A Day in Wellington

141026.143 Mt Victoria, Wellington, NZ_blog

“I love this city, the hills, the harbour the wind that blasts through it. I love the life and pulse and activity, and the warm decrepitude…there’s always an edge here that one must walk which is sharp and precarious, requiring vigilance.”

So wrote Patricia Grace, award-winning New Zealand Maori author, about her home town of Wellington and so did we, falling in love with this, the smallest and friendliest capital city, when we spent just over a day in Wellington. Far too brief a time there but we did seem to have packed a lot in.

It was windy when we’d arrived the previous evening, as we’d been warned, so it was good to wake up to sunshine, blue skies and just a gentle breeze.

A day in Wellington

The grand Civic Square, City Gallery to the right

A short walk to the City Gallery (everywhere is a short walk in this small city) to find breakfast at the adjacent Nikau Cafe. Highly recommended, it was just the place to start the day.

Whilst Wink indulged herself with pancakes with honey butter, apple syrup I was wise and had a self assembled dish of sage fried eggs, black pudding and, er, sautéd kimchi (a Korean fermented cabbage dish, more pungent than, but similar to, sauerkraut). It made for an interesting change…

A day in Wellington

There is art everywhere in the city. In the Civic Square, with a backdrop of statues of nikau palms, Neil Dawsons’s Ferns appears to be held aloft by a chap with a spring in his step.

After breakfast we walked over the City to Sea Bridge, a dramatic thoroughfare with non-traditional wooden sculptures carved by prominent Māori artist Paratene Matchitt, some of which form the sides of the bridge.

Our gentle stroll along the quay was nothing compared to the effort of the paddlers on the water.

A day in Wellington

Then it was time for a trip on the cable car, which is still in use by commuters as well as tourists; it was built at the turn of the 20th century opening up development on the hills above the city.

A day in Wellington

It was a jolly rattle up to the top where we were greeted by great views over Wellington, and the blue, blue sea.

A helpful official guide showed us the route to walk down through the Botanic Garden. Just follow the symbols embedded in the path, so off we went.

The garden was established in 1868 and the trees growing today grew from seedlings planted at this time, and are some of the oldest exotic trees in New Zealand.

 A fine garden seat in memory Basil, the horticultural cat.

The Lady Norwood Rose Garden with spring flowers, a grand conservatory, the park keeper’s house and more statuary.

We paused at the Seddon memorial which honours the life of Richard Seddon, an important prime minister at the end of the 19th century, before continuing down through Bolton Street Cemetery.

When the motorway was built through it in the 1990s they planned to move the 2000 graves in its path, only to discover another 1700 bodies there which were not documented! Which of course were moved as well.

A day in Wellington

By this time Wink needed a little encouragement to laugh…

On past the seat of government to return to walk along the quay to reach Cuba Street as it was well nigh time for lunch; in spite of our hearty breakfast we had worked up an appetite. And not just hunger because we were keen to discover more of Patricia Grace’s “…pulse and activity, and the warm decrepitude…as well as the edge here that one must walk which is sharp and precarious, requiring vigilance”. 

A day in Wellington

Bollards modelled on burgeoning Kiwi ferns

I will tell you how we got on during our day in Wellington in my next post…

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Medal Winning Wines, Auckland

Last week I attended a small tasting of Medal Winning Wines in Auckland. When I am in the UK I do try to spend a few days every year in deepest Sussex, wine judging for the IWSC. So it was good to see how the wines fared in New Zealand.

The International Wine and Spirit Competition was the first competition of its kind to organise blind tastings and promote the world’s best wines and spirits. Now in its 45th year the IWSC is now joined by various other similar competitions, each with its own style and method of judging.

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Samples are presented in flights of numbered glasses to avoid the possibility of judges being influenced by the shape of a bottle. Judges are provided with a score sheet and given the basic parameters of the class being assessed. Samples are assessed quietly; and without comment; marks are recorded and collected by the panel chairman who may then open discussions in respect of judges’ comments and scores.

Detailed chemical analysis helps refine judging to further assess a wine’s future stability and legal compliance. Every single wine is assessed on its own merits within the context of its class.

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Blind tasting is a good, useful exercise and I always enjoy doing it, particularly not being influenced by the label and other information.

After the recent announcement of the IWSC results for New Zealand, Glengarry  Wines, a major NZ wine retailer, organised a small tasting of Medal Winning Wines in Auckland for their customers.

There were just over a dozen wines on show, all Gold Medal or Silver Outstanding Medal winners, which feature in the Glengarry portfolio. There are, of course, many more NZ medal winning wines available elsewhere.

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Jo Burzynska, wine author, journalist and fellow judge, gave a brief introduction to the IWSC and the wines on show.

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

 Then it was time to enjoy the relaxed, informal tasting.

For me three wines stood out from a very good bunch.

.Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Ara ‘Select Blocks’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Gold Medal

Freshly mown grass! Dry with a good bite of refreshing acidity, lots of grassy, citrussy notes on the palate.

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 Medal Winning Wines in Auckland.

Two Sisters Central Otago Riesling 2009

Gold Medal

Pale gold with sherbetty lime skin and floral notes on the nose. Medium body with its natural sweetness balanced by bright acidity, bags of flavour with good weight.
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Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

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Terra Sancta ‘Shingle Beach’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012

Gold Medal

Pale ruby, with earthy meaty blackberries on the palate. Dry, robust but maturing tannins, with the lovely dark fruit flavours developing most elegantly on the palate.

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.Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Sarah Eliot, co-founder of Terra Sancta, with a smile that matches her wine!
Oh, I nearly forgot – sometimes a wine tasting comes to a sticky end and there was no exception here:
Medal Winning Wines in Auckland.
Marisco ‘A Sticky End’ Noble Sauvignon, Waihopai, Marlborough 2011
Gold Medal
Gold with a rich nose of marmalade and heather. Sweet, but not sickly, with lemons and Manuka honey on the palate. 18 months in old oak has added a certain elegance.
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This was a good early evening tasting with not too many wines to taste and all, of course, of excellent quality and producers on hand to tell the consumers about the wine. However I was surprised that there was no tasting sheet, which would have surely encouraged orders.
You can read about all the Medal Winning Wines at this tasting here.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

Auckland Botanic Gardens

How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Mr Disraeli sounds a tad gloomy but when you work a 5-day week the weekends do become rather special and looked forward to.

Auckland Botanic Gardens
Huakaiwaka, the Garden’s Visitor Centre

So on an overcast, rainy Saturday a couple of weeks ago we drove the 20 minutes south to visit the Auckland Botanic Garden. In fact someone told us that when you travel in Auckland the journey always takes 20 minutes, which seems to happen more often than not!

Typical of the short modern history of New Zealand the Auckland Botanic Gardens were only opened in 1982. But the temperate climate of this fair country has enabled the trees and shrubs to become established quickly. Indeed I think all New Zealand is a botanical garden, witnessing trees awash with flowers in the depth of the Auckland winter!

Auckland Botanic Gardens

As well as a collection of indigenous plants there are a number of special areas: African plants, roses, camellias, magnolias, palms, edibles, herbs as well as an arboretum.

Auckland Botanic GardensNot forgetting the Potter Children’s Garden which enthuses kids and the young-at-heart and where self-discovery is encouraged within the garden with the many interactive features.

 Click on the photos to see what is happening

The African garden

Magnolias

Plants, shrubs and trees brightening up the overcast day.

The gardens are home to birds too.

Auckland Botanic GardensKereru, the New Zealand wood pigeon, a big chap with gorgeous plumage.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

Tui, or parson bird, are one of New Zealand’s most accomplished songsters and are superb mimics. They are often in the trees by our house in Three Kings and enliven the mornings with their melodious call.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

There was a reminder that it is still spring with trees nearly in blossom over a host of narcissi.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

You can row your boat up the creek and pitch your tent. Well, at least the artist thinks you can…

Auckland Botanic Gardens

As you can see, the amenities are fully organic.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

In spite of the rain there was a delightful splash of colour provided by a wedding group.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

The sun also came out giving us time to sit and contemplate these beautiful gardens.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

There is handsome art amongst the Auckland Botanic Gardens which added to the pleasure and inspiration from our visit. We look forward to returning to see the roses in full bloom.

The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature. ~Jeff Cox

Auckland Botanic Garden
102 Hill Road
Manurewa
Auckland
New Zealand

Rocking It in Raglan

Rocking It in RaglanKiaora Bro! Hello! A Maori greeting emblazoned on the wall which matches the welcome from the friendly staff at this great little cafe in Raglan.

Rocking It in Raglan

A couple of hours from Auckland, nothing in the scheme of things!

We were staying with good friends who live near the little coastal town of Raglan, which has a laidback atmosphere because of several good surfing beaches nearby.

Rocking It in Raglan

gone surfin’. A sign seen on many shop doors in Raglan when the waves are rollin’

After an invigorating, blustery walk along the beach we’d worked up a good appetite we felt it was time to be rocking It in Raglan. It was time for brunch, one of New Zealand’s delightful customs. Brunch is a meal that seems to be served all day in many cafes and diners – fortunately none resembling the greasy spoons of yore in the UK!

The Rock-it cafe is a recent venture, situated in an unprepossessing shed which shows its origins. It started as a surfing shop, which still occupies part of the building,

Rocking It in Raglan

I dig Tractor Radio 88.2 Raglan

and also accommodates a local radio station’s studio, Tractor Radio 88.2 Raglan.

Rocking It in Raglan

Like so many places in New Zealand the welcome is terrific!

It was good to get out of the wind and choose from the menu displayed behind the counter. Most of the food is prepared on the premises using local produce where possible, with one exception that we discover later.

Rocking It in Raglan

We started with hot drinks. My particular NZ indulgence is a moccachino, a combination of hot chocolate and coffee. The former for, er, my memory and the latter for the kick! Another of New Zealand’s delights is the respect and pride they have for making good coffee, as here.

Click on the photos to see the dishes.

Rocking It in Raglan

Our food didn’t take long to arrive and, as you can see, it was a good thing that we’d been out for our invigorating walk!

A visit to Rock-it would not be complete without a taste of an intriguing speciality which I’d never heard of – the Cronut. Have you heard of this pastry?

A cross between a croissant and filled doughnut, this delicious (and calorific) confection is the exception to their home cooking rule as it is made by a specialist baker in Auckland.

Rocking It in Raglan

On a fine day as well as more seating on the deck there is a great safe open space

Rocking It in Raglan

and a tractor to play on.

We were intrigued by this bench-with-no-view… Click on photos to see why.

The Rock-it cafe serves delicious friendly food and is a good addition to what is on offer in Raglan. It has just been granted its alcohol licence and is open on Friday evenings as well as every daytime. As it is just outside the town by a creek you can paddle your kayak there!

 

Jazzy Street Eats, Auckland

Jazzy Street Eats

At the end of August the Auckland Restaurant Month finished with a day of Jazzy Street Eats in Shed 10, Queen’s Wharf.

With a diverse line up of central city restaurants serving up their favourite street food for this one day only. There were tastes from around the globe, from Middle Eastern shawarma to Asian summer rolls, Tuscan donuts and much more.

We arrived late in the day when some of the food was running out after the end of a very successful event. But we enjoyed sharing in the fun of the AKL Street Eats with everyone relishing the good food and wine as well as great music.

Dishes from around the world

There was wine, and beer, as well

Happy eaters

Busy kitchens

Interesting people…

Not forgetting traditional food trucks too

All served with great jazz by the Liam Neeson Tribute Band