Have stomach. Will travel.
This is the descriptor on my current blogger profile. Those two sentences could not have been apt for my weekend adventure.
How so? I was hosted over the weekend for the first ever Wellington on a Plate food festival.
That's right. Positively Wellington Tourism flew me across the ditch to eat my around their beautiful city. Oh yes, even my jaw dropped a little at the thought. How much could I eat in 48 hours? You would be surprised...
I'd been to Wellington before, heading there almost two years ago for work and being flabbergasted by the range and depth of quality restaurants. Whilst Wellington may be New Zealand's capital, Sydneysiders are wrong to compare it to Canberra. Wellington is hip, arty and passionate about food. I think I'm in love.
This is possibly why I'm feeling a little-headed as I head out to the airport at 6.30am on Friday morning. Possibly also because after I've yet to eat breakfast.
Panzerotto $6.00 from Rossini
I've given up donuts for the most part these days (too much residual fat on the tongue now makes me feel queasy) but the panzerotto from the Rossini is nothing but bliss. Still warm, the donut casing has the lightest sprinkling of sugar that sticks to the corners of your lips. Inside is a substantial dollop of airy ricotta, mixed through with cinnamon.
Air New Zealand
This is also my first time on Air New Zealand, and as a compulsive in-flight movie watcher, I'm excited to learn that the entertainment console is activated as soon as you board the plane. Helloooo instant movie marathon.
Taking off from Sydney
Brunch: pastrami and relish toasted foccacia with
chickpea feta salad and Luxian carrot cake (made in Auckland)
It's only a three hour flight between Sydney and Wellington and brunch is a light cafe-style snack of a toasted foccacia with a chickpea feta salad and a slice of carrot cake. I've succumbed to the mind candy that is teen flick Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. It's particularly bemusing when the dad goes to New Zealand for work, and the teenage protagonist refuses to go, saying it's just a home for sheep and hobbits.
New Zealand from the air
A beautiful home methinks.
Wind turbines on the outskirts of Wellington
I was booked into the Museum Hotel for the duration of my stay, an elegant boutique hotel opposite the national museum Te Papa, with views overlooking the waterfront. The Museum Hotel was actually moved from across the street and down the road in 1993, the entire 3,500 tonne building separated from its foundations and then manouevred onto specially built railway tracks. The mind boggles.
View from my studio apartment
I stayed in the new wing of the hotel which is dedicated to apartments. It also houses the gym, sauna and swimming pool. There's a classy elegance to the decor throughout the hotel with an emphasis on quirky artworks or pieces of furniture, and beautiful printed wallpapers. I loved the textured velvet wallpaper surfaces in the lobby and the lift, and couldn't resist giving them a little caress whenever I walked past!
I admit I'm usually a hostel-stayer, not a hotel-stayer, so the welcome package of a signed welcoming letter, a platter of grapes, a little tub of bath salts and several chocolates was a surprise but much-appreciated touch.
The bed (and the gorgeous gold-print fan patterned wallpaper)
Pillow menus in hotels are always a novelty. Four options included soft slim; feather/duck down; firm and European large square pillows.
I barely gave myself twenty minutes to get in settled in before hitting the streets to reacquaint myself with Wellington.
The City to Sea bridge - a pedestrian bridge and artwork
carved by Maori artist Para Matchitt
Bollards in the shape of ferns
Commonsense Organics - large and well-stocked
Brat Pack - love the name!
It's a tiny cooked-fresh sausage stall on Courtenay Place
Black Pudding at The Tasting Room
I love that black pudding is used as a drawcard
El Horno on Courtenay Place - yes I had to look twice too
Cuba Street is undoubtedly my favourite part of town. In Sydney terms, it has the edginess of Darlinghurst, the left-wing leanings of Newtown and the vibrant food scene of Surry Hills.
Boardwalk signs galore
Halfway up the street is such a motley collection of boardwalk signs, I decide to follow them out of curiosity. I'm so glad I did because I find Viva Mexico, a wonderfully authentic food stall I'd eaten at last time but not blogged about because I'd forgotten to write down the name of the place!
Two years ago, I'd eaten a tasty green enchilada in a bare-bones stall at the Wellington Market. That site has now been cleared to make way for the new Watermark apartments. Many of those stalls, it seems, have relocated to this new alleyway off Cuba Street called Left Bank. There are second-hand book stores, a vintage clothing shop and various student-style cheap eats. Tucked right down the end is Viva Mexico.
Every part of this eatery screams homemade authenticity. It's bare-bones decor except for a Mexican flag and a collection of brightly hued, and somewhat intimidating murals on the wall and on the tables.
Although I know I'm scheduled to eat dinner in an hour, I need to placate a grumbling stomach (5.30pm and all I'd eaten all day was a ricotta donut and the airline brunch). The menu is a collection of traditional Mexican taqueria items: enchiladas, quesadillas, tacos and fajitas. They also offer rancheros eggs, two fried free range eggs on corn tortillas topped with Mexican salsa and served with refried beans.
I only have one thing on my mind...
Black enchiladas $11.00
Chicken and potato enchiladas covered with Poblano Mole
Poblano Mole has always intrigued me. The use of chocolate in a sauce for meat is endlessly fascinating for my tastebuds.
The smell of spices is immediate when the plate is served at my table. On its own, the sauce is quite spicy, a touch of chilli in amongst the almonds, cinnamon and chocolate. Eaten with the enchilada, the sauce is muted in its intensity by the shreds of plain chicken and cool batons of tender boiled potato.
The sauce is smooth, like a runny gravy that is a little bit nutty, sweet and spicy. The corn tortilla has a pronounced corn flavour. Refried beans and a mound of rice add further sustenance.
Two hours in Wellington - only 46 to go!
Wellington on a Plate runs from 17-30 August 2009. Next year's festival dates have already been confirmed as 14-29 August 2010.
Grab Your Fork attended Wellington on a Plate as a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism. The meal at Viva Mexico was visited anonymously and paid for personally. For more information on Wellington, check out http://www.wellingtonnz.com.
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Shop 210, Left Bank
118 Cuba Mall, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 4 382 9913
Wednesday and Thursday 12pm-3pm
Friday 12pm-3pm and 5.30pm-8pm
Saturday and Sunday 12pm-3pm
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
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90 Cable Street, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 802 8900
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8/24/2009 02:00:00 am