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Pot Luck — Friday 8 March

The Metro Dining Newsletter.

Pot Luck — Friday 8 March

Mar 8, 2024 Metro Eats

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a more punctual end to summer than this year. Right as summer was officially declared ‘over’ last Thursday, the weather took an immediate turn toward brisk, drizzly and gloomy. And with that I’ve observed the beginning of a seasonal indication of another kind: gifted hot cross buns on my desk — so far, from Daily Bread , Bread & Butter, and Knead. Easter may be almost a month away but it seems both autumn and bun season have well and truly begun.

Call me ignorant, but I’d never come across so many deliberately posh hot cross buns before. In my previous job, we laboriously taste-tested supermarket hot cross buns to mark the season, and I’ve grown up in a household loyal to those baked by our local Foodtown, then Countdown, and now, I assume, Woolworths. These basic buns are usually perfectly delicious by my standards, especially when toasted and smeared with butter. I do get the appeal of a more complex, bespoke article — but I don’t know if I really appreciated, till now, quite how complicated a hot cross bun can be. 

I’ll put it this way: I’ve got hot cross buns turning up on my desk with descriptions noting their “12 hour fermentation” or their “cardamom glaze”. Some of them use “dried fruit steeped in local rum” or “lievito madre” (a kind of Italian sourdough starter). For one of these, the process apparently takes 48 hours from start to finish. Knead’s in particular were a revolution: pillowy soft, bedecked with spices and dried fruit, and with heavily sticky tops. This is to say, while these buns might largely adhere to the classic style (spices, dried fruit and crosses on top), there is a lot of thought and care behind them. And it seems very odd to me that these things, so beloved and made with so much energy, are available for only a month, from the beginning of Lent till Easter Sunday. All that love and care, and then we go without for the next 11 months.

Hot cross buns are not alone, of course — there are many other seasonal foods. There are dishes that feature in annual festivities, but that we continue eating throughout the rest of the year too — like ladoos during Diwali or hāngī during Matariki or dates during Ramadan. Others are seasonal because they appear only at certain times in the year — I’m thinking of things like Bluff oysters, and especially feijoas, which are arguably the most temporality-bound of all. But then there are those culturally temporal foods — hot cross buns, mince tarts, mooncakes — that are fleeting not because of changing seasons or natural cycles but because we’ve just decided that’s the way we do things. 

To the rational mind, the ephemeral nature of hot cross buns doesn’t make a lot of sense — they’re ridiculously popular, and with all the effort that goes into perfecting the recipe, you might wonder why we can’t whip them up more regularly. But there’s a certain value to a food that expresses a specific season. I like that in a fast-paced world, where everything is at our fingertips at all times, we have these edible reminders of tradition, beliefs and symbolism. (And hot cross buns tell an especially charged story — the cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus, the spices inside signifying the spices used to embalm him, and orange peel to reflect the bitterness of it all.) Without these features of seasonal time, these novelty items, these reminders of the circular rhythms of life, we’d miss out on a lot. After all, the onset of autumn is much easier to stomach with the promise of delicious spiced buns.


Comings and goings


Afghani cuisine isn’t particularly easy to find in Tāmaki Makaurau, so we were excited to hear that a dedicated restaurant had opened in The Wharf building in Northcote. Following that, we became slightly confused, as the restaurant, apparently called Ariana, has no social media presence, website or Google listing — mysterious! We assume it exists, though, as we’ve seen two TikToks of the interior and food, and have tracked down what looks to be their menu. From what we can tell, they’re open for dinner six days a week (Tuesday–Sunday) but we will clarify these mysteries when we know more.

Last week, Koha Cafe opened at Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae. I’m yet to visit but it looks like there’s an evolving menu based on kai grown in their māra (fish soup and kawakawa bread last week, for example) and barista-made coffee. They’re open 10am to 2pm, Thursdays and Fridays, and you’ll find them at 141R Robertson Road, Māngere.

Daily Bread has taken over a bunch of the garden cafes at Kings Plant Barn as of this week. You’ll find them hidden among the seedlings, flower pots and seed packs at the Botany, Stonefields, Remuera and Takapuna locations.

After three years at their Karangahape Rd site, natural wine shop Everyday Wine closed their physical store this week (coincidentally, almost a year to the day that they closed their brick-and-mortar Wellington shop), and will be moving the business entirely online. In the announcement, the business cited the fact that 94% of their sales were online anyway — a sign of the times!

I’ve only just found out that Meow Cafe, located in the now entirely shuttered Rialto Foodcourt in Newmarket, closed at the end of last year. The demise of that food court — going from once bustling to abandoned — has been an ongoing saga. The final nail in the coffin seems to have come in April last year, when someone (the building management?) got rid of all the tables and chairs for diners, forcing the two remaining vendors — Meow Cafe and their neighbouring stall Aroma Indian — to rely on takeaway orders. Within months, Aroma moved on to a new location (also in Newmarket), leaving Meow as the last shop standing. Meow Cafe’s Hong Kong-style desserts, such as lychee panna cotta and durian crêpes, were some of the best and cheapest in town — so it’s a real loss to this city’s dessert scene. 




The playlist at RRK’s Madras Cafe 

Khao Man Gai (order it with the spicy soybean sauce) Good Ol’ Days Kitchen in the Lim Chour food court 

Tio paruparu (Bluff oyster) season

The garlic butter parmesan and the chive cream cheese and hot honey donuts at Small Mercies (special mention to their little donut-cutting scissors — cute!)

On that note, chives

Ex-Metro food editor Jean Teng’s and Masterchef winner Sam Low’s new podcast Ate Ate Ate 

I Clivi Ottantanni Malvasia 2021 from By The Bottle




Cutting funding for school lunches

Cutting funding for plunger coffee at the Ministry of Social Development 

We’re not sure what to think about Bluebird’s new Veldt Farmhouse Cheese Bread chips which are apparently a tie-in with the movie Rebel Moon (?) but read as randomly South African 


Where we’re going


This Sunday the Kelmarna Festival returns after a four-year hiatus with live music; a licensed bar; food from Cazador , Ripe Deli, Bread & Butter Bakery and more; and a “talk tent” discussing food systems hosted by Stone Soup. Join in on the fun from 10am to 3pm at 12 Hukanui Cres, Ponsonby.

Every Wednesday is Feijoada night at Tempero on Karangahape Rd. It’s $100 for two, or $60 for a solo dinner, and that includes an abundant selection of dishes: pão de queijo or cassava chips, feijoada (Brazilian black bean and pork stew — or there’s a vegan option with smoked mushrooms and tofu), pork crackling, farofa, pico de gallo, kale, rice, orange slices and passionfruit mousse. 

It’s that time again: the return of the Bluff oyster season, which runs from March to August every year. The word on the street is that after a grim 2023 season, this year’s catch, so far, is looking much healthier. And while personally I’m perfectly happy to eat mine from a pottle at home with a glass of wine before dinner, there’s also a real joy to leaving the house and sharing a dozen with good company. So far, I’ve seen them by the dozen or half-dozen on the menu at Glass Goose, Sanford and Sons and Soul Bar, but will keep you posted on more half-shell sightings. A note: beware those establishments masquerading (cheaper) pottled oysters as (more expensive) freshly shucked half shells — giving new meaning to the ‘bluff’ part of the name, I suppose.

In celebration of the Warrior’s 2024 season, @Dazzaz_Cooked Pies (of Ashby Pies ) will be available exclusively at The Corner in Remuera from next Friday (15 March) to Sunday. We received a lunchtime delivery of the braised beef cheek and cheese pie and the kūmara and coconut dhal pie, which were both delicious.

I’d say that everyone in this city, whether they know it or not, has eaten off some kind of Crown Lynn tableware. If you’re keen to get to know more about the origins of those cups and plates, there’s a photo exhibition and talk about the contribution of workers from the Pacific Islands to Crown Lynn at Te Atatū Library on Tuesday 12 March at 10.30am.


From the archives



Metro N°67, January 1987. Luscious.


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