06 January 2016

Cheese and Mince pies, Penang noodles and Marmite chips in Wellington, New Zealand

Alison has a whistle stop trip to Wellington and discovers cheese and mince pies are the secret delicacy no one wants to talk about.

Why are you afraid of mice, Bruce? Why?

I was in Wellington for a non blogging related work conference (the actual work I do when not slaving away over this blog) and got to spend an extra day getting blown away by the wind. Luckily there was a special on woollen beanies to keep my hair in place in one of the adventure stores prevalent in the city, there must be an outdoor wear store for every 20 residents. They need it, Wellington is one windy city.

While I didn't get to find out why Bruce was afraid of mice (I need to be able to speak te reo maori to find out) I did discover a treasure trove of New Zealand delicacies.

I only had a day to do my own wandering and only so many eating opportunities. The first evening was overcast and grey, not even this wonderful colourful Art Deco wonder was going to make it any brighter.

Time to cheer up the spicy way and Malaysian from Little Penang suited this cold solo traveller. The folks at this busy joint were happy to put up a single diner at their counter while the place was full, giving me my own table when one became free.

These curry puffs ($3.90) were light and neat and not too greasy.

Char Mee, ($15.90) a generous sized portion of yellow noodles, chinese sausage and prawns with a good char to them, coated in a good amount of sambal (and extra sambal as well). Love the bits of crispy deep fried lard that pop up like little hidden treasures.

There's a good range of ready to go takeaway from the bain-marie-of-love at the front counter as well as bright and colourful kueh for afters.

Little Penang is just off Cuba Street at 40 Dixon Street.

There was a surprising number of Malaysian food joints in Wellington, they far outnumbered any other style of Asian restaurant that I could see. With some more time we would have explored Aunty Mena Vegetarian on Cuba Street, KK Malaysian and a good looking Hong Kong BBQ on Courtney Place. Oh yes and some Kiwi food too.

The next day was significantly cheerier, a fine day for tuatara hunting at the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary just outside the city.

This significant piece of land is protected by a large fence that keeps the pesky Australian ring ins (like possums) out. It is built around a large dam, so some of the walks were high along the ridge of the old dam walls.

There's a whole walkway with different gangs of tuataras along the way. You're encouraged to stop and record where you see them on a board so the next visitor can easily find them. They were wonderful to see basking in the little sunshine Wellington put on that day.

Beautiful entry way outside Te Kawa a Māui The School of Māori Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

Folks, this is what I sought out for dinner. Don't say I didn't eat any traditional Kiwi food. A classic beef mince pie with a melting layer of cheese just under the pastry surface. If cheese makes everything better this made it 10 times more so. 

Why these aren't more popular across the ditch I'll never know. In fact, when declaring my joy at trying this hot tasty treat my NZ colleagues looked confused over my effusive gushing. 

And to go with the pie, a Mac's Gold Malt beer. Before I ordered, I had to stop and think - what do you call a beer size in NZ? For those of you across states in Australia, you'll know that it's either a pot, pint, schooner or even a pony. Here, it's simply a handle. Of course!

With an end to the free range eating opportunities, it was time to head to the supermarket for take homes. These beautiful green lip mussels needed to stay behind though.

The range of beers available in the supermarket was outstanding. These bottles of Tuatara Beer are shaped with a reptile pattern along the neck, a tactile joy. The beer was pretty darn good too.

Beer and cider was sold in these 1.25l plastic bottles which I haven't seen craft and small batch makers using yet in Australia. While I would prefer glass, it might make it easier to distribute.

CookieTime cookies are an institution in New Zealand. They were a harder biscuit with big chunks of chocolate and made for a good snack while watching the birds and lizards up in Zealandia.

 I brought home these smaller versions of the original cookie, as well as an Afghan version which was far superior. There's debate over the name Afghan and it's association with a dark coloured cookie (similar to the use of Coon for a brand of cheese here in Australia or kaffir lime leaves). They are a mighty tasty biscuit made with cornflakes, butter and cocoa powder, probably just needs a better name.

There's no dispute over Pineapple Lumps.

I've always known Whittakers mainly from the small peanut bars, but there is a beautiful range of 'artisan' chocolates available from them too. While sea salt and caramal is bound to be good, the surprise was the oolong tea infused dark chocolate.

The cheeses available in store where hard to pick from, there were so many to try. The Livingstone Gold was mild, almost like Kraft Cheese in the box with foil wrapped around it. The blue was wonderful, super creamy. Leyden was one of the first cheeses I ever tried that wasn't cheddar or individually wrapped in plastic, lovely to go back and try it again. 

Remember, you can bring back cheese from New Zealand into Australia as long as you declare it at customs.

They're Marmite fans in New Zealand. These bagel crisps had just a faint taste, not unlike Vegemite at all.

These classic crisps of New Zealand are most well known for being used with 'Kiwi Dip' (french onion soup and sour cream). I liked their hard crispness with thin ridges. Good for late night "I'm all alone in my hotel room blues."

If you've ever tried the New Zealand soft drink L&P (Lemon and Paeroa) then this chocolate mixes it in as pop rocks! 

Like Afghans, Toffee Pops are another biscuit must try. These are miniature versions that you could scoff in a mouthful. When I came through customs the officers I'm sure were wondering why I had so many packets of New Zealand biscuits and chocolate. "We don't have any biscuits or chocolate in Australia" I helpfully mentioned to them.

For ice cream treats (see pitiful status at Bluebird Chips) this vanilla and coconut ice cream was basic and perfect.

Although I had breakfast included in my room I couldn't help but buy and try these Manuka wood smoked eggs. Worth skipping the hotel breakfast for. I also had a good go at some local cured venison and smoked trout that was out of this world. There was a whole wall of smoked fish at the New World supermarket that blew my little mind. 

I also brought back some Marlborough organic sea salt. You can probably get that in Sydney too but it's for the fun of the overseas supermarket hunt, really.

At a formal dinner at the work conference I attended we were served pork with doris sauce. After asking what that meant and finding out they were a type of plum, I had to seek out some further tasty evidence. The onion marmalade crept into the basket too, a sweet relish loaded with mustard seeds that was perfect with the cheese.

I think there is no area the NZ folk won't go to stick in some Manuka Honey. I love bringing back different bar soaps as souvenirs and these seemed worth a try.

With only a day to explore Wellington, I didn't get to try whitebait fritters or more of the wonderful beers and wines. Might need another trip.

This post is brought to you by the original chocolate chunk corgi from Wellington.


  1. What an impressive holiday haul! hehe


    1. There was indeed a strange look from the customs people. I wish I'd brought back more cheese though!

  2. I still dream of the L&P Chocolate since a work colleague brought it to the office. Hope you stocked up on that lemony pop rock goodness

    1. If I had known just how delicious it was I would have bought more than one bag, plus the whole bars of chocolate. Alas, now it is too late for more.


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).