Last week, after surviving weeks of Wellington's soul-draining drizzle, I fled to Hanmer Springs for a mini-holiday. But before that, I was at my wits' end - tired of feeling chilled to the bone, of clothes never drying*, of sideways southerly showers blowing down Kent Terrace - what's that? Harden up, you say? Okay, I'll stop complaining now, but anyway, it was on one of those horrendous days that I had a hankering for something warm and comforting, and to be somewhere warm and comfortable to eat it (basically, not my flat).
Since it was pouring outside, it had to be somewhere we could drive to (and therefore avoid getting wet as much as possible). We hopped in the car, and, a short while later, arrived at Cafe Polo in Miramar. Despite the horrid weather, it was bustling but not bursting at the seams, and we were seated right away in a wee side room at a table next to a cabinet housing an eclectic collection of salt and pepper shakers.
Shortly after our coffees (long black, $3; flat white, $3.80) arrived, this beauty descended upon our table: a sourdough crumpet with whipped maple & vanilla butter ($7). Homemade crumpets aren't something you see every day, but the real draw for me was the maple-vanilla butter - it arrived in a semi-solid state, but when spread on the steaming hot crumpets it melted into pools of unbelievably heavenly goodness. It almost took me back to my childhood days of furtively licking the plate clean after a breakfast of waffles topped with butter and maple syrup.
Although Cafe Polo's day menu had lots of delicious-sounding things I couldn't go past their blackboard with a list of daily specials. That day's celeriac soup with toasted hazelnuts ($9.50) was superb.
It was the first time I'd had celeriac in a soup (let alone with hazelnuts!), but I immediately took a liking to the creamy texture and the hint of celery flavour. The hazelnuts brought this to another level, though; the nutty, almost-sweet morsels kept appearing in each spoonful, providing a subtle variation in flavour and texture.
As I'm typing this E keeps sighing: "oh man, those were the best hash browns I've ever had." So I guess I had better move on to the Polo hash browns with roasted vine tomato, Zany Zeus feta, rocket & balsamic ($17). You can barely see the hash browns beneath the mountain of (delicious) salad, but they were there all right - crispy on the outside, potato-y on the inside, seasoned in a way that reminded us a little bit of Sweet Mother's Kitchen's curly fries.
By this point I should have been stuffed but I couldn't resist appeasing my sweet tooth and need for a pick-me-up with this affogato ($7).
The bitter espresso paired beautifully with the cold, creamy ice cream and crunchy biscotti. I only wish it had lasted longer - I devoured this in no time (perhaps in less-than-elegant fashion).
Cafe Polo's a bit of a Wellington institution, but as I haven't had a car until recently, I had never made it out there before. I'd really like to go back for dinner sometime; their evening menu looks superb. They also have an attractive line-up of cabinet food, baking and the like, and next time I'm definitely trying their truffled frites. They're also hosting a number of Wellington on a Plate** events in August - offering a $25 set lunch as part of Dine 2010, the "Polly Burger" as part of Burger Wellington, and a few special evening events - I definitely can recommend checking out www.wellingtononaplate.com for more info!
Cnr Para St & Rotheram Tce
(04) 380 7273
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*I took about 4 loads of washing down to Hanmer with me and made fast friends with the dryer at my parents' place down there. Nothing like going on holiday to do housework!
**More on this in a later post, but last Tuesday I attended the launch party for Wellington on a Plate 2010, chatted with some fantastic foodies*** (including fellow blogger Laura from Hungry and Frozen and Ray McVinnie (!) just to name a few) and have been drooling over the programme ever since.
***(can I even asterisk to something in these little asterisk-y bits?) Also speaking of fantastic foodies - yesterday I spent the greater part of 3 hours in the company of a whole bunch of Wellington food bloggers (or bloggers who write about food, among other things) at Duke Carvell's in Swan Lane for lunch. I brought my camera along but somehow failed to take any photos - however, Rosa from The Culinary Explorations of Mrs Cake has done a great post about it here. Meeting up with a bunch of (mostly) strangers from the internet was definitely not as scary as it sounds and everyone was really lovely. I hope it happens again!