Tag Archives: restaurants

Two good reasons to drop into Moeraki

Moeraki is a tiny seaside village with a huddle of beach houses, a pub, a community centre, a small sheltered harbour where a dozen weather beaten boats bob at anchor, a couple of beautiful sheltered bays with golden sand and rippling blue waves. It’s set right at the ocean’s edge, well off the track beaten by State Highway through the last quarter of Aotearoa New Zealand’s South Island.

Fleur's Place
Fleur’s Place

Moeraki is not the kind of place that you might blink and miss. It’s the kind of place you might miss completely because you wouldn’t know that it was there, across the paddocks, hidden in the lee of the cliffs. There are, however two compelling reasons to slow at the Moeraki turn-off, leave State Highway 1 and cruise slowly towards the sea.

The first reason is the mysterious Moeraki boulders. Round and perfect, they sit like giant cannon balls on the sand. Maori legend has it that the boulders are the remains of calabashes, eel baskets and kumara, washed up after the wreck of the waka, or canoe Arai-te-uru. The nearby rocky arms that reach out into the sea are said to be the waka’s hull and the promontory nearby is the body of the captain. Science explains them as rocks pulled from their mudstone bed by the sea, caked with thousands of layers of mud and sand and slat by the wind and water, then worn smooth and round by the constant wash of the waves.

The second reason to take that detour off State Highway One and meander down to Moeraki, is Fleur’s Place, one of the region’s if not the South Island’s, if not even Aotearoa NZ’s most popular seafood restaurants. Set at the edge of the little harbour, overlooking the boats on one side and the vast Pacific horizon on the other, Fleur’s Place is housed in a weather worn corrugated iron and stone building. Inside its walls are busy with memorabilia of Moeraki’s seafaring history. On the day we dropped into Fleur’s, without a booking, all the tables were taken and only the last three seats at the bar remained. We took them and then watched a stream of disappointed, also unbooked punters turned away. The seafood with thick slices of rustic bread and the fish of the day with salad and chips explained why it is always absolutely imperative to book at Fleurs. Everything was fresh, perfectly cooked and exquisitely presented. Furthermore, Fleur’s is a place with a wonderful atmosphere, a superb outlook and interesting, helpful and cheerful staff.

Don’t miss Moeraki, make the turn, ponder the mysterious boulders, enjoy a fresh from the ocean seafood lunch at Fleurs, but to guarantee your place even at the bar, book.

Singapore nights; Chimes

In its last life Chimes was the Convent of the Sisters of the Infant Jesus, dedicated to the education of young Catholic ladies.

Chapel and cloisters at Chimes
Chapel and cloisters at Chimes

Some years ago the Convent closed and was reborn as a centre of pleasure and leisure. The former chapel is a now a chic reception centre. The cloisters are taken up with souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes. The courtyards and lawns are given over to outdoor dining areas. The classrooms have become clubs, discos and bars which boom with house music and bands.

This is the place to end a Singapore night, with a romantic dinner in one of those courtyard restaurants, then dancing out the demons until dawn in one of the discos or nightclubs.

 

Cuba Street, The coolest street in the capital of cool

If Wellingon is the world’s coolest capital, then Cuba Street is the capital’s coolest street.

Tiger Eye Beads
Tiger Eye Beads

During that time in the second half of the 20th century, when chunks of the city were being sacrificed to motorways, Cuba Street was ear-marked for a traffic by-pass. As it awaited the wrecking ball, businesses de-camped and any upkeep on buildings was more or less abandoned. This, as it transpired, was Cuba Streets salvation. Rents plummeted and along with those seeking low cost accommodation, came others seeking alternative lifestyles – hippies, artists, innovators, visionaries and creators. Buildings were rescued and businesses were reborn. Second hand shops, bargain stores and galleries opened. Bars, cafes and restaurants set up alongside them. Colourful graffiti art colonised blank walls and alleys. Cuba Street was alive again. Cool and rather chic, in shabby kind of way, it was a distinctive part of the cityscape. Cuba Street became Wellington’s Bohemian Precinct.

The by-pass plan was dumped. In 1969, Cuba Mall was established. Buskers and street performers moved in, the famous Bucket Fountain was built and Cuba Street became a playground, a favourite meeting spot and one of Wellington’s most visited and vibrant quarters.  Finally, in 1995, Cuba Street was preserved forever under the Historic Places Act, as a registered Historic Area.

In essence, Cuba Street is still the same as it was when those hippies, artists, innovators and creators moved in, back in the sixties.  Most of the buildings are as they were then – the narrow wooden houses, the shop-fronts with their recessed doors, ornate lead-light windows and tiles still remain. So does the grand old Salvation Army’s Peoples’ Palace, now a Quality Inn. Colourful street art weaves around them on walls and in alleys.  Second hand and bargain stores survive and thrive, many with a 21st century vintage or retro twist. Bars, cafes and restaurants still abound, but among them now are award winners, like Matterhorn and the fine dining house, Logan Brown. Buskers and street performers still hold the floor in Cuba Mall, at any hour of the day or night and crowds gather to watch them, while the Bucket Fountain splashes away in the background. Cuba Mall is still a great place to hang out and one of the city’s most lively areas. And most importantly, that Bohemian spirit not only endures but flourishes.

My Cuba street favourites

Events

Cuba Dupa, the Cuba Street Festival, at the end of March – for a fantastic end of summer celebration and an awesome street party  – food, bands, choirs, art, sculpture, performances, people and fun.

Cuba Dupa
Cuba Dupa

Cuba Street Friday Night Market – for all of the above, but on a Friday evening and on a smaller scale.

Clothes

Madame fancy Pants – for elegant vintage classics

Tiger Eye beads for a frivolous, fanciful treasure

Arc Apparel – for a rock-bottom bargain

Coffee

Midnight Espresso – for a midnight cofee and a vegan snack, also because it’s a Wellington icon.

Fidel’s – for a Cuban coffee with a Cubana (the ultimate toasted sandwich) and to re-live the revolution (Cuban, that is) through the posters and memorabilia on the walls

Breakfast, Lunch or dinner

Floridita’s Cafe and Restaurant – for good food, pleasant surroundings, quick service and leadlight windows overlooking a busy Cuba Street Corner – brilliant people-watching potential

Books

The Ferret Bookshop – to ferret out an old favourite, or a new discovery, among their amazing collection.

Music

Slow Boat Music – to browse their incredible merchandise, to bask in the glory reflected from illustrious international customers like Robert Plant and to maybe even catch an in-house performance?

Fish

Wellington Sea market – for fresh fish, a staggering variety of seafood and mouth-watering displays.

Fruit and flowers

Cuba Street Fruit Mart, for its abundance, its colour and its fragrance.

 

 

Play, stay, eat, drink or simply be in Wellington’s Oriental Bay

Because it’s sheltered, blessed with a beautiful beach, drop-dead gorgeous water views, countless things to do, not to mention fabulous places to stay, eat or simply be, Oriental Bay is one of the city’s great escapes.

Oriental Bay Beach
Oriental Bay Beach

First on the list of Oriental Bay’s attractions is, of course the beach. In summer, Wellingtonians are there in their thousands – swimming, sunbathing, lounging on the pontoon, or diving off it, belting balls over a net or at a wicket, strolling, running or cycling along the promenade and playing in the park. In any other season including winter they’re there too, doing the same things (except perhaps sunbathing) just in smaller numbers.

When the swimmers are not at Oriental Bay beach, you’ll find them powering up and down the lanes at the Fryberg Pool or pounding along the treadmills in its gym.

Just along from the Fryberg Pool, Oriental Bay’s  historic Port Nicholson Yacht Club, Wellington’s oldest, founded in 1902, brings salts old and young, out when the winds are fair. For those not lucky enough to get aboard, those little white sails out on the blue or those boats bobbing at their moorings in the Clyde Quay Marina is a fine sight. For aspiring yachtsmen, Port Nicolson Yacht Club also offers sailing lessons.

Of course, the seaside means ice-cream and down in Oriental Bay, you’re spoilt for choice. The world renowned Movenpick is here, along with taste of Italy at Gelissimo Gelateria. Kafee Eis, whose very name sounds deliciously cold, is famous not only for its gourmet gelati but also for its boutique coffee. At Beach Babylon, you’ll find the divine local Kapiti ice-cream which, if you’ve jetted in on Air NZ, you may have already met. Then, for a taste of old times, try the local dairy.

For dining, lunching or coffee, Oriental Bay has a wealth of restaurants and cafes. Just stroll along Oriental Parade and take your pick. Sea views are pretty much a given. However if you want to be right on the water and also steep yourself Oriental history, there are two great possibilities. Tied up, more or less alongside the Fryberg pool, is the old harbour tugboat Tapuhi II which is now dressed up and fitted out as the Tugboat on the Bay restaurant. While the menu offers a great range and the food is excellent, it’s ambience and the experience that are memorable here.  Housed in the old Band Rotunda and surrounded by the sea on three sides is the Bluewater Bar and Grill. The views here are amazing and at a window table on a cold, blustery winter’s night, you feel as if you’re at sea, (yet safe and warm behind the band rotunda’s solid concrete walls) Again, the experience does eclipse the cuisine somewhat. However, the fish was melt-in-the-mouth fresh and the salad bar offered a wide and colourful variety.

While there are several accommodation options in Oriental Bay, nothing compares, in my opinion to the unique boutique Ohtel. Tiny, arty and totally different, it occupies one of those iconic wooden Wellington villas that spill down the hills here.  The front bedrooms have views to die for with two man balconies overhanging Oriental Parade. The decor is pure kiwiana. The throws and bedcovers are in the traditional colours of Maori Art, red, black and white on grey army blankets. A feature photo on the wall shows waist-down shot of a piupiu (flax skirt) a pair of fabulous legs and an equally fabulous pair of red high heels. The ground floor lobby has a cosy fire, armchairs that invite you to curl up, a pile of magazines and window onto the parade and the sea.

Just to be in Oriental Bay, rain, wind or shine, is great for the soul. Sit on a bench or lean on the sea wall. Enjoy!

Oriental Bay is just short stroll from the city. It’s also en route from the airport!

 

Zozo, more than great cuisine

It sometimes happens in restaurants, that the choicest cuisine is completely undone by poor service, unpleasant surroundings, or a dull atmosphere. But sometimes too, the fare is completely outdone by exceptional service, fascinating surroundings or a fabulous atmosphere. And so it happened, at Rio’s Zozo, that the most  succulent churrasco and the ultimate caipirinha were almost totally eclipsed by the service, the décor and the ambiance.

Zozo
Zozo

The front windows and veranda of Zozô look out across a busy square at Praia Vermelha into the majestic profile of Pao d’Acucar. On one side is the Naval Academy and on the other the cable car station. The restaurant’s back windows and roof stare straight into a massive rock of the same rounded shape, without foothold, as Uluru and of the same grainy, grey hue as Pao d’Acucar. From the floor a tree spreads giant limbs out and up, through the roof. It pushes against the rock and throws constantly shifting shadows on the floor.

Torn between the amazing setting and the stunning view, it’s difficult to give due attention to the impeccable dishes of churrasco that appear on the table and to the team of Latin Lotharios in suits who deliver them. But it’s worth wresting the eyes away from the cinema outside the front window, the waiters, the tree and the overhanging rock to browse at the buffet which offers everything from sushi to acai na tigela. It’s worthwhile, too taking a stroll past the great tree to see the row of recessed “altars” with their statues of the Holy Family and the saints all dressed in luxurious cloth and surrounded by candles and votive offerings.

Four great Budapest cafes

Budapest is well-endowed with cafés, restaurants and fast food joints which cater for every kind of international palate. If, however, you’re looking for a true taste of Hungary, or for a place which is as interesting for its history and its décor as it is for its cuisine and its service, there are four famous Budapest establishments which you simply must visit.

The Gerbaud Coffee House
The Gerbaud Coffee House

The Hotel Astoria, on the corner of Rokoczi Ut is home to a 19th century café and restaurant with old world charm and a traditional Hungarian menu.

The New York, on Erzebet Korut, is a coffee house in the old Budapest tradition. The interior is  exquisite and as it was once the haunt of the cream of Budapest society, it has a certain class and cachet.

The Gundel restaurant on the northwestern edge of Virosliget, or City Park, near the entrance to the Zoo, was the birthplace of Pancakes à la Gundel, a confection covered in chocolate, nuts and cream which has all the elegance, and the complete disregard for calories and colesterol, of times past.

The most famous and the grandest of all of Budapest’s cafes is the Gerbaud Coffee House. Founded by Hungary’s culinary leading light, confectioner Emil Gerbaud, it has stood at number 7, Varosmarty Ter since 1858. It still offers the traditional coffee and cake enjoyed by Budapest society ladies and gentlemen in the Dual Monarchy days. Home-brewed beer is also on tap at the Gerbaud Coffee House and it is warmly received by those who come to rest here after an exhausting day’s shopping on Vaci Utca.

Mykonos, Part 3, Little Venice

DSC02654

In 1390, Mykonos became a dependency of the Venetian Republic.  During the 21 years that it remained part of Venice, the island enjoyed great prosperity. Wealthy Venetian merchants set up their businesses and built their houses, as they had on their native soil, close to at the edge of, and even over the water.

The area where they settled still survives today as Venere or little Venice, on the western coast of Mykonos. Packed with cafes, restaurants, bars and brightly coloured Venetian loggias, it is one of the island’s most touristic areas. Its night life is legendary and it is the best place on Mykonos to watch the sun go down.

Venere leans so low over the sea that from my table at the Sunset Café, I could almost dangle my hand in the water. It was a rather windswept, somewhat damp lunch, with considerable vigilance and both elbows needed to anchor the table wear, but it was well worth it for the views of both land and sea as well as the incredible parade of people passing by.