Today, I sampled their halloumi and mushroom dish with sautéed Shiitake, button and Portobello mushrooms with tarragon, served with café made gluten-free bread and a poached egg. That literally is the description on the menu board. Thank goodness, gone are the days where you pay a premium for gluten-free bread which often turned out to be a tasteless alternative, because to me, this tasted like a delicious wholemeal sourdough. Actually, it even felt lighter, without compromising on the flavour.
It’s Friday afternoon, just after 5pm, and it’s been a busy week at work. I wanted to do something different to end the week, so I called my friends Sam and John to check out why there’s such a great buzz about the new Tasting Room at Gateway Drive.
Mata Beer (Aotearoa Breweries) had its humble beginnings in the small town of Kawerau in 2005, though what they have achieved is anything but small. This year has seen them expanded to add a foodie experience for craft beer lovers.
It’s a tricky thing calling yourself a gourmet burger joint, actually gourmet-anything comes with the expectation of Insta-worthy burgers packed with flavour. Especially at the price point, because anything gourmet is not cheap, but I feel The Wagon is good value for money. I’ve certainly never left hungry, and that one time I ordered fries with that, I felt gluttonous to say the least.
When I heard that a new cafe was opening in Ohope Beach, I really hoped that they would have a great point of difference and not just your usual cafe offerings. As my parents and I approached the packed cafe, we got lucky and found an empty table. A friendly face greeted me front of house, my friend Sam worked there as a barista. There was definitely a good vibe in the place.
There's a hidden gem tucked away in an unasuming building at Ohope Beach’s wharf. A favourite swimming and fishing spot for locals, the wharf is always a bustling place of activity, even in the colder months. My Dad used to take me there in my teenage years during mackerel season. We would fish before sunrise, and be home by breakfast.
Last night’s dinner almost didn't happen. My friend Nyre and I were in A&E for four hours (she was there for another hour and a half after I left), after dislocating her knee playing netball. Three of us went on to dinner, and Nyre followed after we had finished dessert. A bit like a 'Sliding Doors' moment, except I'm no Gwyneth Paltrow, and trains don't run in Whakatane.
#RonnaEats says holla to: Fisherman’s Wharf Cafe, 340 Harbour Rd, Ohope Beach
This was my first dining experience at Fisherman’s Wharf Cafe with the new owners. Over the years, the restaurant had become known as the place with amazing views, but average food and sub-standard service. It was even a Thai restaurant in its previous life.
As I approached the door, I could see a busy service well under way. It was 7pm, and there were no grumpy faces. That's a good sign. Either the diners were well attended to, or the wine selection agreed with them. The tall green doors opened into a dining room with cheerful conversations, and the smell of glorious food. Lighting was subtle, and beautiful, almost like a real-life Photoshop filter. The place with the amazing views had come of age.
We were seated by Tom, one of the owners. He often came in to work to print their menus, and I would drool over the dishes, often Googling new words to add to my foodie vocabulary. I don't pretend to know a lot about food, but I do know what I like, and I have tried many bizarre things in my travels. Ant eggs omellete in Laos in 2007 still tops that list.
Miria and I both ordered the swordfish and Tina ordered the Wharf Plate. I had never eaten sworfish before, and it's not often seen in menus in Whakatane. They say food made with love takes time, but we weren't hungry for long. In fact as we waited less than twenty minutes for our mains, dishes seem to fly out the kitchen. Whomever ran the kitchen understood a hungry customer does not make a raving fanbase. If they were a rock band, I would totally be a front row groupie.
Swordfish has this fascinating texture, much like a perfectly seared scallop. The portion was the size of an eye-fillet, delicate and succulent. It was served with spiced and roasted kumara (sweet potato), spinach, and a dill beurre blanc sauce. When Miria and I finished our plates, we looked at each other and laughed. Here we were dressed all fancy in this beautiful restaurant, and all we could think about licking our plates. Yes, it was that good.
Dessert was a chocolate brownie, hot fudge sauce, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum.
As were finishing dessert, our friend Nyre texted to say she was finally out of her A&E marathon. Five and a half hours for a dislocated knee. She is my foodie sister, and after a long, frustrating day in the hospital, she was starving. We ordered for her, and it was ready before she got there. Her dessert was an apple and rhubarb crumble, with the feijoa crumble selling out earlier.
Our positive dining experience was so much more than just the food. New Zealand doesn't have a great tipping culture, and I only make a point to tip when I've received incredible service. Last night I tipped our waitress, a young woman with an infectious smile and grace. I tipped because I heard open praise by management to their staff, something quite rare in my experience.
Glorious food and exceptional hospitality, yes, let’s do this again.
P.S. Sorry to the young man who poured our water, Miria isn't always that awkward. Having water poured for her made her feel like a princess, and you know, she just didn't want it to end.
#RonnaEats rating: 5 / 5
Ronna Funtelar Thacker is a writer, foodie and dance studio owner. A self-confessed eternal optimist and lover of crispy M&Ms, she shares her adventures and life learnings to connect, inspire and nurture self love.
I met Guilhem and Chloe a few years ago when they were selling French mustard and other imported goods. This was at the local markets when I used to sell my t-shirts. They have since opened up L'epicerie on The Strand, and after a lot of hard work, I'm happy to write that they are a thriving and iconic local cafe.
#RonnaEats holla to: L'epicerie, 73 The Strand, Whakatane
They have stayed true to their French roots and offer Whakatane a taste of home - from their in-house, freshly baked breads, to the selection of imported cheese, to the crepes and galettes on their menu. Of course no cafe is complete without coffee, and most days the cafe is packed with locals and tourists.
Morgan had a galette there yesterday, he had the Eggs Benedict and I ordered a French Toast crepe. The Benedict style had two eggs, bacon, spinach and hollandaise sauce and served on buckwheat galette. My French toast came with bananas, bacon, maple syrup and whipped cream. Ooooh child, I just couldn't believe how happy my taste buds were that morning! I love how light the crepes were, which left me satisfied, without that bloated feeling you usually get from traditional French Toasts.
They have expanded the cafe over the years to keep up with the demand for seating. If the cafe is packed, you can get takeaway and walk across the road and enjoy the view of the riverside. I also love buying cheese platters from there, for those times where you just want to feed your face with comfort food, well gourmet comfort food. Do try the goats cheese with honey, walnuts and fresh bread, then Netflix and chill.
#RonnaEats rates this: 4.5/5
- The cafe is licensed, and they serve a selection of boutique beers and wine
- Get takeaway and enjoy the riverside
- Feel like a gourmet picnic? Order ahead and beat the crowds
- Fresh bread baked in-house, order ahead so you don't miss out
Some days I wake up with a craving for pancakes, I'm glad I've found somewhere local that serves up a no-fail good stack every time. If you're going to pay for pancakes, they better be nicer than the ones you make at home, because if they're not, you're better off to make them at home. Sure you have to do you're own washing up afterwards, but at least you get a full belly, and some money left in your wallet.
#RonnaEats holla to: Poppies Cafe, The Strand, Whakatane
You get three on your stack, with berries, berry coulis and whipped cream. There's also fresh grapes, melon and berries (in season). I order bacon on the side because I like that sweet/salty mix, and a nice break from all that sweetness. There's maple syrup drizzled over it, as well as a generous portion on the side. I don't think it needs extra maple syrup, but if you love it, it's there.
I don't know if it's the Asian in me, but I really like the sweet and salty combo. The bacon is extra, so if you want to save some pingas, give it a miss. It does get pretty busy on the weekends, so pop in before 10am if you want to miss the crowds.
#RonnaEats rates this: 4/5
I have to admit I'm pretty chicken when it comes to complaining about below par food and service. To be fair, no, we didn't bring our dissatisfaction to the attention of the duty manager, as by the time we went to pay it felt like it would be a down buzz to an otherwise great evening.
#RonnaEats holla to: Detour Bar and Lounge, The Strand, Whakatane
Detour is marketed as a fine dining bar and lounge, and I do enjoy my mocktail mojitos on DOT evenings. Someone definitely spent good money on styling the joint.
Morgan and I met up with our friend, Angelie, and her boyfriend, Phil, who are visiting from Australia. Angelie and I used to work together, and even though she has lived overseas for most of our friendship, she has always made the effort to catch up when in town.
When we ordered, the waitress did warn us that there would be a wait because a big group ordered before us, no problem. It gave us plenty of catch up time and get to know Phil too. Turns out they had set up a kite surfing business in Fiji, and will be spending a few months in Australia and return to Fiji mid-next year.
Morgan, Phil and I all ordered a stone grilled dish each: Morgan tried the 'Butcher's Cut', Phil the seafood, and me with the pork. Be extra careful with the stone grill, it really is hot! I really liked the potato pompoms, a bit like a crunchy gnocchi. The mesclun salad with beetroot strips added a nice freshness in the summer heat.
I did enjoy my meal, but I did feel for my friend, Angelie. Turns out she's both lactose and gluten intolerant. She ordered the Char Sui Pork and asked if the kumara could be made without dairy. We went back to our table outside and had a few more drinks and catch up about old times and what people were doing.
All the stone grill meals were served first. When the Char Sui Pork came, it wasn't on kumara mash, but crinkle cut fries. My friend was told that the kitchen ran out of kumara, but a plate with just crinkle cut fries, a pork medallion and a lone plum for over $30? The dish was missing a few of the listed ingredients and looked pretty bare. She took it back to the bar and told them to up their game. About 15 minutes later her dish came back with some potato wedges and four asparagus. It did look like they were running out of ingredients to serve up.
Side note: It's been a few weeks since I started writing this review, as I got busy with dance. I also wanted to read over this to make sure I saw wrote about the experience in a fair and balanced angle.
Three of us were pretty happy with our meals, but my friend was left a bit hungry. I am all for supporting my local restaurants, but it's fair to say she didn't get her money's worth this time.
#RonnaEats rates this: 3/5 (My food was good, but my friend's experience did put a downer on the night)
It feels like I haven't written a foodie blog in awhile, don't worry, I haven't stopped eating, I've just been busy with dancing and focused on that. Today I want to write about my latest obsession, kebabs! So there's been a Turkish Kebab place in Whakatane for a few years, but now one has opened up five minutes walk from my house. It does amaze me how many food places there are in this town, and how they all somehow manage to thrive. Is it because we can't be bothered cooking? I don't know, because I love to cook, but sometimes after teaching three classes, I just want to eat, shower then sleep.
#RonnaEats holla to: Mr Kebab, King Street, Whakatane
The picture above is listed on the menu as 'Meat on Chips', which is what it literally is. You also get a whole lot of salad, hummus, tabouli and a beetroot relish, which I really like (I used to HATE beetroot as a kid, mainly because it was the canned stuff they put in sandwiches and it would get soggy come lunchtime. As an adult I met people who knew how to prepare it so that it didn't have that odd "I'm eating dirt" taste.) This serving is best eaten at dinner, or for lunch if you're really hungry!
Last night I felt extra adventurous and had the hot chilli sauce, not just sweet chilli. It was good to have the garlic yoghurt to help cool the heat though. I think the heat brought me back to my days travelling in 35C heat, and spicy food was part of that experience.
I also had a chicken and falafel wrap kebab last week, and just the falafel yesterday (yes I went there two times in one day). I found that the falafel doesn't absorb as much of the sauce, so if you like your kebabs juicy, ask for extra sauce on this one.
If you have a sweet tooth, try the Baklavas...
SIDE STORY: I bought my sister and I kebabs for lunch, and as I was waiting, the mother of the owner asked if I wanted tea. I had to decline as I was in a rush, though I said to her, yes next time I will have tea. Turned out, I was there for dinner too, and this time she didn't even ask. As we sat there waiting for tea, she brought tea and a slice each of cake. Yes, cake! Chuffed indeed.
#RonnaEats rates this: 4/5
- There isn't that much difference in price between the small or large. If you're extra hungry, go for it, or share it with a mate.
- There's free Wi-Fi for dine-in customers, just ask.
- Meat on Chips, Rice and Salads are big servings.
- Fried chips with kebabs...try it.
- Really friendly staff, stay and chat.
What's up foodies! This week I'm writing about Spice Junction, which I have to say it's my fave Indian Restaurant in Whakatane. I go there both for lunches with my Mum, and for dinner with friends. Today, I'm writing about Chicken Tikka Masala, which is the sauced up cousin of the beloved Chicken Tikka.
#RonnaEats holla to: Spice Junction @ 8/75 The Strand, Whakatane
Not to be mistaken with Chicken Tikka, which is a sizzler dish, Chicken Tikka Masala is a dish of glorious chunks of tandoor grilled chicken with a tomato and yoghurt/cream sauce. It's a rich savoury flavour, with a hint of sweetness, but not as sweet as Butter Chicken. This one had chunks of tomato, capsicum and onion. I have mine medium.
I do like the complimentary poppadoms they serve as you're seated. Service is quick, and no fuss. If it's not busy, we get our order within 15 minutes easy.
The lunch menu is good value for money, as the curry dishes come with rice and a plain naan. I prefer the garlic naan and don't mind paying extra. Their naan breads are one of the best I've tasted in Whakatane. It's nicely toasted, without being dry, and doesn't leave a greasy feel in your hands.
I love rice, and always leave wishing there was more, but that's just the Asian talking. If you're like me and love rice, just ask for more.
Overall a great place to part with your moolah, the staff are friendly and service is really good.
#RonnaEats rates this: 3.8/5
Did you know that many of the Indian dishes served in the Western countries didn't originate from India? Many of the spices, yes, but the flavours were created in England. Dishes like butter chicken, chicken tikka masala and even the onion bhaji, originated in the Indian restaurants in England.
- Go hungry, Indian dishes are heavy. Don't plan on running a marathon afterwards.
- If in doubt, go mild. If it's too hot for you, ask for yoghurt or order a Mango Lasi.
- To help with digestion, try the multi-coloured aniseed mints at the counter. I usually have a handful and it helps counter that bloated feeling, and counters my garlic breath too!
I've been a bit sick this week, and haven't been able to scope out new places to write about. Some people ask me if I get paid for this, my answer is...not yet! I LOVE food and wanted to get back into writing again, so that's why I've started up my Ronna Eats blog.
Today, I popped into Javaman for one of my faves, green thai curry. I have to say it helped my blocked nose, as any good curry should. I also ran into Mark from Whakatane Online, and we got chatting about cold remedies, curry heat and how Filipinos love karaoke.
#RonnaEats holla to: Javaman @ 214 The Strand, Whakatane
This dish is a bit of a legend in Whakatane. Even when Javaman changed owners, this dish stayed on the menu. It's like the cool uncle that's just come back from his OE. It's a taste of Thailand for the Kiwi palette.
The dish is served with chicken, potato, crispy noodles and steamed rice. When Tony, the owner and chef, served up my lunch, he asked, "Will you be eating the potatoes today?" I laughed, thinking back to a conversation we had a few weeks ago. I had ordered the same for lunch, and when I finished left three pieces of potato on the plate. He said next time I could just ask not to have them if I didn't like potatoes (it was a full foodie day and I just didn't have any more room in my tum, so settle down potato lovers.)
To be honest, even without chicken this dish will still be a winner. If you're a vegetarian, you could ask Tony to serve you up more potatoes. The curry is quite mild, I might ask Tony to spice it up a bit next time, especially if I still have my cold. I do love the creaminess of the soup, with just the right balance of fragrant and spice.
#RonnaEats rates this: 4/5
I remember touring south-east Asia in 2007, and Thailand was one of my destinations. I was sitting at the train station, and decided I would order a green curry (weird calling it "Thai" curry when you're in Thailand. Same thing about Brazil nuts I guess...) In New Zealand, we get asked how "hot" we want it, but I decided to eat like the locals and get what I was served. It was served with the curry in one bowl, and rice on a plate. In my excitement, I didn't see the giant chilli on my bowl and decided to drown the rice in curry soup. I took one mouthful, and I was burning on the inside, outside, in my ears, my eye balls. As hot as it was, it was one of the best curries I've eaten. Nothing beats eating like the locals!
- Try eating your curry with a fork and spoon - that way you can include all the components in a mouthful and enjoy the different tastes and textures.
- I like having my curry with iced tea.
- If you're on a short lunch break, order ahead, or let the staff at the counter know. They will do their best, and let you know how long you have to wait.
- Go hungry, and be prepared for food coma.
Yay! This is my first foodie blog post, and I'm so happy it's about one of my regular hangouts. I am talking about...Javaman! As much as I am adventurous with food, I can also be a creature of habit, and there are a few things on their menu I go in for: 1) The carbonara, 2) Thai green curry or 3) Something for brunch.
My friend Nyre (she is a foodie too and used to own a cafe in Waiuru) told me that she doesn't like to order pasta in restaurants because it disappoints her when it's not cooked properly. I recently experienced a bad carbonara at a new place I tried, and I was pretty sad about it too. It was tough and undercooked, and I haven't been back there since.
#RonnaEats holla to: Javaman @ 214 The Strand, Whakatane
On the menu board it's listed as "Prawn and Mushroom Carbonara", but I change the prawns to bacon, purely because I'm allergic, and I don't want to die.
Why do I LOVE this carbonara? First, it's the artisan pasta. It's not made in-house, but they do buy it in from a certified artisan supplier. I love the way the wide pasta twirls on my fork, and doesn't make me slurp it just to get it in my mouth. Make sure you combine the pasta and sauce thoroughly, I know it won't look like a food magazine editorial afterwards, but the melted parmesan adds a fantastic burst of flavour (by the way I love cheese).
The sauce is well seasoned, so if you're the kind of person that adds salt and pepper before tasting your dish, you've been warned! Don't waste a beautiful dish with your salt fanaticism, taste first!
Often people overcook mushrooms, so it's a nice change to get them creamy, but still firm so they don't flop on your fork. Texture is very important in my food experience, and floppy mushrooms is a no no (unless it's creamy mushrooms for breakfast, different story).
This is my comfort food, or if I'm carbo loading before a big night of teaching classes. I tend to eat it more in winter, and not so much in the warmer months. It's my go to dish if I want something filling and comforting, or want to just blob in a food coma later.
#RonnaEats rates this: 4/5
- If you want to beat the rush on the weekends, go in for brunch before 10.30am. My husband and I find this works most of the time.
- Most of the portions are decent sized, so don't get tempted to get the large coffee if you don't want to go into a food coma afterwards. I ordered the French Toast and a small hot chocolate one day and that pushed my limits.
- Do you have allergies or don't want potatoes in the Thai Green Curry? Ask them nicely to swap it for something else. I can't eat prawns (I'm allergic), so they swap it for bacon instead. They also have gluten free options.