Eat Well(ington)

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

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

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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

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Goodness, that was some postprandial nap...

*YAWN* Hello everybody.

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