One occupational hazard of a professional gourmand is a diet rich in fat and sugar, and according to my doctor the inside of my arteries now resembles half-melted raclette, while my liver is approaching the size and consistency of foie gras. It was just as well that my next review was Loretta, a new restaurant from the Floriditas crew that emphasises vegetables and grains. Such a philosophy would normally fill me with contempt and trepidation, but this time I steeled myself for a meal consisting mostly of what I would normally consider not so much food as something one feeds to food.
We started gently, with a halloumi salad. The cheese was perfectly fried and moreishly salty, though not as squeaky as I normally expect, and the salad glowed with the jewel-like colours of radicchio, persimmon and chives. Radicchio is the Campari of vegetables, with a bracing bitterness that can be off-putting, but in this context was a perfect complement.
Some dishes are further up the food chain, and as a main we chose half a woodfire-roasted chicken (tweely referred to on the menu as “½ a chook”). This was served very plainly, but richly seasoned with rosemary, lemon and a hint of chilli. We accompanied this with sautéed Agria potatoes and a grains dish that mixed red rice and kidney beans with quinoa, radicchio, rhubarb and feta. This looked more like granola than a salad, and might have tasted like it if the feta hadn’t given it a lift.
We also had to try one of their pizzas, though you can forget about masses of pepperoni and gooey cheese. Most of the offerings were vegetarian, and though the one we chose had pancetta, it was a bit player compared to sliced Brussels sprouts and yet more radicchio. The menu changes frequently to accommodate seasonal produce, and I assume that radicchio must have been right in season: so many purple leaves covered the pizza that it resembled a triffid. A tasty triffid, though, since they achieved the fabled alchemic feat of making Brussels sprouts not just edible but delicious.
To suit the healthy vibe, the fit-out mixes clean lines with rustic touches and more Norwegian wood than a Murakami fan club. All wines are available by the glass and half-bottle, and there’s a respectable selection of craft beers. It all makes for a bright, bustling hangout for shiny, healthy people.[warning]
Address: 181 Cuba Street, Te Aro
Phone: 04 384 2213
Cost: Salads and grains $16–17.50; mains $19–24
Open: Tue–Fri 11am–10pm, Sat 9am–10pm, Sun 9am–4pm
Food: Eclectic café
Drink: Panhead Port Road Pilsner $9.50; Domaine La Bastide Viognier $8.50/glass, $43/bottle[/warning]
A comfortable, unpretentious stalwart of Martinborough’s small café strip, Medici does the basics well, and has been rewarded with popularity among both locals and Wellington weekenders. It’s a lively, family-friendly local, offering Mojo coffee and a stack of counter food. The menu consists mainly of reliable standbys such as eggs Benedict, pancake stacks, Caesar salads and club sandwiches, though with a few specialities like Spanish eggs and salt and pepper crispy squid. Inside, it’s cosy on a cold day if you stay away from the doors, and when it’s warm, patrons can take advantage of the courtyard and street-side tables.
Address: 9 Kitchener Street, Martinborough
Phone: 06 306 9965
Open: Mon–Sun 8.30am–4pm, dinner Thu–Sat from 6.30pm in summer[/info]