Friday, September 30, 2016

Vanilla Miraka

Vanilla Miraka is Hayley Sproull’s take on being a quarter Māori, with white skin and no clue what is happening on the marae. Avid readers of my blog (I fantasise that such beings exist) will remember Hayley from Miss Fletcher Sings The Blues. She’s also part of A Slightly Isolated Dog, who we saw putting on their version of Jekyll & Hyde in April this year, and who will be performing Don Juan in November. 

Her show is a mixture of song, acting, comedy and serious moments. She gives us some of her history of self-discovery, and how she explored her Māori ancestry by the obvious method of travelling to India. Along the way, she demonstrated her skill with poi, and told us the story of her grandmother's funeral. Not many comedy moments at a funeral, you might have thought...wrong. The final scenes played out are about how she wore her traditional cloak to her graduation ceremony, and how that felt to her.

It's clearly a very personal story, and at the end of it I felt we knew more about the unresolved conflicts of identity that make being a New Zealander not quite as simple as being from most other countries. Whilst a lot of it, particularly in the second half, was quite serious, there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as well. I liked this show, and look forward to seeing more from Hayley in the future.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Perfect Nonsense

The Jeeves and Wooster show, Perfect Nonsense, has come to New Zealand. After extensively touring the UK and a residency in Mumbai (the Indians are weirdly keen on PG Wodehouse), the touring company, including original writer/actor Robert Goodale, has arrived in New Zealand for a short season. What’s not to like? Off we toddled.

The story revolves around Bertie Wooster deciding to re-tell his adventures of the previous weekend. He’s put on a play about it but hasn’t quite finished it. Fortunately Jeeves steps in, and with the help of Aunt Dahlia’s butler, Seppings, they manage to get through all the action. The two butlers have to play numerous parts, including an ever-increasing-in-height Spode, whilst Bertie recounts the tale of the silver cow creamer, to be found in The Code Of The Woosters, and also forms the opening episode of the second season of the quintessential adaptation, Jeeves And Wooster. Jeeves, with the help of Seppings manages the scenery and costume changes whilst Bertie, oblivious to most of their efforts, blithely assumes that all the goings-on backstage are working like magic, in much the same way as a magic coffee table works. It’s all very funny and foolish, and well worth watching. In many places the fourth wall is broken as Bertie, and occasionally Jeeves, address the audience directly.

We’d caught the matinee performance, and were ejected into the evening air in time for a date at favourite Wellington eatery Logan Brown, or “the staff canteen” as I’ve started to call it – scene of many a lunchtime over the last couple of years. Well, they keep sending me discounts and special offers! I’d be a fool not to take them up on it! Latest offering is a lunchtime dish with wine for $25, so we’re heading back there this Friday to fill the old nosebag. Pip pip! (That’s enough Wodehouse talk – Ed.)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

King Creole

It’s the last day of Wellington On A Plate, and I chickened out. “What?” I hear you cry "you didn’t have a burger?” No, that’s not it. I went for a chicken burger.

Coco At The Roxy have gone all Creole for WOAP. They’ve changed the name of the restaurant to The Kings Of Creole, and we went to see King Creole at their Eat The Film event. Their Burger Wellington offering also fits this theme.

It was a sunny winter’s day, and we’d been for a walk along the Eastern Walkway, building up a mighty hunger. A burger was just what the doctor ordered (he’s a very, er, burger-friendly doctor).  We arrived at the restaurant to be told that they were serving the creole brunch, and if we wanted the burger, we’d need to order at the bar and sit in the café. So we did.

The King Creole burger is described like this:

Creole spiced and fried Meat Direct chicken with bacon jam and pickled shrimp in a Pandoro brioche bun, with crispy grits.

There’s no Garage Project beer match, so I chose, on the barman’s recommendation, a Tuatara Ardennes.

The burger is served in a plastic basket like this:

First impressions: One of the components, the bacon jam, had leaked all down the side, and into the tray, making this a sticky mess to pick up. Inside, there were two bits of chicken, as well as some shrimp. The whole thing looked unstable and slippery, so I didn’t bother trying to eat it with my hands. There was some sort of pesto spread on the top of the bun, which clearly didn’t make the credits. The chicken was breadcrumbed, but the creole spices were hiding, I think. There certainly wasn’t any overpowering flavour sensation associated with the chicken other than, well, fried chicken. It was very well fried – moist and juicy – but I was expecting a bit more of a kick from it. The fries were grits. What is a grit? Apart from the unappealing name, it’s similar to polenta.

Overall I felt a bit let down by this. I scored it a 7.

So that’s the end of my burger odyssey for 2016. Over the past 17 days I’ve tasted 18 burger recipes, which have ranged from the classic beef, including two wagyu; and kangaroo, venison, lamb, pork, chicken, duck, salmon, crab and octopus. I’ve had sweet burgers. I’ve had a burger where the bun was made of lasagne. My favourites have been the pork burgers put out by Capitol and Zibibbo. All I’m waiting for now is the invitation to join the judging panel for the final decider for the winner of Burger Wellington 2016.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


It’s the final weekend of Wellington On A Plate, and I’ve been thinking hard over the last few days what my final few burgers are going to be. I was thwarted in my ambition to get to Five And Dime yesterday, but I’d already made my decision for the final weekend. After our dance lesson had finished, we moved the car and headed to Muse Eatery and Bar, to try their BBW burger. Muse, you’ll remember, was an offshoot from the now-defunct White House restaurant on Oriental Parade, and they’ve consistently provided top-class nosh. Since their move to new premises in Victoria Street, they’ve “democratised” their offering somewhat with lunchtime specials, and a pasta menu, as well as their fine dining.

Their Burger Wellington entry, The BBW Burger, is described thus:

Wairarapa wagyu beef with baby watercress, Kāpiti aged gouda and mayonnaise in a Clareville Bakery brioche bun, with triple-cooked chips.

There’s no Garage Project beer match, but they are offering a choice of regional drinks as their Dine Wellington menu, so I chose the Panhead Pilsner from the list. Nicola decided to try the Dine Wellington menu of beef cheek pappardelle, with a Nga Waka sauvignon blanc from Martinborough.

The burger comes in a box:

Opening it up, you can see what’s going on:

I lifted it out of the box, and noticed that the meat juices had leaked out of the burger already. The bottom of the bun was soggy. I tried to eat it with my hands, but bun integrity was immediately compromised, so I put it down and used a knife and fork. It’s a double patty burger, with plenty of cheese and mayo, and baby watercress (not lettuce, thank god). The triple-cooked chips were good, but the tomato sauce didn’t have a look of being made in the kitchen. The beef had been cooked through – there was hint of pinkness in the end of one of the patties – so this could have been better. This was a good burger, but it’s not perfect. I’m scoring this an 8.


I phoned up Zibibbo to make sure I could get a  table at lunchtime to try their Burger Wellington entry, The Hogtapus. “Sure, no problem” I was reassured, so I booked it in and walked down to Taranaki Street and got myself settled in.

What’s in The Hogtapus? Sounds like it should have some hog, or pork, in it. It also sounds like it should have some octopus as well. That sounds weird. It is weird. But it’s also true.

Here’s how it’s described on the Burger Wellington website:

Grilled night-roasted Wairarapa pork belly with octopus, pickled carrot and red onion and kawhai mayonnaise in a seaweed steamed bun, with triple cook fries and roasted pork juice gravy. The Garage Project beer match is Hāpi Daze.

It looks like this:

Now, you might think that octopus is chewy. You might have had pickled octopus, which has a fairly robust texture. This was neither of these…it had been slow-cooked so was tender, juicy and melt-in-your-mouth. And delicious. The pork was present in pulled pork and patty form. The accompaniments – pickled carrot, onion and mayo weren’t overpowering or too wet, and helped bring the burger together. The steamed bun was flecked with seaweed in the dough, and was moist and super-tasty. The triple-cooked chips were crispy, tasty, and delicious. The hoppiness of the Hāpi Daze cut through the richness of the pork. Did I mention the deliciousness? Can you tell where I’m going with this?

Yes, that’s right. This is another 10 burger. Which is interesting, because the other 10 that I’ve awarded so far was also a pork burger. As was the one I awarded in 2014. In fact, discussing this with the maître d’, we decided that beef was running a poor second to pork this year. 

Friday, August 26, 2016


As part of my Toastmastering duties, I had been co-opted onto a judging panel for the Table Topics contest at another club on Thursday lunchtime. This would drastically reduce my burgering opportunities, as I wouldn’t have time to travel out to a far-flung destination like Cuba Street. I had been intending to try Five & Dime’s tartare offering, Baby I  Like It Raw, but in Dixon Street it was too far away. (Although there probably wouldn’t have been much of a wait for it…no cooking!)

As it was, I settled for old favourite Trade Kitchen, being en route from the contest venue. They can usually be relied on to produce a decent burger. They were being relatively unadventurous with a beef burger called AppleMac, described like this on the Burger Wellington website:

AppleMac PrimeStar beef patty with applewood smoked bacon, Waimea Dairy cheese, chopped cherry peppers and barbeque sauce in a housemade brioche bun. The Garage Project beer match was Orange Summer, which I’ve had at one place before. It’s a tasty citrus-flavoured wheat beer.

It looked like this:

First off, you’ll have noticed the foliage. This was quite a wet burger, with lettuce, tomato, peppers and barbecue sauce inside, so after an initial valiant effort at hand-holding, I gave up and attacked it with cutlery. The burger was cooked through inside, which was a shame, but the sauce and peppers were nice and spicy, and added a bit of bite to the burger. The chips were unadventurous, and served with a dish containing both tomato sauce and aioli, which I felt was a bit non-committal on their part. If you’re doing a burger in a competition, make up your mind what the accompaniments are, and have the confidence to offer them.

Not a bad burger, but there’s a reason it didn’t make my original short list. However, needs must and all that. I scored this a 7.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Friar Tuck

Today’s adventure took me to a venue up Cuba Street, Olive. This is a small café mainly catering for the hipsters, vegetarians and soy-latte drinkers that litter Cuba Street, but their Burger Wellington offering for this year is heavily meat-based. One of their USPs is a garden bar out the back, which substantially increases its capacity. Given the popularity of the place, it was full on a Wednesday lunchtime, but they were able to seat me in the garden. It’s under cover and they have heaters, so it was OK. Wouldn’t want to be out there if it was windy or rainy, which fortunately it wasn’t. The waitress told me there was a bit of a wait on food, so I ordered my burger and Garage Project beer match (Hakituri. Again.) to get it straight into the kitchen, then settled down and waited.

And waited. What the waitress hadn’t said was “there’s a wait on your beer as well”. I don’t know what the problem was*, but I collared another wait staff and he brought the beer pronto.

The FriarTuck Burger is described like this:

Randwick Meats housemade beef patty with Zany Zeus smoked brinza, Haewai Meadery honey mead and plum ketchup, and Scotty’s Meats bacon in an Arobake pain de mie bun, with pork crackling.

The burger, when it arrived, looked like this:

“That’s a pretty tasty-looking burger”, I hear you say, and you’d be right. All the components were there, and it was well-proportioned. The bacon was crispy, the bun was toasted, and the patty cooked medium rare. Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the bane of my burgering life – extraneous foliage sticking out from the bottom of the patty – but I was able to contain this fairly well. One of the many issues I have with putting lettuce in a  burger is the unintended additional wetness it brings, as the leaves are rarely dried after washing. This water combines with the juices from the burger and condiments, and spills out onto your plate, and clothes if you’re unlucky. But that aside, my only other cavil (it’s a great word, cavil) is the lack of deep-fried thinly-cut potatoes. Yes, there’s a curl of crackling accompanying the burger, but I need chips as well. But for this, we would have been into 10 territory. As it is, it scores a 9.

* But I guess she forgot.