Around Auckland

Saturday 7 September 2013

Back at 23 Hepburn our hostess Beth has stocked our breakfast fridge with bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon … breakfast sorted!

Once upon a time in the not so distant past, there was the historic Ponsonby Pies, now unfortunately closed.  Nether the less no trip to NZ is complete without a pie. We head out mid morning in search of a pie for H.  I have done my research (of course) and navigate to The Food Room, H gets a pie, not bad but it does not live up to the dream.

Its starting to rain so we head by to our room to grab our umbrella and then a bus downtown back to Icebreaker.  Davo the hot kiwi who helped us yesterday greets us with a big smile and has the socks ready.

We wander around Auckland and have lunch at the Occidental which looks like it needs a good clean and a few dollars spent on it.  The Occidental was a great place for a bowl of mussels, but later that afternoon, I detect some rebellion from said mussels.  Both Janet and I are feeling not so good.  We were hoping to go back to Tin Soldier for some drinks and more oysters, but alas neither of us feels like eating.  We settle for a quiet evening hoping that the queasy feeling will pass.

Waiheke Island

Friday 6 September 2013

Whilst doing my customary research of our current destination, I decided that a day trip to Waiheke Island and lunch at one of the wineries was in order.  So today we heading down to the harbour to do just that.

So after breakfasting in our room of yummy homemade cereal, with lashings of creamy yoghurt and a couple of fortifying cups of tea we grab our map and start walking downtown.  Its pretty chilly (jumper, scarf and coat territory) and Howard is missing his beanie so when we see a big sports store we grab the opportunity.  H quickly zones in to the Icebreaker clothing and we decide that he needs a hoodie – that way he won’t need a beanie … and they are on sale … brilliant.

We waste a bit too much time shopping so we have to hurry to make sure we get to the ferry as they only run hourly.  Its a perfect day and the harbour very calm.  Before too long we are at Waiheke Island and offloaded and trying to work out how to get to the winery …. taxi, bus or walk.  We discover that there is a cross country track that will take us straight to Cable Bay Winery where I have made a reservation for lunch.   The first section running along the wetlands is very muddy and slippery but we manage to get through without mishap.  Luckily I have my sturdy wedge boots on.

Matiatia Bay

Matiatia Bay

Signage is a bit scare but we make a couple of uneducated guesses and head uphill through forest and then up a valley lined with neatly laid out rows of grapevines.  A fellow walker lets us know we are heading in the right direction. Feeling definately warmer we reach the road and sight the winery a couple of hundred meters away.   Phew!

Cross country track to Cable Bay Winery

Cross country track to Cable Bay Winery

Cable Bay Winery has a renowned restaurant that has is set on a ridge with spectacular views over a grassy knoll, across the harbour with glimpses of Auckland’s skyline in the background.

Definitely worth the effort, we are soon seated in the dining room sipping champagne and enjoying the view. The menu is modern NZ and simple with local produce, so its easy to decide.  I’m having the local salmon ceviche as entree and the duck for main.  Howard decides on the scallops and fish.  We also select the accompanying Cable Bay wines by the glass with each course.

Salmon cerviche with cucumber jelly

Salmon cerviche with cucumber jelly

Coromandel scallops, confit smoked pork belly, roasted artichokes and shitake mushrooms

Coromandel scallops, confit smoked pork belly, roasted artichokes and shitake mushrooms

Roast Duck breast, smoked parsnip, confit leg, quince,sweet spices yum!

Roast Duck breast, smoked parsnip, confit leg, quince,sweet spices yum!

Blue eye cod, asparagus and confit lemon

Blue eye cod, asparagus and confit lemon

The location is one of best we have every experienced, the food is impressive, the wine … not so much.  But overall an experience we would highly recommend.

Across the entrance hall is a bar and terrace with amazing views, it is a perfect day so we ask to have our coffees served out there.  Our enjoyment of the afternoon sun is only broken by a helicopter from Auckland arriving, landing and departing from a helipad just over the hill.  Those things are noisy!

Cable Bay Winery terrace

Cable Bay Winery terrace

View from Cable Bay Winery

View from Cable Bay Winery

A quick jaunt down the country road through the vineyards (luckily its downhill now) is our next destination Oneroa – a gorgeous beachside town.

Waiheke vineyards

Waiheke vineyards

Oneroa

Oneroa

We have a quick look around and then head back to the ferry by foot. We make it to the  ferry by the skin of our teeth and are soon back in Auckland.  After visiting the Icebreaker shop (we have to return tomorrow morning as the socks H wants are not in stock) we jump on a bus and head back to Ponsonby.

Ferry terminal Waiheke Island

Ferry terminal Waiheke Island

We stop for a drink (or two) at The Tin Soldier, a busy bar full of locals enjoying a few Friday night drinks.  We order a couple of drinks and a dozen oysters and get chatting with a couple of the pretty waitresses.  Howard is trying to talk Suji into visiting us in Brisbane and marrying his son Gene. She is a cutie.

Suji and friend

Suji and friend

After our rich lunch we are not ready for another big meal so we decide to hit Burger Fuel “Engineering the Ultimate Burger” … how can we resist?  Here we are introduced to the amazing world of doofers.  Note to self …. must import to Australia!

Auckland

Thursday 5 September 2013

Its been awhile since we have been across “the ditch”( pronounced dutch) to the land of the Long White Cloud, so we have taken advantage of a great Emirates deal and are heading over for a long weekend.

With an early start Thursday morning we are at the airport at 5:40am for check in for our 7:50 flight, all goes as planned and a few hours later we disembark in a cloudy and cold Auckland.

I have booked us into a bed and breakfast at Ponsonby – “23 Hepburn Street”, Ponsonby to be exact.  Beth our hostess greets us warmly at the door with a huge hug and plenty of advice on how to get the most out of the area. Our room is light and welcoming and the bed super comfortable.  The bathroom is pretty small but hey I don’t intend to spend much time there.

We ditch our bags and stroll up the street – about 150 metres to the main strip – Ponsonby Road.  I love Ponsonby – its chockers full of little boutique shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes. And the architecture is gorgeous – wooden bungalow type houses with amazing detail.

View of Auckland from Ponsonby Road

View of Auckland from Ponsonby Road

Its now about 2:30 in the afternoon – time to eat.  We grab a seat outside in the sun at “The Chapel” and order a couple of beers and a bite to eat.  It is so lovely sitting in the sun that a few more drinks are deemed necessary … wow what a great way to spend a Thursday afternoon.  Much better than working!

Kiwi Greenlip Mussels

Kiwi Greenlip Mussels

The Chapel

The Chapel

It starts to turn cold so we settle our bill and hit a few more shops.  We cannot resist the chocolatey delights at Devonport Chocolates (preparing for late night sweet cravings).

Back in our room we crank up the heater … the sun has set and its very cold now.  Luckily the bed has an electric blanket which we turn on before heading out again to the Ponsonby Bistro which I have already booked.  I love this place – it is dark. sophisticated and intimate (a bit too dark perhaps – we have to get out the iTorch to read the menu!).

Unfortunately we are not hungry yet after our late lunch, so we decide to go easy with a dozen oysters (with a glass of champagne of course) from up north, I can’t remember where but it was near the Bay of Islands and boy are they good!  Delicate and sweet they are definitely some of the best we have ever had! And we know our oysters!

I only had an entrée for dinner – scallops with chorizo, chickpeas and roasted tomato – OMG – fabulous!  Across the table Howard is thoroughly enjoying his Stewart Island Salmon and cauliflower.  With wines by the glass to complement the food we are more than impressed with the Ponsonby Bistro.

Our waiter is very friendly and gives us some tips on other places to eat in the area.  Alas the early start and flight are catching up on us so we brace ourselves for a chilly walk home and hit the street.  Big day tomorrow!