Tom Beard ventures up the coast and is very glad he did

(Near) Perfection in Plimmerton

photo 2Grey clouds rolled in from the south as our train pulled in to Plim­mer­ton sta­tion. While it detrac­ted from the care­free sea­side ambi­ence, the autum­nal chill put us in the mood for a hearty north­ern European meal and heightened our crav­ing for hard liquor.

Inside Topor, the cosy atmo­sphere per­fectly com­ple­men­ted the wintry exter­i­or: warm wood and stone sur­faces under soft light­ing, with vex­il­lo­lo­gic­ally appro­pri­ate red and white accents. The only dif­fi­culty was select­ing a rep­res­ent­at­ive sample from the menu without our bel­lies explod­ing. We are two gen­tle­men of con­sid­er­able appet­ite, but alas, we are mere mor­tals, so we had to choose judiciously.

We began with kasz­anka and kieł­basa i grzyb. The former was rich, crumbly black pud­ding (tex­tur­ally closer to French boud­in noir than to the famil­i­ar Eng­lish hard saus­age) atop puréed can­nel­lini beans, with plum chut­ney as a tangy accent. The kieł­basa was a glor­i­ously gar­licky saus­age, stacked on a bal­sam­ic-roast Por­to­bello mush­room, with sauerkraut, capers and Pep­padews. The sweet bal­sam­ic vin­eg­ar could have been over­whelm­ing, but it bal­anced out the acid­ic zing of the oth­er ingredi­ents. Des­pite their rus­tic her­it­age, these entrées were del­ic­ately and lov­ingly presented.

The mains exchanged del­ic­acy for gen­er­os­ity, not that we had any com­plaints when presen­ted with bowls piled high with mouth­wa­ter­ing meat and car­bo­hydrates. We couldn’t go past the fam­ous pierogi, and these rib-stick­ing dump­lings were giv­en a lift with goat’s feta stuff­ing. They were served on bacon and fried onion, with horseradish aioli giv­ing the already mag­ni­fi­cent fla­vours a fur­ther twist. My duck breast was dark and heavy, but this just added to its sat­is­fy­ing rich­ness. The accom­pa­ny­ing pota­toes were plain, though this was a wel­come foil to the sweet fla­vours of car­a­mel­ised red cab­bage and honey-roast beetroot.

As good as the savoury dishes were, we were unpre­pared for the extraordin­ary desserts. Babci sernik is a baked ricotta cheese­cake, which tra­di­tion­ally uses mashed potato in its filling, and has a del­ic­ate vanilla fla­vour and a tex­ture sim­il­ar to polenta cake. Apple mazurek was a melt­ingly tender pie, enlivened by poppy seeds and South­ern Com­fort syr­up. But the chocol­ate bomb was the star: intense, gooey chocol­ate com­ple­men­ted by berry com­pote and brandy custard.

Most of the sauces were full of alco­hol, as were we by this stage, hav­ing accom­pan­ied each dish with vari­ous vod­kas and beer chasers. This no doubt con­trib­uted to our bon­homie, but the food, ambi­ence and ser­vice were all superb.



Address: 3 Beach Road, Plimmerton

Phone: 04 233 9939

Cost: Entrées $9–17; mains $28–36

Open: Wed–Thu 5.30pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 10am–11pm, Sun 10am–10pm

Food: Pol­ish

Drink: Żywiec beer $12 (500ml); Żubrówka vodka $8/shot[/warning]




June Café

As chains move into Cuba Street, some of the most inter­est­ing cafés are pop­ping up on the side streets. While Raglan Roast might be called a ‘chain’ (it has a hand­ful of beachy loc­a­tions, start­ing with the eponym­ous town), it fits right into the gritty Abel Smith Street con­text. It looks like a hole in the wall, but leads through to an airy space: part café, part gal­lery, part ware­house, with surf­boards propped against the walls to con­vey the laid-back Raglan vibe. Food is lim­ited to muffins and cook­ies, but the cof­fee is good and starts at $2.50.

Address: 40 Abel Smith Street, Te Aro

Phone: 04 801 6558

Open: Mon–Fri 7am–5pm, Sat–Sun 8am–5pm


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