Saturday, July 17, 2010

Reflections on New Zealand

I've just arrived back in Canberra after two weeks touring New Zealand, combining catch-ups with family and friends with visiting (and revisiting) some interesting places. In the twenty-plus years since I ran away moved to Australia, NZ has really changed. It has become far more multicultural – and perhaps paradoxically, far more attuned to its Maori heritage – and has developed much more of a “foodie” culture. Can’t complain! Some of the delights we sampled included:

– kumara chips at the Waipu Pizza Barn, deliciously caramelised and served with a fabulous aioli (hat tip to my lovely friend Bernie for the recommendation);
– coffee, coffee, everywhere. GOOD coffee. I’m sure that when I moved to Australia there was barely an espresso machine in the country. Now there are thousands;
– brekkie at Caffe Mode, near the hilltop Cable Car terminal. We've been there on several visits to NZ, after stumbling across it about eight years ago. Their creamy garlic mushrooms are sublime;
– my Mum’s lamb roast. Actually, not being much of a carnivore, what I really got excited about was the veges. Roasted kumara [sweet potato], parsnips, pumpkin and yams. Yams are seriously yummy and I've never found these particular yams [they are a small, pink root vegetable, about the size and shape of a fat finger] anywhere other than NZ. Alas ...
– a delicious Burmese curry at the Asian Kitchen in Wellington;
– the cuisine onboard the Overlander train between Wellington and Auckland. The food on trains is provided by the excellent Wishbone, and is better tasting and healthier than you’d expect;
– nasi goreng, laksa, kopi and kaya toast from a cute little Malaysian cafe in Auckland;
– and the pièce de résistance, a magnificent four-course French meal at Hippopotamus Restaurant to celebrate Bastille Day (14 July). Oh là là! Gorgeous food, delightful staff and a magnificent NZ syrah (Man o’ War Dreadnought 2008, from Waiheke Island).

A couple of other thoughts:

– there seem to be far less muggers, chuggers and beggars than we see at home. I wonder why? It is refreshing to be able to walk from A to B without being hassled for money by junkies people spinning hard-luck tales.
– Kiwis are a stoic yet cheerful lot! Their favourite word seems to be 'awesome', and they express superlatives by adding the word 'as' on to things. E.g. 'sweet as', 'wet as', 'cold as'. The sentence ends there. Bizarre as, if you ask me ...

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