Photographs: David Straight
You might know him from Radio New Zealand National, where he talks about music, or for his writing about rugby, or for being a fixture at Slow Boat Records on Cuba Street. But Jeremy Taylor is just as obsessive about lunch: he used to blog – as The Omnivore – for stuff.co.nz and he once got up at 4am to drive from Wellington to one of our lunches at Golden Dawn. (He made it on time.) Since we met at a dinner in Wellington a couple of years ago, he’s become a good friend and so when it came to choosing EHN’s new Wellington correspondent, there was only one person I rang. Welcome to the fold. SFG
Before we moved here in 2005, trips to Petone were like excursions to the seaside: op shops, a decent cafe or two, but it still held a bit of stigma over from when it was home to the freezing works, and the water ran blood red from the works and silty-grainy from the saw mills in Seaview.
But Petone was one of the first settlements in New Zealand and is home to some of the oldest wooden villas in the country. And lately, it’s become a bit of a food destination. This is seen best at On Trays Fine Foods Emporium, run by ebullient South African Steven Scheckter and his wife Valda. Nothing can quite prepare you for the sheer volume of stuff that it contains: it spans the gamut of consumables, from jamon iberico to $2 candy bars. It is the source of many of my staple foods: parmegiano reggiano, capers in salt, olive oil, dried wild oregano, balsamic vinegar, kalamata olives. They also have a French brie called Amadeus, which in our house is referred to as “crack cheese”. Too much is never enough.
Just across Jackson Street is The Dutch Shop, which also stocks a lot of cheese – a creamy gouda with cumin seeds, a hard cheddar with nettles, as well as a vast array of Dutch sweets; the salty liquorice takes a bit of getting used to, but once you are hooked, it is curiously addictive.
Further along Jackson Street and just in on Nelson Street is Indian supplies store Ankur’s Nice ‘n’ Spice. It sells a heap of dried grains, beans and pulses, along with spices, rice, oil, paneer and yoghurt. There is always fresh coriander and ginger, and turmeric, and curry leaves.
If you stray a little beyond Petone’s immediate vicinity, near neighbour Alicetown yields the area’s best fish and chips – the Alicetown Fish Supply serves big scoops of hand-cut chips, fresh terakihi fillets, and deep-fried raspberry donuts whose scalding hot jam filling will burn the roof of your mouth. They also do deep-fried Mars bars – I am yet to try one of these. 436 Cuba Street, Alicetown, ph (04) 589-9756.
Heading a little further towards the Wainui hills, down Randwick Road lies the Zany Zeus shop. Impeccable organic feta, milk, thick Greek yoghurt and, best of all, the best icecream I have ever tasted: try the raspberry and greek yoghurt, or the liquorice, or the coconut and rosewater. They also do a soft-serve so creamy and delicious it makes me want to weep.
Just a little further down the road and over the bridge onto Whites Line East is the Real Meat Pies shop. They have properly lardy pastry, their steak and cheese is a classic, and their SCOT (steak, cheese, onion and sundried tomato) is even better.
There is precious little chance of my fading away while living in Petone, and I love that we have made a home here. Fortunately, there is an outdoor pool (McKenzie Pool, Udy Street, behind the Petone Rec Ground), and an indoor pool (Huia Pool, just up the motorway in Lower Hutt). You need just a little yin to offset all that delicious yang.