Showing posts from November, 2011

Auckland City Centre

New Zealand excites more with its outdoor possibilties, scenic panaromas and adventure sport sites than its urban landscapes and activities. Having acknowledged that, I sought to find the best of Auckland city centre. Auckland, New Zealand's largest city by population and area, calls for comparisons with Sydney in Australia. Auckland has sloping, hilly roads, combined with a beautiful harbour of varied and many bays and inlets. It also has a Harbour Bridge and more - the isles in Auckland Harbour, like Rangitoto, are bigger than Sydney's and its suburban roads are wider and perhaps more well planned. Many of the Auckland suburbs sit on extinct volcanic sites, hence all the Mounts from Albert to Eden, as the place straddles the Auckland Volcanic Field. In the city centre itself, however, life is more simple than Sydney's sprawling version. Above image, preparations for Christmas and New Year' Eve as parts of giant baubles are laid on a courtyard.

Life does still r…

Whenuapai - The Herbal Farm

Running and maintaining a farm is never easy, it requires patience, dedication and passion. Recently I had the unique opportunity to visit and explore a herbal farm, courtesy of David and Gillian Ng in Whenuapai, about half an hour's drive north of Auckland CBD. Called the Herb Patch and located at 18 Brigham Creek Road in Waitakere City, it also offers organic produce, culinary spices and vegetables for distribution to greengrocers, restaurants and wholesalers.
Herbs can be grown on the ground or above on raised table platforms. The key issues facing herb farmers are ensuring consistent quality, having timely irrigation watering and protecting the relatively delicate produce from predators like rabbits and the pukeko bird (native to New Zealand). The Herb Patch grows a diverse range of plant varieties - alfafa, angelica, basil, bay leaf, fenugreek, celery, chives, dill, elderflower, fennel, lavender, lemon myrtle, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme and more. A herbal farm is…

Christmas in the Antipodes

The Strand arcade (above and below images) in Sydney's Wynyard district, offers a retro and charming feel on any day, with its immaculately maintained tiled walls and floors. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the small and narrow arcade is transformed, especially after dark, and even if no access is provided, alluringly tempts passers-by to stop and stare. There are delights to discover in the various shops sited in this arcade, including currently, the only outlet of Haighs hand made chocolates in Sydney, as the parent business comes from Adelaide.

Auckland Christmas scenes differ in emphasis and mood. There are more natural displays (above) and along the main thoroughfare of Queen Street (below), touches of snow laden lands.

My Kitchen - Mount Eden, Auckland

My Kitchen, along Dominion Road just outside Auckland CBD, makes you feel as if you are in Taipei. They serve meals at both dinner and lunch times in Japanese-styled bento boxes, are quick in taking food orders and delivering them to the tables of customers and have a rather fast turnover of both takeaway and dine-in clients through the two occasions I was there one week in November. Mandarin language television is broadcast on their flat monitors attached to the wall. Auckland residents of Taiwan origin are seen as patrons of this restaurant located upstairs, but the business also has a takeaway counter on street level, next to a branch of Love A Duck.Bento above, with chicken, and below, with unagi eel.

The bentos have a formula - three side servings to accompany the main meal of your choice, miso soup, a small bowl of steamed rice and cuts of different fruits each day. My favourite main dishes from My Kitchen are the belly pork ( final picture in this write-up) marinated in a rather…

Auckland Suburbia

When I first visited Auckland, it seemed relatively quiet and yet serene; expansive and still easily accessible from one corner to another; and not many social things happened after sunset. In 2011, many of these impressions still emerge, though at night it is more lively now, especially in the city centre, with the launching of the Wynyard Quarter ( next to the harbour front Viaduct) for the World Rugby gathering in New Zealand; with Queen Street echoing and displaying the hustle and bustle of over twenty years of more open immigration policies; and with urban renewals in inner city precincts like Parnell, Newmarket and Posonby. What about the outer suburbs, which for Auckland just mean a drive of more than 15 minutes away? Above image, a purposefully drawn graffiti found on the brick wall side of an Italian styled cafe near the Eden Quarter.

As I strolled along Dominion Road, once and still a main thoroughfare out of Auckland city centre to the suburbs, I noticed the emergence of …

Ponsonby, Auckland

Ponsonby - the name suggests pomp and ceremony. It most probably refers to a private secretary of Queen Victoria, Sir Henry Ponsonby. Located only two kilometres from central Auckland, this suburb has seen varying fortunes since Pakeha settlement in New Zealand. Initially favoured by the British settlers, it reverted to an enclave of working class and islander groups before the yuppies rediscovered the place, moved in, made its property prices rise and hence today it shines as an example of an upper class congregation. Some of its roads remain narrow and remind one of horse carriage planning, but its obvious elevation on a hill and its gleaming white painted houses shout of opulence, money and excellent location. Above , the Ponsonby Post Office with a tower at a main intersection on a late spring Friday afternoon.

Until Auckland's Sky Tower was built, Ponsonby competed with the height of most of Auckland City's tallest buildings. As it is sited on a ridge known to Maoris as Te…

Bento at Milford, North Auckland

Fresh, almost glass-translucent slices of salmon, tuna and white fish were carefully laid out in the bentos served inside the shopping centre at Milford, on the north shore of Auckland Harbour. Rob, Doris and I chose this place for a leisurely weekday lunch. Rob pointed out there were other nearby outlets serving Japanese fare as well. Milford is sited close to the water, and reminded me of Neutral Bay in Sydney.

The tempura was gently battered and deep fried (bottom left hand corner of image above). I liked the avocado sushi but found the ones with pickled radish too salty for my taste. Service was a bit rigid in approach, but the chef did smile when you looked at him, and brought bottled water to us in a friendly way. Salad was especially fresh to the bite. Kiwi kids were with their mothers as they whiled away the early afternoon.

Above image, on the upper left, are the ubiquitous red pickles and the green Japanese mustard, the former with a sour and sharp bite, and the latter with a…