Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tasty Grub Burger

Tuesday night is quiz night at The Old Bailey, and we’ve returned there for our weekly quiz fix. This follows a change in our dancing arrangements from Tuesday to Thursday night, so we’ve abandoned Island Bay Brew’d for a city centre location, which helps more people to join us as an after-work activity.

Why do I mention this? Well, the Old Bailey are also participating in Burger Wellington, so as well as quizzing I was also able to sample their burger entry, the Tasty Grub Burger. It is described as: smoked beef brisket in bourbon sauce in a Zaida's Bakery bun, with baby spinach, homemade tomato jam, crispy bacon and caper bits, with chunky fries. There’s no Garage Project beer match as The Old Bailey is a Monteith’s, and therefore Black Dog, pub. I had my usual pint of Pug Life to wash it down. It looks like this:

First things to note: although not included in the description above, it is stated in the menu that it's a beetroot bun – you can see the pinkness inside. Not that you’d notice it tasting of beetroot, unless perhaps you tried it on its own, so more of an aesthetic thing, really. Secondly, the “chunky fries” were in fact their standard fries. All the other components were there, although the purpose of the “caper bits”, a few of which were randomly scattered over the top, was beyond me. The burger squished down to a manageable handful and maintained its integrity throughout: unlike a lot of burger offerings, it was not overly endowed with wet ingredients, a key cause of bun sogginess and generally messy eating. If anything, it was a little on the dry side. The brisket was well cooked – slow-cooked and tender. Once again, this was a meat sandwich rather than a burger, with the meat not formed into a patty. I’ll try and find one that has a proper burger for my next outing.

The Old Bailey is not particularly noted for its cuisine; it does good pub grub. It’s good of them to enter into the spirit of Burger Wellington, but they’re never going to win. I scored this a 6.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Oriental Bayger

And they’re off! Yes, it’s once again Burger Wellington time, as part of the Wellington On A Plate food festival. Unfortunately this year I’m probably not going to manage a burger a day, as I no longer have a handy CBD location from which to venture forth at lunchtimes. Also, being recently incapacitated by shingles has curbed my enthusiasm somewhat. Still, there are burgers out there to be tasted, and we went out on Saturday to Pomelo – a venue that we’ve been meaning to visit since it opened last year, but have somehow managed to miss so far. This is due to a combination of them not normally being open on weekend lunches, and the one time we did try them of an evening, they were closed for a private function. Humph. They’re located on Oriental Parade, on the first floor where the White House used to ply their trade.

For WOAP, however, they are open for lunch, and we headed along to try their Oriental Bayger burger. It’s described like this: Slow-roasted pork belly, streaky bacon, mango and pineapple salsa and homemade relish, with handcut fries, and it looks like this:

The Garage Project beer match was Mango Milkshake Nitro IPA - a cloudy, mango-flavoured IPA which set off the mango salsa.

As you can guess, this falls into the “meat sandwich” category of burgers. The pork belly was well cooked with a good crackling, and the bacon tasty. The pineapple and mango chutney was a bit runny, and a lot of it fell out of the burger as I was eating it. Towards the end bun integrity started to fail, but it managed to stay in one piece until the end – which was just as well, as the restaurant conveniently provides chopsticks for cutlery. The fries were crispy, chunky and generous. Overall I scored this a 7. Now all we need is for Pomelo to stay open on weekend lunchtimes!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Don’t Date Androids

Summer Is Coming.

On the winter solstice, longest night of the year, we headed out to The Tasting Room for some dinner. I had the rack of lamb, which was good, and Nicola had a burger. A couple of glasses of Roaring Meg and The Ned rosé helped it all go down.

What were we doing out? Well, it being a Thursday, we were out at the theatre again. Keeping with the theme of futuristic stuff, tonight’s adventure at BATS theatre was Don’t Date Androids. Oddly enough, this is not a play warning about the dangers of dating androids. Instead, it’s a courtroom drama, which give the prosecution and defence of Zach, who is accused of murdering his android girlfriend. Set in the future (duh!) where androids are a part of society, and following the Android Protection Act, this is the first case to be brought where an android is assumed to have the same rights as a human being.

The facts of the case are clear, and they are not disputed: Zach strangled Ida. But was he acting in self-defence, or was it murder? Evidence is presented by both sides, and at the end of the play, the audience joins the brotherhood of the three obols, and vote on whether they thought Zach was guilty or not guilty.

It was quite good, but once you take the “is she human?” part out of the equation, it becomes a simple court case. Apart from some anti-android sentiment expressed by some of the witnesses, there wasn’t really any discussion of whether androids should be treated as humans, or are they machines which can be switched off? That part has already been addressed by the APA. That the rules are set by humans without android input, in a similar way to such issues as women’s suffrage and slavery were decided by the people who already had the vote, or freedom, wasn’t really discussed. I think they missed a trick there with the more philosophical aspects of the case.

Monday, June 18, 2018

All Blacks vs. France

The French rugby team are in New Zealand for a series of three test matches, played at Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. The first match last week was a resounding 52-11 victory for the All Blacks, despite not having played together as a team since last year’s Rugby Championship. Some say the match was gifted to the All Blacks by the second-half sin-binning of the French lock for a high tackle. The ABs scored two tries whilst he was in the bin, but then ran in a further five more for an eight try haul overall.  

We had tickets for the Wellington game, where France were expected to try and show up a bit more than they had in the first test. We’d planned to dine at the stadium, as they have recently sacked their old caterers, who were of the cheap pie and chips type, for something a bit more upmarket, in keeping with Wellington’s reputation as the foodie centre of New Zealand. This is a trend that is being seen in stadia around the world, with the public demanding a better quality food experience when they go to see big matches. As part of this, the Piri Burger was announced, designed by former All Black Piri Weepu – the man who almost singlehandedly won the quarter final against Argentina in the 2011 World Cup, thus setting up New Zealand’s win in that competition. As we were queuing for the burgers, a man asked if we had a voucher for a free burger, and promptly handed us one. Wait, was that…? Yes, it was! Piri was helping out at the burger stand, and posing for selfies as well. We’d already acquired one free burger voucher, so we got our burgers for free, and a picture to boot.

We took our seats up in the nosebleed section behind the posts, and settled in for an exciting encounter. As in the previous week, a slow start from the ABs resulted in France opening the scoring with a penalty. Then, disaster struck! Beauden Barrett leapt high to catch the ball, and was dangerously impeded by a French player, landed badly, and was taken off. The French player was sent off for dangerous play, so France were down to 14 men after only 11 minutes. You’d think that this would mean the ABs would romp home, but some lacklustre play, a lot of handling errors, and failure to capitalise on the reduced French team meant that at half time, whilst they were ahead 21-6, they weren’t really demonstrating the dominance that you’d expect. The French team weren’t giving up, and were turning over the ball far more frequently than they should have been allowed to. In the second half the ABs only added one more try, and missed the conversion, whilst the French, in the 81st minute, ran one in themselves, to give a final score 26-13.

The All Blacks have won the series, and recorded another win over France, but they’ll have some soul-searching to do before the final match in Dunedin. This wasn’t the thriller we’d expected from them, so I hope they’ve got their act back together by next Saturday.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Up The Hutts

Last week, a person who shall remain nameless managed to put their foot through the cello, which was on the floor in its gig bag at the time. This necessitated a call to our insurers to make a claim on the contents.

Now, I wasn’t expecting the person in the call centre to be particularly knowledgeable about musical instrument repair, but the conversation did take a slightly baffling turn when she asked what brand it was, and whether it was electric. Nevertheless, the claim was lodged, and a short while later I received a letter by email confirming my claim:

Another email and call later, and it was established that the claim was for a cello, not a chiller. The claims handler still didn’t have much of a clue though, so I gently suggested to him that maybe I’d find out what it would take to repair it; to which he readily agreed.

I put in a call to Wellington’s premier classical music shop, and spoke to the proprietor, Alistair, who put me in touch with a luthier based in Upper Hutt. I arranged to take the cello to him on Saturday.

Thus it was that we took ourselves on a trip Up The Hutts. Wellington, as you know, is made up of four conurbations: Wellington City, Porirua, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt. The two Hutts, on the Hutt River, aren’t places we visit often – we normally hoon past them on State Highway 2 on our way to the Wairarapa and beyond. But, as we were going that way, we decided to make an adventure of it. After Nicola’s usual orchestra practice on Saturday morning, we drove up to Lower Hutt, to the Dowse Art Museum, which is currently showing an exhibition of contemporary jewellery.

Some of it is just jewellery, but a lot of it is based around what is the idea of jewellery, what it’s for, and how it can be used to challenge people’s perceptions. Art, in other words. We felt very cultured.

The Dowse museum is also home to the Bellbird Eatery, so we stopped for a lunch of Vietnamese chicken salad there, before girding our loins for the trip to Upper Hutt. In fact, the area we were going to was a residential suburb, Totara Park, where we met with the estimable Mr. Collins, and chatted to him about stringed instruments in general, and repairs in particular. He reckons it’ll take him three or four weeks before it’s ready again, and, in his words “it won’t look pretty”. So Nicola will make up some story about how she escaped from Eastern Europe using the cello as a sled, or similar.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Atom Room

We’re back in Wellington now, and well into the winter season at Circa Theatre. This week was the world premiere of The Atom Room, a new play by Philip Braithwaite. Yes, that Philip Braithwaite.

As we’d not been out for dinner for a while, we decided on Zibibbo as an appropriate venue for dinner beforehand. We selected the pre-theatre menu as there was plenty on here to please everyone. There have been some changes since we were last there – the maitre-d’ who can’t remember my name has gone, to be replaced by a Scottish woman who didn’t ask. We did have a question for her, however: as the latest Wellington On A Plate catalogue has just been published, listing all the delights available between 10th and 26th August, one establishment was conspicuous by its absence…Zibibbo! This year, they’re not doing degustation! Quelle horreur! We asked why, and apparently it’s because the owner is concentrating all his attention on his latest project, Union Square. This is handily located in the Martinborough Hotel, in Martinborough, so a bit of a long way for us to go for dinner. Looks like we’ll be skipping that one then, which is a shame, as the Zibibbo degustation had become one of the highlights of WOAP for us.

Before the show begins, there’s a virtual reality show available. You put on a headset and are guided through Wellington of the future, with the bucket fountain listing in Cuba Canal, before virtually crash-landing outside Circa Theatre (which made us a bit seasick) and walking into the virtual theatre.

So, to The Atom Room. 150 years in the future, and global warming, rising sea levels, and nuclear catastrophes have basically buggered Earth. Wellington has been doubly buggered by a magnitude 9 earthquake as well. Danny, an environmentalist, works as a civil servant trying to protect the planet with good grammar. He meets engineer Sarah, played by Circa regular Harriet Prebble. They fall in love, and after three months he takes her to a part of the country where the air is breathable without masks, points out the lovely view – both Wellington and Hutt Islands are visible – and proposes to her. This is a weirdly retro thing to do, but it’s coming back into fashion. Shortly after this, she is recruited to go and work on a new project on Mars, and that’s where the problem starts. They continue to meet in a virtual environment provided by her employers, The Atom Room – where they can see, hear, and even touch (but not smell) each other. This is where the majority of the play takes place, as Sarah’s career blossoms and she is offered an open-ended contract on Mars, whilst Danny loses his job on Earth. As you might imagine, there’s some tension, particularly as they want to have children. Complicating things further are the machinations of Sarah’s boss, Margaret.

The play basically covers the problems of long-distance relationships and distance, the ways and means of overcoming them, how to misunderstand someone, and all the usual problems. And fart jokes. There are fart jokes. Catch it if you can.

Friday, May 25, 2018

More Old Stuff

There were a couple of things that we’d missed out on, so decided to use our final day in Malta to take a shorter day trip and try to fit them in. We again stopped late to make use of the swimming pool before leaving for the Ghar Dalam Cave. This is the site of some ice age fossils of dwarf elephants and hippopotami, and other creatures, which proved that during the Ice Age there was a land bridge between Malta and Sicily, due to falling sea levels as all the water was locked up as ice. It’s a fairly small museum with a load of bones in it. We did the museum part, learning about gigantism and nanism (which is not your nan saying “I don't like that forrin muck”) before touring the cave itself. The final area of the cave is blocked off as it is one of only two habitats for a rare woodlouse, Armadillidium ghardalamensis.

We call this "the bone room"

We drove back to the picturesque village of Marsaxlokk for a spot of lunch in one of the many waterfront cafes, before heading into the Three Cities to visit the Maritime Museum at Vittoriosa. This contains many artefacts and models from the maritime history of Malta, including some very impressive sailing ship models.

A little further along the way is the Fort of St Angelo, which was also an integral part of the defences of Malta from medieval times up to the end of the 19th century. There were some films which told the story, filling in the gaps from a naval perspective for the history of the island that we’ve so far seen.

After all that, we were pretty well done. The only final objective was to fill the car with petrol to take it back full to the rental place at the airport. As we have an early start in the morning, and I’m not confident that Maltese petrol stations will be open at 5:00am. We found a petrol station, pulled up, and started filling. At this point the owner comes out and says “you know we don’t accept credit cards? Cash only!” This was a bit of a bugger, as we’d been managing down our €€€ holdings in anticipation of our departure, and didn’t have enough to fill the car…or pay what we’d pumped so far! No problem, the friendly garage assistant got in the car and directed us to the nearest ATM, where we obtained sufficient cash to fill the car, then drove back and filled up the rest of the tank, paid, and made our way back to the apartment. Phew! What a palaver.

Our final night in Gzira will be spent at the same restaurant that we went to on our first night, as we liked that one pretty much and seem to have exhausted all the other decent establishments around here.