Sydney, Wednesday 12/4/13, Lunch at Manly Ocean Foods
My friend from Australia couldn’t remember the name of this place, but she strongly urged me to take the ferry from Circular Quay (that’s “Key”, not “Kway”) to Manly Beach and walk down the mall to find her favorite spot for fish & chips. Via Facebook Messenger, I sent her pictures and she guided me the next few steps until she finally spotted Manly Ocean Foods. It was lots of fun to snack on the local fare while hanging out on the beach watching the surfers. Great Australian experience, scenic ferry ride included.
Sydney, Wednesday 12/4/13, Dinner at Peter Doyle’s
The location at Circular Quay is now closed, but there are still other Peter Doyle’s around. It’s too bad though because it had fantastic views. We shared the Doyle’s Fishermans Platter – Hot & Cold: Whole Lobster Mornay, Blue Swimmer Crabs or Bugs (subject to availability), House Smoked Salmon, King Prawns, Golden Fried Fish Fillets, Salt & Pepper Calamari & Own Stuffed Jumbo Prawns (contains bacon), Natural Oysters & Mussels. I think in general though, there were more interesting places in The Rocks.
Sydney, Friday 12/6/13, Dinner at Cyren
My Australian colleague joined us for dinner this night and we ended up at Cyren in Darling Harbour. I ordered the burger, which I was told was prepared in the classic Australian style: Chargrilled Wagyu Beef Burger – tomato, lettuce, sliced beetroot & cheese, served with chips. The beets were what made it Australian, though the truly proper way apparently also includes a fried egg and bacon. I’m not a huge fan of beets, but this changed my mind. The beets just made the burger taste rarer than it already was. I since recreated this at home with the egg and bacon, which was awesome. The beets just balanced the extra richness added by the egg and bacon. Yum.
Adelaide (McLaren Vale), Thursday 12/12/13, Lunch at D’Arenberg
After getting our work done in the morning, my “chaperone” took me to McLaren Vale for a tour of cellar doors. We stopped first at D’Arenberg so we could get lunch at their exclusive d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant. We shared the Sweet Breads, and I got the Lobster Bisque, Duck, and a glass of 2008 Ironstone Pressings (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre). The wine was amazing and paired perfectly with the duck. Definitely recommend. We also stopped by Wirra Wirra and Samuel’s Gorge. I loved the sparkling shiraz at Samuel’s Gorge and even purchased a bottle to bring home. And to boot, wine tastings are all free in Australia. It was a perfect way to top off my first trip to Australia.
Sydney, Saturday 5/23/2015, Drinks at Lord Nelson Brewery
For our first night on our trip, we stayed in The Rocks. I found a pub crawl on this site and thought we could check out Lord Nelson Brewery and see where things went from there. We ended up liking the place so much that we just stuck around. Both beers we had were great.
- Victory Bitter – 5.0% alc/vol. British Pale Ale, On Tap, Malty with caramel overtones generously hopped for a spicy bitter finish. Beautiful British style ale.
- Old Admiral – 6.1% alc/vol. Old Ale , On Tap & 330ml Bottles, Strong full bodied and malt driven serious ale with plenty of flavour.
Queenstown, Sunday 5/24/2015, Dinner at Public Kitchen and Bar
For our first night in Queenstown, we spotted this Public Kitchen and Bar which looked warm and inviting. We got the cheese rolls, a classic from the good ole South, which were basically giant fried mozzarella sticks. I got the baked rack of lamb w rough mint pesto which I enjoyed thoroughly because when in New Zealand, you’ll be surrounded by lamb. My friend chose the big bowl of steamed green lip mussels & Southern clams, white wine, lemon & parsley. The mussels were gigantic, and looked pretty tasty.
Queenstown, Monday 5/25/2015, Brunch at Ivy & Lola’s Kitchen & Bar
I found Ivy and Lola’s when looking for a brunch spot after our morning tour got cancelled due to snow and we had hours to wait around to see if we could make it on the afternoon tour. I opted for the Smoked fish with traditional bubble and squeak with bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. My friend chose the Smoked potato and feta croquette with poached eggs, baby spinach and roast mushrooms served on toasted brioche with hollandaise sauce and a side of bacon. I loved the bubble and squeak (had to ask the waitress what this was). The fish was a bit on the salty side, but altogether with the poached eggs and bubble and squeak was great and made me feel like I was getting a good New Zealand experience.
Queenstown, Monday 5/25/2015, Dinner at @Thai Restaurant
At the end of a cold and snowy day in Queenstown, we were really in the mood for Thai. Looking at ratings/reviews, @Thai popped up. I had a nice hot bowl of Thai wonton soup, and we shared green curry chicken and pad thai. I was actually really impressed by the flavor and authenticity. We even considered returning for a second visit on our trip.
Queenstown, Tuesday 5/26/2015, Food on the Go
Just had to mention this one. Not even sure where we were, since it was a brief stop on our day-long bus tour for the Milford Sound. We found a random market somewhere and spotted these toasties in the back. Had to try one. It tasted about how it looked – like Franco American canned spaghetti on an English muffin with cheese melted on top. It was comfort food to an amazing extreme.
Queenstown, Wednesday 5/27/2015, Dinner at Fergburger
We kept seeing long lines outside of Fergburger. Clearly hyped up a lot, I decided to check it out at a slightly off-hour time to avoid the ridiculously long lines. I opted for the Sweet Bambi – Wild Fiordland Deer with a Thai plum chutney, lettuce, tomato, red onion & aioli. It was pretty good after a long day and huge – seemed like it was the size of my head. I don’t think I would wait in the super long lines for it though, especially with some of the other options around without a ridiculous wait.
Queenstown, Thursday 5/28/2015, Lunch at Vudu Café
Vudu Cafe was another recommendation through my Australian friend. My traveling companion chose the pasta of the day. I got the soup bowl (broccoli blue cheese) and pulled pork soft taco (avocado salsa, refried black beans, BBQ chipotle, lime & coriander). The soup was not as exciting as it sounded, but it was nice to have something warm on the cold day. The taco was delicious, if a bit messy to eat. Great spot for lunch!
Queenstown, Thursday 5/28/2015, Dinner at The Bunker
Tucked away down a strange L-shaped nondescript alley in Queenstown, it would be easy to never realize that The Bunker even exists. The only reason we found it was because it came highly recommended by a friend of a friend who lived in Queenstown for a number of years. They are only open for dinner, which we discovered when we tried to stop in a couple hours before dinner to see if we could sneak in a last minute reservation. The manager saw us poking around the window and warmly welcomed us in when we said we wanted to make a reservation, and she was able to work us in right at opening. We were both so happy we were able to work this in on a whim because it ended up being by far the best restaurant we went to on this trip. We both made choices off their “Taste of the South” tasting menu.
- Amuse Bouche – Duck liver pate with Deutz Prestige (Marlborough).
- First Courses – Canterbury (Sichuan peppered Angus Pure beef tartare with caramelized onion puree, quail egg yolk, and pomme frites) with Terra Sancta Pinot Noir Rose (Central Otago) and Stewart Island (South Coast Scampi with pulled pork and prawn risoni puttanesca, salsa verde and micro coriander) with Cloudy Bay Pinot Gris (Marlborough)
- Second Course – Southland (Loin and braised leg of Southland hare with kumara fondants, caramelized kiwifruit and port wine jus) with Mondillo Pinot Noir (Central Otago) and raspberry sorbet palate cleanser
- Third Courses – Otago (seared backstrap and braised shoulder of Otago alpine merno with noisette potatoes, caramelized carrot puree, minted broad bean salsa and thyme jus)) with Church Road Reserve Merlot Cabernet (Hawke’s Bay) and Stewart Island (Steward Island Salmon fillet with smoked paprika pimento puree, crispy prawn cakes, smoked salmon salad and lime gel) with Amisfield Dry Riesling (Central Otago)
- Dessert Courses – Cromwell (Central Otago manuka honey and saffron creme brulee with citrus salsa and pistachio biscotti) with Wooing Tree ‘Tickled Pink’ Dessert Rosé (Central Otago) and Oamaru (Duo of Whitestone cheese with fresh honeycomb and crackers) with Milton July Muscat (Gisborne)
The hare was amazing in both preparations, and it was definitely the best lamb I had on the trip, which is saying something, since it’s everywhere in New Zealand. What really stood out to me was the wine pairings. I previously wasn’t that big on New Zealand wine and thought it was all the typical grassy Sauv Blanc. This totally changed my perception, though – the wine pairings were perfect, and I was impressed each time at the synergy. The price wasn’t out of the question either ($99 for food only or $159 with wine). I would strongly recommend this place to anyone who goes to Queenstown.
Auckland, Friday 5/29/2015, Drinks at Imperial Lane
The Imperial Lane stood out to us as we were walking down one of the alley/streets looking for a place to stop for a drink. The place is open to the street and has a café/bar atmosphere. There weren’t many options for beer, so we enjoyed a couple of ciders instead. As we were leaving, they were setting up for some live music, too.
Tongariro, Saturday 5/30/2015 and Sunday 5/31/2015, Dinners at Tongariro Adventures BnB
After a 6.5hr long bus early morning bus ride, we were taken for a quick grocery run to buy supplies for our hike before checking into our AirBnB (book through their website for better pricing). This was the dinner that was prepared for us! Started with cappuccino and cheese platter. The main was a beautiful slow-simmered ragu. I loved the nutmeg in it, which gave it a nice earthiness. So lovely to have a great home-cooked meal after all the eating out! After our full day winter alpine trek they served up chicken with a lovely sweet local honey and I think orange marmalade glaze, potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin with this decadent chocolate cake for dessert.
Auckland, Monday 6/1/2015, Dinner at The Depot Eatery
On the recommendation of our Tongariro AirBnB host, we checked out The Depot Eatery, one of Chef Al Brown’s restaurants which was named Metro – Restaurant of the Year 2015. My friend and I shared the snapper sliders, fish tacos, gnocchi, and Brussels sprouts. The sliders were decent if a little dry, and the fish tacos were good but slightly bland. I’m generally not a fan of gnocchi and the huge size of these didn’t help, but my friend seemed to enjoy them. The best part was the Brussels sprouts.
Sydney, Tuesday 6/2/2015, Lunch at Sydney Fish Market Cafe
Another recommendation from my friend, the Sydney Fish Market was pretty impressive. Packed full of vendors selling fresh and prepared seafood and tables full of people chowing down on gigantic platters. We opted for an order of Fish & Chips and ½ Fresh Mixed Seafood Platter with prawns, lobster, and oysters from the Fish Market Café. This was plenty of food for us. I’m sure the hot platter would have been delicious, but we needed something a little lighter to balance out the fish and chips.
Sydney, Tuesday 6/2/2015, Dinner at Sydney Madang
Because you can only have so many fish and chips… Korean BBQ! I ordered us the Ansim Gui (beef tenderloin) and Sam Gyup Sal (sliced pork belly) with So Go Gi Jabchae (stir-fried starch noodles with beef) and Twigim Mandoo (fried dumplings). The meat was a bit thick for my taste. I usually like the shabu shabu style meats. My friend had never had Korean BBQ before though and Sydney Madang was well rated on Yelp. The mandu and japchae were pretty good, but it’s hard to go wrong with either of those.
Sydney, Wednesday 6/3/2015, Lunch at Bucket List
The Bucket List was listed in one of the travel pieces from The Independent, 48 Hours in Sydney (similar to the “36 hours in” series from NYT). The Chipotle Fish Taco (pico de gallo, cabbage, guacamole, chipotle mayo) was delicious! The Poblano Pork Burger (slow roast bbq pork, avocado, mayo, cheese, pickled chilli, coriander, chips) was solid, and I was jealous of (not pictured) Aruna’s mussels with dill, tomato sauce, and couscous. Strongly recommend this stop after the Coogee to Bondi coastal path, also mentioned in the article.
Sydney, Wednesday 6/3/2015, Dinner at Gourmet Pizza Kitchen
Went in search of one of the GPKs at the recommendation of a friend. We ended up getting here pretty late and they were close to closing, but they still let us in. The place was pretty empty, but the staff was friendly. We split the Mediterranean salad (mixed lettuce, olives, fetta cheese, capers, red onions, cherry tomatoes & cucumber tossed in a vinaigrette dressing). My friend ordered the Baghdad (fresh capsicum, char-grilled eggplant, mushrooms & roasted garlic served on GPK’s tomato sauce, topped with shaved parmesan & fresh parsley) and I ordered the Morocco (finely sliced beef fillets marinated with Moroccan spices, fetta cheese, semi dried tomatoes & char-grilled eggplant served on GPK’s tomato sauce, topped with herbed yoghurt, fresh parsley & a wedge of lemon). There was way too much yoghurt on the pizza, and the meat was too thick and hard to eat on a pizza. Probably should have just gotten a more standard pizza, but all the interesting combinations of toppings drew me in.