A food tourist in Miramar

Last updated 10:44 14/01/2013

"Please report to customer service."

Miramar1I am attempting to use the automatic check-in to catch a flight to Timaru to visit my parents, but Wellington's (uncommon) howling gales seem to have rendered this unlikely.

The nice customer service lady informs us that if we would care to wait for an hour, the fate of our southern flight on a teeny plane will become clear.

And so, after a coffee and a muffin at the airport (it is pretty well lunchtime), we learn that, as expected, the flight has been cancelled. Bugger.

We are rebooked on a flight at 6pm, which means we have around four hours to kill, if we are to avoid driving home to Petone and back.

And so - brilliantly, I thought - I propose that we spend the afternoon as food tourists. In Miramar.

This is, of course, a lot better than if we were to attempt being food tourists in Waimate (more on that later). Miramar, flush with Hobbit and LOTR dollars, has become something of a culinary hotspot in the capital. I have already mused on fine meals I have had at Café Polo, La Boca Loca, Coco at The Roxy, and my personal fave The Larder, but I am aware that it runs still deeper than even these culinary jewels.

We head to a little mall-type shopping area on Tauhinu Road that is home to the Gasworks pub. I have a glance at their menu, and while it all looks simple and hearty and appetising, eating here would almost certainly preclude any other Miramar food-touristing. A little further around the way is the home of a bakery whose pita bread I have been enjoying for a while now- the Alamir Bakery.

Miramar3Their store is probably an afterthought, an add-on to the bakery, but they have great-looking kebabs and an array of Lebanese pizzas - I opt for the cheese and thyme (half topped with grilled cheese, half with the ubiquitous za'atar herb and sesame mix). And a labneh-filled falafel, for good measure.

Delicious. No other word for it. The pizza is crispy, and light, and delicate, and rich with the surprisingly tasty combination of the cheese and za'atar. The falafel has a crisp outer shell housing the soft, herby ground chickpea mix and the molten yoghurt within - awesome. And cheap - the pizza bread is $5.50, the falafel $3, or four for a tenner.

I finish up and we head just next door, to where Harrington's has a retail store fronting their own wholesale operation. An impressive array of free-farmed meat is on display - delectable looking porchetta, and sausages, and bacon, and steaks.

They seem largely to specialise in pork products, and they have a special on some excellent-looking pork rump roasts, which personable salesman Francois is more than happy to give me tips on preparing (sage, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, wine). I ponder the wisdom of buying a piece of meat when I'm not sure whether we will be heading south or not, and then decide that either my parents, or some other lucky fellow Wellingtonians, will get to enjoy this fine-looking piece of meat with us if our flight is indeed cancelled. I buy it anyhow.

Miramar4I am now fancying a coffee, so we head round to The Larder to visit one of my favourite local chefs, Mr Jacob Brown. Jacob has just been closed for a couple of weeks over Christmas, and looks rested and well and relaxed. And, with its reopening, the café is humming with late-lunch diners. We order coffee, Plus One has an iced chocolate (it is warm as well as windy). I resist the offer of a menu, as I'm not really hungry. Oh, go on then. Just a peek.

Though I am not really up to a steak or even a piece of fish (gurnard, just thought I'd check), one thing on the menu does rather catch my eye: a salad of watermelon, berries, mint - and sumac. This strikes me as a little odd - though sumac definitely has a citrusy bite, I always think it is kind of salty too. I think I had better get it - just to check that Jacob's radar is working. If it tastes a bit off, I will quietly take him aside and tell him. It's the least I can do.

Coffee - excellent, as ever. And then the salad.

First, it looks beautiful. Elegantly simple, it has just a sprinkle of sumac and a few mint leaves. And it tastes divine. The melon is juicy and sweet and the berries offer bright, fresh notes, and in combination with the mint and sumac are remarkably complex. And though it is probably reasonably easy to replicate this salad, coming up with such a bold combination is not quite so simple. And then not over- (or under-) doing any aspect of it - terrific.

My good buddy SG then joins us for a coffee, and takes us for a trot through the Weta Cave (it smells a bit like a teenager's armpit after a particularly heavy session of Dungeons and Dragons), and then back to his studio so I can add a little guitar to an ad he is working on. And then - pretty well time to go back to the airport, on the off chance that our flight is taking off. I have enjoyed a day as a food tourist in Miramar - and we didn't even make it around all the traps. Great suburb for food fanciers, mind - lest anyone think Miramar is just the middle, of the middle, of Middle Earth.

As it happens, our flight does leave, albeit a little late. Next stop, the "Riviera of the South" - my hometown, Timaru.

Miramarians - you don't know how lucky you are, obviously, but where are your favourite local food spots? Has anyone else ever spent a day as a "food tourist" in a suburb of the town they live in? Anyone else fancy the watermelon, mint, berry and sumac salad (you should!)?

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