Tuesday, August 02, 2011

land of the long yellow banana

Family, rather than food, is the focus of my short hops across the Tasman these days. But in the couple of decades I've been doing the commute, Wellington has increasingly embraced a burgeoning food culture. So while, thanks to the recent Masterchef episode, the delights of Logan Brown and Martin Bosley’s are high on visiting food bloggers lists, my dining choices are a tad more humble.

The star of the recent visit however, was not home grown.

Even at the foodie Mecca, Moore Wilsons, this golden import seemed ridiculously cheap to a banana-starved Aussie. We managed to chomp through a kilo or two of the fruit in a couple of days.

Also at Moore Wilsons we picked up a few bottles of the extraordinary Lake Sylvan rhubarb flavoured mineral water. This hard to get non-alcoholic treat is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s worth a trip for this drink alone. The walnut and ginger slice (from Janus Bakery, I think) was another sweet treat we loved. Dare I say it, but I think it may have been better than my mother ever made!

At the Lido café (opposite the visitors centre in the CBD), I sampled one of the best kedgerees to date. Though not entirely traditional with the addition of a tomatoey condiment, it was a stand out. And a huge serve to boot. The Lido has served the test of time, being one of the first in the late ‘80s café resurgence. The coffee is great and the staff friendly.

In recent years, good food has begun to infiltrate the suburbs. With excellent bays and harbour views, waterside residential areas just a short hop from the city have come into their own. Apart from the excellent Maranui café, Lyall Bay is also home to Elements. This is a frequent family lunch spot, though not hugely vegetarian friendly, the food is consistently good. My elderly father drives across town for their lambs fry and bacon, but it’s not stuck in a time warp. The Significant Eater had a spectacular poached coconut chicken salad, while I tend to stick to a vego modified big breakfast.

But the emerging star of the New Zealand food scene has to be the impressive variety of beverages on offer these days. Forget the Sauvignon Blanc (yes please) and the boutique beers, it’s the alcohol-free stuff that continues to impress. While the previously mentioned Lake Sylvan mineral water is hard to get, most cafes still offer a tempting variety of locally made drinks. Hardie Boys dry ginger beer is always my first choice but the Aroha elderflower based Sparkles caught my attention. Great to see wildcrafted herbs on the menu!

Despite it being midwinter, Wellington shone on this trip. The flight into the capital city showed off the snow capped Southern Alps in their full glory and against the odds the sun shone every day.

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Blogger Michelle Chin said...

bananas are so expensive in victoria! I havent had bananas for almost 8 months now. lucky you

9:30 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

They're only expensive due to the Australian ban on importing bananas. So every cyclone/flood in Queensland leaves us vulnerable to a huge price hike. While I'm in favour of supporting local farmers and cutting down on food miles...it does get me thinking how darn cheap kiwi's can get fruit shipped halfway across the world.

9:35 am  
Anonymous lindsay c said...

Well the bananas might be comparatovely cheap bit sadly fruit & veges are threatening to boast luxury status, out of reach to many NZers. So much for any aspirations alot us have to '5 + per day'. This government is resisting all public pressure to take the GST tax off f n' v in an effort to reduce the widening gap between the eating habits of the wealthy and the not so, really short sighted considering the future costs of healthcare. I've just been to Madrid, where the economy is in dire straights, yet we bought fruit and breakfast foods for 4, + a bottle of wine for approx $10 NZ

11:06 am  
Anonymous Lucy said...

(all taken with the new camera? lovely, lovely.)

that lake sylvan rhubarb drink - man, i want me some of that.

i like that you went nuts for the 'nanas while away. wise move...

2:06 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Lindsay: Fresh fruit and veg is gst free in Australia (there's a tax once it's been modified eg juiced or cooked) and we are still at 10% for this tax. Earning Australian dollars, NZ prices are 25% less after the exchange rate, that makes some things for us ludicrously cheap. Not so for the locals, I do understand. The petrol prices are much higher so that must add more to the costs too. I'm guessing the difference between Madrid and NZ is labour costs and perhaps climate, meaning that food may grow faster?

Lucy: the rhubarb mineral water is the real deal. Just darn hard to access. Photos - 'nanas iPhone, others new compact. Note the sunset shot was taken while precariously balancing on a stone wall!

2:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for that was just ranting coz i cant afford the food i want/need to eat -but at least i can eat bananas most days! FYI recent comparative study of supermarket prices in UK, Oz & NZ ruled NZ to be the most expensive dammit

12:46 pm  
Anonymous lindsay c said...

That was me

12:49 pm  
Blogger Ann O'Dyne said...

I have not had a banana since the QLD disaster either, but I am worried about the Ecuadoran workers pay poor things.

Your sky photo is magnificent.

7:37 pm  
Blogger Reemski said...

When I was in NZ recently I too looked at the cheap bananas but resisted due to the air miles associated with them.

Love that dry ginger ale. Great stuff.

12:19 pm  

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