Eat Well(ington)

Eating out and eating well in the capital of Aotearoa New Zealand. And sometimes, other places.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hell in Invercargill (11 February 2009)

Hopefully I'm not going to be labelled a one trick pony by writing another pizza review, and to be honest, I set out deliberately not wanting to have to write another pizza review, but some things just weren't meant to be.

We had arrived in Invercargill at about 2pm, and after booking into our accommodation, decided we wanted to get something to eat. During our South Island holiday, we had decided to avoid any franchise or chain restaurants, and try to eat in small, locally owned restaurants.

Heading out of our backpackers, passing Hell's Pizza a few doors down, we wandered down one of the main roads, looking for somewhere to eat.

Admiring the town's 80's style Christmas decorations, we came across a Chinese restaurant, and had a quick look at the menu... it looked promising, a handfull of vegetarian options, but we decided to keep walking, and see what else was available. It was still pretty early, so we thought we'd have plenty of options.

Crossing the road, we came across a typical Kiwi High Street cafe, full of meat pies, steak and chips and sausages. We decided to pass, and walked towards a Korean restaurant nearby. It was closed. Crap.

We tried another street... Every restaurant or fast food restaurant we passed was either closed or closing... Crap... so we quickly double backed to the Chinese restaurant we first saw... closed... Crap.

By this time, it was about 4 pm, and it seemed like the town was closing for the day, and we were getting hungrier and hungrier...

So it came down to Hell's Pizza...

I was surprised that the restaurant was empty, considering that there was nowhere else to eat. The restaurant was large, compared tot he other Hell's outlets I've been to, and there was even a small number of seats and tables available. We ordered a double size Underworld ($16.90) and a snack size Underworld ($8.90).

The pizzas arrived after about 15 minutes, and they were okay... a little lower in standard compared to the one's I'm used to getting in Wellington, but tasty enough... nowhere near as good as Pepe's Pizza, but pretty much what we expected.

So... ratings...
  • How long would I walk to eat there: We had walked about for at least 90 minutes, but it wasn't really worth that sort of investment, time wise... it was a one minute walk from our backpacker's, so that's about right. Rating: 1 minute
  • Free water: None, as is normal at a takeaway, so it's not fair that I rate this aspect.
  • Decor: The largest Hell's Pizza I've been into, with some comfy sofas and a small number of seats available. Rating for Hell's Pizza: 8/10 Rating for Invercargill: 5/10 (The five points for having the great 80's style Christmas decorations up in mid-February!)
  • Vegetarian options: Okay, nothing special, nothing unique (the same as other Hell's franchises) Rating: 7/10 Rating for Invercargill: 2/10
  • Quick service: Pretty good, pretty friendly. No complaints. Rating: 8/10 Rating for Invercargill: 3/10 (Very rude staff at the backpacker's)
Three word summary: Saved the day.

How much?:

Total cost for one gourmet double and one gourmet snack, about $26.

Hell's Pizza
10 Dee Street
Telephone: 03 215 0666

Delivery, takeaway and limited dine in.
Open from 11 am until at least 11 pm, 7 days a week. Thankfully.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pepe's Pizza Parlour - Lower Hutt, January 6th (or was it the 8th?), 2009

Getting pizza in New Zealand has changed a lot in the last 30 odd years... Pizza Hut used to be the only pizza Restaurant in the country, with their rather large, iconically shaped restaurants and their rather large prices. Now they are a shell of their former selves, reduced to takeaway or delivery outlets only... places like Eagle Boys and Pizza Haven came and went, and Hell Pizza and Hungry Kiwis' Pizza battling it out with them and Domino's for domination of the take away or delivery pizza market.

One Pizza restaurant which has been around ever since I can remember (and that's 25 to 30 years or so) is Pepe's Pizza Parlour in Lower Hutt, opposite Hutt Hospital.

I have no idea whether it's the same owner, but the pizzas remain the same... fantastic!

Our most recent visit was pretty typical of all of our previous visits: It was a little but busier than normal, as it was the first day they were open after the New Year holiday, and obviously people were hanging out for a decent pizza, without having to pay a snob tax at a trendy cafe.

The menu (which is on their website) has a lot of variety, even for Pescitarians like ourselves, plus the option of having pizzas made to order. Some of the pizzas on the menu elicit "I'm not really sure that works" type of reactions, but I guess they do work for some people.

I ordered the gourmet Vegetarian, and my companion ordered a regular Seafood. ($16 and $14.50, respectively, for the regular size.) Service was friendly and efficient... it wasn't an over the top, false friendliness or 'where everyone knows your name' friendly, but honest, we really appreciate your business, thanks, type friendly.

The pizzas arrived, and they were delicious as usual... pretty much like the pizzas you get at a place specialising in gourmet pizzas, but at prices similar to those of Hell (ie: at a slight premium over the stuff from Pizza Hut or Domino's). The bases were nice and thin, with just the right amount of topping: not overflowing with double cheese, with a cheese encrusted crust, nor 10% to 25% less topping than before, nor do they elicit a "I though pizzas were supposed to have stuff on top of them" reaction. A good, honest pizza, at a good honest price.

So... ratings...
  1. How long would I walk to eat there: Considering I live about five minutes walk away from Pepe's, I'd have to say "Five minutes", however a few times I've been in Wellington city, and had a craving for pizza, and driven out to Lower Hutt, especially to go to Pepe's. If Pepe's were based in Wellington, I'd happily walk for 20 or 25 minutes just to go there. Ratings: 5 minutes (in reality), 2o minutes (theoretically)
  2. Free water: This was the only hiccup of he evening, as the waiter forgot to bring us a pitcher of water as requested, however this was no big deal. The water was stored in a fridge, so it was nice and cold. Good clean Hutt tap water (I assume) at it's best. Rating: 8/10
  3. Decor: Probably hasn't changed since the 1980s, but it's clean and spacious, yet cosy. Generally I'm not a fan of TV screens in restaurants, but at least it is possible to sit where it's not possible to see the screen. Rating: 8/10
  4. Vegetarian options: Enough variety to be able to return and try different pizzas (Take note, Hungy Kiwi), plus one could have a pizza custom made. Of course, whether it's suitable for a particular vegetarian would depend on the type of vegetarian they are, but for our purposes, it's fine. Rating: 10/10
  5. Quick service: I'm a bit fussy, I guess, but I hate being rushed, and I also hate having to wait forever for my food, when I'm eating out, especially if I'm eating out with company. Waiting staff probably hate people like me. I have no problems with the speed of the service here. Rating: 10/10
Three word summary: Fantastic. Eat there.

How much?:

Total cost for two regular size pizzas (one from the regular menu,one from the gourmet menu), just over $30.

Pepe's Pizza Parlour
731c High Street
Lower Hutt
(accross the road from Hutt Hospital, next to Burger Wisconsin)

Telephone 04 9391810

Dine in, take away and delivery
Open in the evenings

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lunch: Fujiama Cafe and Takeaways

Situated at 138 Lambton Qy at street level and above, this unpretentious little eaterie is a favourite haunt of throngs of 'suited' public servants and bureaucratic drones who work in the area. A few political luminaries from The Behive can also be spotted there, in season. The cafe hides in behind a sushi counter that offers all the usual delicacies, and there is a dining room upstairs. I don't go there for the sushi, even though it looks fine. The restaurant behind is graced by a typical Chinese bain marie buffet offering standard food court fare that all looks quite acceptable. Six choices for so many dollars, take away or eat in - all piled up, a confusion of flavours and colours leaching into one another. I don't go there for the multi-choice chaos either.

No, I go for the photograph template menu. Just point and quote a number. A busy bevy of oriental chefs in the rear kitchen are frantically creating NZ-Sino delicacies for the hungry pinstriped hoardes. The meals are not flamboyant in presentation, they are not ethnically authentic, but they are surprisingly well flavoured. My favourite is #1 Prawn and Wonton Soup - a large bowl for $9.90. This is a scintillating, steaming concoction of chicken broth, laced with steamed bok choy leaves, 6 or so large hand-made steamed pork mince wontons, and 6 or 7 medium size prawn cutlets. All that is missing is a few drops of aromatic sesame oil to finish, but thankfully there is no superfluous mat of egg noodles to provide unnecessary padding and reduce the amount of 'real' ingredients required. The chicken broth, probably not obtained from simmering bones, is not salt infested like many. I have other preferences from the menu (like #26 Chicken or Beef Fried Noodles at $8.90) but the soup is my favourite.

Other Fujiama characteristics:

Seating - very functional, not particularily comfortable, plywood benches (you are only supposed to be there for about 45 minutes, so who cares)

Service - fast and basic, no need for a smile

Decor - utilitarian, not aparently part of a conceived plan.

Not licensed to serve alcohol, no espresso machine.

Food - all good.

...and now that you all know, I'll have to find somewhere else.

Friday, January 16, 2009

brunch: Maranui Café, Lyall Bay

You know the drill - you pick up your peeps from the airport and you want impress them with unbeatable delights of Wellington on Summer's morn. So where? We were busting to try the café at the surf club in Lyall Bay. Maranui Café, because, it's the Maranui Surf Lifesaving Club - well du-uh.

At not even 10 in the morning the place was rocking - matrons with macs, mothers with monsters, men with muesli. We grabbed menus and headed for the deck area - no point in being indoors when there's finally a day you want to be outdoors. Besides, there was a howling gale of noise inside - wooden floors make cleaning sense, perhaps even fashion sense, but from a audio perspective they're a nonsense.

Coffee arrived quick smart, and the food was there a moment or two later - a great service given the throngs. I ordered the 'Toasted Beach Bagel with Grilled Haloumi and Roasted Tomato' $9 and a sliver or two of avocado. Served with a generous sprig of basil, which immediately attempted an escape assisted by the breeze. The food presented was exactly as it should be, and, apparently, according to our peeps, clearly this is not Auckland, as there was whopping slab of haloumi.

Other bagels were consumed on our table - with 'Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Fresh Dill' $9, and with 'Cream Cheese and Rasberry Jam' $6. An 'Eggs Benedict - Two Poached Free Range Eggs on Toasted Organic Sourdough and Hollandaise with Smoked Salmon' $15 also appeared to vanish without any real issues. An orange juice or two, noice, really noice. Honestly, not a word of comment, just sounds of satisfaction.


Big advice: Not for Nana, it's up a steep set of stairs.

Points off: Noisy inside.

Points on: Prompt, friendly service, despite being clearly busy. Food well presented and did not appear rushed out. Sunscreen available (and offered) for outdoor diners. The view over Lyall Bay. And they're serious, but not solemn.

Parking: Complimentary sandblasting available some days.

Maranui Café
Lyall Parade
Lyall Bay
04 387 2237

Labels: ,

Goodness, that was some postprandial nap...

*YAWN* Hello everybody.

Hmmm, must be time for a feed. Now where shall we go...?

Monday, July 25, 2005

lunch: Hotel Bristol, Cuba Mall

I'm not much given to pub lunches. It's not that they're necessarily bad, just that it's tempting to slip into something more comfortable (like a lime and lager) and the next thing you know it's not 4 in the afternoon, it's 4 in the morning. And all kinds of shrill people want explanations.

So, early one cold afternoon the Bristol's blackboard sung its siren song and I went in like a lamb to the slaughter. Hey - it was cold out and my tuck box back at the office only had reconstituted food on offer. Yum-ee.

If you don't know the Bristol, it's one of those (con)fusion places offering a comfortably bricky-woodgrainy-openfire ambiences (like so many establishments in the Capital) coupled with laddish rugby sport themed changing sheds greatest hits gambling lounge...come dressed as you are, it's always wrong. I think what is really needed is a purple light. Behind the bar is a Methuselah sized Steinlager, and standard sized bottles of champagne. And being very Capital, the bar sports a industrial strength coffee machine. Of course.

The blackboard seduced me with the simple-but-difficult-to-do-well scrambled egg on toast with a hash brown. Scrambled egg. There's a continuum for scrambled egg - from cloud shaped, delicate triumphs through to yellow leather yellow leather.

What actually arrived was a goodly serving more towards the clouds than the leather, gently sitting on lightly toasted bread, with a (I think) deep fried hash brown, and a small bowl of tomato sauce. How uncomplicated. I've had good meals in the Bristol before. From what I could see of my few fellow diners they seem to do a good lunch as well.

Big advice - don't fall into the lunchtime liquor lounge. Or do fall in. Just pick your moments for both.


Points off: bit nippy for a winter day, overly thumpy bass for lunch time music.

Points on: good sized serving, quiet enough to have a quiet lunch discussion, sports on tv to avoid boredom waiting for food to arrive.

Parking - usual downtown horrors.

Scrambled eggs on toast with a hash brown - $3.50

Hotel Bristol
131-135 Cuba Street
385 1147

Saturday, July 23, 2005

fff: Burger King, Porirua

On a bright and sunny winter morning, there are few better locations to explore the grease trap side of yourself than BK, Porirua. Don't you be pretending you don't got a grease trap side of your bad self, we can see the telltale glow on the corners of your lips. And at your age that sure isn't 'puppy fat'.

So, cut to the chase; BK. We abandoned all pretence of healthy living and ordered us up a skin load of whopper, chips, and carbonated syrupy water. Er, no, it wasn't a wine from the dreaded Lombardi vinyard, it was coke.

I think the BK buns for the whopper are made from something more resembling bread than the equivalent McD offering - is there a research science team out there with time on their hands? Anyway, the nett result is we had a pleasant interlude in the sun. Stuff the calories - if this restaurant was located in a more o-la-la neighbourhood, with a better view than the 100 acre wood car park you'd be thrilled to guzzle your latte and absorb the ambience.

Big advice: Family friendly. Sunny mornings - it’s all good. It’s BK - get in the vibe of what it is - delight in the pop-ness of it all - it’s cost you thousands more to go to buy an Andy Warhol.


Points off: If you woke up there - well, if you woke up there take an extra few points off in the first instance; but if you woke up there you wouldn’t know where you were. Could be BK anywhere. God help you, you could’ve been warped to Auckland. But then, having been warped you would fit in. Everything is clean, but slightly sticky, slimey, something.

Points on: Employing people with limited other opportunities - reflecting the better side of New Zealand in the 21st century. The sales guy talking us out of what we ordered into something essentially the same, but cheaper. Bottomless soft drinks - shame the coffee isn’t the same. Fast and uncomplicated.

Parking: It’s got the 100 acre car park outside the windows.

Two whopper combos, $ 15.50

Burger King
7 Semple Street
04 238 2193