Hello once again and greetings from the other side of the world. My theatrical based travels now find me in Auckland having completed three weeks in Wellington with the musical Annie.
The journey, I have to say, is long! I left the UK on a Monday evening, flew to Dubai on a Airbus380 (yes the double decker, no I wasn’t up stairs!) This journey alone is a good six hours, I’ve been to Dubai as a transit passenger a few times over the years but never managed to stay longer than three hours. The next leg is the biggie, thirteen hours to Melbourne, again on a 380 (yes & no again). Melbourne airport was like may others at 6am… mainly closed! The last hop was a mere four hours to Wellington. It is now Wednesday afternoon!
With a population of only 397,000 Wellington has a lovely small town vibe. Lots of bijou privately owned shops, bars and restaurants. Situated at the southern end of the North Island wellington has been described by lonely planet magazine as “coolest little capital in the world”. Wellington is at the south-western tip of the North Island on Cook Strait, separating the North and South Islands. On a clear day the snowcapped Kaikoura Ranges are visible to the south across the strait. To the north stretch the golden beaches of the Kapiti Coast. On the east the Rimutaka Range divides Wellington from the broad plains of the Wairarapa, a wine region of national notability. With a latitude of 41° 17′ South, Wellington is the southernmost capital city in the world.
It is also the most remote capital city, the farthest away from any other capital. It is more densely populated than most other cities in New Zealand due to the restricted amount of land that is available between its harbour and the surrounding hills. It has very few open areas in which to expand, and this has brought about the development of the suburban towns. Because of its location in the Roaring Forties and its exposure to the winds blowing through Cook Strait, Wellington is known as “Windy Wellington”.
The business of show is doing it’s thing, lots of families in to see the success story of an overly optimistic ginger weather forecaster. It is surprising to see so many very young children in the audience but this was quite the norm here. The St James theatre holds about 1,500 and our houses were well attended. We had two teams of orphans and three Annies, the standard of the acting from the kids was amazing. We also had Rambles the dog! This highly trained animal was the star of the show but as with Mugwai there were rules. This fluffiest of labradoodles was more closely chaperoned than the children, no eye contact, no fussing and strictly no treats!
There are a multitude of exceptional restaurants and bars in this town that i’d like to finish with today
- Crumpet – Bar – This is a gem with few peers. This exceptional bar is privately run adjacent to the opera house. It’s not very big, and twenty people would fill it. They are open from breakfast and rarely shut much before 3am. Each drink is researched, cared for and loved (even the beers!). All of the staff are knowledgable and have the highest work ethic I’ve encountered in a long time. One got over the fact that it took ten minutes to receive a drink when you have watched someone make a milk punch, from a recipe dating back to the 1700s, over three days. They also made their own crumpets, served all day long with a choice of savoury or sweet toppings. Exceptional.
- Scotty and Mals – Bar – This was a fun bar and seemingly the hub of the gay community in Wellington. Run by husband and husband couple of the bars name, here we encountered Feijoa! This fruit is only found in New Zealand and South Africa. Its hard to describe but think kiwi, lemon, melon and passion fruit all in one! These guys were most generous with their hospitality, discount and the company enjoyed many a night with these two convivial hosts.
- Tommy Millions – pizza – This was a stand outside of the theatre, more of a pop-up to be exact. They only had a menu of about six toppings and a daily special. These large pies were cooked fresh all day long and a slice ($5/6) would be reheated in the hot top oven. This added an amazing crunch to the pizza and it certainly sustained my sound team during the production week. The little secret that really made it though was the Philly cheese steak sub… and the meatball sub… Oh my!!
- Crab Shack – restaurant – I love seafood, we were by the coast… the defence rests! Many of us may have had frozen green lipped mussels from NZ. These are great at home but pale into the stuff of junk food by comparisons to the fresh ones! the clams are amazing as was the tempura soft shelled crab & clam chowder. For me though the king was the crab. A 1kg pot of crab was only £15, served with a garlic butter sauce, meat pick, crab claws and bib it was an amazing feed.
- Katsu and Udon – restaurant – Adjacent to the theatre this little sushi place was a gem. There is sushi at almost every corner in Wellington but this place had the right mixture of wagamama style noodle dishes and some great sushi.
- Mount Fujiyama – restaurant – For £13 per head this was the best value as the cabaret of tenpanyaki was thrown in too. Leo, our chef for the night, not only cooked our food but kept us entertained to boot. There was egg catching (all done into bowls), rice throwing (easy – in another bowl, medium – with a flip and hard – no bowl!) and then omelette catching! We all sat around the chef in a square whose deft hand with his spatula ensured that no spillage occurred! The lovely multi course meal all finished off with a big flame on the hotplate to add to the rosy tint already established via the medium of sake. Fun!
The power of keeping Karma!
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