Plant Blazed – I’m Flipping Amazed.

Since becoming a pescatarian, I find myself obsessing over the taste of tempeh, the savour of seitan, and the sheer variety of meals you can make from plant-based meat alternatives – don’t even get me started on the power of the humble pea. But I find that a lot of restaurants and cafes don’t experiment with these incredible ingredients, are still stuck in the ‘oh we’ll chuck a mushroom risotto on the menu for the vegetarians’ mindset. But thank god that in Wellington, we have an abundance of vegans and vegetarians who have entered the food scene themselves and made it their goal to feed us plant-based people some seriously tasty vegetarian food. The forerunner in this operation? Plant Blazed, of course.

For those of you who don’t know about Plant Blazed, it’s a little pop-up caravan parked behind the famous Recycle Boutique, which serves up some big boy burgers, hefty hotdogs, and succulent salads. The catch? It’s all vegetarian. They say never to judge a book by its cover – and this saying is way too accurate when you arrive at plant blazed. The boys at Plant Blazed are beard-bearing, heavy metal blaring burger addicts, who love to create flamin’ hot sauces. When you imagine this, you’d think they whip up classic American BBQ beef burgers and fat Chicago dogs right? Wrong. These boys are here to break the stereotype and bring only delicious plant-based burgers to the streets of Wellington. So now we know who Plant Blazed is and what they do, let’s sink our teeth into the burger breakdown.

Luckily, I had just smashed out a 2 hour walk before coming here, so eating a carbalicious burger was no issue to me. After glazing at their menu, I thought to myself “f**k, this all looks delicious” (shout out to my man Action Bronson for that quote). It’s true though, all the combinations of their burgers sounded too sensational – who knew a veggie burger could have somebody in such a conundrum?? At last, I ordered their Laverne Cox, whilst my partner went for their Crying Nut burger. We also ordered a few chips, because whats a burger without a side of chips?

When my burger hit the table, it was quite literally bulging out of its little box (which was compostable – woop!), and I could JUST about get my mouth around it (get your mind OUT of the gutter, please). I’ve never tried seitan before, but holy sh**, it kicks southern fried chicken’s ass! This seitan patty combined with layers of slaw, corn, and pineapple, all smothered in a peri peri sauce made for a burger that slays all other burgers of Wellington. I’m lowkey gutted I gave half to my partner, because I could’ve smashed the whole thing. However, that being said, I tried half of the Crying Nut burger – a tower of fried tofu, kimchi, gherkins, toasted sesame seeds, and dragon mayo – which tasted like a flipping boss bao bun, but in burger form. I cannot express just how incredible the tofu tasted, and how perfectly it was cooked. At last, the chips. Honestly, pretty average – I reckon they could’ve been fried just a little bit crispier – but one of the lads let us try his homemade hot sauce with our fries, and ho-damn that sauce saved the day. It was spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and deffo lit a little fire in your throat.

If you’ve made it past my ramble – well done – it’s not judgement time. This burger feast is up there with one of the best I’ve ever had, and I can’t express my sheer happiness that it’s all vegetarian and vegan! The burgers were absolutely faultless, and I now see why they have so many raving reviews – I reckon they’ve even converted some meat eaters out there! The chips were a little average, but hey, they’re not famous for their fries, are they? The lads were super social, and you could just feel their passion when they yarned about their craft. The location is perfect being tucked away behind one of Wellington’s busiest streets, and I love how they don’t boast about themselves – they rely on word of mouth, and the words that are being said about these burgers are nothing but positive! Plant Blazed, you really exceeded my expectations, and I’m gonna have to award you a 9.5/10. The chips could be better, but don’t ever change anything to your burgers. I’ll be back.

Los Banditos Has Stolen the Spotlight

I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but since turning to gorging ourselves on Mexican food either post town or not at all sober (thanks Zambrero), there has been a whirlwind of new Mexican places flood into Wellington. Obviously, these new places aren’t meant for town folk – although I’m sure one too many margaritas might get you there – but I can guarantee their food tastes just as good as it does when drunk and hungry. Recently, there’s a new kid on the block who is stepping up to the Mexicano challenge, and from my experience here, they’re doing a pretty flipping good job. Let’s talk about Los Banditos.

I knew about this place a little while before it was opened – as my stunning bartender friend Louis works there and absolutely KILLS the cocktail menu – but I could’t picture in my head what kind of establishment it would be like. From the outside, it follows in the footsteps of Lulu and Boom burger, with the bright neon signage, but on the inside is where Los Banditos really sets themselves apart – and I’m not just talking about the food! The interior is warm, cosy, bright, colourful and eye-catching all at once, and perfectly emulates the bold and eclectic South American towns and culture. As soon as we settled down into our comfy booth, we were instantly greeted by a cheerful waitress who was more than happy to let us know what’s poppin’ on the menu.

Knowing that our bartender friend was working, we had to test drive his Margarita skills, so I ordered their chai spiced margarita, and my partner ordered one of their frozen margaritas (which was only $12 – bargain!). Holy mamma has my friend got skill, because these bad boys tasted amazing and definitely did their job of getting me a little tipsy. We also got to try a few little tasters that aren’t yet on the menu, but once they are, I’ll let you guys know EXACTLY which drink they are so you can go and experience the flavours that we did! Enough about the drink, this is a food blog. So, let’s cut to the chase.

We were flipping hungry that night, so each ordered a veggie quesadilla and a big ol bowl of chips and salsa. I always get a little cautious when ordering chips and salsa because I never know how big the portion of chips are gonna be, and how authentic the salsa is gonna taste. Well, rest assured, Los Banditos have all bases covered and served us up a HUGE portion of multi-coloured corn chips and a fresh and tantalizing salsa to match. After only denting the pile of chips a little, our quesadillas were placed in front of us. You know when you actually drool a little at the sight of food? Yeah, I had to wipe my mouth. The aromas coming from both plates smelt so good that I almost forgot to take a photo and dug right in! After getting that Insta snap, I then proceeded to stuff my face. Their truffle and mushroom quesadilla sparked a fiesta of savoury, sweet, umami, and spicy flavours in my mouth, and not long after taking my first bite had I cleared the plate. Their broccolini quesadilla was also delicious and is the perfect plate of food for somebody who can’t get enough of their greens!

Okay, I’m going to stop rambling about the food and my mate Louis and give them my final CCL score. The ambiance was awesome, and really worked with the alty Welly vibe. The drinks were jaw-droppingly tasty, and nearly stole the spotlight from their food. But I have to give commendations to the chefs, who really went in on the flavours and made some westerner Mexican-favourite meals authentic and interesting. The only thing I could pull them up upon is the variety of Mexican meals they have, and maybe delving into some more traditional and unknown dishes could be cool – but it’s their very first menu, and I’m sure they’ve got some tasty trick up their sleeves for the future! A flipping awesome 8.8/10 for Los Banditos, but I know with time they’ll pump out some menu’s that’ll bump up that score.

There’s No Place Like A Taste of Home!

If you live in Wellington, you know that Cuba Street and all the lanes surrounding it are hotspots for cheap, easy, and delicious Asian takeaways (BYO’s for the rowdier among us ;)). But there’s one place that has stirred the pot over the past few months and has been absolutely dominating the Insta scene – with foodies all over Wellington gushing about how bloody banging their food is. So obviously, I had to go and check it out to see if it really lived up to its now-household name: A Taste of Home.  For this little foodie adventure, I was lucky enough to be accompanied by my lovely mate Georgia, who runs @theHungryHippo on Instagram (check it out for awesome reviews and mouthwatering recipes!). So, on a cold and wet Welly evening, with our tummies literally rumbling from hunger, we hit A Taste of Home HARD!

For those who don’t know (and it’s easy to miss), A Taste of Home is parked right opposite the architecture campus on Vivian Street, which is super central and easy to get to, and also very dangerous for the bank accounts of design students. I’m also not kidding when I say it’s hard to miss – because this place is TINY! It only has 5 seats inside, which makes is a bit of a race to grab a seat, but it also means that the aromas coming from the kitchen quickly fill the dining room, making you even hungrier for their food. The menu is jam-packed with heaps of different dishes, with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options (yusss) – and they even let you choose which noodle you want with your meal!

After much panic and deliberation, I settled for their Vegan Zha Jiang Mian, which is a mix of tofu, shiitake mushrooms, stir fry veggies, with hand-tossed rice noodles to match. All I’m gonna say is: Holy Mamma this shit is good. I went to the Night Noodle Markets earlier on this year, and to be honest, I should’ve ignored that hype and come here instead. The noodles from A Taste of Home kick the ass of any stall at Night Noodle Markets. I literally couldn’t – and still can’t – fathom just how a $12 bowl of noodles tastes so freaking good. The tofu? Marinated to perfection. The vegetables? An amazing mix of fresh and stir-fried goodness. The Noodles? Long, messy, and the best vehicle to mop up all those delicious, savoury juices. We also ordered the chili chips to snacky-snack on – which were crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and definitely had that little slap of spice with every bite.

So if you’ve got to this part of the review, I think you can guess I’m going to rate this place pretty flipping high on the CCL scale. The food was cheap (love it), the food was delicious (love it), and the actual place itself is so humble and unassuming, making it even more authentic and loveable (love that). The only thing that I would say was a problem was: 1. Their lack napkins – you can imagine how messy the noodles were and how half the sauce ended up on my face after eating them, but there was nothing to wipe it off with! And: 2. Their lack of water – the noodles and chips were a little spicy, so I needed something to quench the thirst and chill the chili, but the only drinks in sight were from their vending machine. Apart from these 2 minute altercations, A Taste of Home earns themselves a mean 8.8/10 on the CCL scale. If you’re reading this and are feeling a little peckish, skip the meal prep tonight and go grab yourself some of the best noodles you’ll ever taste from our friend at A Taste of Home – you won’t regret it, but you might get addicted!

Chapter 2: Pierre Fenoux

Let’s start off with a bit about you – I saw that you grew up in France, whereabouts and what was your upbringing like?

I grew up in the Alps in a small town called Chembéry. My father passed away when I was young, so I was brought up by my grandparents, mostly in the garden of our house! Jeannout, was my grandfather, so the name of my restaurant was a tribute to him(Jano).

What would you say your favourite childhood memory with food is?

I would say my first childhood memories of food would be my aunties wedding, where we went to this really amazing restaurant that was famous back in the time, the food was delicious. It’s definitely one of my earliest and fondest memories.

What kind of food did you eat in France during your childhood?

Like I said, my grandparents had this massive garden in the back, we would pick what was ripe and fresh, and would cook whatever we could out of that produce. All of our homemade meals weren’t very cliché French, they were fresh and light – but we couldn’t not eat cheese of course.

Looking back, what drove you towards your love of food?

It’s an accumulation of things. My grandmother was always cooking and being around her was a big influence. I was cooking with them, so my passion came naturally. My grandmother said she had never been prouder when I became a chef, because when I was young, I would have these pots and spoons that I would put Lego blocks in and stir up – I think I even tried them too!

From France to New Zealand, it’s a big leap! What made you want to come over to little NZ?

I left France quite a long time ago to go to Australia where I spent 3 years working. Then after a while I migrated over here and liked it. I moved straight to Wellington and worked in a restaurant,  Le Canard, over in Thordon, which was kind of the preincarnation of Jano. We’ve been on Willis Street since 2014 and loving it ever since!

Did you ever consider going down another career route during your life, or no?

Haha, not really! I’m doomed or cursed to be a chef. I mean what I’m doing now and where I’m working, it’s not something I could do forever. But I think even when I’m older I will still create food, and not just any kind of food, more fine dining. It’s what I like so I want to continue doing it.

What has your culinary journey been like? Where did you start and how did you get here?

I studied at a pretty good cookery school, one that wasn’t too far from my home town, and did four years over there and then started cooking in restaurants afterward. I even worked in some Michelin star restaurants back in my region. I was pretty young, so it was quite cool having that experience.

Why this location, size and place? Compared to where you were in Thorndon, why did you move to Willis Street?

I was an employee at my previous place, and my boss at the time told me that he was probably going to put the restaurant on the market, so, I started thinking what I was going to do, and his business partner asked if I would like to takeover. We saw this place came up and it had potential from being an existing restaurant. I wanted to make Jano a replication of my home. It’s cozy, warm and humble. There’s no point in being over the top. When you’re in a restaurant, it should reflect who you are and tell a story. It makes more sense and matches my food.

Where do you source most of your ingredients from? Is it local markets or other?

I don’t have much time to go and buy the produce myself unfortunately, but just trusting my suppliers and knowing what I want works well. The fish is all line caught; the meat is all free-range. I also have a forager for wild ingredients. The global movement of organic has meant newer and smaller local suppliers within a few kilometers from wellington, they’ll call me and tell me what they have and if I want to try some, and a lot of the time I’ll experiment.

What inspired your meals and your menu? What’s the main driver?

I would say season. We’re not going to do peas or tomatoes in July, so yes, just really seasonal produce. We are more vegetarian that meat, so the process of thinking about the vegetarian dish and then which protein is going to match this dish. It’s about the veggies really. Less intervention on the vegetables, keeping the taste, but making it really interesting as well through using smoking, curing or fermenting.

Out of the current dishes at Jano, what’s your favourite one to cook?

Ahhhhhhh, we have the buckwheat tart which is the second course, and I think this one would be my favourite I think. Just because its different, we tried to make a lot of textures too, it’s really clean on the plate. The mousse has changed maybe 10 times since we first made it, so it’s constantly changing.

How often do you change up your menu?

Whenever I want. Depending on the dish, I sometimes get bored or sometimes I’ll stick with a dish. The buckwheat tart I’ve been doing for 6 months now, but I still love making it. It also depends on customers feedback, depends on availability (whether things are in season). I would never change up a whole menu, that’s a lot of work. At the most a couple of dishes at a time, and really spread out the changes to make sure the dishes are right. Sometimes I’ll even change the dish on the spot if I feel like it – being the chef I have that awesome power!

What’s been your all-time favourite dish you’ve made at Jano (I know it’s hard to remember!)?

*Long Pause* – I don’t know! Before we closed, we used to do this dessert with Lemon, olive oil, rosemary and this one was on the menu for pretty much that whole time we were open, and we never took it off because people loved it. When we reopened, I cooked the same version of it because it was so popular, and I loved creating different variations of it! The first version was like an Eton mess, and the last time I made It, it was more refined and cleanly plated.

And finally, If you could only eat one cheese for the rest of your life – be careful now – what would It be?

Oh easy – Reblochon. It’s from my region, it’s quite strong actually, kind of nutty. The rind is washed but you can eat it. It’s just really good. You can eat it when it’s fresh, you can eat it when its more mature. The flavour just evolves. I would either serve it with nice crust bread or in a tartiflette – which is a creamy bacon, potato, onion bake, and topped with this cheese is just incredible.

Seoul Salon: Korean Food with a Whole Lotta’ Seoul!

Before coming to Wellington, I lived on a farm in Nelson – which meant I had absolutely NO experience with cuisines other than the good old French or British dishes my Mam and Dad cooked up. Now? Wellington has worked wonders on my food knowledge and palette. The sheer abundance of Asian restaurants in Wellington is insane, but they seem to be namely South East Asian and Japanese. That was up until the my new favourite South Korean inspired food fix popped up on Willis Street – Seoul Salon.

I remember walking up Willis street, and my eye being caught by a new and very humble looking little restaurant tucked in-between capital market and burger liquor. Me being the nosy parker I am, I had to have a look through their window and glaze over their menu, which is when I decided I simply MUST come here. My first attempt to come here was a failure, since I didn’t read GMB and rocked up to an empty and locked Seoul Salon (take note – they’re not open on Mondays), however my second attempt, on a freaking freezing rainy and windy Wellington night, was more than a success. Upon sprinting out of the rain and into the restaurant, we were warmly welcomed by their staff and shown to a cute little table for 2. We then had the always-horrendous task of choosing out meals, but once my eye read ‘Salmon Poke Bowl’, I knew the decision had been made. But we wanted to taste a little more of what Seoul Salon had to offer, so we ordered a tofu steamed bun to share as an appetite quencher and little taste tester to see what flavours we were in for.

When the steamed bun hit our table, my boyfriend and I exchanged a look of confusion. I mean, a bao bun is still a steamed bun (technically), but in our minds we were expecting a little round bun filled with tofu, rather than a tofu bao. That being said, the Bao still looked incredible: it was stuffed with battered tofu, fresh cabbage, slices of pickled ginger, and a thick teriyaki sauce. Now I’ve been bouncing around bao’s recently, and I can hand on heart say this is the best one yet. The thick slab of tofu art Mr Go’s was undeniably delicious, but the flavours that paired with the battered tofu at Seoul Salon? Faultless. The bun was also MASSIVE, and gladly fed the appetites of two people before the main meal.

Shortly after devouring the bao in probably a very unattractive way, our main meals were set in front of us. My partner ordered their Han-Sang, a dish of fried tofu and rice with 4 little side dishes, which were: kimchi, glass noodles, tempura battered kumura and a green salad. Though being simple, the flavours were excellent, and each side dish matched the rice and tofu immaculately. Their kimchi is also one of the best kimchi’s I’ve ever tried, and I could’ve eaten a whole bowlful of it! As I mentioned before, I went for their salmon poke bowl with sour and spicy sauce, which was a beautifully presented masterpiece – the pops of colour from all the different ingredients made it look almost too good to eat! Just in case you’d never tried a poke bowl before, they even gave you some instructions on how to mix everything together so that every bite was a mashup of all the fresh, spicy, sour and umami flavours. I absolutely demolished this bowl after taking my first bite – I just couldn’t stop myself. The mix of salmon, edamame beans, slaw, omelette, sesame seeds, seaweed, and cucumber, created a harmonious combination of textures and flavours that nobody could flaw.

Whenever I try out someplace new, that only has a handful of tagged insta images, I get kind nervous about what to expect and what I’m going to be tucking into. By going with my gut and not letting the lack of reviews sway my opinion, I may have just found one of Wellington’s new Korean best-kept secrets. The food was sensational and opened up my palette to old and new flavours that I’m definitely going to try and recreate. The price of the food was super reasonable, and that allowed us to order more food and try a whole abundance of Korean style dishes. The service was incredible, and you could just tell that the chefs and waitresses were happy to be hosting you, and they looked after us so well. By having a relaxed and effortless vibe, it’s created a dining atmosphere that anybody of any aged and any class can enjoy. A solid 9/10 for this Korean cafeteria, as it shows that you don’t have to have a chef’s hat or Michelin star to be a wonderful place to come and enjoy authentic and delicious food. Love your work Seoul Salon, and I’ll definitely be back for more!

A Rad Grad Night At Jardin Grill & Bistro

A few weeks ago, ya’ cafecrawler girl here graduated! Only $46,000 for a sheet of paper, bargain, right?? One thing that comes along with graduation other than an overpriced piece of paper is food. Everybody knows that when you graduate, it’s a family affair, and when your parents come to town, they shout dinner. It’s a perfect scenario for the still-poor ex-student looking for blog content! Now with about 2,500 people graduating plus all their families, you gotta’ get in months earlier to seal a seat at a restaurant. After days and days of trawling the gram and analyzing menu’s, I secured a table at Sofitel’s Jardin Grill.

Even after living 4 years in Wellington, I hadn’t heard of this place, and after stalking their ‘gram and Facebook, I don’t think a lot of people have either. This made me even more curious to try their food, and when my grad’ night came around, my tummy was filled with excitement and hunger. When we first arrived, all I can say is that the place was beautiful. Jardin’s dining room has incredibly inviting and grand atmosphere, which is created by their elegant and semi-avantgarde rustic interior. We were sat right next to their open grill kitchen, that as a former chef, I absolutely love, and it filled the room with the most amazing aromas that tantalized the senses. Since I hadn’t eaten since lunch and I had just sat through a stupidly long ceremony, you bet this girl was hungry. But before I even looked at the menu, we were happily surprised with some little devilled-egg bruschetta amuse bouches to tickle our appetite. Service was off to an incredible start, and I couldn’t wait for my main course!

As I pondered over the menu, I noticed that they had heaps of vegetarian and pescatarian options, which is something I really appreciate. There’s nothing worse than only having one vegetarian option (which is ALWAYS a mushroom risotto). That being said I actually opted for their Milanese risotto, WHICH in my defense, had two super bougie types of mushrooms, and a whole lot of other ingredients that took it from a bog-standard dish to something god-like. One bite of the risotto, mushrooms, goats cheese curd, crunchy baked walnuts, Parmigiano Reggiano, and kale chips altogether in one mouthful was enough to send me to flavour paradise. The balance of all those rich and umami flavours was incredible, and it was by far the best dish in the dining room – I didn’t want it to end!

After this palatable plate of food, I thought I’d be full, but heck a graduation ceremony really sucks the energy out of you, and I knew dessert was a mandatory requirement if I was going to hit town after.  We of course chose their signature Jardin Grill Autumn Garden Dessert, which consisted of a beautiful maple layer cake, with white chocolate mousse, macadamia caramel, macadamia nut brittle, and a crème fraiche ice cream. I love a dish with a small pool of ingredients made into different textures, and this dessert definitely ticked my ideal dish boxes. The crunch complimented the mousse, which complemented the cake, which complemented the crumb, and so on, until all the flavours made a full circle of bliss on your tongue.

But that’s not everything, apart from some cheeky tequila shots and a few bottles of wine, our incredible waiter surprised me with a beautiful complimentary coffee cake as a little extra graduation celebration. How amazing is that? Places that go the extra mile to show they care are my favourite. It’s never all about the food, it’s the whole dining experience – and Jardin Grill definitely made sure our night was nothing but superb. After summing up all of the fabulous food, delicious drinks, tongue-burning tequila, and second-to-none service, I can definitely say it was a wonderful place to dine. An 8/10 for me on the ol’ CCL scale. The whole evening was wonderful, however it’s a little further out of the CBD, and pretty heavy on the wallet for the dishes. Apart from that, a hidden gem that you need to check out if you’re ever in need of a good meal and a class Instagram pic (the wallpaper is EVERYTHING).

Comes & Goes: Come and GET it!

It’s been a while since I’ve gone out for a decent brunch that was worthy of a full review, but luckily the opportunity to go to a brunch place I’ve been told has bangin’ grub revealed itself. 2 weeks ago, the morning after a 2am Danger-Danger Graduation night, my partner and I woke up groggy and in need of a cold brew and a feed FAST. So, we hopped in the car and drove out to one of Wellington’s absolute tip-top fave food spots. Don’t know where I’m talking about yet? Comes & Goes of course (I mean the title does say, but for those who don’t know, there you go!). I finally got to see what every foodie lover and local has been talking about, and holy mama do I have some praise to shower.

So, we got there after about 10 minutes of driving up and down Petone’s high street trying to find the damn place – I knew it was somewhere, but their lack of signage really got the best of my sense of direction. Anyways, after finally finding it, we sat down and got ready to eat! Except, once we looked at the menu, we really didn’t know what to eat. Drink – a cold brew of course: caffeine for the energy boost, and a little chill for some refreshment. But seriously, we had to send the poor waitress away like 4 times because we were so stuck on what to eat. If you’ve ever eaten there, you’ll know what I mean! After spying around at other people’s orders, I reached my decision. I felt kinda’ boring ordering their granola bowl and wondered whether I should’ve been a little more adventurous, but when I saw the beautiful bowl placed in front of me, my granola guilt vanished INSTANTLY.

I mean look at it (scroll to the bottom to find it). LOOK AT IT! I’ve never seen a more picturesque bowl of food. The Panna cotta (that had the perfect wobble, might I say), was bejewelled with a collection of all types of fresh, sour, tart, and sweet fruits, that sat atop a hefty mound of the best crunchy and nutty granola I’ve ever tried. It stayed that pretty for about 10 seconds before I mixed it all together and dove right in. All of the flavours in one spoonful were enough to bring a tear to my eye, and I knew at that moment I had found the best granola bowl in Wellington. As a cereal addict, this bowl was my cocaine – and I need another fix ASAP! My partner had their Bibimbap, which was a beautiful rainbow of fruits, vegetables, and tofu, all brought together with a sweet and spicy sriracha sauce and a perfectly poached egg. The Comes & Goes take on a traditional Korean Bibimbap is definitely something worth noting, and it made for an awesome and punchy lunch.

All I can say is wow. Petone, you have an ace up your sleeve with this little brunch-beauty. I can’t believe it took me this long to finally visit Comes & Goes, and now that I’ve tasted what they have to offer, it’s only a matter of time before I’m back for more. I have to award them a near perfect 9.5/10. Why not 10/10? Well, I’m a little stank that they’re so far out (PLEASE open a branch in CBD or Lyall bay), and also they NEED to have a bigger sign outside their café, otherwise more girls like me with trash senses of direction are going to drive or walk right past you! But apart from those niggly points, it really is a heck of a café to go to, whether lunch, brunch, coffee, or a sweet treat – the guys at Comes & Goes have you covered.

Jano Bistro – No Words

Damn guys – I don’t know if it’s just me, or has Wellington really stepped up their food game this year or what?? For years and years, I’ve been walking up and down Willis Street on the hike to Pipitea Campus or work, and every time I mustered up the energy to sit through a 2-hour lecture or a shift serving breakfast to groups of Contiki kids, I made sure I walked past the cute little villa next to The Bresolin. Back then, I never knew what Jano Bistro was, what it offered, and even if it served up food! But after last Saturday night, I now know it’s the home of inspiration culinary invention in the city of Wellington.

After finding out what Jano was actually all about, reading their insanely positive reviews, and peeking into their windows to see immaculate plates of food being served to flavour-seekers, I knew I had to come here. And you bet when my sister suggested we save up and finally take on Jano by force, I said yes before she could even finish asking the question. So last weekend, that’s what we did. And just like a new mum with baby pics, I’m showing photos of Jano’s meals to everybody who probably don’t care.

Okay, enough rambling about distant memories and pointless backstories – let’s talk about food. I’ll break it down for you course by course, just so you can get the real, in-depth lowdown of the dishes and their flavour profile. So, sit back with a cuppa and a snack, because I’m about to take you on a degustation journey.

Course 1: Amuse Bouche. Upon arriving and firmly letting the waiter know that we will DEFINITELY be ordering the wine matches with our 4-course degustation, we were surprised with a little pre-meal snack; a chickpea tostada with a courgette and tomato topping, and a kumura crisp topped with a parsnip cream and butternut squash ceviche. Although the size of a small biteful, these tasters packed a punch when it came to flavours. The tostada reminded me of a bite of ratatouille and brought a light and fresh flavour to my palette, whereas the Kumura crisp was heartier, richer, and induced memories of roasted winter vegetables. I would have never of thought that something so small could transport me to distant memories, but there you have it. Our degustation was off to a cracking start!

Course 2: ‘Hangi-style’ potato, oyster mushrooms, onions, sour dough bread. Whatever you picture when you read that dish summary, you’re wrong. When the plate was placed in front of us, I think every one of our expressions mirrored sheer surprise as we looked down onto this blob of potato cream topped with onion powder & sourdough croutons, that masked a collection of sautéed onions and mushrooms sitting in a pool of thick and velvety soup. I’ve never tried a Hangi potato in my life, but I’m gonna be bold and say no matter what type or how this potato was made, it’s the best flipping tattie I’ve ever had in my life. Ever. This potato paired with the sweet and umami onions and mushrooms, with a little crunch from the perfectly toasted croutons? Genius. It was French Onion Soup on steroids – no wait scratch that, it was French onion soup on ecstasy. Every bite was heaven, and I had to stop myself from licking the plate (I would’ve done if the waiter wasn’t watching, believe you me!).

Course 3: Sprouted buckwheat tart, butternut, celery, pumpkin seeds, truffle. After reading this courses summary, we all came to an agreement that we might be expecting a sort-of quiche-like affair, but with a little added Jano-pzazz. Instead we got served this incredible crunchy tuile ring, filled with layers of al dente sprouted buckwheat, a creamy butternut, celery, and salmon filling, with pops of truffle and nutty pumpkin seeds. I can only sum this meal up as the best fish pie I have ever damn tasted – and this girl LOVES a fish pie. The beautifully presented tart (that we were advised to smash with our spoon to eat – love the drama!) deceived us into thinking it was going to be mellow and light on the flavour, but in reality, is was punchy, rich, creamy, and above all, damn delectable.

Course 4: Celeriac, foraged herbs, ‘fishless’ soup. I had now clicked onto what Jano is best known for – deception. Basically, forget everything you know about what food looks or tastes like, because what they’re going to serve you will be the complete opposite of what you had imagined. Since the boyfriend and I are pescatarian, we opted for the fish course, whereas my sis is pretty much a carnivore, so of course she went for the beef cheek. I honestly never knew that celeriac could taste so incredible in so many different ways. We have ceviche, we had rotini, we had puree, we had soup, we had freeze dried, we had crisps. Every single variation of celeriac gave a different depth of flavour, and when paired with the meaty fish and pop of fresh pineapple –each mouthful was a culinary blessing.

Course 5: Chocolate, cinnamon, mandarin, meringue. You’d have thought we would be full by now, but no, there is ALWAYS room for dessert. At least in my tummy there is. Yet again, the meal description was super vague, and the suspense had us on the edge of our seat. But just like every other meal, we were hit with a wave of shock, curiosity, awe and excitement once we saw what were about to tuck into. Our plate was graced with a long rectangle of layered dark chocolate ganache and sablet biscuit, coated in a ruby chocolate glaze, with segments of mandarin, candied peel, chocolate twigs and scorched meringue shards, paired with a cinnamon crumb and cinnamon ice cream. Now it sounds like a lot, and I know people always bang on about how ‘Less is more” – but with this dish? More is more, trust me. Every single element of the dish complimented each other perfectly, and each brought either a sweet, salty, spicy, sour, and rich flavour to the dish which when tried together on one forkful, made for a flavour experience that was quite unreal.

Course 6: There’s a course 6?? We thought it was sadly over when our dessert plates were taken away, but little did we know that it wasn’t quite over yet. Suddenly, our wonderful sommelier sauntered up from the kitchen holding a plate of what I can only describe as the most beautiful and perfect macarons I’ve ever seen. Two little jade-green puffs of airy feijoa flavored macaron sandwiched together with a beautiful white chocolate ganache – nobody could resist a taste of these! The muted flavours were the perfect post-dessert petit fours, not too sickly sweet or tangy, and the perfect accompaniment to the last droplets of our dessert wine.

And that’s that! A pretty wild, magical and exciting culinary experience, huh? We came away with our tummies full, our words a little slurry, and our minds enlightened to what incredible food inventions our palettes were exposed to over 6 courses. The 4 Courses, plus wine matches, and some sneaky Amuse Bouches and Petit Fours, came to $125 pp. Now, that’s probably the most I’ve spent on a meal individually, but I hope after reading over each course, you can agree with me when I say it was worth it. I’ve already mentioned that the food was impeccable, but the service and location was just second to none. Our sommelier was also incredible, and he went over and beyond to cater to our non-alcoholic friend – offering some of their never-before-tried house-made lemonade (which was BEAUTIFUL), so that they could feel a little classy too. Our waitress did an excellent job of making sure we were all catered for, and even showed us how to properly eat the tart so we could add a little childlike excitement to our meal. Dining in Jano felt just like a dinner with friends and family, which is something most fine-dining restaurants can find hard to emulate. Don’t get me wrong, I love a super smart black-tie restaurant, but there’s something about Jano’s humble abode that lifts my heart. I don’t think you’ll be surprised when I give this place a 10/10 on the CCL scale. It honestly blew all of my expectations, and I can’t wait for anybody reading this review, to go and try it themselves.

Krishna – Converted by The Curry

What do you think when you hear Krishna? During university – whenever I heard that name I just thought of weird yoga with free food, people on the street silently ushering me to sign up to a new religion, and the heckin’ crazy loud & busy cafeteria at Vic Uni’s Pipitea campus – if you don’t know what I’m talking about, think of the Mean Girls wild animals cafeteria scene, but with Law Students involved. These kinda thoughts and feelings towards these food providers made me avoid their unbelievably cheap student eats – which after Monday’s trip to Kelburn Kampus Krishna (I had to Kardashian the ‘Campus’ – not even sorry) – I knew was a BIG mistake.

A few weeks ago, Krishna hit me up on the ‘gram and asked if I would like to try their new Kelburn campus eatery’s menu, and pushing aside any student-me speculations, I channeled my inner foodie and excitedly accepted – then I channeled the inner stalked and conducted a hardcore Insta stalk. Honestly – their old food truck must’ve been holding them back, because 3 years ago all I saw was cheap curry and rice, and now I’m seeing people eat raw slices, vegan sausage rolls, lasagna – you name it, they’ve made it vegan and are serving it up HOT!

Have you ever been back to your High School once you’re well graduated and felt like a parent? That’s how it felt walking right back into the Kelburn Campus – even though I’ve only finished Uni 6 months ago, but that weird too-old-for-this-kinda-Kirk-lecture didn’t stop me from skipping up to the brand-spanking new Krishna Café for a true vegan banquet.

Like I mentioned before, I thought Krishna only made curry, but since their menu had now tripled in size – Krishna treated me to the works! I was super lucky in being able to try their signature curry rice salad & dessert, their vegan sausage roll, a raw snickers bar, and both their soda and lassi drinks – so you can damn sure say I was more stuffed than a turkey on Christmas after that lot!

Let’s start with their customer-fave curry. This dish is the literal EPITOME of student deal – it’s cheap ($6), its massive (the whole plate was overflowing), and its bloody delicious. I’ve never seen lettuce served with curry before, but boy does it work well together! 1/3 of the dish was salad, so whilst getting a massive tasty portion you’re also getting some good nutrients from the greens. For those who don’t know Krishna, they also serve this little dessert/pudding ball thing alongside the curry – which I have a new hack for that you students out there will want to hear. I found this pudding a little stodgy and flavourless (which I understand because its hard and costly to make things healthy & vegan) and thought to myself, “this pudding NEEDS sauce”. So, you bet it – I poured that mango lassi all over that bad boy, and it worked flavour wonders!

Next, we have their vegan sausage roll. Sausage rolls are my true love in life – so I set the bar pretty high, especially for a vegan one. After one bite of that blisteringly hot roll, I was pretty much sold on their vegan diet. I don’t know how they did it, but they made that sausage roll taste more hearty, spicy, and delicious than most sausage rolls I’ve ever tasted. Mad kudos to you Krishna.

Last but DEFINITELY not least, I tried their raw snickers slice. I’m not a mad fan of snickers in the first place, as I’m not much of a fan of peanuts, and expected a stodgy, pea-nutty kinda thing – but instead I was met with a chocolatey, not pea-nutty but other nutty, texture-packed slice, that I easily finished off (and nearly licked the plate along with it).

Vic Uni students, I’m jealous of you. Every day you have the opportunity to get filled up with fresh vegan food for as little as $6 – how good is that?? Being a super poor Uni student myself who struggled to make ends meet, and only ate out once in a blue moon – Krishna is a true legend for allowing people who struggle with cash flow like I did, to actually get their forks stuck into hearty food, that’s hearty, vegan, nutritious, and WON’T set you back into the negatives. An 8/10 for the food – but I think fellow alumni and current students can agree 11/10 on the price and incentives.