Thursday, March 23, 2006

another kettle of fish (kiwi style)

On a sunny day in Wellington there is only one place to be – having lunch at the Chocolate Fish Café. Nestled adjacent to a harbour side beach is an eclectic little eatery where the bulk of the tables are situated across the winding road from the actual café. Waiters wear fluoro safety vests and the traffic politely idles while handfuls of lattes are ferried across the street.

But I digress. I have not emphasised enough the miracle of the first sentence
“On a sunny day in Wellington”
Stay in the capital of New Zealand for a week, any time of year, and you will experience every season. Early autumn is usually a more optimistic time, climactically speaking, to visit the city but you will likely have the joys of both intense cancer causing rays and hail in the same week. Sometimes in the same day. And lets not waste our breath talking about the legendary wind.

Anyway – I’ll just say, a sunny day in Wellington sparkles. The mountains punctuating the landscape stand majestic, the water sits calm on the harbour and instant happiness descends. Grab it now, don’t be complacent (like we are here in Melbourne), run with it and have an outdoor feast.

I was royally anointed with such a day, the one after I arrived. After wandering through an outdoor exhibition on the waterfront, I took my mother “around the bays” to the Chocolate Fish Café, located in the aptly named bit of coast known as Scorching Bay. At noon on a weekday you have half a chance to get both a car park and a seat in the sun. But only just. This town heavily weighted with public servants has a culture that allows doing lunch al fresco, just 10 minutes drive from the city centre. In my brief stint working for a government department I soon learnt that with a manila folder under your arm a café visit instantly became a “meeting” regardless of the ensuing nature of the conversation.

The menu gave a wide variety of choices from breakfast, to things in bread, to soup or other local favourites. There was one dish that leapt out at me, something that I never see in a trendy Melbourne café – kedgeree, so smoked fish with curried rice it was.

The dish arrived garnished with thin shards of deep fried sweet potato and wedges of boiled egg. Though lavishly tainted with turmeric, overall it was only mildly spiced. There were chunks of smoked fish (something local – smoked fish is widely available in this city, beyond just cod, trout and eel), salty but not overdone, studding the rice. All in all, it was a satisfying dish.

Even better, like all the cafés I frequented in the city, lashings of ginger beer was on offer. A new addition was the Hardy Boys Dry, which was crisp and not so sweet. A perfect non-alcoholic drink on a hot day.

PS: you can buy a chocolate fish at the CFC for (NZ) 50c but dog biscuits for your pooch are free! I got the feeling the owners prefer the pitter patter of paws than little feet.

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Anonymous din said...

I wrote down a few notes after reading this - a very timely post for me - thank-you! I'm visiting Wellington for the first time in a few weeks (for a conference - theoretically I'm working on my paper at the moment). Hope you write a bit more about your trip. Foodwise I find the idea of going there quite exciting. (Conference-wise maybe less so).

7:08 pm  

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