Oh, bountiful Waiheke Island. Alas, a day and a bit there is not enough to do much in the way of exploratory eating – especially with a toddler in tow.
Found a new cafe/restaurant that had just opened a week ago, located across the vast carpark from le supermarchet: Food Embassy. Interior a kind of industrial-meets-homely look with polished concrete here and there, as well as a few sofa benches and a large communal oak table in the centre. I’ve long been into the idea of big communal tables and am glad to see cafes in NZ are starting to welcome them, too. Anyway, we only stopped at Food Embassy for coffee, because we had already scoffed a few things at the Waiheke Community Market. The coffee was good, when it arrived, though having simply ordered two flat whites, I’d call it bad form for one to arrive at least five minutes before the other – surely any barrista worth their crema would make the two at the very same time. Lunch and dinner look promising. Although the menu is pretty safe, I’ve heard very good things about the chef/owner.
Another cafe well worth dropping in on is Island Thyme. It’s also a well-stocked deli and downstairs from the well-reviewed Thymes Tables retaurant, where the menu of just two mains, with entree and dessert, changes each day. The coffee at Island Thyme is strong but smooth, and each is served on a silver platter with a little spice biscuit and a thimble of sparkling water to refresh the palate – precisely the kind of special touch that wins people like me over.
The Waiheke market, held on Saturdays around the community hall in Ostend, is a chance to mingle with the locals, if you’re a visitor to the rock, and check out their talent in making yummy food. Highlights: the almost too beautiful to eat fruit tarlets, pains au chocolat and criossants made by the French couple near the entrance to the hall; the perfectly thin crepes with delicious fillings at the stall opposite; Jenny’s legendary tamarind chutney stall inside the hall; artisan European breads, and pretty much everything else edible that is sold there.
Less than a minute drive down the road from the market, on Tahi Rd, is Te Makutu Bay Oysters. If you are partial to slurping raw molluscs, go there. Buy them freshly shucked in the half shell. You’ll find Te Makutu bay oysters on the menu of some of Auckland’s top restaurants, and with good reason. They’re meaty and full of flavour – not unlike Bluff oysters in that regards – but with their own delicate flavour.The store is also the best stop on the island for anything seafood, if you’re self-catering during a stay.
I’m not going to mention all the other great places I’ve been on Waiheke on previous visits, but there a few places I’m looking forward to trying out next time I’m there, including the fairly new restaurant at Poderi Crisci vineyard, Awaaroa Bay. It’s owned by the couple behind Non Solo Pizza, and though it’s hard to find much info on it short of booking a table, the fare looks to be very fresh in a very Italian way. Mudbrick are opening a new wine bar late December which I believe will serve vineyard platters and will likely be no less than perfectly picturesque.