Category Archives: New Zealand

Fusion Virtuoso, very cool, very Zen, very different

I discovered Fusion Virtuoso quite by chance. As I made my way back along Wellington’s Manners Street to my hotel one Friday night a few weeks ago, this pavement blackboard  stopped me in my tracks.

Fusion Diversity
Fusion Diversity

Fusion  Diversity?  The art of thinking independently together?   – Interesting!

I followed the arrow.   Fusion Virtuoso Bar Restaurant!  The name suggested exotic dishes, unexpected blends of flavours,  imagination, creativity and flair. I glanced back at the blackboard. There were no menu specials, no prices, just that fragment of philosophy – very cool, very zen, very different.

Fusion Virtuoso is very cool, very zen and very different. It is a calm and restful place with lots of space, lots of black, lots of white and very gentle light. Pots of plants provide splashes colour.  At the front is a lounge area with comfortable chairs and low tables. To the rear there is a bar, lit with blue neon strips (Fusion Virtuoso’s colour, as it happens) and a dining area, with simple black tables and chairs.

Fusion Virtuoso
Fusion Virtuoso

Jordan was behind the bar when I arrived. His warm and friendly welcome made me feel instantly at home. He  found me the perfect table, at the back, against the wall, with a great view through the restaurant, to the street. Then he withdrew, leaving me to the menu.

The Fusion Vituoso menu is everything that the name suggests. With tastes from Europe, Asia, South America, the West Indies, the Pacific as well as Aotearoa New Zealand, it’s a mouth- watering read.  There some fabulous combinations – imagine caramelised kimchi, French duck and kumara noodles!

It took me quite some time to make my choices but Jordan did not hover or hurry me. I decided finally on the Lite Fish Salad entree. This subtle, melt-in-the-mouth tuna infused cottage cheese and tomato dish, on its bed of crisp lettuce, cucumber and soy beans, was the ideal starter. Not too little, not too much, with just enough flavour to sharpen the appetite.

Sautéed Pork, inspired by the bright lights of Tokyo
Sautéed Pork, inspired by the bright lights of Tokyo

It was an extremely hard decision but after dithering for ages between the Kimchi Duck and the Sauteed Pork, I settled on the latter. “Inspired by the bright lights of Tokyo”, this dish brings together  an amazing palette of tastes and textures – salty, juicy, tender marinated pork strips, sharp, tangy spinach, beans with the perfect crunch factor, delicately flavoured rice (two types) and, best of all, sweet Turkish apple tea sauce.  Everything had that fresh, just out of the pan, home-cooked (but in a good way!) flavour.  Not only was this dish absolutely delicious, it looked like a work of art.

I read the dessert menu avidly and was seriously tempted by the Hazlenut chocolate rolls. The crispy, sweet, spring rolls filled with hazelnut and chocolate, accompanied by ice-cream flavoured with Aotearoa’s own invention, pineapple lumps, sounded like a slice of heaven. Sadly, I could eat no more. But then, Fusion Virtuoso’s operations manager, Becky Chin, brought out two dishes filled with what looked like tiny, gleaming gold and jade jewels. They were in fact, little drops of frozen fruit juice. Although usually served as a palate cleanser, they are the perfect dessert solution for the person who is looking for a sweet, but also small, light and healthy finale.

The perfect dessert solution
The perfect dessert solution

I rarely dine alone, so when I do I want to luxuriate in the experience. Everything matters – environment, service and of course cuisine.  Fusion Virtuoso ticked the all top boxes on my solo dining list. The restaurant environment was relaxing and attractive. The service was exemplary; Jordan and Becky were friendly but not invasive, attentive but not overbearing, gracious, but not effusive and most of all, thoughtful and intuitive. The Fusion Virtuoso cuisine was a totally new, delightfully different taste experience and it was evident that thought, care and imagination had gone into sourcing, preparing and presenting it.

My one regret that night was that I didn’t sample a Fusion Virtuoso cocktail, but I think a dedicated  session might be required to fully appreciate these.

Check out www.fusionvirtuoso.co.nz and read all about the people, the philosophy and the commitments that underpin this very cool, very zen, very different Wellington restaurant.

Fusion Virtuoso, 2 Manners Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011,

Phone 04 801 6611, Mobile 021 516 889

The Spruce Goose Café – a very special Wellington place

Just over the road from Wellington’s Lyall Bay beach, backed by the weathered warehouses of Rongotai and flanked by the runway to the airport, is the Spruce Goose café.

The Spruce Goose
The Spruce Goose

The Spruce Goose’s rambling old wooden building holds a special place in Wellington’s history.  Originally it was the domestic terminal of NAC (forerunner to Air New Zealand), then, for fifty years it housed the Wellington Aero Club. Now, although opened up, pared down, painted with a marine-themed murals, furnished with bright, simple functional café tables and chairs, it still has the feel and (if you listen carefully or happen to be there in a rare quiet moment) the creaking sound of one of those iconic wooden Wellington houses.

Inside The Spruce Goose
Inside The Spruce Goose

The Spruce Goose’s interior, however, could well fade into a pleasant background blur, because the views, from here, are sensational.  On the left, planes land and launch – a heart-stopping sight in a fierce Wellington wind and a heart-lifting one on a rare still day. Out front, there’s a great sweep of sea with, always, a surfer riding, or waiting, for a wave. On the right, in the distance, are the hills, with bush and rickety wooden houses clinging to their faces or huddled in their lee.

The view from the Spruce Goose
The view from the Spruce Goose

These stunning vistas might also distract from the Spruce Goose fare, if it weren’t so good, and from the service too, if it weren’t so efficient.

When I first discovered the Spruce Goose, we were on the way to the airport to catch a plane. It was Sunday morning, the place was packed, we had a little time to spare, but none to waste. I doubted that we’d get a table but a gracious young waiter found us one immediately, by the window. We ordered coffees. They arrived minutes later and they were hot. (“So what?” you might say, but to me, when it comes to coffee, temperature matters!)  Encouraged by the coffee experience, we ordered breakfast.  It was just eggs on toast, nothing time consuming or complicated, it’s true, but given the crowd and the pressure at the time, I did expect a wait. The eggs, too, were delivered promptly. They were steaming and the toast was crisp.  The bill arrived at the wave of hand (or rather an air scribble!) Minutes later, we were on our way, satisfied and calm.

My next Spruce Goose experience was a month ago.  We had just landed at Wellington airport. It was a warm, perfect, late afternoon. Where better to enjoy those first moments back in Wellington than at the Spruce Goose, overlooking Lyall Bay?

It was quiet, the lunch crowd had long gone, and the after-workers had only just begun to trickle in. Over a rich Spruce Goose coffee, we watched the light fade on the sea. A perfect return to Wellington, in a very special place – the Spruce Goose.

 

 

There’s no place like Wellington on a good day

Flying into Wellington is always a memorable experience. On a windy day you’re tossed about like a tin can between the hills or swept across the sea, with spray slapping at your windows, then dumped on the edge of the runway and bounced along the tarmac to the terminal. Forget about the views, you’ll probably have your eyes clamped tightly shut in terror. On a calm day however, you’ll have them glued to the window, watching trees and houses glide by just beyond your wingtips, or counting the waves that roll over the rocks in the bays just below.

Lyall Bay, Wellington
Lyall Bay, Wellington

It was a perfect day when I flew into Wellington last month – windless, cloudless, clear and warm. As we floated gently to earth past Lyall Bay, where surfers idled on the glassy sea, while on the sand, after work sunbathers soaked up the last of the day’s rays, the old Wellingtonian in me stirred. I had to be down there, in that sea, on that sand, or at the very least, beside them.  Because, when it’s warm and windless that’s what Wellingtonians do, they head for the beach!

Half an hour later, I was leaning on the sea wall, gazing out towards Cook Strait, breathing in the salty air and watching a gang of schoolkids battle it out with handfuls of wet sand at the water’s edge.

Bliss! –  especially after three and a half hours confined in a plane.

There’s no place like Wellington on a good day.