From my various social media accounts, many of you will know that I recently spent two weeks in New Zealand to catch the British & Irish Lions on tour.
Whilst the number one reason for going was to support the Lions and watch some rugby, we also planned a huge travel route to see as much of the country as possible.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may recall that I’ve been to New Zealand before but it was on a pretty limited budget (I went after my fresher year of uni). This time round, I have a full-time job so I’ve been saving like a crazy person for nearly two years.
After scrimping on going out to eat the last time I visited New Zealand (a backpacker’s budget allows for very few restaurant meals), we made the most of it during this trip.
I wasn’t the best blogger with respect to taking photos of my food (my family only have so much patience when it comes to waiting whilst I move plates to get the right light and the best shot!) but I definitely captured some of the tastiest and most beautiful dishes we were served on our travels.
It’s time to talk about the food in New Zealand…
On our second morning, we had an early start for a long drive from Rotorua to Wellington (approx. 450km) so a good breakfast stop was needed. We decided to head for Taupo and could have picked one of many great little cafes but settled on Dixie Browns. I ate this monster of a waffle which came with bacon, apple and cinnamon compote, maple syrup and cream. The waffle was made from the lightest, fluffiest batter and was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. I didn’t eat for the rest of the day!
In Auckland, there are so many amazing cafes serving great coffee and great food. At Federal & Wolfe, I went all-out Millennial and had avocado on toast.It was definitely one of the best versions of this trendy, usually overpriced, hipster-favoured dish as it didn’t scrimp on the avocado, the feta and tomato salad was delicious and the sourdough toast a perfect match.
On our last morning, we walked up to the fashionable Ponsonby neighbourhood for breakfast at Bird on a Wire. I’m a big French Toast fan and this one was excellent.
This French toast is brioche stuffed with Lewis Road chocolate butter with bananas, candied pecans and maple syrup. You could also add bacon and although I didn’t do that, I think it would have helped add a bit of saltiness to all of the sweet. It was a really tasty dish though (the candied pecans were a nice addition to the texture) and a great breakfast option to keep you full and energised (from all the sugar!) through the day.
I suppose that if you want to show off your wines to their absolute best, then accompanying them with great food is the way to go.
At Rock Ferry in Blenheim (yes, the small town that plays home to so many beautiful Marlborough vineyards), we did a tasting of 5 wines – a non vintage brut, a pinot gris, a sauvignon blanc, a tempranillo and a pinot noir – and then had a really lovely lunch.We started with some artisan breads and flavoured butter. The butter was so delicious (and I love proper butter) that I have to confess to eating teaspoonfuls of it on its own!I then ate the beetroot marinated Aoraki salmon served on lentils with a winter salad of leeks, avocado and walnuts and topped with a lemon and herb yoghurt. The salmon was beautiful and the lentils and salad were really the perfect accompaniment.
We also had an impromptu lunch stop at Gibbston Valley and what a delight we stumbled upon. We each had a tasting flight of 3 wines to accompany our lunch.And, I had the traditional grape picker’s lunch, consisting of the soup of the day (Moroccan spiced carrot), hummus, farmhouse cheese, pickles, olives and toasted balsamic and red wine bread.The soup was incredibly tasty and the pickles were an eclectic mix of cabbage, cherry, onion, gherkin and even walnut! The farmhouse cheese was a brie, made at the winery, and the bread was so good – soaked in balsamic and pinot noir but toasted to just leave a delicious flavour.
To finish, we shared two desserts and both were so beautiful.This is the deconstructed white chocolate cheesecake with lemon curd, apricot biscotti and saffron pashmak.This one is the coffee cardamom mousse cake with mandarin ice cream and pistachio brittle. I absolutely love nut brittle and pistachios are one of my favourite nuts so this was just perfect for me.
Other notable meals (but with no photos, sorry!)
In Queenstown, we had lunch at Public Kitchen & Bar and shared a few small plates. I loved the sticky pork belly sticks and the lamb kofta but the standout dish was the blue cod coconut ceviche with cucumber, lemon and coconut milk. It was so delicate, light and refreshing and the fish was perfect.
In Auckland, we had dinner with friends at Cafe Hanoi, a Viatnamese restaurant. We shared a few starters – roasted pork and shrimp rice paper rolls, pork wontons with chilled spanner crab and fried squid, shrimp and pork cakes – and for mains I ate the Hanoi-style grilled pork with nuoc cham and rice noodles. All the dishes were really tasty and packed full of fragrant herbs and a bit of spice.
I love the cafe culture in New Zealand as it means you can always find great coffee and excellent, home-made breakfast, brunch and lunch. I also love seafood and you can find great fish dishes throughout the country made with locally-caught and responsibly-sourced produce. Have you ever visited New Zealand? Do you have any cafes or restaurants that you would recommend?