Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New Zealand - North Island Day 10 (Part 2 - To do/see,to eat)

To do:
Muriwai Beach (Black Sand Beach)

There are several black sand beaches to choose from in Auckland. I decided on Muriwai because of the possibility of trying out the Muriwai Beach Horse Treks (keeping our options open despite the time constraints). Other alternatives are a walk to the Gannet colony and also the muriwai beach blow hole.
Miriwai Beach - the black sand beach

Upon arrival, we did almost nothing except for gazing at the sea from the carpark area. I didn't feel like venturing down as the winds are so strong that sand is blown in your face and even the waves that hit the beach are blown up and you can see droplets of water dancing across the beach. The beach itself is quite empty except for a brave lone para glider. You can see the person in the picture above. I really applaud him/her.

The walk to the gannet colony also look quite treacherous as we need to walk quite near the beach with huge waves now and then before getting on the boardwalk. Timid me decided there and then that admiring the view will suffice.

Fernhill Dr, Massey, Massey North 0614, New Zealand

A place to purchase hand made local crafts. The set-up is almost like "toy outpost" in Singapore where individuals will rent a box space and place their wares for sale and manned by staff at the payment counter.
The wares sold are almost similar in each space. Repeated crafts i see are the paua shells, that i initially wanted to purchase and also ceramic craft works. In the end, i settled for a ceramic fern.

The sales assistant did a good job of wrapping up the item and it arrived back in Singapore in one whole piece.


Initially we visited this place to try their locally produced honey sold here. Unfortunately, this place is now converted to a cafe with a very tiny minimart.Though we try the honey that is available for sale and bought a bottle, there is nothing much to see or eat here and this place is unusually deserted on late morning.

To Eat:

Bread & Butter - 3.8 stars, budget
34 Westmoreland St W, Grey Lynn, 1021, New Zealand

Breakfast for the day is at Bread and Butter as SO is a lover of all things croissant. This place has pretty good reviews and so here we are.
Chocolate and almonds croissant but this is a tad dry and no very crispy. Chocolate is also hard and flaky.

Country style omelette with free range eggs with prosciutto, tomato, garden greens, cheese and apricot chutney ordered by SO. Surprise surprise as someone almost never eat any tomatoes. Overall, this taste more like scrambled egg in a pan with bacon, tomatoes and rocket leaves. Taste overall is acceptable and not too bad.
I also tried something entirely new for breakfast. This will be the first time i had Organic toasted museli with vanilla berry compote, seasonal fruits and yogurt.  I quite like the crunchy texture and this is chewier than having cereals. I wonder if i had a tortured look on my face as the waitress asked if i need milk to go with this museli every time she passed by our table. hmmm....but i will still continue having museli after this round. So its not too bad yar?

Hallertau Brew Bar & Restaurant - 3.5 stars, mid-range
1171 Coatesville Riverhead Hwy, Riverhead, New Zealand
This is on of the places we intend to visit on our itinerary. And its a brewery!!! and we had a free beer paddle on the house just for tourists.
Super love anything that comes free! All the beer is nice (no this has nothing to do with it being free). Of all 4 tried, #2 is my favourite as it has a malt taste and is very light. #1 is even lighter then #2 but almost undetectable. The dark malt is actually very drinkable. Not as black or yucky as i will expect.
Lunch is spicy pork ribs and wedges. The spicy pork ribs is not too impressive as it is quite lean and a little too spicy for me.
The fries are drizzled with cheese and bacon bits and best eaten when hot. It becomes a little overly indulgent when it gets cold.

Cafe Hanoi - 4.8 stars, mid-range
Gateway St & Commerce St, Britomart, Auckland, New Zealand

Here we are back again to try more fabulous dishes from cafe Hanoi. I will be a frequent diner here if we had such a restaurant in Singapore.

We are served a complimentary starter similar to the night before. 

 Fried wanton balls is crispy and nice but doesn't really blow me away.

Squid is stuffed with minced pork and this dish is rarely seen in restaurants in Singapore except when you cook this at home. Love the citrus and basil mix flavours.
We also tried the kang kong (morning glory is what was stated on the menu). It is very fresh and interestingly stirred fried with seasame seeds which adds more flavour to the dish.

I am most impressed with the service attitude of the restaurant. We waited a long while for our squid and i believe the kitchen missed this order. The waitress informed us that the squid will be free of charge when it was served. Both of us thought that we heard it wrong, but boy we are so impressed when it was really taken off our bill while paying. Super thumbs up for service and the best thing that ever happen to us in a restaurant.

I most definitely go to this place again if i ever go back to Auckland. Just thinking about the food from restaurant is enough to make me salivate. Do try the first few dishes we had the day before they are definite must trys in my opinion.

Monday, November 16, 2015

New Zealand - North Island Day 9 (Part 2 - To do/see, to stay, to eat)

To do:
Day out at Waiheke Island

We purchased the tickets that includes transport to island for both passengers and vehicle from Sealink and departure from Half Moon Bay Terminal.

The trip to Waiheke Island is mainly drinking and eating. We hoped to visit some galleries and visit the Rangihoua Estate and join their olive tour but time is very tight and when we arrive the place is already closed. Fortunately, we still have have the wineries to visit which is nice and comfortable. 

Man O'war Wineyards - 3.5 stars, mid-range

725 Man O War Bay Road Auckland 1971, New Zealand

This is first winery we stopped when we reached the island. Initially, we wanted to browse a craft shop selling crockery. Maybe it was sunday and now being off season, the place was closed. So we head out to Man O'war as its the furthest from the port.

The winery just opened when we reached. Do note that the drive is on a dirt track but its quite scenic.

I like the sparkling wine on the menu. And i was hoping a warm breakfast but wasn't much to choose from the menu. We settle for bread with dukka and Pinot Gris to go with it. Pinot Gris is nice and fruity.

Added bonus is the very friendly and smart dog who is very entertaining.

Wild on Waiheke - 4 stars, mid range

82 Onetangi Road, New Zealand

There are plenty of outdoor seatings and indoor seats as well. As we wanted to keep ourselves warm, we chose the indoors. Weather today was unpredictable with passing rain throughout. It was a very good decision to stay indoors as true enough it started to pour soon after.

I love the huge beer battered onion rings. It has a very nice flavour.

Oysters are also fresher than the ones we had at Chim Choo Ree.

Pumpkin soup is spicy and flavoured with tinge of curry.

As for the wine tasting, we had Rose and Pinot Gris. Both are light on the palette.

Oyster Inn - 3.5 stars, mid range

124 Ocean View Road, Oneroa, Auckland, New Zealand

The final place we settle to eat is at the Oyster Inn. I saw from one of the travel magazines that Bluff oysters are the best in New Zealand and they are huge and tasty. After asking for a few places, we are so so glad that it is available here. We ordered ala carte so we can have some variety of oysters.

Te Matuku (Waiheke island), Mahurangi (Warkworth) and Bluff oysters. The Bluff oysters are the biggest ones right up front. Of all the 3 types of oysters we tried, the most smooth and fresh will be the local oysters Te Matuku. I think Bluff oysters are too big and not as tasty.

As oyster inn is somewhat located in the town centre, there are little shops to browse and look. Some art galleries as well to spend your time if that's what you are interested in.

To Eat:

Cafe Hanoi - 4.8 stars, mid-range
Gateway St & Commerce St, Britomart, Auckland, New Zealand

This is one place that SO loves it so much that he insisted on returning to try other dishes othe next day  despite my protests. But in truth, the food here is really really good. Totally suit our asian palette.

The lady serving us is also very friendly. Upon hearing that its our first time here, made some recommendations and also inform us that she can make the dishes to smaller portions for us. :D

Fried Crispy prawns fried to perfection. The prawns are coated with minimum amount of batter and its flesh is still juicy.
 Beef covered with dipping soy sauce.
Skewered pork. Accompanying the pork is lettuce, basil and coriander but these with the chili is a match made in heaven. The chili is spicy and a little like our chicken rice chili just thicker.

This is the definitely the best meal i had in New Zealand. If possible, i will go back again just for this.

Friday, November 6, 2015

New Zealand - North Island Day 8 (Part 2 - To do/see, to stay, to eat)

To do:
Spellbound glow worm and cave tours
15 Waitomo Village Road, 3977, New Zealand

There is 2 caves visited on this tour. The first is the cave of the spirit (Te Ana o te Atua), there are plenty of stalactites and stalagmites. Though in one of the larger section known as the cathedral you can see the glowworms dotting across the roof of the cave. In certain treachorous areas, you can see sink holes and how deep is the fall if you are unfortunate enough to slip through.

After walking through the first cave, we had a short tea break before proceeding to the second cave. 

The second is river cave where we need to take a raft. There is plenty of time to be mesmerized by the glow worms.

Did you know? The glowworms are not affected by light nor sound. Its the vibrations that make them glow brighter.

Photo credits to Spellbound Waitomo
I enjoyed myself during this 3.5 hours tour. It can be so serene just quietly looking at the glow worms in a very dark room. This is one of the trips where i used minimal effort but the maximum vantage view. Looking at the glow worms, i was reminded of the term silversea 银海. The colour of the glowworms can be green or blue. Depending on how you see it. To me there are lovely white stars that doesn't twinkle.

Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park
20 Alex Telfer Drive Otorohanga 3900, New Zealand

We visited this place simply to see the Kiwis. We can't be going to the land of kiwi and yet not see any.

Though i was aware that kiwi are nocturnal creatures. It came as a surprise to me that kiwis can be also aggressive and ferocious. Poking and using its claws to attack the staff when the staff went into her enclosure. This occurred during the feeding time.

The rest of the time at this place is to walk through this bird park. But our stay here is quite short as we reach there 1 hour prior to closing and we are lucky still to catch the feeding time.

To Eat:

The River Kitchen - 3.3 stars, mid-range
257 Victoria Street, Hamilton 3204,  New Zealand  

It look like a regular cafe. We reach here pretty early so there are plenty of seats for us to choose. 30 mins after our arrival, the cafe is already at full house.
 Nice latte and cappuccino.
Big brekkie
For the mains we ordered, Big Brekkie (free range eggs, bacon, pork and fennel sausages, potato cake and toasted ciabatte) and buckwheat pancakes with vanilla maple poached pears and spiced ricotta. I like this set particularly the toasted ciabatta and fresh fried eggs. The thick thick bacon oozing with fats is also a plus.

Buckwheat pancakes

This is something new for me. Never had pancakes made this way. But i feel bananas still goes best with pancakes. This is solely my own personal opinion. The pancakes is very thick and cripsy on the outside. But after the 2nd slice, i'm starting to feel really full. The 3rd piece is too too much for me to stomach.

The General Store - 2.5 stars, budget
15 Waitomo Village Rd, 3977, New Zealand

Food is quite sad but there is nothing else to eat nearby. Service is extremely slow as there is only one staff doing everything. Our food took an hour to serve. I ordered bedeviled sausages with tomato and potato mash. The most fail safe food but unfortunately i didn't manage to finish the dish. The life saver for lunch is our plate of french fries. No pictures to show as i lost my mood while waiting for my food.

Thai Street - 3.0 stars, budget
12 Jellicoe St, Auckland 1010, New Zealand

This place is a random pick while we strolled through the streets as i run out of ideas to eat and we couldn't really quite agree on any place.

Finally we decided on asian food to fill our stomachs for the evening. I can only guess what we ordered: phad thai, skewered pork, grilled beef and tom yum soup.

The food is quite reasonable taste but not impressive. I love the first dish the most and its recommended by the staff.

To Stay:

IBIS Ellersillie Hotel
72-112 Green Lane East, Ellerslie, Auckland 1051, New Zealand

Hot water flow in the bath is very stable but drainage is a little slow. Room is clean but bed is one of the worst on this trip. Its a little soft and lumpy. Sinks deep when the weight is added.

I love the free parking but its a little hard to find on our first day. Probably due to a wedding dinner and it being a weekend.