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Category: New Zealand

Eat Local In New Zealand

There is an abundance of fine food being grown, harvested, made, prepared and served in New Zealand. Although the country doesn’t quite shout a distinctive local dish, the secret to…

There is an abundance of fine food being grown, harvested, made, prepared and served in New Zealand. Although the country doesn’t quite shout a distinctive local dish, the secret to good food in New Zealand is in the quality of its produce. The country is awash with the freshest ingredients; grass fed beef, succulent lamb, fresh-off-the-sea oysters and paua, organic veggies from local farmers markets and rich dairy products like cheese.

With ingredients like this, how could the restaurants not be good? The best places to eat in New Zealand are casual and unpretentious. They are often nestled within small towns. Service is friendly rather than formal. Most importantly, they know where the ingredients come from and they treat them well – and that makes a winning combination.

Here are my selections of great eats and I’m sure there are joints that I haven’t pounced on yet. Maybe on my next visit there. Unfortunately I don’t have photos to go with all of them. Admittedly, I was too hungry and wolfed down my meal before my Iphone camera had a go at it.

In Auckland – Occidental Belgian Bar
Not the perfect location to dine with a baby, but I couldn’t resist the rave on the steamed green-lipped mussels at this place! We (hubs and I) were served a massive bowl of fleshy, succulent mussels steamed in a white wine sauce. It felt like a never ending attempt to reach the bottom of the bowl, but we eventually did and nearly passed out on a mussel-coma!
If you like history and dated architecture, you’d love the interior décor at Occidental. It was once the finest hotel in Auckland. Its vintage interior decor of wooden floors, wooden walls, leather-clad booths with warm lighting is a reminder of its rich history. Located on the character-rich pedestrian Vulcan Lane, between Queen Street and High Street, the bar is easy to get to and makes for a great stroll around after a meal.

Auckland_Occidental

In Christchurch – Dimitris Greek Food
What’s good here? The souvlaki. Packed with just chicken or lamb or both, the thick pita bread wraps like a cone and is stuffed with juicy, well-spiced meat along with tomatoes, lettuce, tomato and chilli sauce and awesome Greek yoghurt. Eating the souvlaki is a messy affair if you choose to wallop it whole. That’s why they give you a fork to pick out the filling.

Christchurch_Souvlaki

In Queenstown – Johnny Barr’s Sandwich Place
Healthy, filling and very tasty! Johnny Barr serves gourmet sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups and a great selection of smoothies. In busy and thriving Queenstown, finding affordable and healthy food is quite a challenge. We ordered the Thai Beef Salad, a hearty salad packed with greens and a good portion of thinly sliced beef drizzled with spicy sweet Thai dressing and the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich came loaded with grilled beef, onions, mushroom and capsicum and sealed with a layer of cheese at the top. The casual setting at the restaurant is great for catch ups and I also saw customers ordering take away – obviously not a bad idea to sit by the waterfront just round the corner while enjoying delicious sandwiches. We ended up sitting in since there was free wifi!

JOhnny Barr

In Dunedin – Rob Roy Ice Cream
A happy place not just for children! We first spotted people walking pass us with scoops of ice cream heaped on tiny cone. It was a cold and blustery summer evening, but we just had to have it. The old-fashioned dairy shares a shoplot with convenience store and it’s a local favourite serving rich, creamy and delicious ice cream, milk shakes and frozen yoghurt. Its walls are plastered with ‘flower power’ wallpaper from the 60s and the floors are covered with black and white checkered vinyl. The dairy also seemed to have kept its prices as is. We paid $2.80 for a single serve and it came heaping with two massive scoops of ice cream in two flavours.

Dunedin_RobRoy Icecreamry

In Dunedin – Cadbury Factory
Every chocolate lover’s dream-come-true! The smell of sweet cocoa wharfs over you the minute you walk pass its sliding doors and linger in the fabric of your clothes. For $22, you get to immerse yourself in everything chocolate and see the labour of love that goes into making the world’s most consumed dessert. Plus, you get freebies along the way. The best part is watching 1-tonne of liquid chocolate gushing down five stories into a metal cauldron. The experience is jaw-dropping and better still, we were served a cup of rich glossy, thick liquid chocolate at the end of the tour. If only Cadbury sold the liquid gold on the shelves…

Dunedine_Cabdury Factory

All around New Zealand – Lone Star
American Red Indian inspired, Lone Star (LS) is a chain of restaurants across NZ. They are famed for their Redneck campfire stacked ribs and the dish is not for the faint hearted. The menu writes “Porky pigs’ ribs blanched in honey & spices, blasted in the Lone Star fire, piled high then smothered in our famous hoisin, orange & sesame seed sauce, served with buffalo chips & coleslaw”. Seriously… who can resist that? The waiters at LS are super attentive and friendly and the experience of dining at LS is like eating at a local diner, even though it’s a chain.
Freebie tip: Go to their website and Grab a Meal. Free stuff, mostly starters at selected outlets.

Lonestar_Ribs

In Oamaru – Whitestone Cheese
Oh my, I love cheese! Whitestone produces award winning artisan cheeses made with 100% natural ingredients. The factory at the back has a viewing platform where you can watch barrels of cheese doing its work – maturing. The café is known for its tasting platter that’s priced at $5 and $10 and they have a selection of deli favourites. We ordered the cheese scone served with Whitestone’s creamy butter and a tasting platter for lunch and was satisfied to the brim.
Whitestone derived its name from the natural ancient limestone in Oamaru and the same limestone is seen in the Victorian buildings around the town.

Oamaru_Whitestone Cheese SconeOamaru_Whitestone Cheese

In Hampden, onward to Moeraki Boulders from Oamaru– Lockies Fish and Chips
Apparently the best fish and chips in New Zealand, so said some locals… Lockies Fish and Chips is located just outside of Oamaru, towards the famous Moeraki Boulders. The purple fencing around the building is hard to miss. The fish is fresh and the batter is light and be sure to order the blue cod as it makes all the difference. The location makes for a perfect stopover for a picnic lunch takeaway and enjoy it on the beach.

lockies fish and chips

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30-Day New Zealand Roadtrip In A Spaceship

Compact, comfortable, cozy and convenient, that was our home on wheels for one month in New Zealand’s south island. To top it off, our ride had a pretty cool name…

Compact, comfortable, cozy and convenient, that was our home on wheels for one month in New Zealand’s south island. To top it off, our ride had a pretty cool name to go with it, “Stormtrooper” to be exact. This new concept of Spaceships on the road, essentially a modified MPV was totally foreign to us. We’ve heard of chunky caravans fully equipped with kitchenettes, a bed, sitting area and a roof tall enough for an adult to stand upright in the vehicle. Spaceships seemed a bit far fetch when it promised all the features of a caravan intelligently fitted into a drivable, easy to manuever, non-threatening, lady driver friendly MPV.

Spaceships (3)

We drove “Stormtrooper” for a whole month around the South Island, starting at Christchurch moving north to Kaikoura, Nelson, covering the west coast stretch stopping in Frank Josef, into busy Queenstown, all the way down south to Invercargill and Bluff, then back up to gorgeous Mount Cook before bidding farewell to our trusty ride back in Christchurch.

We travelled with our baby son, Seth throughout the trip and so when it came to choosing the ideal vehicle for sleep and travel, safety was of utmost importance. “Stormtrooper” came fitted with a baby seat, upon request and a small additional charge. It was snug, easy to clean and very secure. Additionally, the MPV had many compartments for diapers and other baby gear and curtains to block the sun out when Seth was having his morning and afternoon naps. The spacious luggage storage at the back of the vehicle was also big enough for us to put away a medium-size trolley bag, a 60-litre backpack and other baby paraphernalia, and still had extra space for at least one more bag.

Spaceships (2)

Cooking was a breeze. “Stormtrooper” came equipped with a full set of kitchen utensils including a pot, pan, chopping board, knives, cutlery, plates, bowls and detergent and sponge for washing. It also came with a portable stove and a gas canister but we barely used the stove since most campsites where we parked for the night also offered basic kitchen facilities minus the utensils. The Spaceship has a small fridge fitted in and we were able to store raw ingredients for cooking whenever, wherever. The kitchen gears are neatly packed into two box compartments under the bed and you won’t even guess it was there if you peered into the vehicle!

Spaceships (18)

Comfort was essential since we rented the vehicle for a month. Being Asian, we reckoned any queen-size bed would fit us, two adults and a baby, snugly. The bed in our Spaceship stretched out nicely and sleeping came with two options, indoors – inside the car or outdoors – with an extension of the bed stretching out of the booth with a cover over it. The outdoor option was perfect for warmer nights and the outdoor cover has two windows with a protective mesh to keep the insects at bay. Since it was summer, we could try both options, and both were equally comfortable. We never woke up with any cramps or backaches despite Seth sleeping between us.

Spaceships (1)Spaceship interior

The best and most sensible feature of the Spaceship was its cost effectiveness. Renting the MPV trimmed our budget significantly. It’s not a fuel guzzler and takes just about the same amount of fuel as a sedan. It gave us the option of cooking our meals and reduced our accommodation costs. We still had to pay camping fees, but it was a fraction compared to paying for a hotel room. Plus, all campsites in New Zealand are very well run and maintain with basic comforts such as hot showers, shared lounges, basic kitchen facilities and laundry rooms. Although we didn’t sleep in our “Stormtrooper” for the whole month, we spent 20 nights in the car and every few days we took a break, gave ourselves a treat and booked into a hotel or B&B.

Also since it was summer, hotel rooms were often fully booked and if it weren’t for our Spaceship, we would have to worry about securing a place to stay way ahead of time. We love the freedom that our ‘home on wheels’ gave us.

Spaceships was more than a cool modified MPV, it was a community. We had the thrill of waving at other Spaceships and receiving reciprocal waves back when driving on the road. The feeling was mutual, kind of like seeing another family member on the road. There wasn’t any need for formal introduction or awkward handshakes. We naturally made friends, swapped DVDs and exchanged stories of road tripping in beautiful New Zealand.

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If I Had Wings I Could fly!

The drive from Rotorua to Taupo was a buffer to calm our nerves for what’s to come. We had called to book us slots to dive from 12000ft from an…

The drive from Rotorua to Taupo was a buffer to calm our nerves for what’s to come. We had called to book us slots to dive from 12000ft from an airplane – yes! it’s sky diving. Given the fact that a professional will practically do most of the work whilst you are strapped onto to him doesn’t discount the fact that it’s pretty darn high to be plunging down.

We chose Taupo Tandem Sky Dive as our operator and paid NZ$219 each. They got us geared up in long red jumpers, harness, belts, sky beanies and eye shields. Wasting no time at all they walked us through some simple instructions and ushered us into the jet plane with our professional divers. Positioned steadily on the run way was a tiny little jet plane with a flimsy looking see through sliding door that opened up for our entry. About 10 of us piled into that plane and the door casually shut.

Skydiving at Taupo (5)Skydiving at Taupo (4)Skydiving at Taupo (9) Skydiving at Taupo (7)

At 8000ft my heart was already beating like crazy. I couldn’t hold onto Terence’s hands since he was way at the back. I later found out that he was also trying to psyche himself for the jump! At 11000ft, I was thinking to myself “I gotta be crazy, is there a chance for me to change my mind?” Too late, my diver (Patrik) whispered into my ear “This is it, are you ready?” He gave me some final instructions and signaled me to move towards the door. Within seconds my camera man (a hired diver) motioned a thumbs up and we were OUT! *Silence* Then it was screams all the way as I felt my heart leap out of my body and I was just falling. The camera man in front of me made me do silly gestures, made me smile at the camera and wiggle my fingers – all I could think of was, I need to fall in style, so this is my only chance!

Skydiving at Taupo (12)Skydiving at Taupo (11)

At 5000ft the parachute was released and instantly from a horizontal position we were flung back up into an instant vertical position. It was no longer flying because I felt we were flying. The parachute looked immense as it towered over us, Patrik glided us above the waters then onto the mountains, he made a 360 degree swoop around showing off Taupo’s stunning scenery. Everything looked so small from above, the cars looked like toys, even the jet plane looked puny. As we glided onto the runway, the parachute gently rested us back on land. Terence came gliding in a few seconds later with a pure surge of adrenaline written over his face. We were ecstatic and still in awe at the madness we put ourselves through just to see NZ at a different perspective.

Skydiving at Taupo (1)Skydiving at Taupo (10)

Worth every penny paid?! Absolutely! We’ve got photos and a DVD to refresh our memory of that moment where we allowed ourselves to fly!

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