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Celebrity Chef Robert Oliver's best places to eat in New Zealand Part2
Posted 1 Jan 0001

Click here to read part one.

The Best Café, Dunedin

Fish and chips are part of New Zealand’s food culture. It’s our nostalgia food, what we eat on a family Sunday after a day at the beach. Everyone has their local favourite fish and chip shop, but few towns still have venues that you can dine in.

The Best Café in Dunedin, New Zealand’s fourth city near the bottom of the South Island, is one. Blaring neon lights and fluoro green linoleum floor, this is the real deal. It’s not a relic; it’s part of our narrative, and they serve some of the best fish and chips I have ever had after years of being a fried fish junkie.

BestCafe

The chefs here really know what they are doing: to turn such basic fare into something memorable. That’s magic. The menu offered a choice of many types of local fish, and Zoe, the lovely server, was well informed on even what the fish ate: did you know that elephant fish eats other fish and shellfish?

I had batter fried blue cod with hand-cut chips and white bread with butter (and yes, I put hot chips into the bread and slurped it all down before the butter all melted in what is surely a nutritionist’s nightmare), all with a bracing cup of tea. A personal plea to The Best Café in Dunedin: please don’t ever modernise, in fact, don’t ever change at all!

Botswana Butchery, Queenstown

Everyone knows about Queenstown. It’s the lake and mountain region most served up in New Zealand’s tourism imagery. Oddly, I, a New Zealander, had never been here. It’s clear why its iconic vistas have been so bandied: Queenstown is awe-inspiringly beautiful.

Botswana

Botswana Butchery is housed in a colourful cottage on the lake and serves up great hearty food with big flavours. Meals are shared and generous, and the emphasis is on meats. Like cave men, we ripped apart a silkily tender slow-roasted leg of lamb, served on the bone. I loved the summer pea risotto with local wild rabbit and heirloom carrots, and Southland lambs fry (liver) with bacon, potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, mustard and port wine glaze. Botswana Butchery serves up the “roast dinner” that you wished you had at home! Big portions fittingly in proportion to the big views of Queenstown right outside.

Mamak, Auckland

Mamak? Why would I include a Malaysian restaurant in a New Zealand restaurant round up? Simply put, Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has grown up. Newcomers from Asia - China, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, and more -- have put their colourful stamp on this beautiful city and the restaurant life reflects this. And what a dazzling change it has bought to town. All manner of Asian eateries abound, with the whole neighbourhood of Balmoral housing a restaurant row that runs from Cambodia to Shanghai.

Mamak

Jeffrey Sing, a name that goes well with his gorgeously sing-song Malaysian accent, is the owner and personality at Mamak in the central city area. It’s my first stop when I come to town: inexpensive, authentic Malaysian fare in a cobbled courtyard right downtown. Terrific, freshly homemade roti canai, roti tissue, satays, mamak mee goreng, laksas all bounce with flavours, and Jeffrey’s personal warmth makes the world feel good.

Federal and Wolfe, Auckland

Auckland’s CBD, formerly forlorn, is bursting with restaurant life. I love the big breakfast at Federal and Wolfe, on a quiet corner about two blocks back from the waterfront. It’s a funky, urban cafe with a wooden communal table and a staff who clearly are good friends, and that camaraderie extends to customers. The coffee is great, as is the whole menu. Corn fritters with haloumi and arugula, and organic beef burger with beet relish are good picks for lunch, but don’t miss breakfast here -- really great eggs dishes and brioche with New Zealand Pohutukawa honey and buffalo ricotta. I love that the menu proudly lists the names of the farmers that supply them.

None of these restaurants are out to impress, rather they focus on delivering good food, really good food. What all of these have in common is that they are all overtly connected to the point of supply. Profoundly good ingredients, as we can now softly say, are leading New Zealand cuisine. Potatoes that give you new rounds of flavour with each bite, spinach that sings, old fashioned apple varietals that make you think you’ve never eaten apples before.

My father was recently on a cruise and he lamented being away from home and the “ingredients that speak for themselves”. Flavour is the asset, not food intellect. When I visit home, my mother only buys mushrooms from the mushroom farmer, and he only farms mushrooms, so he has the best mushrooms. This detail, this type of excellence, is at the core of New Zealand cuisine. Even the service reflected these same values. Zoe at The Best Café, Jeffrey at Mamak and Kate at Federal and Wolfe all served with warmth and humour, rather than with impersonal slickness and style. The unfussed loveliness of New Zealanders is what you get here. I felt like I was visiting them in their homes.

Getting there and away

Looking to samples some of New Zealand’s mouth-watering dishes? Check out Fiji Airways special offers on flights to Auckland and flights to Wellington

Organise your New Zealand Foodie Holiday

- Flights to Auckland - Fiji Airways operates flights to Auckland regularly from many domestic and international ports including flights from Nadi to Auckland, flights from Suva to Auckland, flights from Apia to Auckland, flights from Los Angeles to Auckland and flights from Hong Kong to Auckland.

Flights to Wellington -  Fiji Airways operates flights to Samoa regularly from many international ports including flights from Nadi to Wellington, flights from Suva to Wellington, flights from Apia to Wellington, flights from Los Angeles to Wellington and flights from Hong Kong to Wellington.

By Robert Oliver continue reading
Tagged: Activities, Culture, Leisure
Celebrity Chef Robert Oliver best places to eat in New Zealand Part1
Posted 29 Oct 2014

Renowned New Zealand chef, award-winning author and presenter of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand, Robert Oliver, journeys back to the land of the long white cloud and has compiled his selection of fine Kiwi restaurants that embody the best food in New Zealand.

Craggy Range, Hawkes Bay

Hawkes Bay, known as New Zealand’s fruit basket, is also one of the country’s most awarded wine regions. It is also home to the “Gimblett Gravels”, an area where century-old floods left a heavy bed of river stones that, as it turns out, is the perfect environment for the sunny wines of the region.

My family lives here, so I know the area well and love the weekend gatherings at the Hastings Farmers Market. I had a spectacular lunch at Craggy Range, a gorgeous vineyard-based restaurant that makes fine wine and food in outrageously good even proportion. I had two venison dishes. One a carpaccio with candied walnuts and aioli, and the second a roasted deer loin with potato fennel gratin. The venison comes from local producer FirstLight Foods, which, incidentally, produce the world’s only grass-fed wagyu beef. Aptly named “Terroir”, the restaurant is surrounded by the grapes that made the Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah we enjoyed with our food. Craggy Range embodies the Hawkes Bay experience — a place where fine wine culture begets great food culture, and it’s all in plain view, all from the region itself.

CraggyRangeHawkesBay

Ortega Fish Shack, Wellington

In Wellington, New Zealand’s San Francisco-esque capital city curled around an impossibly beautiful harbour, we ate at Chef Mark Limacher’s Ortega Fish Shack. First up were fresh-in-season, huge, briny, and creamy bluff oysters — the big and famous ones that come from the bottom-most tip of New Zealand’s South Island. I then had pan-roasted terakihi (a moist white fish, native to New Zealand waters) with ratatouille and crayfish butter, while my niece, Willa, gobbled down twice-baked, three-cheese soufflé doused with butter sauce! Butter on cheese; sinfully, wildly, crazily good! Dessert was lemon posset, a creamy, tangy mousse (New Zealand cream is fabulous) with local Otaki new-season strawberries.

Floriditas, Wellington

The next morning, still reeling with digestion, Willa and I brunched at Floriditas in Wellington’s outdoor Cuba Street Mall. We had rocket-fuel coffee and porridge with rhubarb, brown sugar and Cointreau. This was followed by organic poached eggs with a smoked mackerel and potato hash. Smart, urban, newspaper-scanning Wellingtonians packed the joint, downing equally smart, urban food. The ambience was warm and unhurried. “Floridita” has a terrific cookbook that’s worth picking up.

FloriditasWellington

The Boat Shed Café, Nelson

The Boat Shed Café in Nelson at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island juts out over the water, and here, watching the most spectacular sunset, I dined on seared “sea run” salmon carpaccio. The dish is created using New Zealand’s king salmon, sea-farmed locally and as gaspingly good as the morning views. It is topped with fetta, pine nuts, raisins and tangy local olive oil, all served with delicious whitebait fritters with arugula and soft white bread and butter.

boatshed

For dessert, I had a rhubarb and raspberry eton mess: crispy crushed meringue, dense whipped cream with tangy rhubarb and summer berries. Lots of Nelson names peppered the menu: Neudorf Olive Oil, Whitestone Highland Blue Cheese, and more; even the wine, which was a Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay 2010. I saw this everywhere I went: New Zealand restaurants supplied by local regional producers giving rise to regional cuisine varietals. Good inspiring stuff. Bravo Chef Dan Monopoli. This is why I travel!

To be continued... 

Getting there and away

Looking to samples some of New Zealand’s mouth-watering dishes? Check out Fiji Airways special offers on flights to Auckland and flights to Wellington

Organise your New Zealand Foodie Holiday

- Flights to Auckland - Fiji Airways operates flights to Auckland regularly from many domestic and international ports including flights from Nadi to Auckland, flights from Suva to Auckland, flights from Apia to Auckland, flights from Los Angeles to Auckland and flights from Hong Kong to Auckland.

Flights to Wellington -  Fiji Airways operates flights to Wellington regularly from many international ports including flights from Nadi to Wellington, flights from Suva to Wellington, flights from Apia to Wellington, flights from Los Angeles to Wellington and flights from Hong Kong to Wellington.

By Robert Oliver continue reading
Tagged: Activities, Culture, Leisure
Tarawa: Kiritbati's destination for travelers
Posted 27 Oct 2014

Author and Fijian Regional Officer for Climate and Oceans Support Program, Molly Powers-Tora explores the hidden joys and warm hospitality of Kiribati’s Tarawa Atoll.

I’ll admit, had it not been for work, I probably would never have found myself on Tarawa. This volcanic atoll just north of the equator is the administrative centre for the Independent and Sovereign Republic of Kiribati - also known as the Gilbert Islands. But thanks to a five-day workshop with weekends on both ends and a delayed flight or two, I had the opportunity to explore the subtle charms of this congested, sun-scorched, and cheerful island capital. And I was enchanted.

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Warm people in a fragile paradise

I was surprised by the number of misconceptions I had held about Tarawa prior to my arrival. Originally, I had imagined a fragile and tiny island, walkable from one end to the other and partially submerged at high tide because of sea level rise.

Indeed, one cannot help but appreciate the vastness of the Pacific Ocean when living on a tightrope of sand spotted by coconut palm and breadfruit trees. But Tarawa Atoll is no sinking ship. The vulnerability of the Pacific Islands to changes in climate and sea level cannot be overstated, but for all their challenges, what struck me most were the resilience and joyfulness of the iKiribati people.

With the growing population on South Tarawa, access to sufficient land and fresh water is a huge issue but the predominant vibe on the island is not one of fear or panic. Laughter and teasing, fishermen relaxing in a hammock on a hot afternoon, gleeful children playing, fresh fish and coconut toddy dominated the landscape.

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A Living Memorial

I was fortunate that my trip coincided with the 70th anniversary of the infamous Battle of Tarawa. Fought from November 20-23, 1943, the battle was the first American offensive in the central Pacific and was one of the bloodiest of World War II with more than 1,000 American and nearly 5,000 Japanese casualties over only 76 hours.

Remnants of this period litter the islet of Betio at the end of South Tarawa, including coastal defence guns, concrete bunkers and pillboxes. These bastions of a by-gone era have since become part of the landscape, covered with graffiti and playful children. Memorials to the British, American, and Japanese casualties are worth a visit, as is the Red Beach Park, which is a new and well-maintained multipurpose park with a basketball court overlooking one of the main invasion sites.

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At 6am on November 20th, I joined numerous American military representatives and families of Veterans who had travelled all the way to Kiribati as they attended the sunrise memorial service for the fallen US Marines. His Excellency, President Anote Tong spoke eloquently of the sacrifice those soldiers made in the name of freedom and an iKiribati elder gave a firsthand account of his childhood memories of Betio before and after the War.

The ceremony was solemn and moving. When the dignified and elderly representative from the American Foreign Legion slowly spread his wreath and then stopped to give a sharp salute to the memorial, I felt a lump grow in my throat. To think about the different world our grandparents lived in and to contemplate the sacrifices of that time was very humbling. Nothing takes you back to that era more than a walk through a living memorial like Betio.

A Blissful Escape

After a full week of workshops, I felt the need to escape the dusty and densely populated hubbub of South Tarawa. To remedy this, my colleague and I drove as far as we could along The Road, past the airstrip toward North Tarawa. We were looking for a nice swimming spot and since swimming in the Lagoon is not advisable – as it serves as a communal toilet for many villages- we drove at the end of The Road. It was low tide and much too shallow for a proper swim.

Feeling hot and deflated, we were approached by a gregarious local fellow covered in tattoos who introduced himself and told us about a little guesthouse just across the inlet. Wasting no time, we started wading across the shallows and to our delight, found ourselves at Tabon Te Keekee Eco-Lodge

After one day at Tabon Te Keekee, I was almost ready to scrap all of my belated honeymoon plans and reroute to Tarawa. The family-run spot is blissfully secluded. It is a tidy and sandy property featuring a handful of thatched open-air huts (buias) wired for electricity and with nothing but a mattress and a beautiful view. The food was delicious- fresh fish served anyway you can imagine with pumpkin, rice, vegetables, and fried breadfruit- and the green coconut juice was the sweetest I’ve ever tasted.

The lodge’s two overwater buias appealed to the romantic in me. Jutting out over the inlet, the breeze flows freely through these spacious bures, which boast killer views of the gorgeous sunset. I could just imagine being lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves passing beneath.

Walking the sandy footpaths of North Tarawa was a totally different experience to the congested traffic of South Tarawa. We passed by smiling children and friendly families calling ‘Mauri!’, and were overtaken only by the occasional bicyclist. We eventually found our perfect swimming spot- where the water was clear and even a little cool as it rushed into the lagoon from the sea on the incoming tide. All in all, it was a perfect day of unexpected adventures.

There’s a saying that Kiribati is for travellers not tourists, and for someone who shuns the well-worn path, this made the country all the more attractive to me. There are also just enough activities available, sights to see, and restaurants to keep a visitor busy for a week or more. The Kiribati Tourism Office has recently launched a series of Visitor Guides which are comprehensive and very useful for planning a trip or just learning more about the country and culture. This information can also be found online at www.kiribatitourism.gov.ki.

Getting there and away

Fiji Airways flies twice weekly to Tarawa Atoll. Check out our special offers for flights from Nadi to Tarawa.

By Molly Powers-Tora continue reading
Tagged: Activities, Adventure, Community
The Pacific's Top 5 Cities For Street Food
Posted 22 Oct 2014

In most Pacific countries, your best bet for great street food is near the local bus stand or outdoor market. If you are new to a place, ask a local to point you in the direction of one of these and chances are you’ll stumble across some pretty good street food.

The trick to great street food is to look for the stall that has the largest number of local customers. When it comes to street food, safety is definitely in numbers, both because busy places serve popular dishes and they also never have food that has been sitting around for too long.

Here's our pick of the best cities in the Pacific to try great street food:

Suva, Fiji

Ask anyone from Suva with a late night appetite and they’ll direct you straight to the hot dog stands around the capital. Our favorite hot dog stand, Hunky Dog, is conveniently located along Victoria Parade opposite Maya Dhaba Restaurant and some of the city’s famous watering holes such as Traps and around the corner from O’Reilly’s Bar and Down Under. It is not uncommon to see late nighters queuing at these stalls waiting to be served some of Suva’s best hot dogs and burgers. We recommend that you order “the works” if you are sampling this stall. It includes a combination of pickles, cheese and sauces over a sinfully good frankfurter cushioned in a nice warm bun. For those who can’t handle any more heat than our tropical climate, ask the friendly Hunky Dog hot dog boys to hold the chili sauce, it has a reputation!

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Port Vila, Vanuatu

Located along the beautiful Port Vila Harbour, the Port Vila Market is this tropical paradise’s busiest building. Littered with tropical delights from raspberries, bananas and fish to firewood and flowers, the market is a popular dining spot. Meat lovers have the option of a hearty steak, but we definitely suggest trying the fish and rice.

In the shelter of the buzzing market, hand-pick your fresh fish and have it deep fried by one of the friendly Vanuatu vendors who will add a crisp salad, rice and some gravy to flavour, all for just US$2.

Ask for freshly made lemon juice for a truly-authentic experience. You can sit at one of their designated dining tables in the middle of the market and indulge in your delectable “street seafood” surrounded by local chatter, fresh fruity scents and a cool breeze.

Apia, Samoa

When travelling through Samoa do not miss out the roadside coconut stalls. Often manned by fine-looking Samoan men, these stalls are a good stop to hydrate you while travelling around the island during the day.

It is said that coconut water, apart from hydrating, helps with digestion and aids good skin. Ready-cut and cleaned for drinking, there’s no need for straws, bottoms up! But if you want something hot, don’t worry there’s coffee and food on wheels near the city center. You won’t miss its bright, coloured exteriors.

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Savusavu, Fiji

With a long journey ahead of you, it’s almost always advisable to pack homemade food for the trip. If you are somewhat like me and never having enough time to pack some food, don’t fret.

There are grub options aplenty at Port Savusavu. You can’t miss the vendors dotted along the wharf with colourful umbrellas and equally vibrant smiles to match, selling snacks and homemade roti parcels (a local wrap with curry filling), roast chicken and juices.

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Tarawa, Kiribati

Betio, an island and town located at the extreme southwest of South Tarawa in Kiribati is host to the main port of Tarawa Atoll. Famous for being the location for the Battle of Tarawa during World War 2, the area is now the centre of economic activity for the island nation hosting copra mills, shops and other enterprises for its ever growing population. Betio is popular for its roadside stalls abundant with fresh produce. Since fresh fruits and vegetables are rare on the mainland, they are sourced from the outer islands to meet the local demand, as well as the cravings of the ravenous traveller.

Getting there and away

Fly to Suva with Fiji Airways. Take a walk, hop on a bus or even jump in a cab and head down to the end of Victoria Parade. You won’t miss it

Organise your Fiji Holiday

- Flights to Suva - Fiji Airways operates flights to Suva regularly from many domestic and international ports including flights from Nadi to Suva, flights from Sydney to Suva and flights from Auckland to Suva.

- Flights to Samoa -  Fiji Airways operates flights to Samoa regularly from many international ports including flights from Nadi to Samoa, flights from Suva to Samoa, flights from Los Angeles to Samoa, flights from Honolulu to Samoa and flights from Hong Kong to Samoa.

- Flights to Vanuatu
- Flights to Kiribati

By Naziah Ali continue reading
Tagged: Culture, Family
Getting married at the Bure ni Loloma
Posted 21 Oct 2014

Bure ni Loloma - The Perfect Wedding Spot

Located on the highest point of Outrigger on the Lagoon, Fiji, the Bure ni Loloma Wedding Chapel commands a sweeping panoramic view over the Coral Coast making it the ideal dramatic backdrop for your celebration.

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The Bure ni Loloma’s architectural design concept is based on a traditional Fijian village. Constructed entirely out of timber with polished hardwood floors and a vaulted ceiling built from traditional masi bark cloth, the venue is the perfect place for those looking to combine a modern wedding ceremony with the customs and culture of the Fijian people.

Indeed, the Bure ni Laloma can cater for all types of exotic wedding ceremonies including a traditional Fijian wedding complete with Fijian dress and a four-warrior escort for the bride.

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Once the ceremony at the chapel is complete, guest can make their way to the Kalokalo Bar, also known as Star Bar, for an intimate reception. The reception area can cater up to 100 guests and is a great place to revel in the days previous events. Enjoy the glorious Fijian sunset over the water with a cocktail.

In addition to the Chapel and Kalokalo Bar, the summit of Vakalomalagi Hill is also home to the award-winning Bebe Spa Sanctuary. This haven for rest and relaxation focuses on uniting ancient traditional Fijian therapies and beauty rituals. It is the perfect destination for newly-weds to begin their honeymoon with a post-wedding pamper package and massage.

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The Bure Ni Loloma has a number of different wedding packages to suit all types of guests and budgets.

These packages can include:

  • Exclusive use of the Chapel for the duration of the wedding ceremony
  • Marriage Licence from the local authorities; includes cost of licence and transfers to the registry. Marriages in Fiji are recognised worldwide
  • Wedding Co-ordinator
  • Church Minister or Celebrant
  • Bouquet and Tiara for the Bride
  • Buttonhole for the Groom
  • Tropical Flower Arrangement
  • Wedding Cake (Two Tiers)
  • Bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne
  • Trio of Serenaders
  • Romantic Dinner for Two
  • Romantic Breakfast in Bed
  • VIP Status

Fiji Airways flies to Nadi daily from Sydney, Auckland and Brisbane and three times a week from Los Angeles, Honolulu, Hong Kong and Melbourne.

Getting there and away

-    Fly to Suva with Fiji Airways and take an approximately 3 hour drive to Coral Coast from Nausori Airport 
-    Fly to Nadi with Fiji Airways and take a scenic 1 hour drive from Nadi Airport along the Queens Highway

By Naziah Ali continue reading
Tagged: Romance, Wedding
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