Saturday, January 28, 2012


In the last week I have had the pleasure to visit two eateries, the BASQUE KITCHEN BAR and the VEVO foodstore.
I stumbled onto them both; neither was an ‘intended’ destination. I would like to make a few comments.
Firstly the BASQUE KITCHEN BAR. We visited this establishment last week around lunchtime. It can be found tucked away in Davis Street, Newmarket. Our plan had been to find one of the cafes, fronting the park in the main street.
Auckland’s summer was playing hide and seek, so with the drizzle doing its best to morph into rain, we gave up on the cafes nearer the main street when we noticed the old refurbished building housing the BASQUE KITCHEN BAR. 
We studied the menu out front and were immediately welcomed by the friendly bar-lady. It didn’t take much to draw us in, especially when we noticed that it was a ‘tapas’ bar. Both us were curious about this Spanish offering and we wanted a light lunch.
After been seated near the entrance, where we were well away from the driving drizzle, but still part of the ‘street scene,’ the bar-lady offered us the menus and the beverage list. Being Spanish, of course the wines and beers were predominantly the same, ordered a Spanish bubbly by the glass. Our host pointed out that they couldn’t call it Champaign. (We are all well versed in the reasons for that—aren’t we?) By the glass was fine for us.
I decided on some croquettes for a starter (Tapa) and fresh Spanish Sardines for the next course (this was slightly bigger than the Tapa, but smaller than a traditional main. My dining companion (my sister on this occasion) chose cauliflower, sautéed or deep fried I (not sure) with various spices, one of which was saffron, for her tapa. For the next delight she ordered little lamb chops, minus the sauce (the lady knew her stuff--- my sister can’t have anything with gluten).
While we waited for our food, we sampled the Cava bubbly. It is a little like some of the better-end Lindau range--- light, yet nicer and fruity.  It wasn’t long before the first of the little Tapas arrived.
My croquettes were exactly as the friendly lady had said---‘really delicious.’ I made the smart-assed comment that ‘the chef would have to kill me if he told me how he had cooked them.’  Oh no--- ‘he will be happy to tell you what’s in them if you want,’ our new friend replied.
My sister’s cauliflower dish was superb. I am going to try to replicate it myself. I managed to steal a piece off her plate while she was engaged in draining her glass of bubbly. (We only had one glass--- neither of us wanted that ‘wanna go to sleep feeling,’ after imbibing in alcohol at mid-day).
The lamb chops came along with my sardines. My sister wasn’t too keen to try my dish, and she wasn’t about to share her chops with me. No wonder--- they were just right—pink in the middle and beautifully cooked--- I’m sure the waiter/bar lady said something about cherry vinegar, amongst the ingredients. They were succulent and tasty.
My sardines lived up to my expectations. I had always imagined the grilled morsels, but had only ever tried the pilchard-type fish that had been passed off as ‘sardines’ at other establishments.  I had three of them on my plate. They were easy to eat--- just scrape the flesh off the tiny bones and enjoy.
The friendly, knowledgeable service and the ambiance of the place on a horrible day was just what we needed to shift our moods from the stolen summer. We weren’t stuffed to the point of feeling guilty and our wallets did not protest. I think $30 each, for two courses (small was just right) was fine. It is not a food hall, so we had expected to pay more. One thing’s for sure--- we will be back for an evening meal.
Now for the second place. You might be thinking we eat out more than most. Not really---it was the penultimate day for our holidays, so we wanted to enjoy it. Once again, we had no idea where we were goin g to have breakfast. We had left the naughty Jack Russell at home (although on reflection, she would have been fine).
We drove out west, knowing that along the way, we would come across many cafes.  Before we knew it, we were driving through the Titirangi Village, the ‘flash’ part of Westy town.  An empty car park almost jumped out at me, so the decision was made. Almost immediately, we noticed a café at the end of a parking area. It had the added advantage of being a ‘food store’ as well.
The VEVO foodstore was busy (always a good sign) and we were made welcome by the enthusiastic, smiling staff. We could choose from the usual ‘all day’ breakfast type food or order from the counter food. There was plenty of fresh-looking food on offer. I ordered our coffee. I had the ‘big breakfast, while my gluten-free sister had the bacon, eggs with gluten-free bread.
The coffee was good enough for me to ask what beans they used. The barista said he used –Supreme beans,’ but was considering another option that were as good or better. If they are better, then they will be really good, because the coffee was way better than many I have had--- and I love my coffee.
The food arrived, about ten minutes later. The wait was fine--- the result was great. They did not make a fuss of the eggs, by advertising ‘organic, free-range, but I suspect that they were both. My big breakfast wasn’t over –the-top. Honestly, some big breakfasts would have my doctor pointing out the ‘awaiting grave.’ There was one piece of well-cooked quality bacon, hash browns that were obviously not out of a packet, and delightfully herbed. The sausage was not one of those overly-salted varieties and the mushrooms were magical.
Both of us were happy to pay the price. I would rather pay slightly more, any day then have a cheaper less than satisfactory serving. We both agreed that the VEVO is good value and good quality. There was surprise at the end.
When I came out of the spotlessly clean toilets, I noticed a table at the back. Wow--- if I had seen that before I ordered, we would have sat there. It has a fabulous view over the Manukau Harbour, framed by lovely native trees that belie the fact that the VEVO is in the middle of the Titirangi Village.

Well done, both establishments.