Category Archives: New Zealand

New Zealand Food Exploration: Parallel Universe Chocolate Review

When it became known we were planning to visit New Zealand, various friends and acquaintances told us “it’s like England, 30 years ago”.

Images of space hoppers, Ford Cortinas, Ringo crisps and rotary-dial telephones coursed through my brain, so I was more than a little disappointed to find out it was entirely untrue. In fact the only sign to support this claim we saw in our entire trip was a young man sporting a mullet/rat-tail combination hairstyle.

Actually everyone was also extremely nice and friendly, and while I don’t want to do my countrymen down, it did add a certain old-fashioned charm to shopping or asking for assistance.

H and I eventually decided it was more like a parallel universe version of the UK. We drove on the same side of the road, the Queen featured on money, there were green fields dotted with sheep and cows, Victorian architecture here and there, excellent cheese, erratic weather…you get the idea.

However so many things were also different. The large clapboard bungalows, the rainforest, mountains and kiss-me-quick-free coastline, the emptiness, the risk of earthquakes, the love of participating in sport, and a plethora of Cadbury products which I had never seen before.

parallel universe chocolate

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New Zealand Food Exploration: North Island Recommendations

To follow on from my South Island recommendations, now it’s the turn of the North Island.

As with the other post, I have not created a map as the places are so spread out it would be a real fiddle to use. Plus I’m lazy…

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New Zealand Food Exploration: South Island Recommendations

We spent around 12 days on the South Island of New Zealand, and very beautiful ones they were too.

Our limited budget forced us to view things a little differently, and during this early period of our holiday, we were still railing against it quite frequently. It was a sharp change from our usual vacation spending excesses, and I must confess to twinges of sadness when we had to bypass a vast array of gourmet restaurants in favour of cooking in our motel room or a pizza.

It was quite a salutary lesson though as to how frivolously we spend money on food when at home. Having to write down every day where the money was going really hammered home how stopping for a coffee and a hot chocolate consumed one eighth of our budget for the day, and drinks with dinner torpedoed it.

We got used to drinking the free water every restaurant provides, and to make the most of the limited cooking facilities our motels offered. I know it sounds like a big fuss over nothing – it’s not like we were starving or eating beans on toast 3 times a day, but as the title of the blog hopefully conveys, for me, food is about going beyond sustenance into the realm of pleasure.

So bearing all this in mind, I wanted to document some of the places where we really enjoyed eating. None of them were too pricey, and although many (to my chagrin – what a waste of research!) were listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook we acquired before departing, some will hopefully augment your own lists.

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New Zealand Food Exploration: Auckland Food Courts

When I say the words “food court”, what do you picture?

If you are from the UK, probably some wipe-clean section of a shopping centre edged with the chainiest of all fast-food joints, strewn with scrumpled wrappers, scented with rancid burger fat and echoing with the try-hard talk of teenagers.

I was quite excited to encounter my first food court years back. It was in the Friary Shopping Centre in Guildford, and I don’t remember much except bubblegum ice cream and baked potatoes.

When I started to make tentative forays into Thailand, the term began to take on a new meaning. There was still an abundance of shiny seating and plastic trays, but the food was much better, and subsequent visits to Malaysia and Singapore turned food courts into places I positively wanted to go to. The small stalls each specialised in a sub-set of Asian cuisine, and would generally execute it well and for bargain prices.

For anyone wanting to eat street food without the actual street part, food courts are a brilliant way to try new tastes without any lingering anxieties (unfounded or otherwise) about communication or cleanliness.

I’m not aware of any Asian-style food courts in the UK. There used to be one in North London called Oriental City, but no sooner had I learned of its existence than it closed down. Luckily for us, however, Auckland is host to a number of fine food courts of this type, and we managed to fit in 3 in the few days we were there. All were good value with an excellent range of dishes from the various stalls.

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New Zealand Food Exploration: Custard Squares/Slices

What is your ultimate comfort food?

I have a few contenders, but one of the strongest has to be custard.

Hot custard poured on the side of puddings, cold leftover custard set into a lump in the bowl, pastry-cream-filled eclairs, nutmeg-dusted custard tarts; I love them all. So when I read about Denheath Custard Squares, I made of note of the stockists so I couldn’t miss out.

custard cube

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