I risk losing my Wellingtonian status if I say this too loudly, so I’ll just whisper it ever so quickly, through gritted teeth, here in my little corner of the internet: I think Auckland has a better restaurant scene than Wellington. Many in the windy capital would consider that statement a serious act of treason because Wellington has always proudly proclaimed to be the culinary capital of the country but right now, I’m not so sure. The rivalry between the two cities means there will always be a battle about who is the best in anything, but after spending some more time in Auckland recently, I think it is definitely inching out in front when it comes to the food scene. It feels more vibrant, more eclectic… just more of everything!
Aucklanders are seriously spoilt for choice; cheap and cheerful, casual and cool, fancy fine dining and everything in between… you name it, they have it. And it’s not just found in the centre of town either. It goes without saying that areas like Auckland Central and Britomart are bursting at the seams with trendy eateries, but there are clusters of culinary genius in suburbs all over the place. Some are well established, others are just developing as the communities change and grow… this is what makes it so exciting! Our short visit was not supposed to be about food, I had done no research and made no plans, but somehow we still managed to eat extremely well. This is by no means a definitive list, or even a very thorough one at that… just a collection of places that impressed us on our recent visit!
I envy each and every one of you who have work offices in Zone 1. While you’re topping up your caffeine levels at one of your five local Prets or grabbing a fancy schmanchy sandwich or salad, I’m lining up for something far less appetising at a school dinners style canteen in Zone 4. You may roll your eyes at having to dart past people on your lunch break, but spare a thought for me… I look out the window and see a dire combination of carparks, grassy knolls, and geese… barely a soul in sight as there’s nothing to dart out for in this neck of the woods.
I miss the high street chains and the independent cafes, but most tragically, I miss having a decent pub round the corner from the office. For months I have stoically told myself that I didn’t care about the cheeky half pint at lunch time every now and then, that well deserved wine at the end of the day, or the customary Friday pub lunch, but then I was reminded of their restorative powers all over again when I visited The Square Pig. My envy and loathing increased, particularly towards those of you who work in or around Holborn.
If someone paid me a pound for every time I uttered the words ‘I could murder a burger’ or ‘a glass of wine would do nicely right now’, I swear I’d be a gazillionaire. Sinking my teeth into a juicy patty sandwiched between a soft bun, or sipping a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc after a long day are two wonderfully comforting experiences I often engage in. Separately. My simple food logic dictates that burgers go with beer, and wine… that goes with everything else, they just don’t go together.
Ben’s Canteen would beg to differ – they set out to challenge this simple logic of mine (and maybe yours too?!) by matching the two together. And because they obviously take their burgers and wine very seriously, they made not one but three pairings… And yes, because I am a self-proclaimed burger enthusiast, I happily tried all three.
A forecast for the slightest bit of rain over the weekend was enough to send the doom and gloomers into overdrive, proclaiming that the British summer was well and truly over! It probably is and it would be very un-British to not have a whinge about that fact, but let’s not get too down in the dumps about it… I’m going to be bold and say we had a rather good run of the sunshine and warm weather. There were a couple of false starts and unbearable heatwaves but overall, I can’t complain. We’ve spent some quality time in the deck chairs we lugged home on the tube about two years ago, and I’ve enjoyed many al fresco lunches at the office!
The only thing that stopped me from all out declaring that it was a good and proper summer was when I realised I hadn’t made the customary trip to the beach. In my humble opinion, no summer is complete without dipping at least my toes in the sea and enduring the hilarity of finding sand everywhere for weeks. If I can tick that off, then yep, this has been a goody.
If someone told me they had found a great crab restaurant in the City, I’d be double checking exactly which city they were referring to. The City as in the one in London? I’d say they were having a laugh. When I’m craving some crustaceans, I’m picturing a little beach shack and cheery fishermen, not a concrete jungle filled with stuffy offices and suits chasing their next step up the corporate ladder. But such wild claims are just calling out to be investigated and luckily for you, a certain someone and I took one for the team.
Arriving at Broadgate Circle on a Friday evening did nothing to quell my suspicions that we were on a bit of a wild goose chase. The mosh pit of City-slaves were definitely more interested in letting loose and popping open the prosecco than they were about any food, decent or otherwise. But undeterred, we sidestepped around them and made our way to Crab Tavern to see if there could possibly be a decent crab dinner to be found in the City.
If you’re planning a trip to old London-town, especially for the first time, you’ll have no doubt turned to trusty Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet just to get some ideas on what to do and see. And, if you’re anything like me on my first visit, you were more than a little overwhelmed with what popped up. There are well over a thousand ‘things to do’ listed on Tripadvisor, with over five hundred being ‘sights and landmarks’ while around three hundred are museums. Woah. I know I shouldn’t be stunned by those numbers as I know there is an almost neverending array of things to do here but still, woah.
With so many options, I was left scratching my head a little when Travelex asked me to come up with my ultimate ‘day out in London’. They gave me a handy Multi-Currency Cash Passport, $150 of my home currency (or the currency of our twangier neighbours) which converted to around £80, and told me to go wild!
Has anyone else noticed that restaurants around major train stations are usually duds? My completely unoriginal theory is that the guaranteed high footfall drives the rents up and only the big bad chains can afford to open up in those sites. Like many a weary commuter, I’ve had to succumb to their monotonous menus and eat their average food but only after I’ve checked that the WH Smith has run out of edible sandwiches, and I’m at the point where neither a bag of crisps nor a chocolate bar will carry me through. Once the hunger is gone, the seeds of regret start forming and my default position is confirmed once again; restaurants within a five minute walk from these busy train stations should be avoided. I will exercise better willpower next time, I think to myself.
So now that I’ve got that off my chest, you can probably guess what was going through my mind one Friday evening when I was figuring out how to get from the office to Counter in Vauxhall and Google maps told me it is right by the train station. Less than a five minute walk from the station, more like one. Sceptical? Yes. Intrigued? Yes. Pleasantly surprised? Also yes.