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Nourish (3 Belgium St., Ostend) is a small, ultra-casual café where we had a restorative lunch with Auckland-area wine writer Sue Courtney on our previous visit to Waiheke, and the memory of the simple excellence of the food and wine is enough to bring us back. Amusingly, both times we’ve landed on New Zealand’s shores, we’ve made this the site of our first meal. There should be some sort of plaque or something.

The café, which has the feel of a village bistro done in subdued Kiwi style, is as good as we remember, though apparently under new management since our previous visit. We eschew an exterior table, as the rain is now coming in 30-second deluges interspersed with bright, warming sun…a weather pattern that will be our near-constant companion later in the trip…and order a few glasses of wine to begin our reintroduction to the culinary and vinous pleasures of this most green of lands. I wolf down a delicious platter of tandoori chicken “wraps” with tzatziki and mango chutney, but Theresa’s rosemary-infused lamb kabobs with red onions, summer squash, and a bed of incredible saffron pilaf luxuriant with cinnamon, raisins, and cloves both steals the show and proves a better match with the hefty reds. In yet another recollection of our previous meal here, we split a bowl of crisp, perfectly salted fries (halfway in thickness between frites and English chips, but possessing the wonderful exterior bite of the former) accompanied by a thin, garlicky aioli, and follow it with two excellent coffees; one straight from the press, the other a ubiquitous adulteration known as the “flat white” (a more intense, less frothy and insubstantial, and incredibly tasty variation on the cappuccino) that has been unquestionably perfected in New Zealand.

The price for all this decadence? $69 NZ. That’s just silly cheap…and that, too, is one of the things that brings us back. (2/05)


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