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Friday, March 14, 2014

PART 2 - Pub-crawling around the world: Groper's Garage, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is an absolutely beautiful peninsula on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Many visit for the wildlife - on the drive in you will see fur seals basking on the rocks, albatross flying through the air and if you go on a boat trip, you'll spot dusky dolphins and hopefully a giant sperm whale (or three, as I was lucky enough to!). It's also a great place for walking and hiking, with the Kaikoura mountains providing a stunning backdrop and aptly demonstrating the phrase "Where the mountains meet the sea." that you will notice written everywhere in this little town.
The beach in Kaikoura    

Groper's Garage was recommended to me by the owner of the FishTank Lodge, where I stayed in Kaikoura. Craig is an awesome guy, full of tips for the surrounding area and with a great sense of humour. I popped into the bar at dusk and was delighted to find a huge open fire and really comfy sofas. I loved the layout of the place and although it's quite large and bright, it felt cosy and homely on this rainy evening.

It's located on the main street, a stone's throw from the beach and surrounded by little craft and beachwear stores. There is outdoor seating with heaters too as Kaikoura can get pretty chilly, exposed as it is to the sea and with the backdrop of those snow-capped peaks.

I ordered a spaghetti carbonara from the very attractive barman (always a bonus in a venue!) and a local Sauvignon Blanc, as the Marlborough wine region is nearby and our bus journey took us through them on the way from Picton to Kaikoura. I'm glad to say that the wine was really nice and encouraged me to have a second glass. The carbonara was absolutely steaming when it arrived - a huge portion in an earthenware bowl. I managed to finish only about half of it but it was pretty tasty. Prices were a little on the high side (ranging from NZ$17 upwards for mains although light bites are cheaper) but that's how it is in Kaikoura, so if you're really low on pennies then buy before you get there and cook.

I didn't speak to any other customers there but I was reading so I was happy enough to stay on my own. I noticed one or two other solo travellers and there were groups playing pool. A few locals who worked nearby (I was eavesdropping) were popping in to arrange plans with the staff and some stayed for a drink.

I could have stayed for the night, hoping someone would break out a guitar and give me an excuse, but I had to be up extra early for whale-watching so I called it a night after two drinks but I'd love to return.

Ambience: 8/10 - obviously it would have been better for me if I was with people
Cost: $$$$$ (On the pricey side but the portions are built for sharing) Fries are NZ$8, my dish was $17, the wine was $9
Food: Really tasty, huge portions (too big for me - more suited to a huge labourer)
Location: Opposite the ocean, v.good, easy to find.
Toilets: All good.
Overall: Drop in, if only to see the handsome barman ;)

Monday, March 10, 2014

PART 1 - Pub-crawling around the world - Ponyfish, Melbourne

Ponyfish in Melbourne is pretty unique in that it's located right in the middle of the river, under a bridge. 10/10 for originality there, not even Dubai has managed that one yet! It's just a walk away from Flinders Street Station and my friend Clare took me there one balmy summer's evening for a few drinks.

We descended the steps into the bar around 5pm on a Wednesday and it was already packed with people sharing platters (which looked very tasty) and drinking beers. Many seemed to be sampling the bar's own beer - Ponyfish. I'm not a beer drinker and after a few days on the dry, I felt like a wine so Clare and I ordered $8 glasses of an Aussie Sauvignon Blanc. This was served in sturdy tumbler glasses, a difference from the norm for me. Unfortunately the wine tasted awful! It really surprises me how much bad wine I tasted in Australia, given how many vineyards are nearby. It's not cheap either.

After one of Clares' friends joined us, we moved onto the Pinot Grigio, which cost the same but wasn't much of an improvement on the palate. There were a variety of people around from dreadlocked, arty types to people loosening their ties after a day at the office. There were some Irish people at the table next to us (we are everywhere!) It's a gorgeous place to while away an evening and possibly if I drank beer I would have rated it first class but as it was, I can't really. Fortunately the company was good so we passed two hours there (and I spent about $32 - killer on a traveller budget!) and I would return again - I'd just probably stick to the spirits this time.

Ambience: 9.5/10
Cost: $$$$$$$ (a bit too high for the traveller pocket but probably fair if you're earning in Melbourne)
Food: I didn't try so I can't comment but the menu looked good and the sharing platters were being devoured around us. Prices start at $10 - $15 for food items.
Location: Good and easy to reach by public transport. I must point out that I didn't see any elevator so I don't think it's wheelchair friendly
Toilets: Good, clean, and not in demand even though there are only two.
Overall: Definitely worth it for the view, try a beer instead of wine.

It's also worth noting that there are no rancid river smells which can happen in various cities (memories of Bangkok).

There own website is pretty good - although prices are not available.