Charley Noble Wellington – Delicious Dining in the Capital

If you’re looking to enjoy world-class dining with quality New Zealand produce while you’re in the Land of the Long White Cloud, then you’re in luck. Charley Noble in Wellington has long held a reputation for being one of the best restaurants around and if my dining experience was anything to go by, it certainly holds up to its name.

We chose to sit at the bar for lunch for a bit more of an entertaining experience, watching the chefs expertly prepare the meals. I would absolutely chose to sit there again, I may have even picked up a few new chopping techniques!

We explored the menu and soon called over Justyna to help us choose – everything looked good. She pointed out a few items (some I would never have chosen without her suggestions) and we put together a few complimentary plates.

To start, we ordered the market ceviche, venison carpaccio and the pig’s tail salad. Yes, you read that correctly, the pig’s tail salad! Right there is one of the menu items I would have never chosen without Justyna’s influence. It is not what you would expect, well it wasn’t what I expected! Mandarin provided a perfect burst of sweetness contrasting the texture and taste of the crunchy pig’s tail (almost like crackling) and slightly acidic dressing. I highly recommend giving it a try.

The market fish ceviche was beautiful and light, with a lovely orange flavouring and delicious sweet and spicy candied chillies! The candies chillies were a first for me and I was both surprised and delighted with their flavour and texture – slightly crunchy, still with a nice chilli bite but also sweet from the sugar.

The venison carpaccio was a classic dish, well delivered. Quality, fresh local produce. The meat literally melts in your mouth. Must try.

The Charley Noble somelier, Jordan, was very knowledgeable and personable – my favourite! He perfectly matched my wine (Colere Pinot Gris – Pinot Blanc from Marlborough) with my entrees so that it didn’t clash with the candied chilli in the ceviche. The wine was lovely and oak-y, aged four years. Beautiful pairing to bring out the flavours.

For my main wine pairing I sampled two reds, ultimately going with a Waipara Pinot Noir from Greystone. Jordan said that particular wine is very popular, he can pair it with almost anything.

Again, Justyna was called in to help us chose our mains. We went with the super juicy and flavoursome house made pork sausages with had some wonderfully charred radiccio and pears to accompany them. The meat is sourced from the Wellington region and always free range. We couldn’t go past the risotto with zucchini, pecorino, house pesto and smoked baby tomato. Full of flavours and still quite light. Finally, we chose a side of eggplant, zucchini, parmesan and mozzarella bake, which as you can imagine was cheesy greatness.

On my next trip to Charley Noble I’d like to try their fish of the day. When I visited, snapper was sitting pretty on ice, sustainably caught, in the restaurant within a few hours. Actually, my list to try next time is quite large. There is the fire grilled cauliflower steak (looked amazing), anything from the woodfired rotisserie (dinner only) and their steaks are legendary. Can you see why I had so much trouble choosing what to eat?!

You’d think I would have no room left, but I couldn’t miss out on dessert! To sample some of everything I went with the petit fours. I loved the fluffy marshmallow with raspberry. The yoghurt panna cotta with crunchy ginger snap and caramelised pineapple was absolutely suburb, but the winner for me was the peanut butter and chocolate bar. I washed these down with a Passage Rock late harvest Cabernet from Waiheke. It was silkier than a port but still sweet in flavour, without being overbearing.

Amazing food, knowledgeable staff, lunch with a show, fantastic local wines, I was in a happy place.

Side note – I also wish I had tried the house made pasta. I was daydreaming watching the Chef making the pasta, when a waiter came over and asked me if I was done. I was so mesmerised that I nearly jumped out of my chair! The poor guy got such a surprise. Ha!

Charley Noble Eatery & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*While this dining experience was complimentary, this review is true and authentic. I will be back at Charley Noble on every trip to Wellington that I have an opportunity. And I’m starting with the pasta!

What Food & Drink You Must Try In New Zealand

That’s right, what food and drink, not where! If I was sharing restaurants, we would be here a VERY long time. If you’re visiting New Zealand and want to try some typical Kiwi foods that are unique to Aotearoa, give these a try!

  • Charlie’s Feijoa Fizz
    I just found this bad boy today, it’s delicious and fresh without being overpoweringly Feijoa-y or too sweet. Try Feijoa anything really, it’s a native New Zealand fruit, both sweet and sour.
  • L&P
    The classic fizzy drink from New Zealand, Lemon and Paeroa is a taste sensation. Created in none other than its namesake, Paeroa and now manufactured by Coca-Cola.
  • Fish & Chips
    Best enjoyed on the beach, New Zealand are well known for their fish and chips, beautifully fresh and usually wrapped in newspaper!
  • Double cheese Sizzlers
    Don’t judge me. I know what you’re thinking. They’re not even totally meat! But damn are they delicious! These super processed sausages have cheese oozing out of them and are especially delicious. They’re enjoyed at BBQ’s all over New Zealand and are great for breakfast too! I blame these for majority of my weight gain on every visit to NZ.
  • Venison and Kiwi Lamb
    Kiwi venison and lamb are succulent and more flavoursome than other countries. Don’t believe me? Try them and then let me know. That’s why Kiwi lamb drives such extreme prices overseas.
    – My dad piped in at this point to let us all know that people are switching back to hogget as it has more flavour… thanks Dad!
  • New Zealand Wine
    I feel like this is so obvious it should even make this list. I love a good Haha red wine, Ata Rangi Pinot Noir and apparently the Kiwi Sav Blanc’s are amazing. I cannot attest to this, I’m not a fan of white wine. If you’re heading to Martinborough to taste test, check out my blog on where you should visit!
  • Confectionery from the Dairy
    What’s a Dairy you ask? It’s the local cornerstone. They have ice creams and essentials and usually magazines and crap you might want when you can’t be bothered going to the supermarket or feel like a treat. Anyway, the food: Squiggles biscuits, Twisties (yes they are different and more delicious than the Australian ones), Rashuns, Buzz Bars & Chocolate Fish.
  • Tui Beer
    Now well known for their wicked advertising campaigns, check THIS out, Tui beer is still one of the most consumed beers in New Zealand. It’s a refreshing lager, perfect for a sunny day!
  • The Original Kiwi Dip
    This is a funny one but very well known and at almost every New Zealand get-together. You buy a Maggi onion dip mix and mix it with reduced cream (comes in a can), you can add a squeeze of lemon or some vinegar to stop it browning and give it a little snap. It’s delicious with chips, celery or carrots…. mmm I might make some now, actually.
  • Bacon & Egg Pie
    Any great Kiwi bakery willhave their take on the bacon and egg pie. These can either have whole egg or scrambled egg with bacon (and sometime, cheese, onion, tomato) in a flaky puff pastry case. Not to be confused with a quiche, these are great for breakfast when you’re short on time. I was shocked recently when buying a bacon and egg pie in Australia and I took a big bite only to find that was filled with mince meat too!! Why??? So unnecessary.

Of course there’s Hangi’s (harder to come across, a local might be able to help you out or maybe at a market or tourist attraction), fantastic steaks, epic seafood, pinky’s (little pink lollies), Kapiti cheese, pavlova with Kiwifruit and a wheelbarrow full of other items but that’s a great start.

Did I miss anything? Comment and let me know what!

Best NZ Day Trips: Martinborough Vineyards

Why is it one of the best NZ day trips? Well first of all, there’s wine. Do I really need to keep going?

Okay fine, so there’s also great views, excellent food and a whole heap of fun to be had exploring! If you’re looking for a fun day trip around the lower north island of New Zealand than this should be a high contender.

We hired bikes from Green Jersey Cycle Tours (random name, don’t you think?) and the ten of us jumped on approx 11am. The vineyards are just a few minutes bike ride away and you pass one approx every four minutes or so as you cycle the outskirts of the Martinborough township.

We started at Schubert (an excellent place to start) before heading to Ata Rangi, Tirohana Estate (couldn’t fit us in), Poppies Martinborough, Margrain Vineyard for platters and then back to Poppies for platters. Tastings are approx $5 for five wines and generally if you buy a bottle you don’t pay.

My favourite wines were Schubert and Poppies. Schubert was very professional, lovely wines and great explanation of the varietals. Poppies was bursting with energy, Shayne (winemaker’s husband) provided unique and fun insights into each wine and most importantly the wine was delicious. I enjoyed the Pinot Noir and the Rose as well as most of the others. They had already sold out of a few of the varietals, it’s a popular place! Their platters are infamous so we made our way back there after lunch for a platter and I couldn’t resist the truffle cheese too! I’m a sucker for truffle anything. And a sucker for cheese. And wine… you get the point!

Margrain Vineyard venue was lovely with beautiful grounds. They were busy during the tastings and rushed through. I would suggest going when they’re quiet and doing the five wines tasting.

The bikes Green Jersey Cycle  were so much fun! They’re cute with little baskets at the front to store your goods, and they even had a free wine pick up service! Anddd you could choose which colour bike you’d like. I loved riding around with my friends, it was such a beautiful day too. Plus you don’t have to worry about driving or getting to each vineyard. The locals are obviously used to the bikes and keep a wide berth on the road.

If there’s a large group of you and you have your heart set on a certain winery or somewhere for lunch, I do recommend making a booking. We struggled to find somewhere that could fit the ten of us for lunch and were sure to make some tasting bookings. Otherwise just show up!

Get a group of friends together, hire some bikes (full day is $40), and get to some tastings!


Matteo’s Melbourne – Best Dining Experience of 2017

I thought it would only be right to publish my best dining experience of 2017 as my first blog of 2018! I dream about food all day and this experience in particular was exceptionally special, delicious, impressive and memorable.

Lisa and I visited Matteo’s after a long day and were quite looking forward to a lovely meal and some champagne. Little did we know, what we had in store for us at Matteo’s was much more than that!

Starting with a glass of ’06 Moet (always begin how you intend to finish), we deliberated over the menu. Annddd then we deliberated some more! We wanted to try everything on the menu and couldn’t work out how to get the best out of it. Eventually Matteo himself picked our menu items – we knew we were in good hands.

Our first dish arrived and set the bar damn high for everything to follow. Pork doughnuts. Yeah you read that right. I’m not even going to try explain these to you, you really need to try them yourself. Delicious.

Next? An oyster tasting platter, with oysters five ways. The ginger and black bean steamed oyster and the mirin and sake oyster shot were incredible – best I’ve ever had! That’s saying a lot – I eat oysters like they are going out of fashion.

Kingfish sashimi arrived next, with roasted sesame dressing & caviar – drool. Serious drool. And gorgeous to boot!

Lobster tom yum – dying with happiness. I couldn’t even dream this dish up! The lobster was succulent, the tom yum bursting with flavour.

Duck breast with wagyu – oh my life who would have thought the two complimented each other so well!

What truely made our visit what it was, was the fantastic (cheeky and fun) waiter and a sommelier who could read my taste buds like a book. I would spill out some notes, flavours and beverages I enjoy and he would pick a perfect wine to match. Seriously impressive. Magnificent and extensive wine list. I would have said previously that Lisa and I had similar tastes in wine but he showed us just how different they were by choosing wines for each of us and encouraging us to compare. We always preferred our own wine better. He even found not one or two white wines I enjoyed (I don’t usually drink white other than champagne) but three, delicious whites. One of them I can’t source on my own so I will be heading back to Matteo’s to devour some more.

Matteo’s really takes Asian Fusion to the next level. The interior is elegant, a beautiful setting for fine dining. Matteo is a charismatic, charming and caring man whose vibrancy and energy radiates throughout the restaurant.

Matteo’s Restaurant in Fitzroy, Melbourne – head there, thank me later!

Matteo's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lupa Pizza Bar, Brisbane’s Newest Roman Pizza Spot

Lupa Pizza Bar has just opened in Brisbane’s West End on Montague Street and is soon to become a hit with the locals with their great wine list and roman style pizza!

My friends had done some research and were especially excited as Lupa has a dry Lambrusco on their wine list. This type of wine is apparently very hard to come by outside of Italy. We ordered the rose Lambrusco as well, but as soon as I tried it, the dry Lambrusco was the one for me! Paired perfectly with the cooler evening (side note – what is happening Brisbane?! So cold!) and the fresh pizzas.

After much menu deliberation (welcome to dining with us) we settled on sharing two pizzas, the Core de mamma (Fior di latte mozzarella, capocollo, roman artichokes, lemon) and the Scacciafiga (San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, onion, gorgonzola). However just as the waiter was walking away we decided we would try the special of the day, Italian meatballs – which just happened to be the last serving!

The meatballs were delicious. Six serves. I thought I would just have one but I couldn’t wait for the next one and then I even grabbed the beautiful and fresh bread to mop up the sauce!

While my two friends enjoyed the Core de mamma pizza the best with it’s lemon and artichokes creating a light but fresh flavour, I was a fan of the spicy Scacciafiga. The gorgonzola was like hitting jackpot whenever you reached it on the pizza – melt in your mouth and a great base – light and slightly charred of course.

The fit-out is simple and casual, the staff know the food and wine list with a great depth of knowledge of origins.

Lupa Pizza Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nest Restaurant – Asian Fusion Happiness in Brisbane CBD

Seren and I visited Nest Restaurant and Bar in Brisbane at Hotel Jen last week. Little did we know what was in store for us! An Asian fusion feast that has me drooling just thinking about it again.

Arriving at Nest Restaurant, you walk in through an intimate bar with gorgeous luxuriously styled booths with an Asian twist. Olive green velvet and wood sets the scene with contrast splashes of bright red. There’s funky, modern artwork on the walls of gorgeous Japanese women. It sets the scene and as I was about to find out, it really matched the food too.

Anyway, onto the feast. It really was a feast! We shared a banquet of three entrees, two mains plus a side and two desserts – full to the brim didn’t even cut it, we practically rolled out like happy little dumplings.

As soon as the entrees arrived I knew I was in a happy place. We devoured the mouth-wateringly good twice cooked lamb ribs cooked in sweet and sour, chilli, lime and mint. Then the prawn toast which was well paired with yuzu mayo and fresh coriander and mint. The herbs bought a fresh and vibrant taste to a plate that could have felt heavy on its own. Next out, the sticky beef wontons – the pulled beef was full of flavour and the crispy wonton shell added an awesome texture.

Exploring the cocktail menu @nestbrisbane 🙌🏽🍾🍹

A post shared by Wander Wonder Wonton (@wanderwonderwonton) on

Then came the mains. We shared the beef cheek penang curry with kaffir lime leaves, green beans and peanuts. The curry had very generous proportions of the brisket and the crispy green beans were a great contrast. Texture is well considered here obviously as well as taste. My fave main came out next, the tea smoked crispy half duck paired with a caramelised mandarin sauce. Yasss – the duck was juicy and smoky and tender. The citrus perfectly elevated the flavour and went really well with our side of morning glory, which even on its own was wonderfully flavoursome!

Andddd of course we had to finish with something sweet. Deep fried peanut butter ice cream with salted caramel sauce – yeah you read that right! And my favourite, the coconut tapioca pudding with palm sugar caramel, passionfruit sorbet and puffed rice.

Our banquet was well paired with the McWilliams Markview NV Brut Cuvee. Sparkling and not too sweet. Went down a little too well, if you know what I mean..

Speaking of which, I’d love to go back and try some of the cocktails I saw coming out of the bar with some friends – they looked superb.

The wait staff were knowledgeable and lovely, answering my (hundreds) of questions and taking a few snaps for us too.

Nest Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

**This dining experience was complimentary from Nest Restaurant, however is completely true and authentic. I cannot wait to dine there again!

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