Zealong Tea – Gordonton, New Zealand

Imagine our surprise when we stumbled upon a tea farm as we were exploring the Waikaro region recently.   Now if you know me well, then you will definitely be well aware I drink three things, water, wine and green/herbal teas.  Only a couple of times a year would I try a juice, milkshake or smoothie.  Sorry coffee but I’m just not a fan.

With some spare time up our sleeves we stopped into this complex to take a look.  What wonderful, inviting staff we encountered at the retail building.   Here I was provided with an intriguing insight into this operation.   We also discovered this complex had only opened a couple of weeks previously.   What wonderful luck on our part!

This proud fellow is one of the carpark guards.  Someone has put a lot of work and thought into the sculptures which have been set in different areas, many depicting the story of tea.

A line of teapots and matching cups in front of the restaurant carpark was just fascinating.  Loved how one end had the dragons head, and the other end his tail.  

One piece of advice we were given by staff, was to visit the onsite restaurant where we would be able to trial their tea,and enjoy a bite to eat if we so desired.   Hubbys ears pricked up at the mention of food, plus having recently branched away from his normal caramel lattes into trialling chai tea, he was interested in stopping by.

Wow!  What an impressive place the Zealong Tea Estate Restauarnt is.  Comfortable, high class surroundings, with a fabulously relaxing view across the estate and dam.

Again I’m going to mention the staff here, service was of an extremely high standard, impeccable, yet still friendly, professional and very helpful.  Certainly nice to be in such fabulous surroundings, and made to feel at home.

After perusing the menu, our wonderful attendant had recommended we trial the high tea as there were so many things we wanted to try!  Surprisingly, Hubby agreed.   With our separate tea choices, we had been shown how to pour and brew our teas, in our  personal cups & strainers.  These partnered with  a very large teapot of hot water, which nested in a box upon its own burner, next to the table.  Each person received four cups of tea, quite generous in itself.

The food was delectable, tea was most enjoyable, and, to hear Hubby rate this as one of the highlights of our trip was fantastic.  I think the fact this was such an unexpected find, certainly had us come in with no expectations.   Next time we visit, we will join one of the informative tea tours.  

If you are a tea lover then you will love this place.  Even if you’re not, go give it a try, there’s a wine list and other beverages to choose from.  We did purchase a sample of the teas, which are enjoying sampling.   A shame this place isn’t closer for us, but I guess it means another visit to NZ!    We will be back…..

Allan Scott Winery

Marlborough.  A name and place world renown for wine, seafood and stunning scenery.  Before our recent visit to the area, we were advised by a number of people, both local and visitors to the region, “You cannot visit Marborough without going to Allan Scotts for a meal”.   The choice of cuisine in Marlborough is broad ranging, to say the least, however, we were told the Seafood Chowder here was the very best!

With so many recommendations, comes curiosity, we had to try this venue ourselves.  And, with a philosophy like the one above, how could I possibly resist now!

With lunch comes the opportunity for a free wine tasting, to aid you in deciding what you would prefer to partner your meal with.  With such a broad range to choose from, including coffee flavoured wine, you will find wines to partner to your meal.  Oops that should be wine however, the final decision can be difficult ….

Boasting a massive alfresco dining area, indoor and even upstairs seating, there was plenty of space in a venue where the ambiance was superb.  We chose the outdoor area, as the winters sun chose to shine today, and the outdoor seating is well sheltered from those winter breezes with a nip of chill in their tips.

Time to dine.  My salmon meal above was superb to say the very least. Intrigued by the fabulous pops of colour and texture throughout the dish, it seemed such a shame to spoil this work of art by eating it, however, I did and was not disappointed in any way.

And to the seafood chowder.  Definitely declared by Hubby as the best ever!   I very much doubt there was anything left in the bowl to wash out as he literally cleaned up every single drop. Full of seafood, not just a few bits floating around, deliciously thick and cteamy, Hubby savoured every morsel.

Staff here was so very helpful, friendly,  and catered well to our group.  Late next year we happen to have a wedding in the area and look forward to returning!  

In the meantime though we cannot recommend a visit here highly enough.  Now a new challenge has been set, between now and October next  year, Hubby will be trying to seek out a seafood chowder to better this one….are you up for the challenge??

Bamboo Gardens Chinese Restaurant ~ Blenheim

For many years Bamboo Gardens Chinese Restaurant has been a part of Blenheim’s restaurant culture.   Having risen from the ashes after fire destroyed the original restaurant, there appears to have been no long term damage to the popularity of this venue.

On this occasion, we chose one of the group set menus priced at $38 per person , which began with this delicious chicken & corn soup.  Thick, full of chicken and corn, this tasty soup was a nice start to our meal.

Prawn dumplings with sweet n sour wontons, followed the soup .  These were what you would expect taste and presentation wise. 

Nine dishes made up the main meal, with usual fried rice plus variations of fish, chicken, duck and pork dishes. Every dish was fresh, tasty and filling.

The presentation of this crispy duck was delightful, plus it was one of the most popular dishes at our table.   Service throughout was polite, efficient and at no time did we find service lacking in any way.

Each group meal finishes with an ic cream sundae, which of its your birthday, will arrive with a small candle😄.

Having many years on the Blenheim restaurant scene under their belt, keep this one in mind if you’re looking for a Chinese meal in Blenheim.

The Slip Inn – Havelock South Island NZ 

Slip on in to the Slip Inn at Havelock for a tasty meal or simply to enjoy a coffee with friends.

On this particular occasion, we had a large group arrive within an hour of breakfast menu closing.  A quick query to the kitchen and there was no problem ordering from either breakfast or lunch menus.  Not a lot of dining venues would accomodate this, however there simply didn’t appear to be any issue at all.  Impressive in itself.

For those who are not aware, Havelock and surrounding Sounds areas are renown for  beautifully fresh green lipped mussels.  This mussel chowder was a popular choice at our table, and I’m told, a most enjoyable dish.

In keeping with the mussel theme, I trialled the mussel fritters. A most delicious dish, certainly full, juicy, tasty and nicely offset with the crunchy salad.  

Other meals included breakfast meals which were all well presented, fresh and tasty.

Given the standard of service, delicious meals, inviting venue all topped off with a stunning view across this country marina, you really should add this one to your must visit list while in the Marlborough area.

With a boat ramp located next to the outdoor seating, there would no doubt be plenty of free entertainment.  Anyone who has sat and watched a boat ramp will know exactly what I mean 😄.  Don’t miss a chance to Slip on Inn by, you won’t regret it!

Raupo – Blenheim, New Zealand

After a flîght from Auckland, we were treated to a lovely evening at Raupo, located in the main town area of Blenheim.  Overlooking the fountain sprouting from the Taylor River, Raupo is a comfortable restaurant, with the welcoming open fire in the corner, and friendly helpful staff.

Here we enjoyed the comfort on this chill winters evening complimented with lovely meals.

This scallops ravioli dish was divine albeit presented very differently to what I expected.

Chilli & Lime Prawn Salad with just the right amount of chilli ensuring it was not to hot.

Crispy rolled pork belly partnered with a crunchy coleslaw
The salmon fillet was also a hit at our table, how could it not be when paired with these wonderful mix of winter veges

Affagatto Dessert only because dinner should finish an essential dessert!

Thank you to Raupo staff for an awesome dining experience, complimented with fantastic service, food and fabulous company.  Definitely check this one out when it Blenheim,  not one to walk past!

Plaza Premium Lounge- Brisbane International Airport

Lounge access for any airline.  Now that was appealing, so we gave this new lounge a test run whilst we waited for our International flight to board.   Pre booked online, the $60 fee each was worth it for the time you spend waiting, after clearing customs and prior to boarding.  Each booking gives you up to five hours of lounge time, including food and beverage service.

Having only opened in May this year, the lounge is clean, comfortable, relaxing and inviting.  Choose from different seating areas, help yourself to the selection of hold and cold snacks, order a coffee or enjoy a wine with your meal.  There was also a menu with small meals available, from which Hubby tested a fish soup.

Pronounced as delicious, he thoroughly enjoyed the dish, which apparently paired well with his bourbon & coke!

Staff were polite, quietly clearing tables quickly after patrons were finished dishes as well as providing bar/barista services.  With a selection of wines, spirits and coffees available, anything ordered was quickly prepared and delivered to you.  Nothing was a problem.

I enjoyed mixing my own  snack combinations, with all the food tasty, and at the right temperature.  Refreshing too, to be able to sit comfortably and enjoy your choices, without the general hustle and bustle of airport life.

We are now members of this lounge group, which by the way was free to join.  Their lounges are located in many areas around the world which appealed as did the fact it does not matter which airline you are flying with.  Based on a point system, with discounts for members, you can eventually have free lounge access.

Personally, we will continue to book their lounges, as this test run experience proved a winner for us.  With work stations, charging points, clean toilet facilities, even a spa option (separate payment for these services), we felt this lounge well and truly catered to our needs.

Look forward to returning soon!