Any Portlander in a storm – a night at the Rydges

picture of great burgers served on wooden boards

Lamb burgers with chips and onion rings

Ages ago we saw an ad in the paper for The Portlander at Rydges Wellington  in the paper, and after looking at pictures of their burgers, we headed along there for lunch. The lamb burger was slow-cooked in duck fat, and it was delicious, crispy bits spilling out everywhere. The onion rings were heaven too, second only to Monterey’s (although this commentator disagrees). Needless to say, we were pretty excited when we got invited along to the launch official launch a couple of months ago.

We guzzled Moët like it was Lindauer, and oggled the shiny shiny machine they were using to slice up charcuterie. It was beautiful theatre, and I think they bust it out sometimes during happy hour. I can also tell you that their air-dried waygu beef is delicious.

What was even better though was servers carrying around plates of all the different kinds of steak so we could try them all. One has a bone longer than my arm. Guess which one is my favourite?

Shiny meat machine

Shiny meat machine

Having been for dinner a couple of times now, I can say oh fuck yes, this is the Portlander long bone OP rib, and it is AMAZING. We do recommend sharing it though, because it’s 500 grams. No one needs to eat that much meat by themselves, especially since it’s $46. Without sides. But if you keep reading, I will tell you how you can get it cheaper. But first I want to say that the servers at Portlander are very friendly, but it can be a little hard to flag them down when you need things like butter for your bread – and you will need butter because the three times I’ve tried their bread, it has been disappointingly unfresh (not stale, just not up to the standard that you’d expect).

In the interests of science, we decided to book in for a night at the Rydges to see how it was, which is when I discovered that if you join their priority guest rewards (for free!) not only do you save on hotel room bookings and get a later checkout, but you also save 20% on all food and drinks. That is totally worth giving up your email address for. Also I should point out that it seems you can get rooms cheaper directly through them rather than trying to use something like Wotif or, just so you know (we paid $154 for the room and two breakfasts and a late checkout).

I love a good bone, don’t you?

Now, looking back, you might remember as we did a review of The Holiday Inn which has now become the Rydges. It appears that decor-wise, not much has changed.  I especially agree with people’s comments that the aircon was a bit hard to use and also quite noisy. The room my boo and I stayed in was a Superior Double on the sixth floor, and we actually had a bit of a harbour view. It was essentially just big enough to fit the two double beds, but didn’t feel too crowded.  The bath was disappointingly short, but the shower was fantastic. The bathroom walls are still that half-opaque glass, but it wasn’t an issue to leave the blind down. It was curious though, because I’d understand its purpose if the shower was in front of the glass, like, oooh, sexy shower time like the many hotels who have spa pools in the main room, but the thing is the toilet is right in front of the glass, not the shower. Nevermind.

Speaking of getting wet, we went down to the pool for a swim, and were impressed by the stacks and stacks of towels all around, but it was a very skinny pool and not so great for people who wanted to float while others wanted to swim lengths. The spa pool was lovely, surrounded by big windows so we could bask in the sun. I couldn’t comment on the gym, because ha, except that it looked very small (although I read you can get free passes to a bigger gym nearby if you need them).

Room service brought us up cheese and tiramisu pretty speedily, although we would have welcomed chutney instead of plain walnuts with the cheese. We were a little disappointed in the breakfast selections offered on the card hanging on the door though. Our room deal included two breakfasts, but there wasn’t an option for a continental breakfast (and it seemed like a waste to just order ‘toast and spreads’), so we put down that we wanted two big breakfasts. We didn’t see a space to select how we wanted our eggs cooked, but they rang the next morning to ask and then only delivered us one. Sad face. By the time a second breakfast was delivered, we didn’t really want it that much anymore. The eggs were (apparently) cooked perfectly, and the sausage and hash browns were really good, but the toast was kinda bleh. That might have been because the eggs were sitting on them though, and eggs are gross.

So, overall, I love Portlander, and will return there as often as funds and desire to eat large amounts of meat dictate. I would also be pretty comfortable recommending The Rydges as a hotel to stay in too, although I would suggest that it might be a better option to go for the breakfast buffet, or just get breakfast in any number of other cafes around town.

PS – Other hotels: we’d love review you too. Get in touch!

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More Auckland vs Wellington malarky

Recently put up a piece called Auckland is the capital of cuisine – not Wellington, and then asked a number of Wellington food bloggers to respond.

The Auckland internet seems to be very short of space, as our response was edited quite heavily(*) despite sticking to the word limit (and links changed to promote pages, which I suppose, fair enough, but boo for losing pictures and punchlines), so for the record, here’s our actual response. And then,  as a special treat, we have the full text from TAWA-nominated Hungry & Frozen as well.

Joanna says:

If Auckland want to be the “Capital of Cuisine” then that’s fine. ‘Capital’  is a good title for a city where if you want to go to its best restaurants, you’re giving your money to a casino.  And ‘cuisine’ is such a lofty word that suggests it’s not accessible to the common diner.

Down here in Wellington, at the Portlander, you can pay $46 for the long bone OP rib steak (possibly the best steak you’ll ever eat in your life), but you can also get their delicious burgers (lamb slow-cooked in duck fat, anyone?)  for $10 at lunchtime.  You can dine at Martin Bosley’s by the water and pay a small fortune, but you can also grab a bacon buttie from him personally at the markets while you do your vegetable shopping. Chances are you’ve already bumped into him over a coffee somewhere else anyway. Because that’s how Wellington operates. Our food is delicious, creative and exciting – but it’s also accessible.

When Monterey started making their own syrups for cocktails, they decided to share that concept, and so Six Barrel Soda Co was born. Moore Wilsons has long championed the concept of being able to buy top of the range produce to cook for yourself at home.  Auckland can give itself whatever titles it likes – we’ll be down here eating while they’re talking.

Laura says:

My first thought was “well, what does it matter where is supposedly better?”

I guess it goes to show how much I love this city I live in because my follow-up thought was “but Wellington just is, okay? Case closed!” So there’s my argument. Kidding. I’ll try elaborating.

I’m the first to acknowledge Auckland is exciting. But what might be seen as a drawback is really something to celebrate about Wellington city: it’s comparatively tiny. You can throw a dart anywhere (please don’t literally do this) and undoubtedly hit somewhere serving up incredible quality food. On Cuba Street alone exists the kind of variety and quality that you might have to drive miles to locate in sprawling Auckland. (Sigh: I missed out on popular Little and Friday when up in central Auckland recently – it was so far away, and by the time I could’ve got myself there, it would’ve been closed.)

We do boutique – Crumpet serving handmade crumpets, Six Barrel Soda serving handmade sodas. We have countless international cuisines, from Americana to Malaysian. Fancypants dining – why, where to begin! Martin Bosley’s. Hummingbird, Matterhorn, Logan Brown, Arbitrageur, Pravda…Don’t even get me started on our amazing coffee. Oh wait: it’s better than anywhere. Moore Wilson provides fascinating ingredients without – importantly – sacrificing supermarket practicality, and the City Market sees the aforementioned Martin Bosley cheerfully making bacon butties for the crowds. All within such a small space. Having never participated, I couldn’t say how Auckland’s version of the hugely successful Wellington on a Plate compares- I’m sure it’d be fun to find out.

To conclude: Auckland is great, but Wellington is the best. Save that money you would’ve spent on petrol while idling in traffic to get from one side of Auckland to the other, and use it on amazing food in Wellington, after the merest of strolls from A (where you are) to B (many incredible cafes, minutes away.) And if there’s anything I learned from watching the Olympics, it’s that winning per capita is totally valid.

For the record, the only editing we’ve done on guest posts (as far as we can remember anyway) besides fixing apostrophes is to remove the phrase “guilty pleasure” because food should never have a moral character attached to it. Unless you’re eating the still-beating heart of a human being in front of their face. Or you ask for a really good piece of steak cooked “medium”. Then you should feel guilty as fuck.

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Give pottery for Xmas gifts, gain a mother’s love

Pottery glaze detail

Pottery glaze detail

You know what’s a nice thing to do? Buying pottery to give to people as gifts. You know what else is a nice thing to do? Pimping your mother out. Awww yeah. It just so happens that my mother is a potter, and she’s having her annual pre-Christmas open house at her studio/gallery this weekend in Ngaio.

I will have some excellent pots, functional and decorative, pots hot from the kiln ( I hope)… and a veritable graveyard of pots for the garden injured mainly in transit, lovingly restored that I’m willing to part with at bargain prices.
For those of you who already own a pot, are saturated, or make your own, guest exhibitors Angie and Russell Dear will have some wonderfully arty and different photographic views of Wellington on photo blocks or larger canvasses.

porcelain cups and saucers set

This is a great chance to stock up on gifts and homeware for yourself, at ludicrously cheap prices (because you’ll be saving on shop commissions, and also there will be what she calls seconds on sale, which you and I would call “oh that tiny little speckle on the bottom of the pot right there hardly visible to the naked eye, you think that’s an imperfection???”).

Pottery Open Weekend

  • 11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday
  • 24 &25 November
  • 35 Huntleigh Park Way, Ngaio

Please note that Huntleigh Park Way is up the top of a big hill, so you may want to drive instead of taking public transport. Keen walkers, however, should check out Huntleigh Park Outer Green Belt while they’re up there. Decent coffee and hearty portions can also be found in Ngaio at Cafe Villa.

PS: while we’ve got our pimp hat on, given they’re both in the Wellingtonista, we’d be remiss not to suggest gorgeous laser-cut jewellery from SuperVery and all kinds of design goodies at Wanda Harland.

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