Maranui Cafe

Flat whites in the seaside themed Maranui Cafe

Flat whites in the seaside themed Maranui Cafe

For some reason we keep ending up at Lyall Bay. It is not a glamorous bay, nor is at all pretty, but there’s something kind of charismatic about it. Lyall Bay is a great place to spot surfers while seeing the planes fly in at the same time and is also in between several amazing coastal drives so it’s no place to be written off. It also spots a couple of fantastic cafes – one I touched on already – the Spruce Goose, the other an old favourite of many locals, the Maranui Cafe.

Lyall Bay's Surf Lifesaving Club

Lyall Bay’s Surf Lifesaving Club

The top floor of a surf life saving club, Maranui cafe boasts great views, fun atmosphere, friendly service and really good food.

There’s not a huge amount to say other than that!

Really good flat whites – we had two each.

Mr Man's eggs

Mr Man’s eggs

Avocado on toast

Avocado on toast

Mr Man enjoyed his poached eggs.

I was in heaven with a dose of flavourful avocado & tomato on toast. New Zealand does such good avocado…

They had an a eye-watering selection of baked goods, including halloumi savoury muffins and some generous slices of what looked like carrot cake with generous dollops of icing on top. The rest of the menu had your usual brunch favourites of French toast, granola and yoghurt etc; most of it probably of great quality if going by our brunches (and good coffee~).

I’ve been there many times over the years during my visits to Wellington and love it. It’s a cool crowd, has consistently coffee and a view out to the charismatic Lyall Bay.

Fun decor

Fun decor

Maranui Cafe can be found on Lyall Bay Parade at the end that’s not by the airport… 

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Filed under Brunch, Coffee, Food, Wellington

Ed has a chicken & chips revelation at BIRD, Shoreditch

Menu - very matchy-matchy with the Ginger Line nearby...

Menu – very matchy-matchy with the Gingerline above us…

It’s always good to come towards the end of a week feeling you’ve learned something new and taken away a different perspective on the world.

This week, that revelation was stark and eye-opening: that not all chicken and chips are created equal.

I have to admit, I was slightly up-tight about heading to BIRD, given its location on Kingsland Road, right between the Overground Stations at Shoreditch and Hoxton. This is the only part of London where I’ve never felt comfortable – that innate feeling of not being able to pull-off the ‘cool’ that is required around these parts.

This sign says Bird...

This sign says Bird…

But truth is, offered a decent slap-up meal and I’d even head to a distant hell-hole such as Clapham.

So here I was, with a work colleague, at a smart little restaurant tucked under the Gingerline railway bridge. And right from the start this place was a joy!

Interior with a bit of lager

Interior with a bit of lager

Think American diner with just the right amount of East London character and you can imagine yourself here – exposed brick, a mix of table sizes, bright red wooden chairs – it all works without seemingly trying too hard.

But anyway, I was here for the chicken! We let the waitress choose our dishes for us and we didn’t regret it.

Wings

Wings

Chicken wings arrived and glowed a rich orange colour in a hot and sweet Gochujang glaze which had an immense, moreish kick. A buttermilk dipping sauce helped tame the vinegary tang.

The wings could easily serve as a main but looked no more than an amuse-bouche when the chicken and waffle burger arrived. Served on two plates it was a little shocking to discover this was actually just one portion which they’d divided for us.

Waffle burger insanity

Waffle burger insanity

This thing was quite epic, in every sense of the word. Boneless chicken thighs, bacon, American cheese, shallots, hot sauce and Canadian maple syrup all squeezed together between two cheese and onion waffles. The trajectory of delight eating this was definitely curved – I hit a real sweet spot about half-way through before I had to slow down as I could actually feel my body developing type 2 diabetes on the spot.

But far from defeat, I was also happy to tuck into three side dishes – skinny fries, deep fried pickles and padron peppers – the latter especially adept at cutting through the sweetness of the waffles.

Padron peppers

Padron peppers

And to wash it down? Well, some decent canned beer – both Camden Hells Lager and the Aberdonian BrewDog Punk IPA (one of my favourite beers of all time).

Oh, and it’s not something I’m proud of, but we also shared an ice cream doughnut sandwich (served fresh whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauce).

On the face of it, BIRD is just chicken and chips. But it feels so much more. Yes, there are other places that do this kind of thing in London (especially in this part of town), but charming service, effortless cool, free range birds and a chicken glaze which makes your face screw itself up with pleasure/pain aren’t run-of-the-mill qualities. And they have a doughnut hatch!

Doughnut hatch!

Doughnut hatch!

I’m a little less scared of Shoreditch now, a good job because their weekend breakfast menu looks good…

http://birdrestaurants.com/

BIRD can be found at 42-44 Kingsland Rd, London E2 8DA

Doughnuts

Doughnuts

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Filed under Cheap Eats, Food, Gentleman loves cake, London, Restaurants, Shoreditch, The East End

LLC travels – a case of two lighthouses

Beautiful Castle Point Lighthouse

Beautiful Castle Point

I’ve always had a bit of a thing for light houses. Who doesn’t? They’re just really pretty and are almost guaranteed to be somewhere picturesque given that they’re meant to be found on the edge of a piece of land pointing out towards the ocean…

When Mr Man and I had the ridiculous amount of free time on our hands, we made some really fun day trips. So long as we dropped the kids off by 9am and returned to Wellington by 4:30pm, the days were pretty much ours to do as we pleased.

So we made three day trips over the Rimutaka Hills (meaning insane car sick inducing drives), two of those in search of two gorgeous locations: Cape Palliser Lighthouse and Castle Point, both of which took forever to get to but so worth the view upon arrival.

A 2.5 hour drive from Wellington, Castle Point’s highlight isn’t just its beautiful lighthouse – it also has this crazy unique beach that has a massive “castle” of rock formations on the other side.

Castle Point

Castle Point

Castle Point

Castle Point

Castle Point

Castle Point

We didn’t get to climb either the lighthouse or its castle when we visited because the wind whipped up, the tide was on its way in and we were scared of being blown off the edge of both, but they were oh-so-very-pretty in that cool wild sense. I can just imagine a captain and his ship arriving at Castle Point and thinking it would be a great little place to set up.

Being blown away by Cape Palliser Lighthouse

Being blown away by Cape Palliser Lighthouse

View from Cape Palliser Lighthouse

View from Cape Palliser Lighthouse

At the other end of Martinborough, and on a drive that makes you feel like you’re on the road to nowhere as it feels so isolated is Cape Palliser’s Lighthouse. You drive to the end of the coastal road and when you think there’s no more road to drive on, you keep going for another 10km, past seal colonies to the edge of someone’s farm on this long gravel road. Then its a climb up more than 200 steps to look out on a really spectacular scene.

The other direction

The other direction

Before climbing up that insane staircase...

Before climbing up that insane staircase…

You don’t want to get stuck on that road, and for heaven’s sake, don’t drive out there when a southern storm is on its way directly from Antarctica (someone’s car got stuck out there in the most recent storm due to the road being wiped out by some waves) but get a good day and a clear sky and that walk up all those stairs is so worth the wait.

There’s a really cute colony of seals at Palliser Bay but the photos I took came out rubbish – seals are impossible to photograph…

Cape Palliser Lighthouse

Cape Palliser Lighthouse

The great little chippie

The great little chippie

Neither are particularly good for food options, but I was quite impressed with this little lady’s chippie van in Ngawi, the last settlement before you get to Cape Palliser – Mr Man and I had some quite good Kiwi hot dogs (served on a stick, not in a bun). However, I’ve since discovered that the lighthouse is the inspiration behind Lighthouse Gin – a locally made in Martinborough gin that I’ve heard great things about and have been meaning to get my hands on.

Hoping my inlaws and people who are coming to visit us in Wellington take note – these are two drives just worth the drive in themselves.

Drive out to Palliser Bay - I really need to get a better camera so I can take some decent photos of this amazing country.

Drive out to Palliser Bay – I really need to get a better camera so I can take some decent photos of this amazing country.

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Filed under Life in general, Travel, Wellington

GLC does all 15 courses at Crocker’s Folly

Come in, come in! Let us entertain you.

Come in, come in! Let us entertain you.

Normally, when sitting down to write about a restaurant meal, I’d give a brief introduction, describe the food with a few flowery (and occasionally woolly and tired) adjectives, and then try to wrap it up with a sentence that makes me seem a bit clever or well-read.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be giving away my blogging secrets, but this one may be a little different as I’m struggling to remember what I ate at Crocker’s Folly.

Now, this isn’t because it was an unmemorable sitting – in fact quite the opposite – but more because the evening consisted of no fewer than 15 courses, all accompanied by seemingly free-flowing wine (and cocktails).

This evening, to which I was invited by the ever-lovely people at Zomato, was a preview of a ‘chef’s table’ series which Crocker’s Folly is hoping to roll-out at around £65 (plus extra for the wine).

Cool chandelier

Cool chandelier

For this, you will get to sit right outside the kitchen door and be brought plenteous treats form the hob of consultant chef Damian Wawrzyniak, who has worked all over the place, including Copenhagen’s world-leading restaurant, Noma. What you will receive will, of course, depends on what is in season, but what we were brought was no doubt representative of the Folly’s modern European style.

From the start (bread with marrow butter) right through to the end (a sharp lemon tart), this menu took twists and turns which had the table oohing and ahhing in a way only a firework display can normally conjure.

Eyebrow-raisers yet ultimately mouth-waterers included crispy pork skin dipped in chocolate; deep fried baby leeks with parmesan; fish stew served in a hollowed turnip; beautifully pink lamb with creamy mash; beef Carpaccio with a fried oyster chaser, scallops prepared three ways with broad beans and bacon; and ice cream with popcorn.

All 15 courses

All 15 courses

It would be fair to describe the menu as eclectic. It would also be fair to describe it as hectic. I think it’s probably fairest of all to say it’s a mix of both with an extra dollop of bonkers.

Whilst this table full of food bloggers and other assorted foodie professionals were being treated as guinea pigs for some menu experimentation, and the menu will no doubt be tightened-up and fine-tuned for the paying customers to come (expect seven coursed rather than 15), I really hope some of this cheffy madness is not lost.

Cocktail

Cocktail

There are a lot of places to eat in London so an element of ‘surprise and delight’ really does go a long way.

Of course, the long tasting menu isn’t for everyone, so a look across the Folly’s menus show a well-balanced and appropriately-priced à la carte, as well as a bar and lunch menu, a Sunday brunch menu and a three-course set menu (served with a glass of wine and available at prime hours but perhaps a little steep at £35 for a short option).

Lemon tart

Lemon tart

My overriding feeling of this grand late-Victorian gin palace just around the corner from the Home of Cricket in St John’s Wood, is that this is a place for unabashed feasting and is run by a bunch of people whose generosity of welcome is matched by their skill in the kitchen.

It’s already been selected as the venue for my upcoming ‘significant’ birthday dinner, and I’m really not one to waste a birthday meal on somewhere not up to scratch.

Go!

Crockers Folly an be found at 24 Aberdeen Place, St Johns Wood, London NW8 8JR

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Filed under Eating, Experiences, Food, Gentleman loves cake, London

Running around Wellington with the munchkins~

Keeping the little ones busy in Wellington...

Keeping the little ones busy in Wellington…

We chose Wellington as a place to live for several reasons – jobs for me (my “niche” requires me to live in a capital), cheaper rent, family around… but the most overriding reason for moving here was the laid-back but busy-enough lifestyle. Wellington is super easy to navigate and for such a small city, there is an awful lot to do.

We spend our weekends trying to keep the munchkins entertained. In London we would do this by riding the tube for 30-45 minutes, usually to a museum, and then back again. In Wellington we can be most places within 20 minutes and this has actually got us really far. Wellington also is host to a lot of kid friendly cafes which certainly helps things along on the caffeine front (seven month old son still doesn’t sleep through the night, access to strong coffee is important).

Wellington waterfront

Wellington waterfront

One big surprise for me is how much time we’ve spent on the bays. When I last lived here I was a city dwelling yuppie who rarely left my square kilometre radius of work, home, bars, cafes and restaurants. These days I live a lot further out, but have access to a car which has meant we drive out to beaches, take the kids for a coffee, then all run around like lunatics. Lyall Bay, though by far not the prettiest beach out there, seems to have drawn us back time and time again. The kids can watch the surfers while we drink our coffee, and if we’re feeling really up for it, we can pop into Wellington’s excellent zoo, which also has a cool little cafe in it.

Spruce Goose has been one of the more kid friendly ones and the view there looks both out to the airport and the massive waves hitting Lyall Bay on a rough day. They did a very nice flat white as per usual with Wellington’s cafes, but they also did the most delicious little peanut butter brownie. The kids were offered peanut butter on toast and that combined with a fluffy (babycinno to the Brits) kept BLC more than happy on what was a hideously windy day outside. There’s also this cool Surf Life Saving club with an outstanding cafe at the other end of Lyall Bay but I’m going to save that for a separate post.

View from Spruce Goose

View from Spruce Goose

Wellington Zoo is probably going to get a large chunk of cash in the form of a membership for our two munchkins soon. The zoo is small but almost perfectly formed. Lots of focus on the smaller creatures means that it feels quite accessible to the little ones but there is heaps to keep adults entertained (including a somewhat scary encounter with emus in their Australian section). I’m saying that I like it and can see us visiting there time and time again. Even their cafe is great, with good Mojo coffee and an enclosure with tiny tamarind monkeys and a fabulous bright green iguana inside.

Mojo coffee at Wellington Zoo

Mojo coffee at Wellington Zoo

Zoo cafe's iguana

Zoo cafe’s iguana

And then there’s Zealandia – a sanctuary devoted to New Zealand’s bird and lizard life. It is a very cool day trip and one just over the hill from the city centre. It is great for stretching the legs but the sheer amount of beautiful sounding bird life on its miles of pathways is its biggest draw. It also has a cool little cafe… they all do.

Zealandia: Would you believe this is just behind a buzzing little city?

Zealandia: Would you believe this is just behind a buzzing little city?

So far this city is really working for us – ensuring we get our caffeine fix while enjoying the outdoors a bit. Let’s hope we can keep up the momentum.

Spruce Goose can be found at the airport end of Lyall Bay. Wellington Zoo can be found tucked in behind the hills of Newtown. Zealandia is just up behind the City in Karori. 

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Filed under Baby friendly, Cheap Eats, coffee, Coffee, Eating, Travel, Wellington

Afternoon tea in the North West of England: Mrs Lyon’s Tea Room

A wonderful afternoon tea at Mrs Lyon's perfect tea room

A wonderful afternoon tea at Mrs Lyon’s perfect tea room

It was our second to last night in England. We were staying with Mr Man’s parents in the North West and having wine and curry with our friends Mr and Mrs M when Mrs M says “Kat, you have one day left in England, surely you can squeeze in one last afternoon tea at my friend’s tea room!”

15 hours later my Mother in Law, Sister in Law and BLC were gobbling down a wonderful spread of afternoon tea at Mrs Lyon’s Tea Room in Standish.

A VERY happy munchkin

A VERY happy munchkin

This place is ADORABLE. Mrs M was totally right – it was worth squeezing in one last afternoon tea. Why you ask? Because the scones were perfection – big and soft and perfectly fluffy, fresh out of the oven and served with generous helpings of strawberry jam and clotted cream…

The scone of your dreams...

The scone of your dreams…

Why else? Because so much thought has gone into such a cute little establishment. Here at LLC Towers we love small businesses and this one has had Mrs Lyon’s heart and soul poured into it. Those who work there clearly love the place. We were sat by the door and everyone left with big smiles on their faces. I’ve learned over the years that the North West of England tends to believe in high quality service almost universally and Mrs Lyon’s Tea Room epitomises that standard of friendly hospitality.

Suki Tea and the girly decor one would expect of a most excellent tea room

Suki Tea and the girly decor one would expect of a most excellent tea room

The tea? Light and refreshing, served in mismatched China and not a bag to be found –  it’s the lovely Suki loose-leaf tea that’s made in Belfast.

Mrs Lyon’s Tea Room passed the approval of all of us, especially BLC who was in heaven with a bowl of berries and what seemed like an endless stack of strawberry jam sandwiches.

Tasty sandwiches and a handful of greens to make sure one also gets her five-a-day~

Tasty sandwiches and a handful of greens to make sure one also gets her five-a-day~

Well worth booking a table if you’re going to be driving through the North West, and totally worth dropping in if you live in the area. It was the perfect way to end our time in the UK.

Mrs Lyon’s Tea Room can be found at 5-7 High St, Standish, Wigan WN6 0HB, United Kingdom. I think we paid around a tenner each and had a wonderful couple of hours. 

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Filed under Cake, Tea, Travel

Travel personalities – a journey that discovers a lack of depth…

My travel personality has a terrible case of itchy (and dirty in this picture) feet...

My travel personality has a terrible case of itchy (and dirty in this picture) feet…

When I went to India everyone told me I’d go on a spiritual journey, that I’d somehow find myself and get a new-found appreciation for or rejection of my pampered wanna-be-boho life, that I’d find a new path blah blah blah… When you spend half your life as a nomad, everyone you meet seems to think you’re on a journey to find something. Your mum thinks you’ve gone out to discover a new religion, join a cult then somehow end up in the Bangkok Hilton because you fell in with the wrong crowd (or even worse, met a hot guy with dreads playing his guitar on the beach…).

The holy cow that nearly stomped poor sick me down in the poo out of shot...

The holy cow that nearly stomped poor sick me down in the poo out of shot…

But there were a few things I learned on that journey around India all those years ago (little has changed since, despite getting a mortgage and having two babies~):

  1. I’m not on the road to find something. I just enjoy change. Change is like an old merino wool sweater you bought from Glassons a few years ago that fits great under everything – really comfortable and unlikely to be given up for some time.
  2. India is not the place you go backpacking for weeks on end and still expect that your clothes to be snug at the end of that time…
  3. India is where you learn the extreme limits of your comfort zone (mine are intense heat, swarms of bugs in overnight trains, dirty streets when one’s uniform includes flip flops and losing six kilos over as many days while staying in the cheapest hostel on earth~)
  4. I’m just not a spiritual person. I’m not out there to find a new path of life or find the meaning of it but do appreciate people’s beliefs for what they are – those beliefs are what makes the world the incredible place it is – I only wish I had that depth about me to believe in something the way most of the world does in their different ways.

I went to India expecting it to profoundly change me like everyone said it would, but it didn’t. For me, India was what it was: there was dirt and extreme poverty, stray monkeys and dogs almost everywhere one looked but in those same moments were bright colours, big smiles, the most beautiful fabrics imaginable, spice bazaars, friendly faces and amazing sounds. While I don’t find all of that acceptable, especially the poverty part, little of that hit me on a deeper level like people said it would. When my friend was yogying in our ashram, I was taking antibiotics for one of the nasty bugs I’d picked up (see lost weight further up the post) and trying/failing desperately to get my appetite and strength back by going back to bed after the yoga instructor laughed when I could barely do Downward Dog. It taught me that I’m excruciatingly inflexible in muscle, but perhaps kind of flexible in what I find myself able to accept in regards to the world around me.

This is a cat - because cats meeting random cats on the road is  awesome.

This is a cat – because cats meeting random cats on the road is awesome.

My travel personality hasn’t changed much over the years since Incredible India. I’m an extreme planner in both my travels and daily life (love the spreadsheets!), I like to know roughly what I’ll be eating dinner tonight and exactly where I’ll be staying for the next few months whether on the road or on the bus to work. But I also adore the new. I’m an appalling map reader (husband and I nearly broke up after I’d let him go round a Mexican roundabout eight times before he pointed out that I had the map upside down) and will be until the end of time, but I’m ok with getting lost on the road – someone will eventually point you in the right direction and you might discover something cool in the process. My travel personality is A-OK with going in the wrong direction on a train when I’m travelling but in my daily life I’m never more than a minute late to meet anyone without a profound apology.

My travel personality is so much more laid back than my day-job personality which I think comes across as pedantic, time obsessed and if I can be frank here, a bit catty…

Whether in travel mode or not, freedom is probably my reason for being...

Whether in travel mode or not, freedom is probably my reason for being…

My travel personality comes across as having a deep sense of curiosity which leads me to try new dishes everywhere I go. Take me to a Malaysian night market or a seaside Italian restaurant and I’m yours forever. I’m also really annoying as I like to be the boss and talk way too much – if you don’t believe it then ask especially anyone who has had to travel with me for more than a day or two – again, it’s remarkable that Mr Man and I are still married.

So my travel personality? Probably just downright scatty, a bit like Miss Piggy with an incurable case of wanderlust. Thoroughly enjoys a good train ride and would rather stay in a bed & breakfast than a five-star hotel so one can talk the ear off the owner and hear their life story whether they want to give it or not. Completely and utterly lacks depth but loves the world.

What’s yours?

This post was part of Kelly, Emma, Rebecca and Catherine’s travel link-up. Do feel free to participate by joining the link-up on one of their pages – they’re a really great group of bloggers new and old! 

My travel personality forgets her fear of heights until it's way too late...

My travel personality forgets her fear of heights until it’s way too late…

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Filed under Travel, Travel link-up