In her new fortnightly column, Anna King Shahab eats her way around the world. This week, close to home on Waiheke
Well known for vineyard restaurants, Waiheke is steadily building a broad catalogue of excellent eating and drinking. From slow tacos to sophisticated brews, and a cult-fave cabbage dish, the food and drink scene on The Rock is heating up. On a summer island break with my resident sister and our families, we revisited a few favourites and discovered some neat newbies.
Saturday morning's Ostend Market is a sampler box of things grown and made on the island including honey, macadamia nuts, Shared Kitchen's hazelnut dukkah, kalamata olives and preserved lemons, Helios' slow-fermented breads, and Babicka's sausages. No need to eat breakfast beforehand — call into Island Coffee for a takeaway, then browse the market for options including mezze plates, Hungarian langos (fried potato bread) and Babicka's sausage rolls — the best on either side of the Gulf.
Cross the road to taste the wares of the island's newest gelateria, La Dolce Vita — its Italian proprietors focus on classics like lemon sorbet (terrifically tart) and pistachio. Another port of call for ice cream lovers is Oneroa's Island Gelato, its counter boasting a stunning array of flavours (great coffee, too).
Food trucks and stalls are mushrooming: head to the corner of Poto St and Erua Rd where they run on a rotating schedule, and circle the second Thursday of the month for Poto Food Hub to try several at once. Try beautiful Sri Lankan curries from Indy's Curry Pot, – give the goat a go, or the vegan cashew curry, and don't miss Indika Bombuwala's sides of sambals and salads. Mama Yenny brings a taste of her home island Bali to her now-home island — think nasi lemak, beef rendang, green beans with toasted coconut. You can also buy her range of sambals and other condiments in specialty stores on the island.
I always make time for a visit to Alibi Brewing and order a tasting paddle of regular and seasonal beers — my fave this summer has to be the Resting Beach Face American wheat beer and not just for its brilliant name. The food both at Alibi and upstairs at Tantalus, by renowned chef Marco Edwardes, is a delight. Chef's current pick from the brew lounge menu is the roast and spiced lamb salad (with buckwheat, green olives, zucchini, pomegranate, mint and labneh) matched with the Session Pale Ale, full of malts and NZ hops, and lower in alcohol so no afternoon nap needed.
It's mere steps from the squeaky sand of Onetangi Beach into the relaxed yet elegant surrounds of ThreeSevenTwo, where chef Bronwen Laight's dishes highlight local produce, as does the drinks list. To taste her battered crispy cabbage with spices, curry leaf and aioli is to experience this underrated veg in a whole new light.
Destination Dish — tacos with salsas and pickles from Tacos y Masa
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I discovered Nathalya and Joel Larson and their simple taco stall at the Ostend market. They also pop up at Poto Food Hub, Oneroa market and events around the island — check their Facebook page for their schedule. The couple make tacos the old-school way starting with GE-free New Zealand-grown nixtamalised (an ancient maize-prepping process) corn kernels and grinding them into dough which they press into tortillas in a small but seriously hefty press they bought in Oaxaca. To slow-cooked beef shin, chicken thigh or pinto beans they add handmade salsas and pickles — when we visited they had nine salsas on the go (my fave featured grilled tomato and pineapple, a tonne of coriander, lime, and pickled jalapenos), plus pickled red onions, carrots and chillies.
Anna's column will return in a fortnight. Next week, Elisabeth Easther's Wonderful World