Category Archives: Ate It

Gastropubbing in Temecula

PUBlic House TemeculaPUBlic House
41971 Main Street, Temecula, California 92590

“A table for four, please?” I hungrily inquired. We were lead to a high bench table on the patio, complete with tall stools and right next to an indoor water feature. Dining with three year old twins in such an environment, what could possibly go wrong?

We were in Old Town Temecula, California and on a Scavenger Hunt (you can read about our Urban Adventure Quest here). Our tummies started to grumble half way through our Quest, so it was time to find somewhere scrumptious to fill our bellies.

There were plenty of dining options in the township to choose from. The PUBlic House, on Main Street, looked enticing (plus had kid’s food and vegetarian options). So, in we ventured.

PUBlic House is a gastropub, located within a 1950’s restored home in the middle of Old Town. It’s pretty funky, with wooden pallets adorning the walls sprouting greenery, and pages of a novel providing wallpaper on the bathroom walls.Public House Wallpaper Temecula

Public House TemeculaWith the kids perched precariously on high stools, fortunately with backs on the seats, and one tornado insisting he had to climb up and down and up and down and up and down (you get the picture) by himself, I was braced for the worst. But no one fell too hard. To be fair, putting us as close to the exit as possible, was probably a smart move on their part.

The water feature provided ample temptation, but after the same tornado put his hand under the deluge once, it was forgotten.

After three and a half years of twins, hubby and I are now experts at ordering the kid’s food ASAP, before we even attempt to contemplate what we’d like to eat ourselves, the twin tornados were happily munching on their grilled cheese (a cheese toasty for my Kiwi readers) in no time.

Grilled Cheese Public House TemeculaUnfortunately they tried to serve a green salad with the grilled cheese, ARE THEY CRAZY? They had mistakenly pushed a ‘greens’ button, instead of a fries button (if only I could get my three year olds munching spinach and lettuce leaves), but the fries were on the table in no time. We save the use of tablets for such as occasion as this, which then provides 15 mins of peace and quiet for the adults to consume their meals. Yep, that’s great parenting 101 right there!

The beer was large, and cold, which was perfect after running around the town solving clues on a hot day. My beer was even a little fruity, since I ordered the Refuge Grapefruit IPA (I like to mix it up a bit). A nice tall refreshing ale! Beer Public House Temecula

The food tasted as fantastic as it looked. I devoured my crispy roasted squash and potato gnocchi with gusto, savouring the sage brown butter sauce. I’m sure there was a hint of citrus in there too, but it could have been the beer.Public House Temecula Gnocchi

Hubby embarked on a journey of pork loin stuffed with roast duck, or Duck Stuffed Pork. He was a happy Hubby at the end of it. Yes, I am the only vegetarian in this family.Public House Temecula Duck stuffed Pork

Both the beer and the food impressed, as did the behaviour of our children. A winning trifecta, and very rare occurrence.

As we say in our household when something goes well – High Five!

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Rose on Roberts
92 Roberts Street, Taupo

I can’t believe we’ve never been to Rose on Roberts before. The food is incredible, the craft beer selection and wine list is great, the staff both knowledgeable and friendly, with a fun, yet family friendly atmosphere.

CelesteReviews Rose on Roberts Nori Seaweed Bread

Nori Seaweed Loaf

We should have known we were in for a treat when the complimentary bread was served. A warm loaf of nori seaweed bread, with a dollop of truffle butter. Absolutely gorgeous.

For an entree, I chose the a Yam Soup ($10). I was a little nervous, but it was a great choice – flavoursome and hot (which is always a bonus), and a lovely start to a chilly evening.

CelesteReviews Rose on Roberts Yam Soup

Yam Soup

CelesteReviews Rose on Roberts Pork Belly

Pork Belly

Hubby started with the Pork Belly starter, served with white bean puree, lentils, carrot and daikon salad ($16). As a vegetarian, I have no concept of this, but apparently the crunch/pop you get when you cut into it was “perfect”. There was nothing left on his plate, so I believe him.

CelesteReviews Rose on Roberts  Tagliatelle

Duck Leg Tagliatelle

For mains, Hubby chose the pasta special – braised duck legs with tagliatelle and parmesan ($30). Once again he was impressed with his selection.

My order, was a generous serving of pumpkin risotto with creme fraiche ($28). So generous in size, that I couldn’t finish it – however it was very tasty.

CelesteReviews Rose on Roberts Risotto

Pumpkin Risotto

I’ve included the pricing in this article, because I want to let you in on a little secret. Who hasn’t used BookMe yet? We dined on the Rose on Roberts 6pm dining, 3 courses for $32.90 special from this site. Phenomenal value!

Which brings me to dessert. Hubby and I are usually so full by this stage in the evening, that we are lucky if we can even share a dessert between us. But, because we ordered the 3 course special, we had to try. We both ordered the beautifully presented chocolate dish – Valrhona peanut slab, chocolate mousse, chocolate sauce, chocolate and peanut ice cream ($16). It broke me! Hubby had to roll me out in a chocolate coma! Delicious, but way more than I could fit in my belly.

CelesteReviews Rose on Roberts Chocolate

Chocolate, peanuts, chocolate, chocolate and chocolate

Don’t forget a trip to the bathroom to admire the quirky quotes.

All in all, we were very impressed with our dining experience. Hubby wants to return with meat eating family members to give the ‘Whole Slow Cooked Lamb Leg to Share’ ($80) a go. Sunday roast, anyone?

Delectable Feast in Newport Beach

Fashion Island, Newport Beach,
Orange County, California

Suffice to say, being the parents of 3 year old twins, we don’t often time for a ‘date night’ meal. Especially one that is 11,000kms away. However, sometimes you have to go the distance, to make these things happen!CelesteReviews Cucina Enoteca

Blame it on the jet lag, or the rose tinted glasses of a few days of ‘twinlessness’, but I still believe Cucina Enoteca was one of the best dining experiences that Hubby and I have ever had.

Celeste CelesteReviews

From our wonderfully attentive waiter (Andy), who intelligently answered all our questions (of both the food and wine), all while deciphering our thick NZ accents, to the quirky decor, funky ambience and interesting toilet wishes (more about that later), this was a 5 Star, A+, top quality meal.

And, I haven’t even touched on the food or wine yet.

The wine selection was huge and as an added bonus, you could purchase a bottle from their retail store and consume it (for a small corkage fee) with your meal.

As a vegetarian, I was impressed with the unique options available on the menu. We began our evening with the artichoke and truffle hummus, which was served in a mason jar, and so delicious, we had to order more bread.

CelesteReviews Aritchoke Truffle Hummus

Artichoke & Truffle Hummus

CelesteReview Mushroom Bolognaise

Mushroom Bolognaise

The mushroom bolognaise was an outstanding dish – and I’m sure a meat eater wouldn’t have even realised it was vegetarian.

Hubby opted for one of the signature dishes (short rib pappardelli) and wasn’t disappointed. Both meals were perfectly portioned and went well with our local Zinfandel.

CelesteReviews Short Rib Pappardelli

Short Rib Pappardelli

We were having such a great evening that we even indulged in dessert, which we are usually too full to enjoy.

CelesteReviews Torta Della Nonn

Torta della Nonna

We shared the torta della nonna – pinenut and blackberry prosecco sorbet with lemon sago – absolutely scrumptious.

No trip to this restaurant is complete without visiting the ladies toilet. As another quirky touch, a wish board awaits. You can write your hearts desire on a small piece of paper and tuck it into a frame with all the other wishes.

The staff delight in reading these wishes from time to time, so being the curious girl that I am, I had to find out what the most interesting wish they had seen was. Apparently, “I wish that my cheating husband contracts Ebola” is at the top of the list…

We can not wait to move to California, so we can enjoy this dining experience again. Oh, didn’t I tell you that we will be setting up house in the OC in the not too distant future? Well, that adventure might just be the next blog that I embark on…

Perfect Palate

20 Alma Street, Hamilton

CelesteReviews Palate HamiltonI last visited Palate about 18 months ago. If memory serves me right, I was part of their final official function evening, before they moved from their old Victoria Street location into the Alma Street building. So, I was interested to see what their new venue had in store for Hamilton’s fine diners.

Perched above the mighty Waikato River, the main dining area is elegant and sophisticated. There is much more space than their previous premise; with a casual bar area for pre-dinner drinks and a cellar dining room for intimate groups.

Award winning chef, and owner, Mat McLean, does a fantastic job with the menu and wine list. He should also be proud of his front of house staff, who are professional, yet friendly, and really know their stuff (both wine and food).

I’m in love with haloumi (squeaky cheese) at the moment. So, there was never any doubt what my main course would be – the beautifully presented fried haloumi. atop of the most exquisite melt-in-your-mouth mushroom ravioli I’ve ever experienced ($34). This wasn’t your stock standard cheesy pasta, not in the slightest. The ravioli was served with beetroot puree, perfectly cooked zucchini and a blood orange salad. Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum.

CelesteReviews Palate Haloumi

Haloumi with Mushroom Ravioli

The hubby enjoyed a Hereford prime eye fillet, served with smoked mushrooms, celariac puree, potatoes, bacon and onion jus. And so as not to get pasta envy over my main, his dish also included oxtail ravioli (that was lucky, because I sure wasn’t sharing any of mine).

CelesteReviews Palate Steak

Eye Fillet

Even the side order of green beans with lemon and cashew dukkah was out of this world, with the hubby and I having ‘words’ about who got to eat the final bean. We were even treated to a sample mini course of sourdough bread with Simunovich olive oil and the most gorgeous smoky flavoured butter.

The portion sizes are what you expect from fine dining, I was satisfied though not full to the brim (which was great, since I still had an evening ‘on the town’ to enjoy), and definitely not hungry.

The wine list mainly focuses on New Zealand and Australian wines. Having been out of the ‘wine’ loop for the past 18 months, I talked the hubby into choosing wines by the glass, so that we could try something new and taste new vintages of old favourites. I loved the way the menu helpfully matched each dish with a wine, even though I went off on my own tangent. To start, we compared two Gewurztraminers; Pasquale 2011 (Waitaki) and Villa Maria’s Ihumatoa Vineyard 2010 (Auckland). Both wonderfully aromatic, but if I had to choose, I’d say I preferred the sweeter style of Villa Maria.

With our mains we ordered 2010 big reds for a shiraz vs syrah debate. In the NZ camp was a Moana Park Gimblett Gravels Reserve, while the Aussie contender was an Aramis McLaren Vale Shiraz. There was no clear winner, as they were both gorgeous.

Overall it was a fabulous dining experience. The food was absolutely stunning, and has to be included with my top five meals ever.

Top Tip: Use their internet booking service to reserve your table. Palate also features in the Entertainment Book.

In a Nutshell: Perfect!

A Solid Foundation

Foundation Bar Kitchen Lounge
Maahanga Drive, Te Awa

I’m always let down by my food experience when dining at chain cafes and restaurants that are part of a shopping centre, It’s all the same, and the vegetarian selection is ho hum. So, while at The Base / Te Awa Shopping Centre on our ’24 Hour Child-Free Hamilton Break’, I went in search of something original to fill my belly, and was pleasantly surprised to discover Foundation Bar.

Firstly – it’s funky. Interesting decor with bright green accents, along with great background music that had me tapping my toes and singing away to some classic Kiwi beats (ie, ‘Crawl’ by Atlas and Fur Patrol’s ‘Lydia).

We placed ourselves at a high table with stools in the enclosed outdoor area, to enjoy the sun, sip our beers and watch the world go by.

The menu is vast, with separate brunch, shared platters, pizza and kids menus to accompany the main dishes available.

I was impressed that there was a slightly unusual vegetarian main on offer – twice baked blue cheese souffle ($18). The souffle was tasty, but what blew my socks off was the salad. Apples, grapes, snow pea shoots, microgreens, topped with toasted hazelnuts and a honey dressing. Out of this world! If anyone is friendly with the kitchen staff, I’m keen on receiving a copy of this recipe.

CelesteReviews Foundation Bar Hamilton

Twice baked blue cheese souffle

Always one for surprises, my usually carnivorous hubby chose the Vegetarian Pizza ($22). Roast vegetables, feta, pesto and parmesan covered in rocket on a crispy base. I was glad my main was a small portion, so that I could indulge in a couple of slices myself, because it was absolutely delicious.

CelesteReviews Foundation Hamilton Pizza

The staff were attentive, friendly and service focused. I was having trouble deciding on which boutique beer to order, and they gladly provided me with a small sample to help me decide.

Apparently a new menu will be released this week, which gives us a great reason to return. We will be back!

Top Tip: It’s in the Entertainment Book.

In a Nutshell: Brilliant food, outstanding service and a great atmosphere. Hamiltonians should definitely check out Foundation Bar this summer.

Jack of all Trades


Trader Jacks is an iconic open air bar and restaurant, located at the airport end of Ararua, beside the main boat ramp. With a great view and relaxed vibe, it’s a must visit on any trip to Rarotonga.

CelesteReviews Rarotonga Trader Jacks

While waiting for the rest of our dining party, we pulled up a seat in the bar, grabbed a beverage and enjoyed the scenery. Once our guests arrived, we moved from the bar, up into the restaurant, scoring an idyllic table on the deck.CelesteReviews Trader Jacks Rarotonga

Being married to a vegetarian is a tough life for the hubby. He misses out on all the ‘shared’ dinner platters that contain meat. So, he was delighted when my uncle suggested sharing Trader Jack’s famous seafood platter ($75). Piled high with prawns, calamari, smoked marlin, the local Ika Muta dish, sashimi, crayfish, and more, the hubby was in heaven. The platter was massive, and almost beat these men, who are both big eaters.

CelesteReviews Trader Jacks Rarotonga Seafood

Seafood Platter for two

My aunty described her chicken and mushroom pasta ($21.50) as “beautiful”. However, the noodles were wider than the fettuccine advertised on the menu.

Celeste Reviews Rarotonga Trader Jacks

Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

I ordered the vegetarian pizza ($21.50). Although basic in design; capsicum, mushroom, tomato, and basil pesto, it was very tasty, and enormous in size. I only managed to consume half of the serving, and took the rest home for lunch the next day.

CelesteReviews Rarotonga Trader Jacks

Vegetarian Pizza

All in all, another lovely evening in Rarotonga. Good food, great company, fun night.

In a Nutshell:  The perfect location for a cheeky afternoon beverage. Be sure to try the seafood platter.

Vaima Vibe

Vaimaanga, Rarotonga

CelesteReviews Vaima Rarotonga

A moonlit beach, my feet in the sand, a glass of Matutu (the local Rarotongan beer) in hand, and my hubby by my side. Now THIS feels like I’m on holiday.

In fact, it was a very similar romantic setting in Phuket, on the night we got engaged. All that was missing is the Thai Elvis crooner – but that’s another story.

Leaving Nana in charge, we’d managed to sneak out for a civilised adult dinner, after the twins had gone to sleep for the night. Vaima Polynesian Bar and Restaurant was the perfect spot to enjoy such an evening.

We managed to secure a table on the beach, under a coconut tree, just 10m from the gentle lapping waves. It was too dark to see the ocean, but there is something so very soothing about the sound of waves.

CelesteReviews Vaima Rarotonga

Cheese & Garlic Pita Bread

We relaxed into the rare date night with a starter of cheese and garlic pita bread, accompanied by a gorgeous guacamole dip.

The menu is relatively small, but covers lamb, pork, fish, chicken, and steak.

Although the usual vegetarian options of pizza and pasta were offered, I took a gamble on the vegetarian curry ($29). The presentation of the dish contained little dividers to separate the rice, curry, roti and condiments. It was a slightly hot version of the ‘medium’ curry I’d ordered, but delicious all the same.

CelesteReviews Vaima Rarotonga

Vegetarian Curry

The Hubby’s pork belly ($28) was “awesome”. A huge portion of meat, accompanied by very few veges (which is just the way he likes it).

CelesteReviews Vaima Rarotonga

Pork Belly

The ‘funny’ for the evening was Felix the cat. Stretched out along the counter, the staff had to give him a poke before I’d believe he wasn’t a stuffed animal.

We enjoyed our evening so much that we popped in for a night cap and dessert the next night we could sneak away childless. Petite fours should be on every menu, as it’s much better to try a little bit of everything for dessert menu, rather than having to choose just one. Key Lime Pie, Pavlova, Chocolate cake, Cheesecake, with a ball of ice cream and a small slab of chocolate. Calories don’t count when you are on holiday, do they?

CelesteReviews Vaima Petit Four Rarotonga

Petit Four Plate

Top Tip: Apparently their takeaway Pizzas are also fantastic.

In a Nutshell: A romantic setting, with fabulous food and a nice vibe. Make sure to save room for dessert.