Friday, September 23, 2011

Another month of good eats

Thanks for all the encouragement/hatemail requesting that I post more regularly. I have two solutions: the first is that I’m in the process of putting all my Metro reviews up here on the blog; I have half a dozen almost ready to go live, and from now on they’ll appear here a couple of months after the magazine hits newsstands. In terms of fresh material, here’s a little round up of what I’ve been eating lately:

Everybody does tapas these days, but Basque Kitchen in Newmarket does real tapas: sardines and almonds and chorizo and other things which would seem more like just ingredients if they were served anywhere but in a Spanish restaurant. I’ve heard Spanish food described as ‘home brand Italian’ and ‘a cuisine based on leftovers’, but nothing beats it with a glass of sherry when you’re in the mood. The atmosphere at Basque Kitchen is nothing to write home about, although if you enjoy the characters of David Lynch, you’ll enjoy the friendly soak who presides over the wine selection. Tell her what you feel like and she’ll find something to suit. Ask her to show you the winelist and she’ll look a bit offended then ask you what you feel like.

For lunch, kebabs from Shefco Bakery at 827 Dominion Road are very good, and it’s also a one-stop shop for any Middle Eastern ingredients you might need, including fresh cheeses of all descriptions sitting in brine under the counter. They do Lebanese bread for a very reasonable $1.50 a packet, or as part of your kebab, or wrapped around an entire chicken like the guy next to me was getting. This last option is advertised as a ‘family pack’ but the hungry look in his eye begged to differ.

If you’re keen on cooking at home, lots of shops in that general area have interesting and cheap ingredients. The excellent local blog put us onto the super value nuts and cheeses at various of the Sandringham shops. Last time we were there we picked up a coffee at the Afro-Frenchie Voila café then went across to Khyber Foods for pistachios, macadamias, hazelnuts and cashews. We smash up a different one each morning in delicious and virtuous quinoa porridge, recipe details to follow.

Not so far away on New North Road in Mt Albert is Frenchie food store Pyrenees, where I’ve started stopping for coffee on the way home from town. They do macarons, and unpasteurised cheese, and terrines like the wild boar and chestnut one I currently have sitting in my fridge, waiting to be monstered.

And while we’re about it, the coffee at Little Hero in Pt Chev is now very very good, as are the vegan delights on offer. So it’s bad news for the lovelies at Meola Kitchen who are just a little further away from my house and, vitally, about a 15 minute wait for takeaway coffees at peak times. If you have the time, though, Meola are great people. They’ll be enjoying the competition from brand new café Catroux next to the Westmere Butchery. I’ve looked up the name on Google translate and apparently it’s French for ‘a sauce consisting of flour, butter and cats’.

HP Wintergarden is a pop up café in Auckland’s new Wynyard Quarter. It’s a couple of big dome tents really, but they’ve done a great job of decking out the interior with plants and astroturf, and the coffee is first class Kokako, with pizza from Il Buco on Ponsonby Road. Man, that pizza is good – not the on-trend woodfired style but authentic Italian flavours and generous toppings. WiFi is free at the Wintergarden and it’s definitely worth a novelty visit; it’s open for the duration of the Rugby World Cup.

While we’re in the area, despite some predictably good experiences on the media tour I took of the Wynyard Quarter’s North Wharf, I’ve heard some horrible things about the service in those restaurants down there – people being overcharged, spilt on, cussed at. Aucklanders are so stoked to have something decent happening down there that the goodwill seems to be lasting so far, but it looks to be running the risk of turning into one of those tourist eating districts you see in every city you visit, where they don’t care what sort of time you have because they don’t rely on repeat business.

Depot at SkyCity is incredibly good. The fish is cooked perfectly (like the hapuka belly, above), the place hums and they have a refreshing approach to a lot of things – including wine in tumblers from the keg. I haven’t heard much good about The Grill next door to them yet – if you’ve been, will you comment below or write and tell me what you thought?

Lastly, don’t let it’s very worthy sounding name put you off, my quinoa porridge is a revelation, and it features the new and amazing Clearwater yoghurt – New Zealand’s only organic yoghurt. Did you know quinoa is the only vegetarian food which contains your complete protein requirements? If all of these wet, middle-class liberal words haven’t already ruined your appetite, send me an email and I’ll write you the recipe. Or I’ll post it here if enough people are keen.