Sunday, 24 May 2015

Cuba Street Part Two (A Local's Guide to Wellington)

I'm sure I've already said enough about Cuba Street in previous posts so let's just get stuck into it!

El Matador
This Argentinian restaurant specialises in tapas and steak. You can try both at once by ordering the grilled flank steak tapa. 
My top five tapas are:
1. Patatas bravas - potato topped with a spicy tomato sauce
2. Roast provolone cheese with paprika
3. Toasted ciabatta with chimichurri. Ok, you have to go here and get provolone and ciabatta and then put the provolone ON the ciabatta with the chimichurri and it is the greatest thing ever. Just be careful not to burn your mouth because the cheese comes straight out of the oven to your table. It's amazing but you have to wait a little bit. 
4. Grilled flank steak
5. Chicken pinchos - skewers with chicken on and chimichurri. Chimichurri comes with most of the tapas really. 
6. Sangria. Not a tapa, but get it anyway cause it's super fruity and goes with everything you order. Yes, I realise I went to six on a top five list, calm down. 
If I had to pick only two, I'd say El Matador and Scopa are the best restaurants in Wellington. Preach.

An upandcoming "newfangled juke joint" full of soul food, Laundry looks like a laundromat from the outside and your nanna's house on the inside. 
Providing breakfast, lunch and dinner, I did worry about it opening with such close proximity to many other popular eateries such as Fidels, Ekim, and Southern Cross Bar. Despite the competition, it does seem to be doing quite well for itself. 
You might say that the chilli con meatballs is rustic. There's also a hunk of cornbread on the side. That's what I like about Laundry. They didn't try to make it look fancy; they know that good simple food should be served simply. 

World famous in Wellington, Ekim is a popular burger truck that started by the seaside in Lyall Bay before moving to a more central location on Cuba. 
It's recently been in the news for a controversial reason: a mum whose son got food poisoning sent a private Facebook message to the owner of Ekim saying that their burgers may have been the cause. The owner then posted it publicly and went on a bit of a rant, which split commenters into those who agreed with him that customers didn't appreciate people in the hospitality industry, and those who thought his abusive tirade was inappropriate and he was shooting himself in the foot. Some said they wanted an Ekim burger, some said they would never eat there again. The next day he asked if it was "no longer ok to drink gin for breakfast", and the Ekim Facebook page swapped their phone number for McDonald's, who then posted on Facebook "We're telling people calling to complain that you're giving away free burgers tonight, so let us know if that's not the right message for your callers". The whole thing seems to by dying down now, though, so let's hope they just keep making burgers and stay away from social media for a while. 

Auntie Mena's
Looks can be deceiving, as Auntie Menas proves time and time again. Super low key, this eatery serves wonderful vegetarian and vegan food at affordable prices. I wish I had known about this place when I was a student!

A funky bar on the corner of Cuba and Abel Smith Street, Southern Cross is a popular locale for its decent menu, range of alcoholic beverages, and atmosphere. It is also available for venue hire. 

I've heard a lot of good things about Martha's Pantry over the years, and I had always intended to visit. A work leaving do for me and two colleagues finally gave me an excuse to have high tea. 
Unlike anywhere else I've had high tea, here we were presented with fans and sun hats which made us feel like ladies. Oh yes, darling, we do this all the time
On offer was a large selection of tea to accompany cucumber sandwiches, pizza crostinis, scones with jam or passion fruit curd, pink macarons (indeed pink was their flavour), vanilla cupcakes and more. The only negative was that the vegetarians who had told Martha's Pantry of their dietary requirements were given salmon, but once the staff were told, they did swap out the offending seafood for a replacement pesto bite. 

Heaven Pizza
Let's be honest here - the pasta is no good (a huge plate with stodgy and not very flavourful sauce) and the pizza is also no good when compared to the multitude of other Italian wood fired pizza in the vicinity. Sure, when compared to Pizza Hut it's okay, but when you can visit Pizza Pomodoro or Pizzeria Napoli, Tommy Millions or Scopa, there's no point in eating average pizza. 
A Cuba Street institution, Fidels is always busy. 
They do serve good food, and have a huge selection of cabinet food (which is necessary when the wait on meals from the menu can be ridiculous). However, I think it's overhyped. That being said, the milkshakes are delicious and the specials (such as jaffa) are worth a visit alone. 
With staples like nachos, burgers and wedges, it's difficult for anyone to be unhappy with a meal here, and they do provide gluten free and vegetarian options. 

The owner of Mister Chai set up the stall after experiencing real chai in Southern India, which is not like the syrup based chai lattes in Wellington. I was pleasantly surprised as its not nearly so sweet as the chai lattes I've had before, which makes it delectably moreish. 

Midnight Espresso
This was a cafe I frequented in my uni days, not only because it is open late and has sweet retro decor, but also because of the quality vegetarian and vegan options. I was, for a time, vegan. And even if you're not vegan, Midnight do a vegan nacho that could please anyone except the staunchest of carnivores.  
Located right in the heart of Cuba Street, Cin Cin is quite a new restaurant that serves traditional Italian at reasonable prices. While I enjoyed our meal there, I wouldn't necessarily choose it over the many nearby restaurants serving great food for similar prices. 
Having tried the arancini balls at CubaDupa, I couldn't pass it by - we ordered that and bruschetta to start followed by wild rabbit ravioli for the main course. Paired with a house white and finished with tiramisu, it was a pleasant night out. 

Previous Cuba Street posts:
Cuba Street Part One
Cuba Mall
The Night Market
CubaDupa