January 12, 2007

Life in Welly: Food

Since I’m at least three weeks behind on our adventures here, and I have no hope of trying to remember what we did and when, I instead will attack by category. Of course I must start with the food here!

I can only believe this entire country - or at the very least, Wellington – was founded by ‘foodies’. In Wellington, there are more café’s and restaurants per capita than in New York City! And each one we have tried so far has been fabulous.

There are some basic foods that are common to most restaurants. Appetizers almost always include bread with one or several dips, often “aioli” dip. We have also seen a lot of chicken everywhere (the one food Darren will definitely not eat!), even in sushi! I don’t see how that is truly sushi, but it is very popular here. Strangely enough, they do not have the standard bar staple - chicken wings!

Due to the melting pot that is Wellington, there are several specialty restaurants here, including Turkish, Moroccan, French, Maori and Italian. There are also several different Asian restaurant - Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Japanese and of course Chinese! Indian food is incredibly popular, with at least one restaurant every two blocks. We found that several other restaurants (even the British Pub!) also have at least one Indian or Indian-themed dish. There are three or four “Irish” pubs in the CBD (Central Business District, just a fancy name for the city proper), but only one of them has true Irish food.

And while there are several different ethnic restaurants in the city, there is no “Little Italy”, “Little China” or any subdivided section. There actually seems to be no rhyme or reason to the shops at all – a restaurant could be next to a shop, which is next to a movie theater, which is next to a gym! All with businesses or apartments up above.

Almost all of the pizza here is gourmet. Places like One Red Dog and Hell Pizza are quite popular. Dominos is here too, and trying desperately to break into the gourmet market…I really think they should just stick to basic pizza, as there are enough tourists to keep them in business. But mostly because...eh…yuck. The gourmet pizza is amazing, but there are times we just want a regular (inexpensive) deep dish cheese and pepperoni pizza…

Oh, how could I forget the desserts and ice cream? I have never tasted such amazing ice cream – I hear it is due to the quality of cows and milk here. Many places have dipped cones, much like I had as a child at Dairy Queen. Every flavor is yummy and very dangerous! A typical Kiwi dessert is “pavlova”, which is meringue. We haven’t tried it yet (we’ll certainly update you when we do). The candy bars here are also extra evil – many have several layers of chocolate and caramel and marshmallow or cookies….there is even a Caramel Kit Kat! I seriously don’t know how so many people here are in fantastic shape. Do they work out to be able to eat this food? Or work out because they ate this stuff?

The prices are similar to the US for the most part (except for McDonald’s and Burger King, which are more expensive). Water is always free, and typically servers will give you a bottle filled with tap/filtered water for the table. In casual restaurants, there is usually a pitcher of water somewhere in the main seating area so that you can serve yourself. The best part is the price you see on the menu is exactly what you will pay – tax is already included, and there is no compulsory tipping. I understand it is becoming more popular for higher-end restaurants or excellent service, but even then it’s approximately 10%. At the end of the meal, either the check is brought to the table and you pay at the door (like Bob Evans) or you simply go up to the cashier and point to your table or describe the items you ordered and pay. Also, many restaurants give you a 10% discount if you get take-out!

Bars and restaurants are open until “late” – which can mean as early as 8 pm if business is slow, or at late as 11pm…1 am…3 am?

So far we have tried and fallen in love with a Turkish place, The Harem,

and a Moroccan place, Medina.
The Harem has incredible theming inside and out, with a staircase reminiscent of a cave leading up to the restaurant. The spanikopita is by far the best I’ve ever had!
Medina is not as elaborate, but the owners (Tony – Moroccan, and Linda – Kiwi) are super nice and declared us to be friends the first time we ate there. It was a slow night, and once they learned we are from Maryland, they were incredibly generous with food, drink and conversation. Tony and Linda met in Florida when he was running a hostel, and she was on holiday. They came back here to live due to her family, and decided to open the restaurant. We have already invited each other to future parties and holidays!


Katybug236 said...

Loving the name AbraKEBOBra! I can't stop saying it! AbraKEBOBra! AbraKEBOBra!
Now that Bryce is asking me if I'm ok I think I'd better stop....


Michele said...

Nah, you would've had better spanikopita if you would've let us take you to that Greek place (Samos) when you were here.


Jude said...

I can vouch for the pavlova! We had some at our Maori hangi, and I liked it so much, I had a second helping. Once I realized that it was a Kiwi specialty (or at least very common in NZ), I was determined to have it again, and I did, for dessert on our wedding night. If you are a sugar fiend, it's pure heaven.