermarket or shopping centre, like <coff> some of our readers—whom we are too polite to name).


One of the nice things that’s happened in other cities is that Mayors are often rewarded by the proprietors of their places – and that’s what’s happened here already at Mojo Old Bank, where Matt will stand a free coffee to the newly crowned Mayor. We can think of a few other places that we’d like to see extending this sort of courtesy! (Especially the ones we go to often.)


Foursquare depends on having some sort of internet capable mobile device: there’s a mobile web version, as well as the inevitable iPhone and Android apps – and by design these are the only ways you can do check-ins.


So sign up, get out there, and see if you can unseat Pablo G. from the top of the Wellington Leaderboard!

What’s the story, old sport?

While buzzing around Courtenay Place recently, I noticed that the Sports Café was closed for renovations. A sign said something like "Don’t worry" (and I didn’t) "we’ll be back with a new bar soon". My antennae perked up at that: could this prominent corner soon be home to something new, something shiny, something (not to put too fine a point on it) that’s not the Sports Café?

Then I spotted an email address on the sign, one that ended in "". That’s the website for the local Saints basketball team, so some sort of sports-related bar seemed likely. What’s more, the Saints are officially "The Century City Saints", since they are sponsored by Century City Developments. That company is owned by a certain Mr Serepisos, who also happens to have owned the first bar on this site: and what a many-splendoured thing Ecstasy Plus was, back when I was just a larva.

So, gentle readers, what do you know about this place? Will it be a basketball-themed bar? A return to the glitzarama of the early 90s? Or some unholy combination of the two?

Eating our way through the recession

Remember a few months ago, when doom and gloom dominated the hospo news? Well, there certainly have been a lot of closures in central Wellington, but many of those places have re-opened, and we’ve even got a few brand-new bars and restaurants to celebrate.

Here’s a list of reincarnations:

  • Vintage → Hashigo Zake
  • Calypso → Elixir
  • Epic → Rhythm
  • Chow Cabaret → The Library
  • Paradiso → Betty’s (I insist on the apostrophe)
  • State Opera House Espresso Bar → Pollux

Some brand-new places:

  • Portofino (at Kumutoto)
  • Red Ginger (underneath Hawthorn Lounge)
  • Lychee (in the wilderness of Arthur St)

A couple of rumoured upcoming openings:

  • "Cuba" (replacing Zeal in Garrett St)
  • Yet another Irish pub, replacing New Orleans in Allen St

That leaves a handful of recent failures yet to be revived:

  • Herd St Brasserie
  • Subway at Chaffers Dock
  • Emporio in Chews Lane

If anything, the industry looks to be healthier than a few months ago, and a few of the new places (Pollux, Hashigo Zake and The Library in particular) are among our new favourites. If this means that consumers have stopped spending on Plasma TVs while still dining out, then I applaud their good taste. Of course, it could mean that we’re all committing kuidaore (a Japanese term roughly meaning "to ruin oneself through extravagance in food"). But what a lovely way to go.

Maranui we miss you already

Shortly before 1am last night fire engines headed out to Lyall Bay trying to save Maranui Surf Lifesaving club and Maranui Cafe.

At the moment it doesn’t look so good.

I will miss their milkshakes most.


Some pix…

August 1st 2009

Maranui Cafe


Maranui Surf Club

What was your favorite thing to consume at Maranui?


Maranui Cafe

If you’ve ever been walking along Lyall Bay
In the bright shining sun on a hot summer’s day

Or could a storm be brewing and blowing a gale
Your poor teeth chattering and skin turned pale

There’s now a place you can head for a cuppa
For tasty snacks and freshly cooked tucka

Old Maranui now has a cafe inside
Her bright red doors are opened up wide

Seven days a week our life savers make
A sumptuous selection of Wellington’s finest cake

There is no question we are certain to say
The Maranui Cafe makes the best coffee in the bay

And served to you by Matt and his team
Of friendly surf staff and baristas supreme

So put on your shoes or jump on your bike
And be sure to bring along someone you like

We always like to see somebody new
And don’t forget to sign the member’s book too



Die-hard Espressoholic fans seem to be happy that it will continue in a new location, taking over from Dorothy’s Patisserie in Cuba St. There are still grumblings about its previous location being taken over by "another godawful Courtenay Place bar", but there are signs that its replacement, "Enigma", might not be another Shooters or Electric Avenue. For a start, the sign in the window describes it as a "café/bar", and the painting going on inside seems to have a similar graffiti theme to the old place. Some have even said that there are links to the old Espressoholic management, so perhaps some of whatever it was that people saw in the place will remain, for better or worse. But are we to expect a soundtrack of Gregorian chants and shakuhachi samples?

There are plenty of other changes going on in the bar and café world, and it’s not all doom & gloom. I’ll keep you in on the gossip after the jump.