Sunday, January 17, 2010

Auckland Botanic Gardens

Since the day was still early, we dropped by Auckland Botanic Gardens on our way back to Dannemora.

No charges needed to enter Auckland Botanic Gardens.

As we entered the visitor center of Auckland Botanic Gardens, there's a cafe and art sculpture hall on the left and souveniers shop on the right hand side. The main highlights for the day was the Sculpture Gardens.

Sculpture Highlights at the Visitor Center

Walking further from the lobby, a huge garden is ready for us to explore arounds. We started off our walk from the NZ Plants and NZ Threatened Plants area. As we walk along, we saw a few of the ducks and ducklings. My friend told me that the ducks always go around in pairs. How true is that? Hmm... I did saw a few pairs being together, and there's also a few that were not being together. Check it out yourself when you happened to visit Auckland Botanic Gardens.

A pair of duck

Ducklings running around the garden

NZ Native bird

As a visitors, we are not supposed to feed the ducks and ducklings with bread. You will be able to see a "Super duck" signage saying the ducks and ducklings there only eat grains. I also saw the "Super duck" going around giving grains to people who would like to feed the ducks and ducklings.

At Auckland Botanic Gardens, they do have Rose Garden as well. However, during my visit there, the roses weren't as impressive as Dove Myer Park (refer to my earlier posting below).

Roses in rose garden, Auckland Botanic Garden

There's also a scuplture gardens around but we didn't stop by as we are not a sculpture person.

Before we left, we had our lunch at Cafe Miko. Cafe Miko provides indoor and outdoor dining area. We choose to dine outdoor to enjoy the green views of Auckland Botanic Gardens. It is a self service cafe whereby you will need to order your food via the counter and pay before food are being served.

View of Auckland Botanic Garden from Cafe Miko

We ordered two skinny flat white, a corn fritters served with bacon and salad and a slice of lemon yogurt cake. The overall taste of the food was quite ordinary but we feels satisfied with the standard.

Corn fritters served wit bacon and salad

Lemon yogurt cake

Monday, January 4, 2010

Birthday Dinner at Soul Bar & Bistro, Auckland

My friend celebrated my birthday during my visit in Auckland. I was brought to Soul for my birthday dinner. From about 10 minutes walking distance from The Westin, we arrived at Soul.

Soul is situated in the heart of Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.If you choose to dine or drink at the restaurant's terrace, you can enjoy the nice sunset and harbour view.

Soul Bar & Bistro

As that day was quite chilly, we decided to dine indoor instead. As we entered the entrance, we were politely greeted by the waiter and seated us at a corner of the restaurant. Then we were given drinks menu, food menu and today's special menu for our decision making.

Today's special menu

Before decided on what to have for dinner, we ordered a bottle of Te Waihou Sparkling water to quench our thirst first. Te Waihou is a local brand with local colloquial language which means "The New Water". The water is sourced from the Blue Spring in New Zealand. We do think that the subtle crisp bubbles from Te Waihou Reserve Sparkling Water provides a well balance and clean taste before starting a meal.

Then we started off the birthday meal with ciabatta with Soul's bessara as the entree for dinner. The skin of ciabatta was crispy and the inner texture was chewy. It's a new type of bread that I had tasted. It is totally different from the normal bread that I had so far.

Ciabatta with Soul's bessara

Also, we ordered a glass of Pelorus Bay Methode Tradionede each to go with our main meals.

I had Hawkes Bay lamb rack with cheesy potato terrine, braised cos and broad beans as my main meal. When I placed my order, the waiter actually did asked me whether I'm okay with rare lamb rack. In fact, I told them I prefer it to be medium. Personally I had only tried well done lamb before, hence I'm not too ready with rare or medium lamb. However this time I gave it a try. When the lamb rack arrived, it looks very rare as you can see the meat was still red. (You'll know what I meant when you see the photo below) I didn't asked the waiter to take it away for a change. In my mind I was like it's okay try that out. It turned out that rare looked lamb rack was just right. The juiciness and tenderness of the meat was just right but the rest of it was rather ordinary. My friend can't figure out why this meal comes with the broad beans combination. I, myself personally don't like the broad beans because it were tasteless.

Hawke Bays lamb rack with cheesy potato terrine, braised cos and broad beans

My friend had slow cooked pork belly with braised shoulder croquette and pimento mustard mash as his main meal. As according to him, the crackling were not crispy enough as per his liking. Overall it taste rather ordinary than expected.

Slow cooked pork belly with braised shoulder croquette and pimento mustard mash

We also had the mixed green salad as our sides as we prefer to have some vegetables as well to balance our diet.

Mixed green salad

When we were done with our meals, as usual, we were ready for desserts. It took us about 10 to 15 minutes to finally decides on pallete of fruit sorbets. The pallete of fruit sorbets come in six different varieties of flavours. We weren't being told what were the flavours, hence we did our best to give a guess. We managed to get most of it right except one which was rather special, the apple + corriander flavour. After trying all the rest, we decided to ask the waiter on the flavours presented to ensure our answers were right. The flavours served that night were (from top left corner clockwise):-

  • Strawberry

  • Yogurt

  • Tamarillo

  • Orange

  • Boysenberry

  • Apple + corriander

Pallete of fruit sorbets

The overall experience in Soul was rather ordinary. We were rather dissapointed with the food as we expected more due to the good and positive reviews.

Although it was a rather ordinary birthday dinner without a birthday cake, it's the thought that counts. Thanks. (I know you are reading this)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Burger Fuel - The Fast Food in Auckland

It's time for a simple meal after spending about a week eating different varities of good food in Auckland. We decided to grab food from Burger Fuel for our dinner in the Sky City Cinema.

Burger Fuel outlet at Queen Street

Burger Fuel, the chain of gourmet burger restaurant is originated from Auckland in the year of 1995. The first store was opened at Ponsonby Road in 1995 with the mission of providing ultimate experience in gourmet burger by using delicious, fresh and natural ingredients.

Burger Fuel logo

I personally find that Burger Fuel has a different approach as compared to Hungry Jacks/ Burger King and McDonalds. The special thing about Burger Fuel is that they provide selections of mini and large burgers in their menu which caters to different needs and types of consumers. Selections of vegetarian, organic and gluten free buns are also available in their menu.

Burger Fuel menu

We ordered Basic Chick Combo and Bambina Combo from the Lightweight menu. In the combo set, they provides a can of soft drinks that you can select yourself from the fridge provided in the eating area and a selection of either spud or kumara fries. We had selected Coke Zero and kumara fries as part of our combo.

  • Basic Chick Combo - Grilled chicken breast, salad, relish and aioli on a smaller bun, kumara fries with aioli dip and Coke Zero

  • Bambina Combo - Ground beef, salad, relish and aioli on a smaller bun, kumara fries with aioli dip and Coke Zero

Lightweight Menu Selections

When a burger selections are being ordered, they will provides a patented "Doofer", which is a folding cardboard burger-holder. It allows consumer to eat a burger at the most convenient way. Usually a burger consumer will unwrapped the burger and eat it by holding it with hands. With the help of "Doofer" it holds the burger nicely and avoid all the vegetables and meat from dropping off.

View of Doofer from side

View of Doofer from top

In most of the fast food restaurants, french fries are the most common sides provided in the combo sets. However, in Burger Fuel, there is more than one sides provided. The sides that caught my attention was Kumara fries served with aioli dips. (Kumara is one of the type where Malaysians call it as sweet potato. It is orange in colour.) Kumara fries taste like the fried sweet potato which is commonly available in Malaysia but sweeter. The aioli dip provided is really a brilliant combination to have with kumara fries.

Burger Fuel is really worth trying if you happen to be in Auckland. I personally feel that it is a fast food restautrant which provides a good and tasty quality burgers to consumers who like to have fast and quality food rather than just fast food.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Afternoon Tea at The Langham, Auckland

It has been a long time since I had my afternoon tea. I can't even remember when was the last time I had it. Could it be like 10 years ago? Well it doesn't matter because during my visit in Auckland, I had Afternoon Tea at The Langham hotel.

How do afternoon tea come about? It was found by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford in 1840. Back then, dinner was not being served until 8.30pm or 9.00pm in the evening and even later during summer. Hence, while waiting for dinner to be served, Duchess felt hungry and ordered small meal of breads, butters and pastries to be served at her boudoir secretly everyday. When her small meals habits were being discovered, it eventually became popular and widely known as afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea in The Langham are being served in The Winery from 12.00 noon until 4.30pm. The Winery are being decorated with huge chandelier, small round tables surrounded with couches and chairs with pillows and a bar counter at the side. The total decorations potray the English look of how an afternoon tea was served back then.

View of The Winery, The Langham, Auckland

The Langham served two types of afternoon tea which are:-

  • Signature Afternoon Tea - NZD30

  • Champagne Afternoon Tea - NZD56

As we entered The Winery, we stopped and waited to be seated since we made a reservation earlier. We were kept waiting for about 10 minutes before we were given a place. The reason why we were kept waited because there was someone else who jumped the queue and made the waiter or waitress served her first as they didn't realised that it was us who arrived first. Some points have been deducted from the service provided by them. However this hasn't spoilt our mood for the afternoon tea that we were looking forward to.

Signature Afternoon Tea Menu

When we were seated, menu was given to each of us with a brief explanation of their selections of afternoon tea. Then we were being served with a glass of iced water with a slice of lemon.

Tea served with pots and iced water with a slice of lemon

We chose to have the Signature Afternoon Tea because we had champagne already the night before. The Signature Afternoon Tea allows us to choose the types of tea and coffee that we prefer from their selections. 

The Signature Afternoon Tea for 3 person were served in a three-tier platters of exquisitely prepared sandwiches, petit scones and delicacies. At the begining, they provided only a serving for two due to the limited space on the three-tier platters. Half way throughout our afternoon tea, another serving of each items were being replenished.

Served in three-tiered platter

We started out afternoon tea with the middle platter which served the freshly prepared sandwiches:-

  • Smoked salmon with lemon cream cheese

  • Cucumber with cream cheese

  • Grated hard boiled egg and watercress

  • Roasted beef with cream horseradish mayonnaise

  • Ham with English mustard butter

  • Pistachio macaroon with olive tapenade and capsicum

Middle platter servings

Then moved on to the lowest platter which served:-

  • Fresh home-made traditional and raisin scones served with cream and strawberry preserve

  • Chocolate lamingtons

Lowest platter servings

And to the top most platter which served the selections of cakes and pastries:-

  • Mini baked cheese cake

  • Mini fruit tarts

  • Creme brulee

  • Mini lemon meringue tart

  • Hazelnut Daquoise sponge cake

Toppest platter servings

When we were about to finish all the three platters, we were being surprised with another two servings which were:-

  • Cream cheese with caviar and chives in waffle

  • Chocolate mousse

Surprise servings

It took us around 2 hours plus to enjoy all the three platters food. Of all the delicacies served, I personally enjoyed the:-

  • Smoked salmon and lemon cream cheese sandwich

  • Pistachio macaroon with olive tapenade and capsicum

  • Freshly home made traditionaly and raisin scones served with cream and strawberry preserve

  • Mini fruit tarts

  • Mini lemon meringue tart

  • Hazelnut Daquoise sponge cake

I personally find all my favourite food above YUMMY!

It was a nice Afternoon Tea experienced at a 5-star hotel in Auckland. Should you happen to be in Auckland and wish to have an Afternoon Tea, do drop by The Langham and experience it yourself.

However, one word of advise for all the small eaters, do not have any breakfast or lunch before the afternoon tea else you won't be able to enjoy all the food served.