Tag Archives: brunch

Yes to Arthur’s

Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.
~ James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

I look forward to visiting Arthur’s again.

Perhaps it was the gingham tablecloths, or the fact that they had two dining rooms, or the way every part of the place was beautifully furnished (including the bathroom). Perhaps it was the friendly women, the fresh mint on the table, the striking art on the walls, the candles in the stairwell… oh, it’s hard to say. How shall I describe it? Can a place feel charming, dignified, historic, manly and playful all at once? I feel like Arthur’s is all of these things. It also feels familiar… walking in feels like going home, except the place (sadly) isn’t yours.

My dining companion and friend, Herman, and I met in Dunedin – so of course we had to order a plate of their “Dunedin cheese rolls” to share! Warm cheese oozed out of these snug toast blankets… thoroughly satisfactory with their homemade relish.

Trying to decide what to eat was a capital challenge – so many lovely-sounding options. Eggs and soldiers, Ploughman’s Lunch, pie of the day – I was spoilt for choice. In the end, I followed my stomach and ordered poached eggs served atop bubble and squeak. I wanted comfort and I got a double dose of it :-)

Herman enjoyed his pie of the day quite a lot (cottage pie).

I know it’s not the done thing to take photos in the bathroom, even when you reallyreally like the decor. I did it anyway (see below).

Arthur’s – 272 Cuba Street, Wellington – Phone: 04 385 7227


Queenie’s Lunchroom, Freemans Bay

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
~ A.A. Milne

Quick post, ‘cos I want to dive back into Jostein Gaarder’s “The Castle in the Pyrenees” after this. I’m so keen to read tonight that I don’t even have time to cook… I’m eating a pie. An honest-to-goodness, really-bad-for-you and not-even-that-nice-tasting pie. And cheese + crackers. Tonight, I’m doing away with dishes and I’m feeding myself with words.

Photo above © Babiche Martens

I just wanted to pop in quickly to say Queenie’s Lunchroom is one super place. I don’t know what I like best about it – I just know that in the two times I’ve been there recently, there was so much to smile about before the food even came… and then there was no quittin’ smiling. Quality coffee (all the more noticeable in Auckland, city of hit-and-miss in this area). Candy-striped seats. An avalanche of magazines available to read, which I left untouched only because I had engaging company. Cute stone steps set into the grassy patch outside. Happy-looking customers. Whimsical walls and floors. A fun array of baking on the counter. The warm generosity of Grandma in the air. An enticing menu where I actually couldn’t decide between options simply because I actually wanted them all… oh I already look forward to my next visit.

Everything I have tasted here has been delicious. The sight of “Turkish eggs with baba ghanoush, yoghurt, hot chilli butter & toast” on the menu was hardest to resist on my first visit, so I eventually (after re-reading the menu at least 20 times) chose that. It turned out to be a medley of sweet and smoky, warm and wonderful with the gently spiced eggplant, temperate chilli butter and silky cool yoghurt weaving a gentle blanket around the poached eggs. Fresh warm toast sat in a comfortable, lazy stack next to it. Tucking into this, I felt like a snug worm in a cocoon.

Mom, my sweet dining companion on that occasion, ordered the omelette, which is the most ordinary item at most places – but not here. Here it comes with smoked fish (!), spring onions, capers and cream cheese and a mini garden of greens – fresh and flavourful, she enjoyed it… and I certainly enjoyed my bite (or two) of it too. Mom and I also shared a serving of citrus dressed avocado – the pairing of sharp citrus and nutty creaminess was perfect. Spring on a plate.

My second visit to Queenie’s was with my friend Carmi, who made brunch a most beautiful occasion – we talked about things deep, and also things funny. I so enjoyed being in her presence… Carmi ordered the Greenlip mussel, chorizo & red capsicum fritters with lemon aioli & rocket – all ingredients that shine in a NZ kitchen, me thinks! And I got the Kosheri, having been told by the waitress that it was her favourite dish. When I tucked into that impossibly fluffy Egyptian rice with lentils and spinach nestled in it, and that creamy tomato, avocado and yoghurt salad on the side, I could totally see why she recommended this. It was humble, real, and bursting with light.

It’s always worth listening to a waitress whose eyes shine when you ask her what her favourite dish on the menu is, and why. :-)

After a long and leisurely brunch, Carmi and I ordered a meringue to share, which came with a generous helping of crème fraîche and berries. It was light, biscuit-y, crumbly and firm; tart, cool and sweet… the perfect sweet finish on a sunny afternoon.

Queenie’s Lunchroom – 24a Spring Street, Freemans Bay, Auckland – Phone: 09 378 8977

Lyttelton Coffee Company – substantial brunching

I bet you think an egg is something you casually order for breakfast when you can’t think of anything else. Well, so did I once, but that was before the egg and I.
~ Claudette Colbert

Were we full from our yummy visit to Christchurch Farmers’ Market? Oh, yes. As we sat in the car I thought I would just have spinach for dinner and eat nothing else in between. Once we got to Lyttelton though, the spinach idea flew right out of my head – could we resist brunch at Lyttelton Coffee Co.? It did not take me long to decide that that would be idiotic (since I did not know when I’d next be in Christchurch)! We stepped in.

It was very crowded – people everywhere, obviously here for good reason! Fortunately a sweet couple was just getting ready to leave, so Ian hurriedly secured the table while I joined the queue of hungry ones.

I was quite glad to be behind a few others in the queue, since it gave me some time to survey their delightful cabinet selection!

Both of us got long blacks (which were very potent and very good). Food-wise, Ian ordered free range scrambled eggs on toast, while I opted for a ‘vege breaky’, poached eggs with baked beans, hash brown and field mushrooms. Everything on my plate was warm and cooked to perfection. The hash brown was a nugget of feathery potato strokes; the baked beans tasted like laughter; the mushrooms were simply flavoured in the best way so they still tasted exactly like mushrooms, but better. All this, on top of eggs and bread, made for a very substantial brunch indeed…

Leaving us with plenty of energy to walk around Sumner, soak in the sunshine, do some shopping, etc and have a much-needed catch up!

Lyttelton Coffee Company – 29 London Street, Lyttelton, Canterbury – Phone: 03 328 8096

Oven-baked French Toast (or pudding?)

I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.
~ Eartha Kitt

Someone I know through work recently emailed me this: “I have just recently come to understand the journey is just as important as the destination.” How I love that. We were discussing the mysteries of life, but I am so reminded of his wise words as I write this post now!

I decided to invite a few friends around for brunch in the weekend – so on Friday, I went to buy ingredients for Oven-Baked French Toast and spent a glorious half hour preparing it.

It was the most beautiful night. Honestly. Listening to the pitter-patter of rain falling outside while slicing bread, zesting an orange, sprinkling raisins and almonds, whisking milk with eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and a tiny amount of Baileys… It felt like a dream, and I was so looking forward to sharing perfect French Toast with my friends the next morning.

I arranged everything in the baking dish, glad-wrapped it and left the bread to soak in custard heaven while I slept…

Nothing could go wrong, right? Nothing. I awoke on Saturday morning with a smile on my face, and the French Toast still looked good as I slipped it into the oven. I even had time to toss 4 plates in the oven to warm them while the French Toast was baking. I had juice and coffee prepared. My friends arrived on time. Cutlery was on the table.

Within minutes, I smelled the awful smell none of us like at all – the odour of something burning. Gah, stupid raisins!! I really should’ve made a double-layered French Toast after all.

Worse still, in my haste to save the raisins, I put a layer of foil on the whole thing and baked it some more.

For Saturday brunch, we had soggy pudding with scorched raisins. My friends finished everything on their plates. A firm reminder of them being WONDERFUL people – and friends.

Well. This wasn’t so fun to eat, but it was a very fun journey (part of it anyway!) and the road to perfecting a delicious brunch continues…!

Things I can think of to make a more pleasurable oven-baked French Toast in future: try a different bread (a soft loaf, perhaps?) and form two layers of it with the raisins hidden in the middle. Aluminium foil should not be allowed to interfere with the cooking process either.

Does anyone have oven-baked French Toast tips to share? ;-)