Cable Bay Dining Room, Waiheke Island - Auckland
They say one must also enjoy the scenery along the journey and not just the destination.
How very true of this for the SeaLinkNZ ride across Auckland Harbour and Hauraki Bay to an isle that is a well developed outdoor holiday place, especially when it is a long weekend in the middle of the New Zealand summer. Apart from Rangitoto, Waiheke is worth getting away to for a taste of the Pacific and yet not venturing too far from the largest city in the region - Auckland. Blessed with sloping pastures, winding topography and great ocean views from almost high point - Waiheke is perfect for brief weekend encounters, music gigs and lazy afternoons.
The ferry to Waiheke is not the same size as those ploughing Sydney Harbour, say to Manly Beach, for example, but it was double deck and the route it took outwards passed by the docks, the city skyline, other isles and bigger ships. Then you leave the comfort of the mainland and skip over a short distance to Waiheke. Ferries seem to have been built with similar designs - here you can sit inside with meal tables or feel the wind blowing in your face outside. There is a practical system of being able to buy tickets ahead on line or only when you are at a ferry pier. The ferry we took apparently can fit around 600 passengers max.
|Off to a music gig on Waiheke from Auckland ferry pier.|
The sparkling blue and clarity of a beaut summer's afternoon set the tone for a wedding reception we attended at the Cable Bay Dining Room. This was a venue around two kilometres from the ferry pier at the north-eastern side of the island. Three of us arrived at a small bay with memorable marine colours beside the ferry pier on Waiheke. We noticed the number of youngsters in casual gear, ready to hit the water swimming or just take it easy in a world away from their usual routine. A pre-arranged coach took us and other guests to the evening cocktails at the vineyards of Cable Bay.
The Dining Room was already set out but their staff did not cordon off a dedicated area for the reception's hundred or so guests during cocktail time. Most of us had to manage ourselves finding an area to settle in outside the dining room. The grounds were uneven to walk upon, especially for those with high heels and later I was told the cocktail wait staff did not circulate around every body with their little bites. The drinks guy did a good job, parking himself at a visible spot, for people to come line up for his refreshments, wines and beers during a rather warm and sunny day. Some of the guests were told off by some staff members to not hang around certain restricted areas near the kitchen - it would have been better to put up stand up signs.
The panoramic scenery around the Cable Bay Dining Room was stunning though. With a late sunset, we were able to soak in laid back moments, with sheep grazing on a far pasture and twenty somethings leaning back on all the available low rise cushions in the middle of the field. I always adore the cloud formations in New Zealand anytime and here on Waiheke, they did put on an impressive show. The restaurant is strategically sited near producing vine yards and the water beckons not far away, albeit blocked by a huge stage along part of the view.
|Oh Danny Boy, the pipes are calling.....|
|From bike to queues to sailing vessel.|
When sit down at the Cable Bay Dining Room commenced around 8pm, I noticed no reference menu on each table as to what the meal was going to be. Unless I am mistaken, shouldn't this be provided by the restaurant? For ten tables or so, the dining room was not that big when a dance floor space has to be taken account for. The upside of this was it became cosy as the evening proceeded.
We had shared platters placed in the centre of each table, but no lazy Susans were there to help us reach the offered food without standing up or having a pass around of the platters. Still, my fav dish of pork belly, here accompanied by oats, apple, radish and smoked cheddar, stood out in taste, with the Valrhona chocolate tart, served with 70% Guanaja and Caramelia chocolate and cherry, a close second in my palate sensations.
The servings ordered at the reception were generous. The selection of cheeses from France, New Zealand and the UK is most gratifying and does go well with a summer fruit salad. William Thorpe and Sam Clark have both set impressive standards with the menu and culinary offerings at Cable Bay.
Several people I spoke to love the loin lamb with eggplants, Freekah and Fromage Blanc, which was not part of this group menu, but there was the duck liver Pâté, graced by foie gras, cherry and brioche. The young lady attending to our table did her best although it was a busy night. The restaurant carefully timed serving of food when there was no speech or other event happening, like a lovely Cook Islander romantic dance performed by three friends for the betrothed couple or when the wholesome three tier wedding cake was being cut.
|Cable Bay Dining wedding table set up.|
By 1025pm, the friendly Kiwi coach driver had arrived to drive us back to the ferry point on Waiheke itself. There is a ten minute ride from Cable bay itself past Church Bay Road, a sloping route with no street lamps for part of the way. The driver waited ten minutes before most of the passengers came out of the reception - some had to be left behind after the coach filled up with around sixty people. I understand the same coach driver made a kind dash back to pick up the remaining guests who wanted to take the 11pm ferry departing from Waiheke to Auckland.
A group of youngsters were singing along in a boisterous way already at the ferry pier when the Waiheke coach dropped us off. They continued their engaged chorus all the way on the upper deck of the ferry back to Auckland. Relaxed, full of fun and knowing almost lyric, even if the guitar seamlessly changed songs. They epitomised what a real holiday can and should be - carefree yet reasonably well behaved.
|Clear sky, good food and wine plus pastures - so New Zealand.|
As the ferry made its way back to the mainland (North Island), there was an apparent super natural sight to behold. Motutapu Island was dark, but beaming a few stories up from nearby Rangitoto was a giant beam projecting into the heavens. The sky at that time before midnight was clear. It was surprisingly comfortably warm with the ocean breezes coming to embrace us on the ferry's upper deck. It was a fortunate choice remaining outside to enjoy the ambiance and such night views. Soon the Auckland city lights beckoned - and it was back to reality, to Brittomart and then the Langham near upper Queen Street.
The ethereal show of light, unexpected but so much appreciated, as the ferry sailed back, underlines the significance of enjoying every part of a journey. This giant light installation on Rangitoto, called Te Haeata o Rangitoto, comprises of thirty-three separate small lights and powered by man made generators which had to be shipped to the island. It is a gift from 13 of the Auckland region's Iwi or Maori tribes to mark the Anniversary Day of Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland).
|Sunset at Cable Bay, Waiheke.|
So would I return?
Perhaps not soon to the Cable Bay Dining Room, but more to to other parts of Waiheke. The reputedly least accessible restaurant, Te Whau Vineyard Restaurant has a signature Point red blend.
For street ethnic food, I am recommended to try the El Sizzling Chorizo's, sometimes as a food cart parked near St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Oneroa, a village and hub worth to consider a walking or local bus tour. This can go well down with most blokes, for the sausages are chunky, Argentinian marinaded and set a very casual tone.
The Thymes Tables at Surfdale emphasise on the best seasonal produce but has no attached vineyard and is dimly light. They only offer one entree, two mains choices and a cheese dessert for dinner time. An interesting alternative to explore if you are in the mood....
For pies and casual breakfasts, the Car Park in the central part of Waiheke Island is a top choice for many tourists and locals.
The Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant claims to be romantic, with seaside cottage, retreat and modern beachhouses - it also offers eye catching menu items like their own version of Pavlova, with macadamias, Elderflower, Lychee, Chia seeds and summer berries; sweet corn and truffle Ravioli, accompanied by Parmesan, watercress and Black trumpet mushrooms; and the Duck Tea, graced with green apple, wild rice, plum wine, duck liver dim sum, vanilla and confit duck.
Casita Miro in Onetangi offers a hideaway with much rustic charm and provides both fiesta and ala carte menus, which are highlighted by tapas, carefully crafted Iberian culinary influences and New Zealand produce.
The Cable Bay Dining Room is located at 12 Nick Johnston Drive, Oneroa, Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf, half an hour's ferry ride one way from Auckland Harbour.
Telephone: +64 9372 5889
Dinner is served from 6pm from Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Lunch hours are daily from noon.