After our quick trip to Sydney to see Radiohead, we headed across the Tasman Sea for our New Zealand holiday. It was the first time both A and I have visited New Zealand and we were excited to try all the delicious food and fresh produce we had heard so much about. We flew from Sydney to Christchurch via Emirates and it was only a short three hour flight.
When we arrived in Christchurch, we picked up our hire car and headed into the city centre to find our motel. Since the earthquake in early 2011, Christchurch’s city centre has been declared a ‘red zone’ and has been cordoned off in different sections. When we arrived at our motel, we decided to walk closer to the old CBD area and find somewhere to eat.
A and I could not believe the state of Christchurch a year and a half after the large earthquake and thought constantly of what it would’ve been like directly after the earthquake hit. During our ten minute walk into the CBD, the majority of buildings we passed were still empty or they were now vacant blocks. The streets were deserted and it was as if we were walking in a deserted town.
When we reached the small area of the newly-developed CBD area, we were amazed to see that all the shops, banks and cafes are now housed in converted shipping containers. It’s a great concept and they look great.
We stumbled upon Fiddlesticks, a newly built pub/bar/restaurant that looked lively inside. I ordered a glass of Quartz Reef Methode Traditionelle (NZ$11) to start with. It was a light sparkling wine that is supposedly one of New Zealand’s best sparkling wines. I found it quite refreshing after a day of airports, driving and walking.
After looking at the dinner menu, we both decided to order the Angus Eye Fillet with duck fat potatoes, shallots, spinach and horseradish (NZ$36.50). The presentation looked great when it arrived and lived up to our expectations after hearing all about the great New Zealand food on offer. The steak was cooked perfectly and was really tender. I loved the duck fat potatoes – decadent but flavoursome and super crispy.
We also ordered a side of Crispy Fries (NZ$7.50). I love French Fries, especially if they are perfectly golden and well seasoned – which this side was. An added bonus was the delicious aioli!
Seeing as though we really enjoyed our dinner, we decided to order desserts. I ordered the Flourless Chocolate Torte, with raspberry sorbet and poppy seed vacherin (NZ$17.50). This was a lovely dessert that reminded me of my favourite French dessert, the Moelleux de Chocolat. It was made with dark chocolate and the sweetness of this dessert came from the raspberry sorbet, not the chocolate torte. The end result was an amazing play on flavour contrast between the dark chocolate and the raspberry flavour, making it more tarty than sweet. The crispy poppy seed vacherin chards were sticking out of the torte which added lots of crunch and I loved the addition of the micro-herbs. It was also beautifully presented and the end result was one of the finest desserts I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy.
A ordered the Organic Rice Pudding, with confit orange, mandarin jelly and marmalade sorbet (NZ$16). The mandarin jelly and marmalade sorbet added a very unique taste to the dish, but one she particularly enjoyed. She named this dish as one of the best desserts she’s eaten.
This meal was an amazing experience – a definite gastronomic pub that is worthy of a visit the next time you are in Christchurch.
The next day, we headed for breakfast in the Christchurch centre before we started driving north to Kaikoura. We went to the Hummingbird Coffee, which is housed in one of the shipping containers mentioned previously. Hummingbird Coffee is a boutique coffee roaster based in Christchurch and they source their beans from 20 different origins. I couldn’t wait to try some local coffee!
I was very impressed with my coffee, which was made very well. The milk was fluffy and I found the coffee beans to have a lovely chocolately undertone – a trait that I particularly enjoyed.
A ordered an omelette (NZ$14.50) were you could choose two items out of chorizo, bacon, spinach or tomato. She chose spinach and tomato and said that it was cooked really nicely. The chef didn’t cut the tomato and spinach up but instead folded them into the omelette at the end of the cooking process leaving them to keep their texture. (On a side note, A spent the rest of the day mentioning the cinnamon rolls she spotted at the counter and regretting that she didn’t sample one!)
For my breakfast, I ordered the scrambled eggs with a side of avocado (unpictured) (NZ$9.50). My eggs featured lots of butter and unfortunately the avocado was a little under ripe. Regardless, it was a nice breakfast but Hummingbird won me over with their expertly made coffee.
Our New Zealand trip involved lots of driving. During our 10 days in New Zealand, we travelled 2000 kms via car. From Christchurch, we travelled two and a half hours North to Kaikoura, the prettiest town we saw during our trip. There was an amazing contrast between the ocean and the snow-tipped ‘hills’ (or as I would call them “mountains”).
Our first point of call when we arrived in Kaikoura was to find the whale watching venue. A had roped me into taking a boat out to sea (which is intimating for someone who can’t swim!) to see sperm whales in their natural habitat. Amazingly, my fear quickly subsided and I found myself really enjoying the experience of both the boat and the whale watching. After a short period of time, the whale dived and headed underwater. We then spent close to an hour waiting for its reappearance, while the boat rocked gently back and forth. It was an amazing experience to watch this gigantic creature so far out in the ocean and I am so glad that A pushed me to do it!
After our whale watching experience, we spent some time driving up and down the streets of Kaikoura searching for accommodation. We found a lovely motel called the Kaikoura Gateway Motor Lodge and were given a room that was very inexpensive with free wifi and conveniently located close to town. (I recommend a stay if you make it to Kaikoura!).
Seeing as though we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, A and I decided to walk into town and find something to eat. We found a new bar/restaurant called Groper Garage and decided to have a few dishes to share and some drinks.
I ordered a glass of the Settlers Hill Sauvignon Blanc (NZ$7.50), while A ordered a bottle of Antipodes sparkling water.
We ordered the Salt and Pepper squid as well as Fresh Green Shelled Mussels (in a coriander, ginger, garlic and chilli sauce). I fell in love with this mussel dish, which had local mussels in a thai style broth and served with bread. It was a lovely dish. The salt and pepper squid was also really tasty.
As Groper Garage was only newly opened, their kitchen wasn’t working at full capacity for dinner. We decided to search TripAdvisor and headed to The Pier Hotel for dinner. When we ordered, we were told that there was only one chef in the kitchen and there could be a delay for our food. We didn’t mind waiting, especially when we had this breathtaking view from our table…
I ordered the Seafood Platter (NZ$38). The majority of my dish was served cold and I was surprised to see that the mussels still had their beards and were not cleaned properly. The garlic prawns were in a sweet and oily garlic sauce, while the salad was also covered in a sweet sauce. The smoked salmon, fish and chips were all stone-cold. To put it simply, I didn’t eat much of this dish.
Seeing as though we were in a fishing village which caught a lot of crayfish, A ordered half a barbequed clayfish (NZ$55) to try some of the local fare. A dish was the opposite of mine – it arrived very hot! She said that the crayfish was nicely steamed but agreed that the salad dressing was very sweet. The Pier Hotel is one of only two restaurants we tried in New Zealand that we wouldn’t recommend.
On the way back to our motel, we stopped at a convenience store for a sweet fix. I decided to sample some New Zealand ice-cream (as ice-cream can always save a bad dinner!). I chose the “Chocolate Cup” made by a New Zealand company called Kapiti. The chocolate cups consisted of vanilla ice-cream swirled with chocolate flakes and layered with a rich fudge sauce and topped with a crisp chocolate shell – it was heaven! It was one of the best ice-creams I’ve tried and I indulged in more than a few of these convenient little cups while we were in New Zealand!
The next day we headed further north to Blenheim, home to a lot of famous Marlborough wineries. On our way, we saw a hub of seals located right next to the highway so we pulled over to watch them play. That morning I was lucky enough to be finish my morning coffee with a bunch of seals playing close by – a memorable experience!
When we arrived in Blenheim, we headed into town for a quick look but quickly decided to start visiting wineries. Our first stop was Nautilus Estate, a family-run winery which also produce Twin Islands wines. A and I enjoyed trying a few of their wines and we both particularly enjoyed the 2011 Chardonnay which has won a few awards. While we were there, Herzog Winery was strongly recommended to us for lunch. It was an easy decision to head there next.
When we arrived at Herzog Winery, we were seated in a very picturesque garden. There were outdoor tables and chairs set up on a grassed area that overlooked a fountain and the vineyards nearby. It was very tranquil.
Herzog Winery is world-renowned for their wines and the Herzog family has grown wine since 1630. Hans and Therese owned the successful ‘Taggenberg’ vineyard and restaurant in the Zurich wine country and in the mid 1990’s they moved their winery and Michelin-starred restaurant to an 11 hectare vineyard bordering the Wairau River in Marlborough.
I couldn’t overlook the appealing idea of Herzog’s ‘business lunch’, a three course lunch for only NZ$45. The first course was the chef’s salad with buffalo mozzarella and prawns. To match, I ordered a glass of the 2010 Herzog Chardonnay. The salad was sourced from local ingredients and the salad was very fresh and lightly dressed. The prawns were perfectly grilled while the buffalo mozzarella added a gooey texture.
A ordered the Fish of the Day (NZ$26), which was blue warehou (found in New Zealand and south Australian waters), with seasonal veggies and agria mash. Agria is a waxy potato that the locals seem to love, as we kept noticing it on a lot of menus. A really enjoyed this dish which was fresh, light and flavoursome – a perfect meal for lunch.
My main was Salmon with agria spinach mash and seasonal veggies. The salmon was perfectly cooked, as the flesh was still soft but the skin was crispy. I was interested to see that the mash had a foamy top to it, but the spinach and potato combination tasted ridiculously good.
My dessert was a Lemon Tarte with mint yoghurt and vanilla ice cream. I loved the lemon tarte as it wasn’t too sweet and had a lot of zest. It’s base was really crunchy and the accompanying ice cream and mint yoghurt were house made and jam packed full of flavour. The mint yoghurt was a clever match with the zesty flavour of the lemon tarte.
To match my dessert, I ordered a glass of Herzog’s 2009 Botrytis Pinot Gris (NZ$13) to drink. This bottle ranges from NZ$120 and I could understand why – it was an amazing dessert wine. There was a strong flavour of sweet, tropical fruits to the wine and it was like a liquid dessert. Delicious!
After our leisurely lunch, we headed down the road to Cloudy Bay Winery. For NZ$5, you are able to sample five Cloudy Bay wines of your choice. I was lucky enough to try the 2009 Te Koko and the 2011 Pinot Gris, two Cloudy Bay wines that I hadn’t tried. I also learnt that there is a Cloudy Bay Pelorus Rosé (however not available to sample) and I am now on a mission to find this wine in Perth.
There were two Pinot Noirs that I tried which cannot be bought in Australia as there is only a limited number of bottles produced – the 2010 Te Wahi and the 2009 Mustang. I found the Mustang very peppery, so we ended up buying a bottle of the Te Wahi (which is a lighter style pinot noir) as well as a bottle of the 2007 Late Harvest Riesling.
We then headed to Clos Henri winery, which is owned by the internationally recognised winemaking family of Henri Bourgeois of Sancerre, France. They make white wines in New Zealand, while their French winery produces red wines.
The Clos Henri tasting venue is housed in a quaint little chapel in the middle of their vineyard (which is a replica of the one on their French property). We were provided with a sample of nearly every bottle produced in New Zealand, plus one or two samples from their French vineyard as well. We really liked their wines and ended up buying three bottles – the 2009 Clos Henri Pinot Noir, the 2011 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of their dessert wine, 2003 Henri Bourgeois Vendanges Tardives (Late Harvest) St Luc 2003.
When it came to dinner time, A and I were both tempted to head back to Herzog but decided to try something different. We walked around the quaint little township of Blenheim and found the very popular Akbabas Turkish Kebabs and Café where we had an amazing iskender kebab (served with rice instead of bread). While A and I waited for our dinner, we looked around the café and both mentioned how we felt as if we were back in the Middle East – there was pots of Turkish coffee on the stovetop, Turkish rugs hung around the shop and there was Middle Eastern music playing on the radio.
Part 2 in our New Zealand trip will be published next week and will feature:
- Our favourite meal of our trip in Nelson
- The best fish and chips A and I have ever had, plus my first try of apple fritters in Mapua
- Yummy Indian in Greymouth
- More local coffee sampled during our big breakfast in Hokitika
- Our Franz Josef and Fox Glacier hikes
- The enjoyable but chaotic safari in Haast
- The most amazing seaside lunch in Jackson’s Bay