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The best things we ate this week: a south Indian thali, melting lamb ribs and oat milk chocolate

Viva Dining Out: Bridgman restaurant in Dominion Road. Photograph by Babiche Martens.

A feast of a thali, a plant-based menu, and a new oat milk chocolate – here’s our favorite bites from the week past.

A feast of a thali in Mt Albert

On a very rainy wet night, we headed out into Mt Albert to try the Baahubali Pan Indian Restaurant, which sits on the corners of New North Rd and Woodward Rd. We had the epic shared thali which is $36 for two people. The thali came with goat curry, chicken curry, chilli fish, chicken biryani – it was very generous, and we were absolutely sweating by the end (which possibly says more about our ability to handle spice than anything else….).

We were told to expect a bit of a wait so ordered the delightful dahi puri to tide us over, and sampled our way through a few drinks from their impressive range of craft beers (Hallertau, Garage Project, Parrotdog and Epic). This is a tiny little neighborhood restaurant that deserves a visit. They even have a few off-street car parks, so it’s easy access on what looks like a busy/hard to park intersection.

Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday. baahubali.co.nz

The shared thali for $36 at Baahubali, Mt Albert.  Photo / Maggie Wicks
The shared thali for $36 at Baahubali, Mt Albert. Photo / Maggie Wicks

The garden center taking plant-based seriously

Although it looks like a big black barn from carpark, the Stonefields Kings Plant Barn is an absolute oasis of greenery. This may seem obvious – it is a garden center after all. But I’m not sure I’ve been in one that takes its job of demonstrating exactly how and why you should get more greens in your life so seriously. You enter into a series of displays – there’s an office space to demonstrate what plants might look good on your desk, and a lounge suite to show up just how lacking in nature your own sitting room is. One giant plant was labeled as ‘thrives on neglect’ – that’s a damn strong selling point. If you don’t want to walk away with $500 of gorgeous new indoors plants, I suggest you keep your head down. We came to eat at the newly opened Garden Kitchen, but on the walk to it we considered a new rake, a build-your-own terrarium and a show-stopping fiddle leaf fern.

The Garden Kitchen, Stonefields Kings Plant Barn.  Photo / Maggie Wicks
The Garden Kitchen, Stonefields Kings Plant Barn. Photo / Maggie Wicks

By 12.30pm on a Tuesday lunchtime, the café was heaving, but service is fast and efficient, plus the surroundings are pretty gorgeously green so settle in. You can grab something from the cabinet, should you fancy a sausage roll, a slice or sammie, but it’s the menu that impresses, with its strong focus on plant-based meals. Other than an English breakfast, a beef burger and the fish market, everything is vegetarian and most of it is vegan. Off the menu we tried the market fish, which was gurnard that day with baby carrots, burnt onion and celeriac puree and perillade (an uncooked French parsley sauce made with garlic and vinegar), and the Green Goodness, a hearty breakfast salad that stacked sourdough with charred greens, puy lentils, baba ganoush, tahihi and sourdough – plus we topped it with a poached egg and rashers of bacon. Two handsome meals, in an oasis of green – you’d never guess this was basically Mt Wellington, just meters from the outlet shops and the fast food joints. There’s a little indoor kids’ playground right to the dining area, and dogs are welcome in the outside (undercover) section as well.

To leave, customers make their way back through the center and just to warn you, we didn’t get out unscathed – but we needed those new gardening gloves anyway.

Open 7.30-4pm, 7 days. kings.co.nz/cafe/stonefields

The market fish at the Garden Kitchen, Stonefields Kings Plant Barn.  Photo / Maggie Wicks
The market fish at the Garden Kitchen, Stonefields Kings Plant Barn. Photo / Maggie Wicks

Jesse Mulligan eats lamb ribs at The Bridgman

At Mt Eden’s The Bridgman pub, Jesse Mulligan enjoyed lamb ribs and charred broccoli, and implores you to do the same.

“I’ve taken a long time to fall for lamb ribs, a cut so fatty that it can literally be hard to swallow. But they slow-cook them here and it’s wonderful — God knows how they manage to get it to a point where it arrives 10 minutes after you order it but tastes like they’ve been working on it for you since 9am.

“The fat has rendered and much of it disappeared, the meat is as tender as short-rib beef and there are layers of interest and texture that show you why the cut is worth persevering with. This one is served with a dark, sweet onion jam and the combo is simple and perfect.

“I have to mention the side of broccoli, which, I know, nobody turns to their wife and says, “Shall we go out for a side of broccoli tonight?” but it’s really, really good. It was perfectly tender with a hint of char but I think what put me in such a good mood was that you know if the guy in the kitchen cares this much about a simple brassica, everything else will be brilliant too.

Click here to read the full review.

Viva Dining Out: Bridgman restaurant in Dominion Road.  Photograph by Babiche Martens.
Viva Dining Out: Bridgman restaurant in Dominion Road. Photograph by Babiche Martens.

Wellington Chocolate Factory’s limited edition oat milk chocolate

This got eaten so quickly, I didn’t even snap a picture – good chocolate goes fast in our house, okay? I simply had no time to snap it. It’s not often you come across a crafted boutique-y chocolate that every member of our family wants, and that was the result. My husband enjoys posh milk chocolate, our son likes it sugary and lowbrow, and I prefer it dark. So imagine our surprise and annoyance when the Wellington Chocolate Factory’s new oat milk bar arrived, and we all had to split it.

Given the popularity of oat milk (now produced in New Zealand, and I say infinitely superior in your flat white to regular cow’s milk), it’s surprising it’s taken so long for an oat milk chocolate to hit the market. But it’s here now, and hooray for that. And it’s delicious. This is a limited release, so get in quick. If it’s all gone by the time you read this, WCF are known for their collaborations – go to wcf.co.nz to see what they’re up to next.

WCF's oat milk chocolate.  Photo / Supplied
WCF’s oat milk chocolate. Photo / Supplied

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