A colossal squid, whitebait fritters & bluff oysters

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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Wellington
June 9th 2014
Published: July 15th 2014
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For the first official weekend in winter I made a quick visit to New Zealand, which was unseasonably warm. By unseasonably warm I mean that I didn’t need to wear more than one jersey and I could still feel my fingers and toes. It was Rod's first ever visit to New Zealand and I was trying to fit a lot in to a weekend visit. We visited Wellington, Martinborough, not to be confused with Marton, which we also visited to see family, before a quick visit to Kai Iwi beach just out of Wanganui, and finishing up back in Wellington just in time for the plane ride back to Sydney.

Arriving in Wellington on a Friday afternoon it seemed very quiet after the hustle and bustle of Sydney. However Wellington’s windy reputation was nowhere in sight, and we wandered aimlessly through the city without having to worry about flyaway clothes. Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum, and cuts an imposing figure on the waterfront. My claim to fame is going to the Te Papa construction site with the Queen (as you do) as part of her Royal Visit in 1995. Obviously things have changed a bit now, but I love that it’s still free, with entry by koha (donation). For the last couple of years it has also housed the “colossal squid”, which sounds a bit creepy but is actually fascinating. Found in the Ross Sea in Antartica it’s the largest colossal squid on display in the world, and now all 495kgs of it is in a huge tank of glycol. It was surprisingly interesting.

Then it was time for a night out in the capital. We popped in to the Library, one of my favourite bars in downtown Wellington, for my usual, the Randy Savage (rum, pineapple juice & fresh lime shaken together with gingerbread syrup - YUM!) but the real destination was the Ortega Fish Shack to catch up with some old friends. It was a very happy coincidence that our visit coincided with the Bluff Oyster season in New Zealand, and I could get my fix while showing off the local produce to the visiting Australian. Dinner was delicious, and I wasn't surprised to read shortly after our visit that it was one of the winners in the 2014 Cuisine Good Restaurant awards.

Next on the mini-NZ foodie tour was the winding drive over the Rimutaka Hill to Martinborough. Famous for its vineyards, it’s a very quiet New Zealand farming town that has completely reinvented itself, even renaming itself as “Martinborough Wine Village”. We stayed at the local hotel, which like everything else in sight has tarted itself up and is almost unrecognisable as the former country pub and instead boasts "sophisticated, elegant boutique accommodation". It fitted the bill perfectly. We had a very happy afternoon popping in and out of vineyards, as well as sampling the local produce, including a massive tasting platter at Poppy's.

That evening there was more fabulous food on the menu, this time at Cool Change, the old Post Office converted into a bar and restaurant, which was handily just across the road from the hotel. I was reminded of just how laid back people are in NZ when we asked about the four Pinot Noirs available at the restaurant, looking for a recommendation. It was buzzing, busy and fairly casual, and I loved how they simply brought out four bottles of wine, plonked them on the table and left it to us to sample and taste before deciding which one we wanted. It definitely worked in their favour, as of course we chose the most expensive on offer! We shared the slow-roasted local lamb, and even though I tried really hard, I couldn't squeeze in a dessert. The casual and laid back feel continued through the night as we relocated to the bar to watch the last ten minutes of the All Blacks match against England. They left it a little late for the winning try in my view, but it made for an exciting finish, and a win's a win after all!

The next morning we drove across rolling green farmland, past the Tui brewery, over to my home town, Marton, for a big family lunch. It was as if we hadn't eaten for weeks, there was a veritable feast of delicious food, including whitebait fritters, a New Zealand delicacy. I haven't had them in years, and they were sensational - a real treat! It was a beautiful winter's day, not too cold, and plenty of sunshine, so we spent the afternoon on the lawn, organising running races and playing games with the kids, tiring them out for their parents. We also finally managed a proper family photo with everyone in it - I think that's a first!

It was a very rushed family visit however, as we were anxious to get to the beach in time for a walk before it got too dark, so a few short hours later it was back in the car on our way to Wanganui. Our beach house is at Kai Iwi, about 15 minutes out of town. Kai Iwi beach is a typical New Zealand West Coast beach - black sand, a long rugged coast line, big seas. With a western aspect it's usually windy, but for me it's the perfect winter beach, and almost before we'd made our way into the house we were off down to the beach before it got dark.

Then all too soon the visit was over, and we were winging our way back to Sydney. E noho rā Aotearoa - until the next time.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


15th July 2014

You make a quick trip to see the whanau sound exotic. Lovely to see you. L xx
15th July 2014

Too short....
It was definitely not long enough. But great to see you albeit briefly. Thanks for the hospitality and the car! Xx
15th July 2014

Great blog!
So much enjoyed your descriptions of places that are so familiar to us, yet you managed to convey a fresh perspective so well that it makes me want to go on that same trip soon! Loved all the photos especially those of the gamily and Kai Iwi beach. Hope your friend enjoyed the trip and hope to see you next time you are back here.
15th July 2014

Quick trip
Hi Richard, it was a really great trip but just a fleeting one and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to catch up. I will be back at Christmas so look forward to seeing you then I hope!
15th July 2014

Squid, Fritters & Oysters
When I worked in Antarctica I saw a similar squid in the aquarium tank there. Certainly not the same one but they are cool. Poppy's platter sounded interesting and always fun to go to the wineries and breweries. Happy travels. Glad the weather was good.
15th July 2014

Giant squid
They are really interesting aren't they? Surprisingly so! Working in Antarctica sounds like a fascinating experience, I'd love to hear about it sometime.
15th July 2014

Are you in regular contact with the Queen?
Great blog Rachael - I am a little pissed I missed out on seeing the colossal squid. Next time :)
15th July 2014

Me and the Queen and Colossal Squid
I did pop into Buckingham Palace when I was in London a couple of years later but surprisingly she didn't want to reconnect :) The squid was actually really cool, I would definitely recommend it!
15th July 2014

Thanks for introducing us to your family...
and your home.
15th July 2014

Family visit
It was really nice to get back, particularly because Mum and Dad are now selling the property after 45 years, so it will be the last big family gathering there. It was lots of fun and great catch up.
15th July 2014
Kai Iwi beach

Home sweet home
Fantastic that you can take these quick trips home every now and then Rachael to check the family is still missing you. Fabulous spot for a beach house...great shot. Does West Coast mean kamikase sandflies or is that only South Island?
3rd August 2014
Kai Iwi beach

Kai Iwi Beach
Brings back memories from my youth living 20 minutes from here.
3rd August 2014
Kai Iwi beach

Small world!
It's a beautiful part of the world that's for sure. A typical West Cost beach, which is really quite special I think. Glad to bring you the memories!

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