Thursday, August 25, 2011


Those of you on Facebook will have realised this already, but for the rest of you (and I think you know who you are! ;-)), I have started a new blog, which records my search for the perfect fish and chips on this side of the world. I'm also experimenting with using Wordpress rather than Blogger for this - with which I've had a couple of teething problems, so bear with me whilst I learn how it works.

This doesn't mean I'll be abandoning Wellington Boots...this is still my main blog. I expect to update fush'n'chups far less frequently. Man cannot live on fush'n'chups alone!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Always believe in your soul

On Saturday morning we drove into town to take our Gold medal test. Unfortunately we’d made a bit of a mix-up with the times, and were an hour later than we thought we should be. This in  itself wasn’t a major stumbling-block as they’re fairly flexible about timing, but it meant that almost as soon as we arrived we were thrust into the test with very little practice or warm-up beforehand. That said, we know the routines pretty well by now, but I was somewhat disappointed with my performance and didn’t think that I’d given it my best shot.

Afterwards we went for a coffee with another couple, then after a spot of shopping, parked up and went to lunch at Le Métropolitain, a French (never! ;-)) café on Cuba Street. This was a final foray into Wellington On A Plate, and the first time that we’d gone for the burger option – one of the competitions run during the WOAP fortnight is the Burger Wellington, whereby each participating venue creates a burger especially for the competition, and is voted on by members of the public. In terms of originality, the “Allo Allo! Burger” was nothing special – melted cheese, bacon and mushroom topping – but it was very well executed, served with hand-cut string fries, and generally pretty good. It was the first time we’d been to Le Métropolitain (we’d tried once before, but it was fully booked…we avoided that trap this time) and we liked it a lot, so I think we’ll head back there sometime and sample the rest of their menu.

As is usually the case when we do our medal tests, there was a social dance in the evening. We packed our dancing shoes, caught a cab into town, and turned up at around 8pm. Some of our usual gang weren’t able to make it that night, but there were enough people there that we knew, and we are now confident enough to take to the floor for nearly all the dances, apart from the advanced ones that we’ve not started yet, like the tango. However, we have been promised a start on the quick-step next term, so that should add to our repertoire.

We had our medal ceremony, but unfortunately our medals hadn’t arrived - just the certificates and the examiner's marks and comments - so no pic of the shiny gold one that we have both attained.

Battle Of The Brains

My employer is one of the principal sponsors of Daffodil Day, New Zealand’s Cancer Society’s annual fund-raising day. One of the main events the bank holds is Battle Of The Brains, a quiz competition for all Wellington-based staff. Quiz, you say? With my reputation? ;-) Yes, I joined a team of eight organised in our department.

One of the features of the competition is that all the teams dress up in fancy dress. There is, naturally, a competition for this as well. Some teams (clearly those with more money than sense, and far too much time on their hands – yes, Marketing, I’m looking at *you*) go overboard and do fully themed team costumes, make-up, wigs etc. whereas most teams go for a more “home-made” approach. We threw a few ideas around when the competition was first announced, and finally decided that we would go for something that would be fairly easily put together with a few props and a couple of face masks: under the team name “Yes We Can!” we went as Barack and Michelle Obama, together with their secret service security detail – i.e. the remaining six of us dressed up in dark suits, white shirts, dark glasses, and the finishing touch – those curly-wired earpieces that go down the back of your collar.

"Yes We Can!" - indistinguishable from the real thing

The gig was being held at the Amora Hotel on Wakefield street, so we walked down there from the office in full cosutume, and in character: “Step away from the President, Sir!” and similar badinage. Joke of the evening – supplied by yours truly and applied to just about anything or anyone deemed a threat to the president:

“Agent Collins, there’s a goat in the corner of the room”
“Roger that”
(Cue hilarious laughter)

The quiz followed the usual format – 10 rounds, two jokers, various audio-visual aids for the music round and others. We scored well at the beginning and after two rounds were in the lead. Unfortunately we shared that lead with 5 other teams! We gradually slid down the leader board as we made some glaring errors (Azerbaijan won the Eurovision Song Contest? Who knew? Er, some of the others, apparently) and eventually finished at 15th out of 55 teams, and only eight points off the winning score, so not a bad effort overall.

Along the way there were various auctions for other prizes, a dancing competition, and the aforementioned “best-dressed team” competition. The winners were the Scary Scarecrows, who’d gone for full make-up effects as well. I think we were robbed, however, as we were all in suits and ties and therefore clearly the best-dressed team. The judges seem to have misinterpreted this as meaning “most original costume” or something. Humph.

Freddie & Elvis were there, too (Dead Pop Stars team)

Anyway, we all had a thoroughly good time, and some of the teams then headed into town for further “refreshment”. I went along to Molly Malone’s for a couple of beers – a slightly bizarre sight as people in the pub watched a bunch of American gangsters enter, followed by secret service agents and Wonderwoman. But they took it in their stride – just another night out in Wellington.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


The weather people had predicted an icy blast this weekend bringing snow to most areas…but by lunchtime on Sunday this had failed to materialise.  We headed into Cuba Street with the intention of trying another Wellington On A Plate deal at Duke Carvell’s – but when we got there we found that we had been misled by the book, and the lunchtime offer was only available Monday to Friday. So we ordered off the brunch menu instead, and washed it down with a pint of Emerson’s pilsner.

We then headed off to the main event of the day: MacHomer, at the Opera House.  I’d booked tickets for the matinée performance. MacHomer is a one-man show written and performed by Canadian Rick Miller, and has been toured extensively. It is the story of Macbeth, with all the characters being played by characters from the Simpsons, with Homer in the title role. Much of the original play has been kept.  It is very funny (in a way that Shakespeare never intended) and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Go see it if you get the opportunity!

At the end, by way of an encore, he also sang Bohemian Rhapsody in the style of the 25 most annoying rock singers’ voices – from Bob Dylan to Bono and Leonard Cohen.

When we came out, we found that the promised weather had finally arrived, and not only was the wind whistling through us, but there were cars driving around with snow on them! Fortunately we’d decided against catching the bus into town and had driven, so were able to make it home in comfort.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wellington On A Plate

Disaster struck on Tuesday night as we headed up to the Backbencher for our usual quiz night: the pub was closed for a private function! The owner, Boycie, had forgotten to tell us about this last week (in fact, the same thing happened last year when we made our first abortive attempt to participate in the quiz here). I quickly texted all the usual participants to let them know.

But, what to do? We had nothing prepared for dinner, and the night was drawing on. Fortunately, we are slap-bang in the middle of Wellington’s annual festival of food, Wellington On A Plate, where many of the capital’s cafés and restaurants offer special deals for a fortnight, as well as other events being organized. Unfortunately we didn’t have our magazine guide with us, so we just headed to the nearest place we could remember that was participating – and a place we haven’t visited for a good while: Pravda. The deal they were offering was a three-course dinner with matching wines. The menu was cheese leek & pancetta tartlet, sous-vide lamb with pumpkin mash, Israeli couscous and tapenade, and Whittaker's chocolate torte with poached pear and vanilla ice cream.

Other events being offered during WOAP include lunchtime tasting at Kirkcaldie & Stains, Wellington’s main department store. As this is conveniently located just round the corner from where I work, I’ve been trying to drop in there at lunchtimes to sample what’s on offer. On Monday, Kapiti Kitchen were offering samples of their cordials – Nicola is a fan of their Ginger Lemon & Honey, but they were offering new varieties. On Tuesday an olive oil producer from Martinborough, Olivo, was giving samples of flavoured olive oil which included their new cumin flavour, as well as staples such as smoked chilli and fennel.

Tonight we’re booked into Arbitrageur for dinner, who are offering a two-course dinner with wine. The menu is: Blue warehou with potato and fennel, roast pork belly with apple & fennel compote, and meringue with lemon curd, crème vanilla and passionfruit. All accompanied with a Wellington wine, the Ata Rangi Petrie Chardonnay 2009 from Martinborough.
More WOAP adventures soon!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Beervana is Wellington’s annual beer festival. Now in its 10th year, it features over 200 beers this year from over 80 breweries, from all over New Zealand (and some from Australia). It has grown over the years and is this year being held in the Westpac Stadium for the first time as it has outgrown its previous venue, the Town Hall.

My ticket was for the Friday evening session. Nicola had taken herself off to an interdepartmental netball match, and I went with a bunch of guys – some from work, others from elsewhere. After a quick change out of working clothes, we set off up to the stadium.

Beer brewing, especially microbreweries and “craft” beers, have seen an explosion of interest in New Zealand over the last decade or so. Many different styles and types of beer are now available, although “real ale” is somewhat under-represented – most of the beers available are bottled or kegged rather than “live”. The plan is usually to restrict yourself to one type of beer, and taste many different varieties of that style.

In addition to their standard brews, some exhibitors had opted to make a special beer for the competition. This year’s competition theme (unsurprising in the year that New Zealand is hosting the Rugby World Cup) is “Let’s Go…Black” – i.e. brew a new black beer exclusively for the festival. I drank mostly dark and black beers, which in the UK are mainly restricted to stout of the Guinness/Beamish/Murphy’s type, and the increasingly-rare mild. These brewers showed the variety of styles and flavours that could be made, from the liquorice-y Tuatara XI to whisky porter and cherry chocolate ale.

This year’s festival had a focus on food as well, and grub was available from stalls run by some of Wellington’s most notable eateries, such as Logan Brown, Boulcott Street Bistro, and Martin Bosley’s. For the serious-minded there are also opportunities to meet the brewers, and various seminars organized about making beer and matching beer to food. I started out with the best of intentions to attend one of these…but after a few beers, that fell by the wayside.

The whole event finished at 10pm. Some of the crew then headed out to Courtenay Place to continue the festivities, but I staggered onto a bus and went home.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Picture This

A few weeks ago, we drove out to Makara beach, which is just the other side of the peninsula that makes up Wellington Harbour. There’s not much there apart from a café and the beach, and it wasn’t a particularly warm day, so we didn’t stay long, just took a few pictures, stopped for a coffee, and left.

One of those pictures, however (and I have to admit to no great skill on my part) seemed to come out quite well. So much so that we’ve had it blown up to A1 size, and printed on canvas to take pride of place on our wall, just over the fireplace. It looks like this:

And here it is in situ – you probably can’t see it as well from this photo. Anyway, take it from me, it looks pretty good, as the colours that it’s come out with almost exactly match those of the wall.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Another blog about housewarming! This afternoon we had our second housewarming party in New Zealand, and invited people from the various activities we now take part in – work (obviously), dancing, singing, and quizzing. We again mulled some wine and had some friends round to help us consume it.

I made some hummous to my traditional recipe. I'm not sure this is totally original, but this is the one I use and I’ve had a few requests for this (Nicola took some along to her choir one night not long ago, and they seemed to enjoy it)... so here it is in all its glory:

1 can chickpeas (400 grammes seems to be the usual size)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, blanched
½ teaspoon salt

This is the base recipe. I find blanching the garlic clove (put it in a cup or ramekin and pour boiling water on it and let it sit for a few minutes) helps to reduce the bitter garlic taste. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz it up for about a minute.

For added flavour, I also make the following varieties – add these before mixing: sundried tomato (add about 8 sundried tomatoes); sweet chilli (add 12 peppadew peppers, and a hot chilli); lemon and coriander (add the zest of the lemon you’re going to juice, and a bunch of coriander leaves).

It generally tastes better if you can give it a few hours for the flavours to develop - this is particularly true of the lemon and coriander, which always seem to taste better a day after making it.

Now you can make hummous like me!

So a jolly afternoon was had, and everyone got to see our new house. Thanks to all those who brought gifts! When the summer comes we’ll be able to entertain outside on our deck, get the barbie out and have a few beers.