Finally, Pinoy Food at The Great Tasti Cafe in Lower Hutt

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The lack of Filipino restaurants in the city and my limited ability to cook Filipino foods compelled me and my foodie friend Eirenne to travel 40 minutes by bus to Lower Hutt a week ago. It was a very pleasant journey as bus 91 from Courtenay Place took us directly to Centre City Plaza where The Great Tasti is located. However, I was perplexed when we arrived at the cafe. 

I personally thought that we were misled because the cafe didn't have any Filipino food on display and there was no obvious sign that they served Asian food. I was ready to leave the place very disappointed when Eirenne saw photos of Filipino dishes at the bottom of the menu board. Phew. So we told the lady at the counter that we were there for some Filipino food and she obligingly instructed us to take our seat. And then our Pinoy food adventure began.

Eirenne and I got really excited when we saw the menu. Unfortunately, they only had selected dishes available during that time. But it was okay because they had what we were both craving for.

Also, the servings were less than what I am used to back in London but for NZ$11.50 per meal, it was well worth it. Besides, we like trying on different dishes (and eating cakes after) so their serving size is ideal for voracious eaters like us. 

Of all the pinoy foods that we were craving for, sisig was on top of our list and The Great Tasti's sisig definitely satisfied that craving. Sans the pig's ears, it was (still) appetizing.    
NZ$8.50

My eyes grew big when I saw lechon kawali on the menu. I love, love crunchy pork skin and this one didn't disappoint. The meat was tender and the pork skin was deliciously crunchy. This is a must.
NZ$8.50

I have always been a fan of lechon paksiw and I was so happy to have it at the Great Tasti for the first time in a long time. Their lechon paksiw was perfectly cooked. It was seriously delicious.
NZ$8.50

Now, if there is one Filipino meal that I would rather have any time of the day, it would be one of the "silogs" (longsilog, tapsilog and tocilog) and I'm glad that  they are served all day at The Great Tasti. Eirenne and I both ordered the longsilog. Their longganisa was sweet and tasty (just what I was hoping for) and I love that it came with two eggs. The only thing that didn't meet my expectation was the rice. It was boiled rather than sinangag. But they can be easily forgiven for that because the longganisa was amazing.
NZ$11.50

We were also glad to know that they actually sell frozen goods. Now we can enjoy traditional Filipino breakfast in the comfort of our own home. 
Tocino and Longganisa NZ$13.50, Tapa NZ$15.50

The best part of my experience at The Great Tasti was actually meeting the owner, Kuya Roy. He was uber friendly and enthusiastic. His energy was contagious. I suppose we were lucky because the cafe was not busy when we went there so we had his attention all to ourselves. He was happy to chat with us and serve us. He even took a number of photos in different angles. And then he proudly told us a few things about the cafe.

According to Kuya, the cafe originally only served continental foods. They only started serving Pinoy foods two or three years ago if I remember it right. In my opinion, this is a very good move because after so many years,  Filipino cuisine hasn't really taken off anywhere abroad. I guess their cafe won't be as successful as it is now if they only served Filipino foods. So, well done Kuya!

More than the good food was the great service that we received from the owners of The Great Tasti. Indeed, "The Great Tasti is great food, great taste and great service". In fact, "it's just great". We will definitely be back for more very soon. I already have laing and krispy pata in mind. :)

Thank you Kuya and Ate for the warm welcome.
The Great Tasti
Centre City Plaza
43 Queen's Drive
Lower Hutt, Wellington
021709537
Deliveries also available



tintin x

My Angel Would Have Been 16 Today

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

It's that time of the year again when all I can do is stare at the beautiful photos of my angel and imagine what could have been 

My beautiful, talented and kind-hearted boy would have been 16 today. 

When I woke up this morning, I told myself not to cry anymore because I know that Keith is now in a better place. But as soon as I lit up the candle, played his song and started praying, tears started rolling down my cheeks. The pain remains no matter how long it has been.

I cried even more when I saw Keith's friend's post on facebook. X never fails to remember Keith's birthday and this means so much to me. I am very blessed to have known his friends and play the "Tita" (sometimes Mommy) role to them virtually. Keith lives through them.

And then my cousin posted a very touching message which I greatly appreciate.


Back home, they're celebrating Keith's birthday with some family and friends while I am enjoying the blue sky and the blue water from our balcony. It is indeed a K Lighter Day despite knowing that we will never celebrate another birthday with our Keith.

Happy Birthday, our dear Keith. I'm sure you're having a grand birthday up in heaven with all the lighters and angels. We love you so much and we miss you so dearly.


tintin x

Afternoon Tea At Martha's Pantry

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Honestly, I crave for plain scones more than I crave for Filipino foods. In  London, I would regularly have cream tea at two of my favourite cafes, The Muffin Man in High Street Kensington and High Tea of Highgate. And so when I arrived in Wellington, one of the first things that I looked for was plain scones. Unfortunately, all I could find were savoury scones. I am not a fan of savouries you see. But at one point I became quite desperate for scones that I almost bought the spinach ones. I had to suppress my cravings and baked banana bread instead.  

And that is why it took me six months before I finally had an afternoon tea in Wellington. It was basically my birthday and I wanted to do something nice with my first ever friend in Wellington, and afternoon tea has always been on my mind. 

Originally, I wanted to go to Hippopotamus Restaurant at the Museum Hotel but unfortunately, they were closed for refurbishment. So we went to Martha's Pantry in Cuba Street instead.

We went on a Friday afternoon and the cafe was not busy at all. But still,  we were told that they only had two tables for two available. Luckily, I made a prior booking because guests started arriving after half an hour.

There are two entrances to the cafe, one on the side-street and the other one from the carpark. As we entered the cafe from the side-street entrance, we were greeted by very girlie merchandise. The pastel colours and the vintage feel of the restaurant instantly made me feel like it was going to be a wonderful afternoon tea experience in Wellington.

And I was right. The experience only got better when we were greeted by a male staff and directed us to our table. We were the only guests at that time so we had some opportunity to take photos.

I thought at first that the hats on the wall were only there for decoration. We later found out that customers can actually wear them if they want to. 

The table arrangement was simple but the vintage crockery and cutlery certainly made up for it.

Our tea came in vintage tea pots with hand knitted tea cosies. Really, really cute.

I am not very adventurous when it comes to my tea, so I went for Jasmine Princess (white blooming tea). 

Eirenne had the red vanilla raspberry Roobois Tea  which was delicious.

Then our food came on a three-tiered stand. 

And finally, plain scones.

The rest of the treats were good, too. I particularly enjoyed the lemon macaron.

I am not normally keen on sandwiches but I enjoyed the ones we had here.

And although our food came in bite sizes, we were greatly satisfied because at the end of it, we still had room for our favourite taro cake (which we had somewhere else).

Martha's Pantry was indeed a good second choice for my first ever afternoon tea in Wellington. I guess for me, $30 was worth the experience.
Martha's Pantry
Corner 276 Cuba St and Karo Drive
Wellington 6011


tintin x

Rotorua + Auckland In Two Days

Friday, 5 August 2016

We finally flew to Auckland in June. It was our first plane ride since we got to Wellington and it wasn't a particularly good experience. Our flight with Jetstar got delayed for 6 hours without notice. There was no announcement whatsoever. I must say that Jetstar customer service at that time was very poor. They didn't seem to know what was going on either. I understand it's a budget airline, but the delayed flight and how the staff handled the situation are enough reasons for us to avoid Jetstar in our future travels.

But apart from the not-so-good flight experience, the rest of our trip was wonderful. We arrived in Auckland just after 1am (on Saturday) so we didn't get to see anything obviously. We stayed at the Rendezvous Hotel in Mayoral Drive. Although we literally just slept at the hotel, we had a very pleasant stay. The staff was nice and helpful and the room was very clean. Overall, the hotel is beautiful and the location is perfect, so I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone who's planning to visit Auckland. 

Our main itinerary was actually Rotorua. Before we came to Wellington, a lady I used to work with posted this amazing photo of what looked like a hot spring. Since then, I became obsessed about going there. In fact, this place is on top of my list to see in New Zealand.

And so we commenced our 3-hour journey to Rotorua at around 9am on a Saturday.   We took the route via Matamata to check if we could potentially go to Hobbiton. Unfortunately, they were fully booked as expected. So we drove over there anyway, just to get a feel of the area where the Hobbits lived. But we will definitely go back at some point.

The truth is, I am not a LOTR or The Hobbit fan. In fact, I have not seen any of the films. It's a shame really especially because J now works for the company, but whatever. I very much enjoyed the 20 minutes drive to Hobbiton though. The green rolling hills were a sight to behold. "No wonder why they chose this place to be Hobbiton", J said.

We continued our journey to Rotorua and after an hour of  a very scenic drive, we arrived in Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Man, the pungent smell of rotten eggs   gave me a headache. The whole town smelt of Sulphur actually. But, the beauty of this place makes it all worth it. Also, it doesn't take long to get used to the smell. Trust me.

Of all the geothermal pools in the area, the "Champagne Pool" and the "Artist's Palette"   are my favourite. The mineral colours are beautiful. I also like the wooden pathway in the middle of the pool.

And then there's the "Devil's Bath". The green Sulphur colour is really eye-catching. 
 

The bubbling pools, smoking pits, steaming grounds and beautiful mineral colours made me appreciate nature even more. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is definitely worth the journey and the NS$32.50 entrance fee. We missed the Lady Knox geyser however, because we went in the afternoon. The geyser erupts at 1015am. But apparently, it doesn't even naturally erupt, so perhaps it was a good thing that we didn't make that extra effort to catch it. We also missed the mud pools as they are both in different locations.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
201 Waiotapu Loop Road
Rotorua 3073

On our way to the hotel, we missed our turn and came across the "Government Gardens". We only entered the gate to make a U-turn, but then "Government Gardens" piqued our curiosity and so we drove farther and voila! We accidentally found the only thing I wanted to see in central Rotorua, the Bath House- once a spa house, it is now the Rotorua Museum.

After that pleasant detour, we drove to our hotel. I am glad that we chose the Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort because we had a wonderful stay. We were very well looked after from the moment we checked in until we left. Our room was very neat and tidy and the restaurant food was good (we had dinner and breakfast over there). A really good place to stay.

Anyway, as soon as we dropped off our bags in our room, we went for a short walk by the lake and watched the beautiful sunset. Afterwards, we spent some time in the outside jacuzzi and enjoyed the romantic view of Lake Rotorua.

On Sunday, it was time to go back to Auckland to catch our flight back to Wellington. This time we drove via Hamilton. When I was looking for places to see in Hamilton, nothing actually impressed me so I thought we would just drive straight to Auckland. But then somehow J found this cafe in Hamilton Gardens and he wanted us to drop by for coffee. We ended up going around the garden and having our food and coffee as take-away.

Hamilton Gardens is a massive themed garden and for you to be able to totally inhale the beauty of this place and be in one with the gods of nature (if you like), you must spend a considerable amount of time here. It's a touristy area but I'm sure you can always find a quiet spot to just sit for a while and contemplate on life. A truly elaborate garden.
Italian Renaissance Garden
Tudor Garden
Japanese Garden
Te Parapara Garden

After an overwhelming tour at the beautiful Hamilton gardens, we headed back to Auckland. Honestly, we were not very keen on Auckland. Apart from the gloomy weather, the city didn't really give us a good first impression. It would have been okay even if we weren't able to go around the city, but we had two hours to spare so we thought we might as well go to some places.

I suppose if you don't have enough time to explore a city, the best way is to at least see a panoramic view of the city. I sort of learned this when I went to Rouen in France a few years ago. 

And so here's what we did in Auckland when we only had two hours to spare:

First, we went to Mount Victoria in Devonport. There we saw mushrooms (hehe) and a beautiful 360-degree view of Auckland. 

And then we decided to go up the Sky Tower just because we were already in Auckland. We also had extra time to eat an ice cream at the Sky Cafe in Level 50.

I wasn't brave enough to step on the main viewing platform because there were glass floors, but J enjoyed it.
Sky Tower
Victoria St W & Federal Street
Auckland
Entrace Fee: NZ$28

We also had the time to check out the War Memorial Museum.

Reflecting on this trip, I think J and I did a fantastic job in utilising our time efficiently. Considering that we arrived at our hotel very late on Friday (or should I say very early on Saturday?), we were still able to have room service at almost two o'clock in the morning and travel to Rotorua five hours later. We also had stopovers (for coffee) in between. It actually helped that we drove. It saved us a lot of time.

Overall, this was an absolutely fantastic trip. Short but sweet as they say.


tintin x 


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