Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Leaving New Zealand

I can hardly believe six weeks have passed since my last post. During the first two weeks, I felt the constant internal nag of needing to post something new but after then, I knew I needed to give in to what was happening in my life.

I finished up at my work, moved out of my flat and packed up our belongings to be sent away in a ship, half way across the world. I grappled with an extraordinary mix of emotions dealing with this immense change: sadness to be leaving much-loved friends and colleagues; the stress of packing and organising trip details; nerves of the future unknown; but also equally, the excitement of the many adventures to come. However obvious, I am most ecstatic about all of the foods we will come across on our travels as I am a fervent believer of cultural experience through eating.

Leaving Wellington also meant careful consideration of where I was sharing last meals with friends. Perhaps I've overdone some of the old favourites over my nine or so years in the capital, but I had a very select few places where I wanted to eat in my last two weeks. For easy and indulgent dinners, I went to Taste of India (19 Cambridge Terrace, takeaway only) for my favourite Indian in town, not to mention great value.  Rumour has it they brought their tandoor oven from India on a ship in the 70's, so I just had to have their freshly-made naan and tandoor-baked chicken one last time.

The best Indian takeaway in Wellington, Taste of India
Naan made-to-order and tandoori chicken behind

For lunch with the girls, I revisited Nikau Cafe (Civic Square, next to City Gallery) for their kedgeree and also Ti Kouka (upstairs, 76 Willis Street) where I enjoyed a rich braised short rib burger, while ginger and anise chicken hot dogs and a pulled pork roll were ordered around the table. All fantastically worthwhile and delicious. My only regret was that I couldn't fit in a salted caramel cookie from their sweet-things-counter afterwards.

My last day at work saw the sun shining, so I grabbed a crowd of friends and went to Golding's Free Dive (14 Leeds Street) for a sneaky drink in the sunny sheltered courtyard and some Pizza Pomodoro from across the lane. Such a great set-up, I will be back here.

Other places I revisited were Maranui Cafe (Lyall Bay) for their salads and smoothies; Midnight Espresso (178 Cuba Street) for the memories of many late night's respite from architecture school; Ombra (199 Cuba Street) for the baccala crostini alone; Chow (upstairs, 45 Tory Street) for two 2-for-1 Mondays in a row; and, lastly, I am planning to eat at Big Bad Wolf before we fly out of Wellington after I sadly found them closed last Monday. We also wanted to take my partner's parents to Wellington favourites Ortega Fish Shack or Capitol, but alas luck wasn't on our side and we went to The Crab Shack instead. Good for relatively large portions, we all were satisfied with our meals but my pick here are definitely the clams and mussels by the scoop: simple flavours with rich juices begging to be mopped up with bread or eaten as if soup.

Since we left Wellington, we've been enjoying classic New Zealand road trip food (at my request): filled rolls and pies from local bakeries, fish and chips where the sea is less than 200m away and most extravagantly: freshly caught-and-cooked crayfish in Kaikoura.

Nin's Bin, 23km north of Kaikoura along SH1, established in 1977

Nin's Bin is the original crayfish caravan and thanks to it's idyllic setting, it has became one of New Zealand's legendary and iconic establishments showing up on postcards, drink coasters and tablemats. This all likely lends to the inflated pricing of the kaimoana on offer, but when in Rome, right? The sun was shining too brightly for us not to stop and enjoy.

The price of each cray shown on it's tail.

Inside the caravan.

Like a dream.

Choosing between being served cold with wedges of lemon or warm with aioli (+$8), I chose the former to enjoy the fresh cray meat as purely as possible. We worked hard to get every piece of meat out of every part of shell there was and I think we impressed the lovely girl inside serving with our unhesitant sense of destruction left on our plates (no pretty picture).

Now in Christchurch for the last days in New Zealand for at least a wee while, I am already writing a list of the places that I must eat at before I leave. Now to see if I can fit them all in...

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