Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mukka

Hey guys, sorry it’s been so long between posts, but after 7 years of doing this I think I just ran out of steam at the end of last year. Work was taking over, the time and love I had to dedicate to editing and writing was disappearing, and honestly, I’m sometimes a bit jaded with the direction food blogging has taken. 

Don’t get me wrong, still loving the food, still loving the photos, still loving the people…just needed an impromptu hiatus. 

But I’m coming back and working towards a little more of a slow and steady pace, to rebuild the love I know I still have. Also helps that I’ve watched all the episodes of Mythbusters on Netflix as well so I’m out of things to do when I do have an evening free now…

So. A while ago Brad and I popped into Mukka on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. It won The Age Good Food’s cheap eats award last year, and after visiting - deservedly so! 

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Indian food is something I find myself craving more and more recently, it’s just so comforting, but yet so exciting at the same time with so many vibrant flavours - and often at a price point that the wallet can regularly agree with.

Mukka is a cosy little spot, which feels right at home in the neighbourhood with distressed brick walls, paired with pops of colour. 

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First bit of business at Mukka? Obviously getting a masala chai, which did not disappoint, beautifully brewed in the traditional Indian way. It had a nice little spice kick - definitely not your sweet powdered gunk!

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We ordered a dosa to share, which is one of my favourite Indian dishes - I usually pick at the ‘pancake’ component of the dosa before diving into the filling - I think we got ‘The Classic’ with cured potatoes but don’t quote me on that. Although I enjoyed the dosa, I usually like my dosa a little browner/cooked, so that I have crispy edges to pick at. But I guess that’s just a small personal preference. 

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What I really, really, really loved at Mukka though, was their butter chicken. Oh my goodness. I think Brad and I visited Mukka well over 6 months ago but I still tell people about this butter chicken. The gravy is so rich, thick and perfect for pouring all over your rice. But what I really love is the chicken that tastes like its had a quick session in the tandoor, so that it has a nice bit of grilled, kind of charred flavour to it, which really for me, kicks the flavour profile of this dish to the next level. Delicious. 

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The biryani serve is also generous, and vibrantly flavoured. Plenty of spices kicking around in there. 


Although my Indian cravings are usually when I’m out at Brad’s in Gembrook (I know. It’s a little weird), so happy to have Mukka for those days when I need it a bit closer to home, serving simply hearty dishes in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. 

365 Brunswick St
Fitzroy VIC 3065

Mukka Indian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fancy Hank's

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest 

So, I’ve discovered that my brother isn’t the best dining buddy - he’s not much of a small talker. But I have found, that I actually kind of really love American BBQ. I’ve always enjoyed it, but now that I’ve had some really good brisket, I’ve realised how much I like it, crave it and actually appreciate it. 

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Fancy Hank’s, after a food truck, and a stint in Queen Victoria Market, has found a more permanent home at Level 1 of 79 Bourke Street (just a few doors down from Grand Trailer Park). 

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Walking up, they just feel like their doing Melbourne right. The space feels clean, bright and smartly dressed, yet also relaxed. The aromas are drool-inducing and the vibe is just right. Be sure to say hi to Puffing Billie, who’s on your immediate left when you walk in, the custom made offset smoker who’s responsible for the amazing smells, and who will be doing a lot of the work getting the flavour into your food. 

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Although there’s a good alcoholic drink list going on, Fancy Hank’s has collaborated with a winery for their house reds and whites, which are easy drinking, their non-alcoholic offering is also intriguing and delicious. My brother gets the house made ginger ale, which just punches you in the face with ginger intensity, and isn’t too strong on the sweetness - I almost like it better than my wine. 

The food menu is a great selection of snacks, sides and smokers, so whatever size of meal you’re after, you can put it together at Hank’s. 

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Start with the butter milk biscuits for pure heaven on earth. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. Warm, light, fluffy and oh so buttery. With the whipped maple butter on the side, it’s utter perfection. Dangerously easy to gobble on down. 

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Devilled eggs are creamy and cool little mouthfuls, the yolks are so smooth. Maple glazed belly ham with red eye mayo is not as intense as I think it’s going to be, instead the ham is tender and gently sweet. 

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I’ve been seeing a lot of deep fried cauliflower, usually in the tempura style though, so it’s nice to have a change of flavours and have it with ranch dressing and hot sauce instead.

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Although I was almost filled up on just the ‘snacks’ (really, those biscuits could be a total meal right?) and on to the main affair. The platter with all the meaty goodness, featuring Puffing Billie’s good work (or so I assume).

Beef brisket, from Gippsland Victoria, pasture fed with marble score 2+ and covered in a black pepper rub is exactly how I like my brisket. I’ve been developing a greater love for this, and am so happy all the American BBQ places are opening up so I can indulge. It’s so tender, meaty (obviously) but with the fat rendered beautifully through. Done simply, but so well.

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I’ve not usually been a huge fan pulled pork, but I liked the flavours in Fancy Hank’s, made from Black Berkshire pig shoulder, from Western district Victoria, with a paprika and brown sugar rub. The chicken is from Northern Victoria and buttermilk brined - it’s tender, but not the most exciting dish on the plate for me. 

The sausages though, are a treat. Made daily, we had the options of beef with black pepper or pork andouille style. Get both, obviously - they are fabulously dense and moreish, without being overly fatty. I really enjoyed the beef with black pepper - really well seasoned. 

And although the meat is stellar, and definitely the star - I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed some of the sides to go with it.

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Namely, the wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, onion jam and pickled radish. This was the last of the sides I ate, as, let’s be honest - it looks a bit boring, but was one of my favourite things that evening. The crunch of the greens, and the combination of the blue cheese dressing with the onion jam is just heaven, the sweetness of the onion offsetting the richness of the blue. Forget quince and cheese guys - blue cheese and onion relish is the place to be (although maybe not very good first date food if you think about it). Don’t be like me and diss a salad.

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Pit braised beans with molasses, smoked bacon and sour cream were gone once I got a mouthful - my brother has a tendency of eating a LOT of the things he likes, the coleslaw was refreshing and the corn bread with jalapeño butter was so light and fluffy. 

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To finish the evening, Cafe du Monde, doughnuts and coffee pudding which isn’t totally sexy to look at, but was very nicely done. The coffee flavour was strong and aromatic, and the doughnuts weren’t just air, there was some body to them and they soaked up all that caramel goodness nicely.

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Fancy Hank’s has good vibes splashed all across it. Although there were plenty of staff, assumedly because the restaurant was full of chatty bloggers, they were all warm and friendly, but also professional. It’s cosy without being too close to anybody, and the food and grub are incredibly approachable. If you want a nice sit down dinner, without the pomp, or the price tag, I think Hank’s is filling that gap nicely. It’ll be stellar once the rooftop bar is open too!

1/79 Bourke Street
Melbourne 3000

Fancy Hank's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Saint Thomas

I so love being surprised. I’m happy to admit - it’s easy to get swept on to the hype train and chase the new and the shiny - so finding a gem, that doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of love it could be is always a joy.

Brad and I visited Saint Thomas in Richmond back in September, as it was quite conveniently located in-between my house and a launch I was to attend later in the morning in Prahran. I had thought parking might not be too bad in the area as well - but it seems Church Street still isn’t that pleasant on Saturday’s. Fortunately - top tip - pop down one of the many side streets and there should be quite a bit of free parking!

Saint Thomas wasn’t super full when we arrived, but there as a nice buzz and hum of activity. It’s not a big space, but they’ve made sure it’s filled with colour, with bright wall murals, and lots of attractive  food options in the display fridges. 

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Service was warm and friendly - which I know everyone says about everywhere, but even more so here especially. Small talk was easy, not awkward, and smiles were genuine. 

Chai and coffee were deep in colour, and full of flavour. 

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Brad ordered the Kingston, which is a cheesy fried egg in a black brioche bun with bacon, tomato, baby cos lettuce and BBQ sauce, served with paprika french fries and housemate ketchup. Add jalapeño for your spicy pleasure for just an extra $2. This wasn’t the biggest burger in terms of size, but it walloped with flavour, and was still a good filling serve. I loved the cheesy fried egg with it’s crunchy edges - I almost just picked the edges off Brad’s egg to nibble on. Fries are the perfect shape, size and crunch too. 

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I went for the Spring Fritters, tricolour quinoa with spinach, nutmeg, black bean fritters, pickled cucumber tagliatelle, lemon oil, poached egg, toasted capers and tuna aioli. This also was way tastier than I anticipated it being, I loved the texture of the black bean fritters and the sumptuous tuna aioli which added just the right amount of richness to an otherwise very clean dish. Delicious and would have more of and again.


I left Saint Thomas with a smile on my face, and high in spirits. Definitely keen to come back, the pork ribs have my name written all over them for next time!  

533 Church Street
Richmond

Saint Thomas Coffee and Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Atlas Dining

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant

Some nights Brad and I will slouch on the sofa watching the news when some upstart in the soccer world is reported on during the sports news. At this point Brad always comments on how young they are - and how old it makes him feel.

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I had the same kind of thoughts visiting Atlas Dining in South Yarra, with owner and chef Charlie Carrington just 22 years old.

God damn, you guys don’t need to know what I was doing when I was 22. I reckon it’s a pretty big feat to be opening your own restaurant!

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Already with a couple of big notches in his belt, having worked in kitchens such as Vue de Monde in Melbourne, Firedoor in Sydney and around the world, Atlas Dining is the culmination of all those experiences with a revolving menu inspired by a different cuisine every couple of months.  

When I visited with Kara in October we were excited to try to the Vietnamese inspired set menu, 4 courses for $50 per person, or 6 courses for $65 per person - which in Melbourne’s scene at the moment and the quality of food that we enjoyed that evening, is absolutely amazing value. 

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To begin with though, the space is simply stunning. The place is so new, it smells of freshly cut wood, which is prominent through the earthy but minimalist interior. It’s mature, but contemporary and fresh.

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Drinks are presented in a Vietnamese passport cover, and although some Vietnamese specific specials were on offer such as 333 Beer, a glass of Fritz’s Riesling big the spot for me instead. 

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To begin your meal, once you’ve decided if you’re doing four or six courses (do six, do six, do six), you’re given your cutlery bundle which makes me feel like an adventurer. Like if Indiana Jones was getting ready for an epic journey through a degustation, he’d want this beautiful leather bundle too!

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But to start, it’s finger food (sort of). There’s really not much of a better way to warm the hearts of two food loving girls than with chicken liver pate, with honey and served on a grilled baguette. Simply delicious. The lightly charred baguette is perfection, the pate smooth and unexpectedly quite sweet with the generous dollops of honey in it. 

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The king salmon with sweet potato is a vibrant punch of colour on the plate, but refreshing and bright on the palate. I absolutely adore the smooth creaminess of the sweet potato puree. 

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Asparagus with wood ear mushroom and hen’s egg doesn’t scream Vietnamese in terms of flavour palette to me, but the use of seasonal asparagus makes me so happy. The dish is simple, but gorgeously executed, the tips of the lightly charred asparagus unexpectedly tender, and highlights his use of light wood cooking techniques. 

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Everyone has been talking about the wagyu beef pho tartare, and rightly so! The dish is artwork when it arrives on the table and is pretty much the epitome of a deconstructed pho. The diced and tender pieces of beef are aromatic, and so tender, infused with all the richness we’re used to getting from the broth - which on this plate are concentrated and found in lightly charred onions. There’s zest, bang, texture - oh the rice crackers I absolutely adore. 

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The corn fed duck with preserved vegetables is a surprisingly generous in it’s portion size, as Kara and I definitely start to fill up! The duck breast is plump, juicy and succulent, the preserved vegetables balancing out the rich meat.

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Coconut, lemongrass and fried shallot is not quite a dessert as I first thought it might be, but is actually a palate cleanser - and a very delightful one at that. I would have loved for it to be 30 degrees out while eating it, the shaved ice so textural and the coconut and lemongrass so refreshing, with the contrast of the shallot to curb the sweetness. 

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And now it was really onto dessert, with rice, cashew and banana - to be concise. I loved the nutty black rice coated in coconut cream - reminded me of some of my mum’s favourite desserts, and the intensely rich banana ice-cream with crunchy cashew crumb to bring it all together. Definitely one of those desserts where I could have gone for a bigger serve because it was just so delicious. 

Atlas was really all in the details, service, food, atmosphere, interior details - it all comes together to be a very relaxed atmosphere serving remarkable mature and complex food. It was nice to see Charlie himself pop out to serve and present the food himself to his diners now and again. 


The Vietnamese menu finishes in December, and in 2017, Charlie and the team will be back to introduce a menu with flavours, inspirations and ideas from their Israel trip - definitely looking forward to that one! 

133 Commercial Road
South Yarra

Atlas Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, October 31, 2016

A weekend in Wellington - Day 2 of 3

Oh man, how good is sleep guys? After getting in at 6am on hardly any sleep into Wellington the day before (sure a nap in the middle of the day helps a bit, but it’s not the same), getting a full night of sleep was simply a dream. 

Waking up fresh and recharged, first thing was first - breakfast!

We wandered over to The Flight Coffee Hangar, which is the flagship cafe of Flight Coffee roasters who supply ethically traded coffee in New Zealand. 

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At The Hangar, stone, wood and simple utilitarian style light fittings make the space have the feel of a warehouse, but also comfortable and unpretentious. 

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Coffees, and chai’s - even if you are somewhere new, it’s nice to wake up to the familiar! I love my big red pot of chai which seemed to never end, the Mister Chai that was used was well balanced, not too sweet with a nice tea flavour. 

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The menu reads familiar with a little twist, and also comforting - trust in the fact that you will want hearty meals when it is cold and blustery out! 

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It was still a bit early by Brad’s standards so he went for a slightly lighter option, of bagels topped with house cured salmon and dill cream cheese. Hard to go too wrong, I just loved the colour and how shiny the salmon looked. 

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I on the other hand, went for big hearty and rich - I was pre-planning to not have lunch! Crumbed black pudding with roasted potatoes, silver beet, roast red capsicum, caused and a poached eggs had my name written all over that business - and is basically one of the reasons I just this spot for brunch. It was rich, filling, and definitely hearty. Loved the black pudding obviously!

After fuelling up, we were ready for our main activity of the day….heading to the zoo!

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When I travel, my priorities are almost always: food and animals. Where am I going to eat, and is there a good zoo or aquarium, and if there is can I find some time for it? There was actually an extra special reason for going to this zoo, but I’ll tell you more in a sec. 

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The Wellington Zoo is a small, but very well done zoo, with plenty to see and really well looked after enclosures. I was amazed at how many happy active animals I came across, and how visible they often were in their enclosures. 

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The kiwi enclosures was absolutely mesmerising and one of the highlights of the zoo. I had never seen an active kiwi running around, nor been so close to one. Brad and I easily spent 10 to 15 minutes just quietly listening and observing the little critters (there were two of them!) run around foraging in the darkness. Simply amazing. 

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These ‘Zoo Keeper Says’ signs were also a highlight of the trip - I couldn’t stop laughing every time I saw one - especially that lion one! 

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But the real reason I had decided we needed to go to the zoo, was because the zoo offers a ‘Up Close’ encounters with select animals…and one of the animals on offer was the red panda. Oh. My. God. 

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Red pandas are one of my favourite animals, so when I saw it was an option, I decided I would buy it for Brad’s birthday…as the excuse, but we all know it was really for my own benefit. 

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Happiest 30 minutes of my life. 

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We meet with the keeper at around 11 am, and she brings us around to meet 3 different red pandas, each in their own enclosure with a big tray of cut up grapes and pears. She pops us down on a bench and before we know it, the most gorgeous creatures are running up and down our laps eating fruity treats from our finger tips. 

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I am besotted - they are such charismatic little fellas, with the two males being a bit bolder and upfront and the female being a little slower to warm up, happily swatting at our hands to get closer to grapes and quite happily being patted as they munch. Their coats are coarse but dense and fluffy, and their claws firm, but not painful. I fall in love with how they eat grapes, squeezing down on them with their molars slowly until they pop out all the juiciness and then quickly gobbling it down. 

Argh. I miss them so much already!

After the zoo, it was time for a late lunch, just as the rain started to pour. Fortunately we managed to duck into Five Boroughs before we really got caught in the worst of the rain…but even at 2pm, this place was pumping! 

Five Boroughs is a New York style diner, with all the favourites, from burgers, fried chicken and bottomless cups of coffee. 

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Although we were quoted around a half hour wait, we fortunately only had around a 15 minute wait - our blood sugar levels had started to drop at a drastic rate, so sustenance was needed!

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First, getting the sugar levels back up. beer for Brad and a 3 scoop triple chocolate ice-cream milkshake for me. I love how specific they were on the menu and for 3 scoops of ice-cream…who one earth can resist? It was one of the best shakes I had had in recent times, super thick and super creamy - as you would hope with that much ice-cream in it!

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It had been a while since I had them, and maybe the craving was a result of low blood sugar and amazing smokey aromas, but my eyes kept darting back to the smoked baby back pork ribs lathered in 5B BBQ sauce. So before long, a half rack appeared in front of me, which I comfortably ploughed through by myself. This was messy finger food, and I loved pulling the meat off the bone, a nice balance of juicy but still structured as well. Note to self though, long finger nails and saucy meats you’re eating by hand? That stuff gets stuck under there forever!

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Brad on the other hand, went gigantic with the Reuben with corned beef, champagne sauerkraut, platinum mayo and Swiss on rye. Just look at that monster! I loved who toasted the bread was, the melted Swiss with the generous amount of sauerkraut and all that delicious meat. When you haven’t eaten for 5 hours and walked for just about all of it? Life saving business.

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Cheese fries were golden, crisp and perfect. That’s about all you can ever ask from fried potatoes isn’t it? 

I was so tempted to have deep fried oreos, but after the meat-fest, just couldn’t bring myself to do it….this time….

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the numerous second hand and consignment stores (basically my kind of heaven) before retiring back in our room to prop our feet up for a wee bit with a cup of tea. 

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Couple of emails, many cups of tea later (because I could drink tea all day every day) and with a slick of fresh eyeliner, we wander back out in the evening to the Garage Project Taproom, just down the road from us. 

Garage Project started, funnily enough, in a garage and is known for being pretty experimental and creative with the brews. The cellar door offers free tastings of the 8 beers they’ll have on taps for the day and also sell beer to take away. 

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We however, ended up in the Taproom, which is pretty much across the road, where you can actually sit down and buy a pint and try many, many, many of their beers (if you can handle it). These guys are rocking 18 taps and 2 cask lines, plus bonus can and bottle options. On a Saturday evening the Taproom, with it’s awesome mural walls, is quiet and relaxed.

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The tap list here not only tells you what’s available, but at what temperature each is served at, ranging from 2 degrees to 10 degrees (on the cask). Brad and I pretty much stick with stouts and porters all night since it was the prefect weather for it and one of my favourites would have been the Two Tap Flat White. 

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The Two Tap Flat White is actually two beers that are brewed separately and then mixed together (one was a nitro coffee stout, forgot what the other was), in a very smilier fashion to a….wait for it… flat white! Gorgeously creamy, rich roasted coffee flavours and just…too easy to drink. 

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With a alcohol induced pink glow in my cheeks, we rugged up against the wind and wandered back into town to get dinner - ending up at Ombra, a cosy spot on a corner on Cuba Street, inspired by the informal bacaros of Venice. 

The busting restaurant definitely had an Italian feel to it; tables were close and intimate and the soft, warm lighting painted the whole restaurant sepia. Smelt incredible too.

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We were fortunate enough to be seated straight away even though the place looked almost full and quickly got to the business of wine in a carafe (freaking love the little bottle) and attempting to eat as much as I could off the menu. 

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First off the rank? Perfectly golden polenta chips with black olive aioli, with just a light crunchy batter, I adored the black olive aioli paired with this adding to the richness. 

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I almost forgot for some reason that we had ordered meatballs (obviously the beer and the wine talking) with beef, mozzarella, leek and prosciutto. I have never had meatballs that are filled with cheese, and these were a delightful surprise to bite into, to have the mozzarella oozing out afterwards. So delicious.

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I’m fortunate that I have a partner in Brad who is generally comfortable to be as adventurous as I, which meant I could order the Fegato al vino romo - ox liver with onions and red wine, since ox liver is one of my favourite pieces of offal. These were rich, and I can only surmise that they had been drowned in red wine, but I was totally okay with that. 

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To finish, squid ink gnocchi, which were much smaller than I anticipated, but gorgeous in flavour and so fluffy and light. 

I forewent dessert at Ombra, to instead pop into Kaffee Eis up the road on the way home, which, despite it being freezing, raining, and in the middle of winter, was full to the brim with youth getting their gelato fixes. Not a single seat in the store could be found if you wanted to sit down to enjoy your gelato. 

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The store wasn’t much to look at, and if someone hadn’t recommended it to me I may have just continued walking by, but the gelato and sorbet display was so enticing once you got in. 

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I felt obligated to stay as local as I could with my choice, and surely one could not be any more local than getting the peanut butter and chocolate chip gelato that’s made with locally made Fix and Fogg peanut butter (which I regret not buying any of to bring home). The peanut butter flavour and texture was so rich and so dense - possibly one of the richest peanut butter gelato’s I recall having. 

Despite it not being overly late, Brad and I made our way back to our apartment to pop a movie on and cuddle up on the couch. Although we could’ve stayed out to check out the night life…I’m honestly not much of a party animal and was quite comfortably falling asleep with a full belly, sweet tooth satiated and very sore legs from walking all day!

119 Dixon Street
Te Aro, Wellington

The Hangar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Five Boroughs
4 Roxburgh St
Mount Victoria, Wellington

Five Boroughs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

91 Aro Street
Aro Valley, Wellington

Garage Project Taproom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

199 Cuba Street
Te Aro, Wellington

Ombra Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

146 Cuba Street
Te Aro, Wellington


Kaffee Eis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato