Havelocks' Slip Inn provides diners with a prime view of the nearby boat ramp
Adrienne Matthews takes a drive to picturesque Havelock to sample the menu at the Slip Inn Cafe.
It is always a pleasure to eat near water and the Slip Inn at Havelock provides an excellent location from which to observe the comings and goings of the local marina.
The views out the picture windows are stunning and on a fine day there are tables outside almost on the water.
It is a far cry for manager Cieran Thomas from his previous hospitality positions in Sydney, Manly Beach and Wellington.
"No two days are the same," he says. "There is always plenty going on outside to entertain diners no matter what the weather, particularly on the boat ramp," he laughs.
The atmosphere at the Slip Inn is relaxed and unpretentious. There are two main dining areas and another for functions and events. Spacious, smart, with a variety of seating arrangements, there is plenty of space to enjoy a meal, coffee with friends and drinks from the well-stocked bar.
Staff members are friendly and obviously enjoy their work which provides for a fun filled atmosphere.
"Because we have such a range of customers, from people travelling through the region to our regular locals, we endeavour to provide something for everyone," explains Cieran.
"We like fresh, local ingredients and most of what doesn't come from the sea and land around here, we make in the kitchen," he says.
The Slip Inn is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner almost every day of the year. "We just close for Christmas Day, earthquakes and floods," laughs Cieran.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am. You can enjoy a comfortable favourite such as eggs benedict, pancakes or muesli, or there are other tasty alternatives on offer such as the 'Mahau Munch' or 'Corn and Potato Stack'.
Lunch begins at 11am and extends until 5pm when dinner service begins. Both consist of a wide range of entrée and main size meals with a focus on tasty, fresh produce with some interesting twists. There are some moreish desserts available along with cheeseboards and plates to share.
A takeaway menu includes pizzas such as the delicious 'Pelorus Jack' with mussels, prawns, salmon, calamari, sundried tomatoes & red onion and 'Land Lover's' with Tamar Farm pepperoni and chorizo, marinated chicken, ham and house-made barbecue sauce.
Also on the takeaway menu are a good range of other options such as 'Steak Sandwich', 'Fish and Chips' and 'Ocean's Catch Pasta'.
Wednesdays from 5pm are the great value Burgers and Beers Night and at $20 per person includes a burger, chips and beer or house wine.
First to arrive was the Slip Inn 'Seafood Platter' for two which looked very appetising indeed. A bowl of the restaurant's famous local Green Lipped Mussels formed the centrepiece, lightly steamed with the chef's special recipe to enhance but not overpower their flavour. These were accompanied by a cured salmon salad, squid, toasted bread, basil pesto and red pepper hummus, presented in a way that showcased the food at its best.
I particularly enjoyed the 'Corn and Leek Stack' that followed. Served with beetroot, goat's feta and walnut hummus, these were thick and filling.
The 'Salmon Gravlax' was of excellent quality and well enhanced by pickled vegetables which provided a tasty and slightly tart contrast to the richness of the salmon. A very good idea indeed.
The 'Chicken Crispy Nibbles' served with teriyaki sauce had a good crispness to them and the 'Slow Cooked Beef Short Ribs' from the dinner menu, served atop a tasty risotto was superbly cooked with meat falling off the bone. The latter would be a good choice if you are really hungry, being very filling indeed.
I can highly recommend the 'Herb Rolled Pork Belly' which comes on a delicious bed of duck fat cooked potatoes, broad beans and crackling. There is an art to the latter which had plenty of crunch but didn't break the teeth. The pork was very tender and full of flavour.
After devouring a delicious 'Caramel Macadamia Nut Sundae', I simply couldn't manage the gluten free 'Chocolate Brownie' but my companion assured me it was of fine quality and had no trouble eating my share as well as her own.
The beverage list is extensive and full of very interesting choices thanks to Cieran's wide experience in the industry.
"I choose a mixture of drinks I have enjoyed and think that others will appreciate," he says.
"Garage Project is a Wellington brewery which is very popular right now so we stock some of their beers, and Birkenhead Brewing Company's Coconut & Vanilla Stout is racing off the shelves," he says.
The restaurant's most popular red wine is Devil's Staircase Pinot Noir with White Haven Sauvignon Blanc and Bladen Pinot Gris (superb with mussels) forming close seconds. With my lunch I had the outstanding Marlborough Whitehaven Pinot Rose which has deservedly won a plethora of awards.
Ciders are becoming increasingly popular and there are a range of great options such as Orchard Thieves Feijoa and Lime and The Slip Inn's own brand.
'Fugazi' is a low alcohol "Garage Project" beer which Cieran explains has "loads of great flavour".
The Slip Inn, only 50 minutes drive from Nelson and 25 minutes from Blenheim, is an ideal location for a tasty and satisfying meal if you are travelling or as a destination in itself. It is a great place to relax and enjoy the views while being attended to by friendly and engaging staff. It is also a place that lends itself to functions, both private and business. The next time someone suggests having a break from the hustle and bustle, I shall suggest it immediately. Bookings for lunch and dinner are advised.
Slip Inn Cafe
03 574 2345
The writer dined courtesy of the Slip Inn.