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