We were on our last leg of our New Zealand adventure.
We had an afternoon flight to catch from Wellington airport, so planned to spend a few hours on the Wellington waterfront.
It worked out that we would arrive there for an early lunch, which by all accounts worked out brilliantly as Whitebait, a fantastic waterfront fish restaurant, was on our wish (or is that ‘fish’) list.
You do need a bit of nerve driving round the bottom of New Zealand’s North Island. While the guys loved every minute, I shut my eyes half the time. It’s a little hairy at times.
We came across this memorial, which represents the historic Rimutaka march, a rite of passage for about 60,000 soldiers bound for world war one after completing their training at Featherston military camp, the biggest in Australasia.
Finally, a little queasy, we reach the residential outskirts of Wellington, then down to the waterfront which is, in parts, very industrialised, so just keep driving round until you see little boats with sails and you are at the nice bit.
There’s a lovely mix here of old buildings, new shiny development and a working harbour.
As you can imagine with such an expanse of space and water, this is a very windy town.
Max Patte sculpted this, the Solace of the Wind (2008) which leans north into the harbour’s harsh gales while displaying its own inner tranquility.
The fresh air was a welcome relief from the winding journey from Martinborough. Deeeep breaths.
Feeling much better after our little walk, hungry and windblown, we head for lunch on the Clyde Quay. As we are on the waterfront, it feels natural to pick a seafood restaurant.
Whitebait chefs like to forage, whether for mushrooms in Mount Victoria or on the beach looking for local seaweed.
They even have our own Fishmonger to select and prepare every piece of freshly caught seafood.
Found out more about their ethos here.
Even their embellishments are provided naturally.
The charming chef shows me his Josper charcoal fired oven, which seemed his pride. Everything cooked in here is listed clearly in the menu. Definitely something to look out for.
Spying the well stocked bar, I head back to the table, excited to pick a refreshing cocktail, where discussions of wine were well on the way.
Mostly starting with a ‘cheeky’ cocktail (as James puts it) we cheered New Zealand, for giving us incredible experiences and memories we shall always treasure.
The cocktails were super good here. Everyone was happy with their choices.
The starters arrived. The friendly waiter chatted about our trip and helpfully noted down places to stop, eat and drink on the next leg of our holiday.
Many of the dishes had fish we had never heard (or dreamt) of, like in this, Andy’s starter: Paremata garfish “Boquerone” with parsley, shallot, lemon, garlic with hand-made sourdough and hand churned butter.
This fish is also known as Sea Needle.
Market fish crudo (Ota Ika tūtū wai) with preserved lemon, pistachio, Wairarapa olive oil and fresh herbs. I’m not sure we were expecting this one to be raw, but that’s half the adventure.
Warm salad of roast autumn vegetables (Huawhenua ngahuru mahana) with house-made ricotta and basil pesto.
I enjoyed this dish. It’s done simply, like the others but because they use top ingredients and treat them lovingly the flavour of each vegetable sings through.
Leigh Snapper and Cloudy Bay clam ceviche (Ika mata tāmure tuangi) with fresh coconut cream, lime, chilli and crispy fried plantain. We think!
This (Wellington) bread! If the view, incredible fish dishes, great wine menu, the passion of all the staff and the ambience doesn’t grab you (really!?), well this bread is worth popping in for. It’s fantastic! Whats more, you can grab a loaf and take it home.
Fish steak on the bone (Wāhanga ika me te wheua), cooked over wood charcoal with devilled butter and onion rings
Rosemary and garlic fried potatoes. Oh, how I love the simple potato. Here it’s jazzed up like little roasties.
My main course was a winner. Every piece of fish was cooked to perfection in the flavoursome sauce you’ll want to scoop with a spoon. Fish and shellfish (Ika mātaitai) roasted in the Josper oven Catalan style with saffron broth and romescada.
Just don’t touch the bowl, it’s coming at you straight from the wood charcoal oven.
Look at the size of these muscles (I say)!!
Now here’s a recipe I want to try at home. Root vegetable gratin with gruyère. As delicious as it sounds.
After a stunningly healthy meal we thought we owed it to ourselves to binge on puddings.
Like everywhere in New Zealand, it seems, the desserts were amazing. I mean, why are they so famous for sheep (there seems to be mainly cows here now), they should be famous for their top notch, want to push your face into them, desserts.
Rose sorbet (Pūrini roiho mātao) with Prunotto Moscato D’Asti and strawberry meringue
Poached green apples on white chocolate supreme with feijoa sorbet
They were all so good, but I did find myself getting a bit possessive over the chocolate (tho’ I wasn’t bothered about the toasted coconut). Mind you, I’m pretty sure we each had our favourite that we inched a little closer.
Valrhona Manjari chocolate (tiakarete) with cocoa spiced quince and toasted coconut
We were chuffed we made time to explore the unique Wellington waterfront. So try to make time if you can, ideally for a healthy lunch at Whitebait and a windy stroll along the side walks.
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