Simon Farrell-Green eats his way around New Plymouth.
Call it the Bilbao effect. Since the opening of the spectacular Len Lye Centre at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery — with its rippling stainless-steel façade — four years ago, New Plymouth has undergone some pretty radical changes. In particular, in the few blocks of the West End Precinct around the gallery, there are some excellent options for eating and drinking, especially in the courtyard of the old White Hart Hotel. Even better: if you’re staying at the King & Queen Hotel Suites, you can charge it all back to your room.
Named for Monica Brewster, the arts patron who left her fortune to the gallery that now bears her name, Monica’s is an airy sort of space attached to the gallery, with a lovely timber ceiling and big windows to the street. It may be the country’s best gallery restaurant: the menu is fresh and interesting, featuring an excellent kedgeree, and the wine list is great — get a carafe with friends and while away the afternoon.
Cnr King & Queen Streets
You’ll find Social Kitchen a couple of blocks away, in the former Salvation Army Young Peoples Hall. Inside, it’s nicely industrial and almost always very busy. Shared plates are the go here: we can recommend the slow-cooked lamb rump and the rare steak, paired with seasonal greens; you must also order the blue-cheese gnocchi, which is a knockout.
40 Powderham St
Ms White is bare-knuckles simple. A steel counter in the yard of the White Hart Hotel, four taps of craft beer that change daily, a pizza oven and a handful of trestle tables. What more do you need? The pizzas are great — puffy and nicely blackened in the pizza Napoli style; we can heartily recommend the porchetta, featuring home-made pork sausage and roasted capsicum.
White Hart Courtyard 47 Queen Street
Meat & Liquor
The meat at Meat & Liquor is, as you’d expect for Taranaki’s finest steakhouse, highly excellent: not so long ago, we ate a perfect piece of Benmore striploin, aged for 33 days and cooked over a wood-fired grill. But Meat & Liquor also has attentive, thoughtful service and makes an excellent Negroni — if you ask them nicely, they’ll make it using Juno, a local craft gin. We can also recommend the preserved sausages, which come in a jar on the table and go very nicely with the house-churned butter and bread.
Meat & Liquor
34a Egmont St
Down a little side alley off Devon St in a container mall repurposed from Christchurch, Billow is a bakery serving some very fine sourdough: darkly crunchy on the outside, chewy and dense on the inside. We can also highly recommend a warm breakfast roll on a Saturday morning.
91b Devon St West
This piece originally appeared in the January-February 2020 issue of Metro magazine, with the headline 'Off the beaten track'.