IMG_5055The Grounds’ concept is brilliant. It is everything. It is a florist, multiple restaurants, an on-site bakery, a petting shed, a children’s playhouse, a takeaway, a courtyard, a market, a school, a venue. All in one. You can tell how excited we were by the sheer amount of photos in this post.IMG_4935 IMG_5041

There was a cake and pastry stall just outside the cafe as well as a lemonade stand. Although it’s beautiful, I’d suggest steering clear of the lemonade one.

IMG_4912 IMG_4909 IMG_4910 IMG_4911 IMG_5053 IMG_4939On-site bakery inside the cafe

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We waited around 15 minutes for a table inside. The cafe is very dimly lit and bustling with action, you can see the kitchen and the crazy number of dishes being served constantly. The staff are well trained and move quickly – which is necessary considering the number of people that visit.
IMG_5028 More cake inside!IMG_4986IMG_4991

We ordered the banana smoothie and a refreshing watermelon juice. The smoothie was top notch – creamy and full of flavour.IMG_4952

The food itself was anti-climatic. The signature avocado was too salty and the bread tough. The quinoa cake lacked flavour and the sourness of the cucumber was overpowering.IMG_4969 IMG_4970

We also had a passionfruit cheesecake – because who can resist with a dessert cabinet looking like that. While I enjoyed it, Boni not so much.IMG_5014

The Grounds aren’t located in the CBD of course, but getting there isn’t too difficult. We took the train to Green Square station and walked roughly 10 minutes. There is limited valet parking and street parking seems scarce.IMG_5047 IMG_4938 IMG_5040IMG_5051

The little store front in the courtyard seems to serve the same/similar menu, so definitely dine outside if the weather permits.

The Potting Shed is open a little later for lunch. The venue is beautiful.IMG_5058IMG_5057

“Please wait to be planted”IMG_5059

IMG_4917There was also another area behind the florist which looked stunning. It wasn’t open yet though.IMG_4916 IMG_4921 IMG_4923 IMG_4926 Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset IMG_4928Playhouse!IMG_5044Kevin Bacon and friendsIMG_4932 IMG_5048IMG_5039IMG_5037IMG_4936IMG_4937

I hope the guys at The Hip Group are reading this. I think we need one here in Auckland (or even just outside of Auckland, I’d be willing to travel there).

The Grounds of Alexandria
2 Huntley Street, Alexandria, Sydney

I think I turned all of my friends into food critics. No harm having a little bit of expectation, right? We are doing this for the greater good, right?

Thankfully the cuts at JSH were amazing. They were tasty on their own but the sauces were equally as great. Our favourite was the SG’s Choice Wagyu Sirloin with the truffle chipotle and horseradish bearnaise (300g, $59.50). There’s not much to say about presentation but it doesn’t matter because everyone is too busy focusing on the steak. Also, where can you get that excellent knife.

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JSH is another Simon Gault restaurant along with Euro and FISH.

Entree Special Pork ribs – these were surprisingly very delicious, definitely recommended.IMG_4199

Entree Salt and Pepper prawns $24.50 – yeah, no.

It was suggested that we order 5-7 partners between 5 people because the steak does not come with any condiments. We were reasonable and ordered just 4, which was more than enough (don’t overestimate yourself!).

Special Cauliflower with aged cheddar $7.50 – super tasty and rich.IMG_4204

Mac and cheese fritters $7.50 – this was an interesting dish, which was enjoyable. Essentially mac and cheese rolled together, crumbed and fried.IMG_4202Truffle fries $7.50 – I’m not too sure whether they’d got the order wrong and these were actually steakhouse fries because there didn’t seem to be a hint of truffle in them at all. Based on the ones we got, I wouldn’t recommend.

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Creamed spinach $7.50
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Signature prime rib queen cut (24 hours notice) 300g, $45 – crazy smooth, to the point where it was maybe a little too much and reminded us of corned beef rather than steak.IMG_4215

Jervois cut eye fillet on the bone, 370g, $42.50 – beautifully cooked to medium rare. The porcini jus was clean and matched well to stronger flavoured cuts.IMG_4213

The service at JSH is a bit off. You know it’s not going to go very well when they forget you had pre-ordered a steak the night before and also puts down the wrong drink and comes back to offer it to someone else.

Creme brûlée $16.50 – classic vanilla just how I like it. Though it would’ve been better if all the vanilla bean hadn’t sunk to the bottom.IMG_4228

Baked Alaska $16.50 – beautiful dessert with hokey pokey ice cream. The egg whites themselves however were a bit of a let down.IMG_4221

Chocolate fondant $16.50 – nothing too astounding. We were put off by the rhubarb sauce, which had poor consistency and reminded us of the bright red strawberry sauce you get at Denny’s.IMG_4220

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So we’ve heard The Grill does it better, what do you think?

Jervois Steak House
72 Jervois Road, Ponsonby, Auckland 

I realise this is late. It’s now the first day of spring (though that’s arguable considering the weather outside) which means Restaurant Month is well and truly over. But better late than never, right?

Soul Bar is among the Viaduct cluster, so expect waterfront views to accompany your dinner if you choose to sit outside.

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I won’t bother telling you about the Restaurant Month deal since there is no use crying over spilt milk. But a few of the dishes are well worth going back for the full price.

Spicy tuna tartare, crushed avocado, jalapeno peppers, warm jou jou bread – we enjoyed this dish but have had better elsewhere.

Salt & pepper squid, roasted garlic and saffron mayonnaise, parsley and mint gremolata – fairly standard, nothing too out there.

Atlantic scallop risotto, roast parsnip, mascarpone and truffle – this is it, the great winner of the night. This risotto was delicious in every way. The scallops were fresh, the rice creamy but not too heavy. Everyone wanted seconds.IMG_3128

Braised wagyu beef short rib, pumpkin and verjuice puree, honey roast yams – we were looking forward to this dish the most. Yet it was synonymous round the table that this was the most disappointing of them all. The beef was dry and not quite as flavourful as we were expecting.

Duck breast with green papaya, coriander and mint salad with mango dressing, toasted pinenuts – super tasty, another highlight of the night. The duck was tender and the salad refreshing. Get this one!IMG_3135

Milk chocolate mouse, chocolate nib crackling, dark chocolate jelly, creme de cacao ice cream – I didn’t personally taste this dish but the others raved on about how rich and amazing it was. The desserts are fairly small but it was enough to impress.

Lemon and yuzu tart, coconut meringue, yuzu caramel puree, passionfruit sorbet – the sorbet was great, so was the meringue.

Soul is a great place to go for a quiet, relaxing dinner or for a drink at the bar/fireplace then dinner afterwards.The service is prompt and friendly, you won’t find your glass be empty very often. The only thing that I didn’t quite understand was why the bar needed to be lit up bright red and purple, surely this was not the place for these outrageous colours. With that aside my fellow diners had enjoyed the dinner so much, Soul was now one of their favourite restaurants. Never fear that Restaurant Month is over, Soul have Ladies Lunch for the month of September (sorry lads) which is $32.50 including a glass of Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc (more details here).

Soul Bar & Bistro
Viaduct Harbour, Auckland Central

You can’t go to Wellington without walking along Cuba Street a million times a day. Not only is it the busiest street in the city, it’s also the place where you find most of the popular cafes in town.IMG_3281

Wellington is well known for its cafe society. Every cafe I visited had its own character, was buzzing with people, but also carried a relaxed vibe. People took their time and enjoyed their meals a lot more.

IMG_3619Floriditas was like a little European getaway in the middle of the city. If you love eggs you have to come here. There’s eggs, eggs and more eggs to choose from, all at reasonable prices.

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Ham off the bone with poached eggs ($17.50) – eggs cooked to perfection! We were much too hungry to stop and capture the amazing runny yolk. The dish was simply delicious, with crispy ciabattas and grilled ham.IMG_3639

We also ordered the Ham off the bone with salad greens, beetroot relish and whole wheat sourdough ($18.50). I loved the fact the sourdough was served heated and crispy. The beetroot relish was fresh and went well with the ham. Though the ham on its own was a bit too dry. IMG_3642IMG_3644Hot lemon honey with freshly grated ginger ($5)IMG_3623

Grapefruit & bitter lemon tea ($4.50) – served in a cute china cup. The tea was very refreshing and wasn’t too strong nor bitter.IMG_3646IMG_3659These jars of home-made jam looked super delicious, wish I’d bought a jar!

I’ve heard great things about their dinner menu and baked goods. Will definitely come back to try out their other dishes. IMG_3655

Floriditas
161 Cuba Street, Wellington. 

Having lived in New Zealand for almost 19 years we’ve actually never visited the capital (Kelly still needs to go). I wasn’t looking forward to the flight since Wellington is known for strong winds and bumpy landings, but for the 3 days I was there the city showcased its best weather. A gentle breeze, clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. It almost convinced me that it could be better than Auckland. IMG_3353 copy

I’ve been dying to try out The Crab Shack ever since I heard about it. The interior is similar to Orleans and Miss Clawdy in Auckland with an added nautical touch. Make sure you go in early as the place fills up quite fast.

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The Welly ($20) – A typical fish burger. The fish fillets were fresh and crispy served with cream corn on the side. The fish portions were rather generous. IMG_3420 copy1Kg Nelson Paddle Crab Pot ($30) – Put the bib on and be prepared to use your hands. Before the crab is served, you’ll be given a mini bucket of warm lemon water to wash your hands during the meal. IMG_3414The crab was cooked in chilli-garlic sauce and served hot in a pot. They were fresh and there was a fair bit to go around the table. The sauce was delicious. We ended up ordering bread ($8) on the side so we could soak up sauce with it.

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Mixed scoop of clams and mussels cooked in Indian coconut curry ($14.50) – The size of the clams were huge! Like the crab pot, the sauce was amazing and didn’t overpower the freshness of the clams. Next time I’d give the mussels a miss – they just weren’t a match for the clams.IMG_3424 copyIMG_3408 copy

The Crab Shack was definitely a fun dining experience to end our first exhausting day in Wellington. If you’re not in a rush after dinner go for a stroll down the waterfront and take in the amazing night view of the city.

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The Crab Shack 
Shed 5 on Queens Wharf, Wellington

Two nights ago we battled the sudden downpour and headed out West to The Tannery to attend the August Yelp Elite Event.IMG_4062IMG_4138

We were so very excited, not just because it was ice cream, but because it was Kohu Road ice cream. The tub that sold at $20 a litre, that seemed to sparkle in the fridge. I always believed it was a dangerous purchase not only because of its high price point (I would be eating a gold coin with each spoonful), but also the risk that it would be just plain ordinary or even worse, inedible.IMG_4103 IMG_4067IMG_4102

The night began with Greg, the maker of Kohu Road telling us about his ice cream journey. Starting from the frozen yoghurt he made and gave out at his kid’s ice cream party to creating tubs and tubs at The Tannery and sending it across New Zealand and Australia. He talked about how many ice creams, and food for that matter, often had preservatives and additives in them and quite often we would forget or be misled by failing to read the ingredients list, or not being able to understand the list. Kohu Road ice cream on the other hand uses fresh ingredients, has real chocolate in their chocolate ice cream, and is handmade. It is the real deal.IMG_4079

We sampled just three tiny scoops of Lemon Curd, Salted Caramel, and White Chocolate – but it was enough to convince me. It tasted fresh, clean, and there was no horrible aftertaste. IMG_4095 IMG_4096

We also got the chance to witness the roasting of coffee led by Jacob of Mt Atkinson Coffee. We got to smell the beans at their different stages of roasting. It began with a grassy, hay aroma that reminded us of popcorn.IMG_4117 IMG_4123

We left the event starving having gone straight from work, but more knowledgeable than before. I will be looking out for any E codes, preservatives and additives in my ice cream at my next trawl through the freezer aisle, and possibly most likely pick up some delicious Kohu Road tubs while I’m there (Green Tea and Salted Caramel please!). If you don’t want to take the plunge with the $20/litre, go for the small sample tubs first which sell for $4.50 each. Find out where you can buy it here.IMG_4141

The Tannery
44B Portage Road, New Lynn, Auckland

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