Sunday, January 9, 2011

Matui/Somes Island and Chocolate Dayz Cafe, Days Bay

Mr Cake and I arrived back in Wellington on Wednesday and have been trying to eke out the last few days of our holiday before we go back to work tomorrow. Today we figured we'd have a bit of a holiday at home by heading out to Matui/Somes Island and across to Days Bay on the ferry.

It was a pretty good day, though with a cool wind breezing through it sometimes didn't feel too much like summer! Still, the harbour wasn't too rough (I'm not a huge fan of boats, mostly, my stomach doesn't tend to cope overly well with any choppiness so just as well) and there was sun poking through the clouds.

Matui/Somes Island is pretty interesting; it's a predator-free wildlife sanctuary with lots of opportunities for bird-watching and weta-spotting if you have a sharp eye. Actually, you don't need a sharp eye at all for the birds - kakariki and robins were everywhere, and we got dive-bombed by some rather protective nesting gulls when we tried to check out the old anti-aircruft gun emplacements. Maybe we'll save that end of the island for sometime when they're not broody.

The island was also used as an animal quarantine for many years, and had a pretty high-tech (for its day) system where staff had to shower and completely change clothes when entering and leaving the facility, among other special isolating techniques. It closed in the mid-90s, since livestock are generally now imported in embryonic form - much easier to handle in a quarantine situation - but as Mr Cake demonstrated the stalls are still in perfectly good nick:

Unfortunately he's a bit more dextrous than the creatures the pen was intended for and was able to release himself, so we hopped back on the ferry to get ourselves some lunch on the other side of the harbour.

I was pretty cold by the time we got there - the wind over that side seems a lot colder than in Wellington city (or so it seemed today - I think it is more exposed so probably true). Clearly they breed them tough over there, though, as the whole time we were in Days Bay there were people swimming and paddling in the sea - while I shivered in my jersey.

First priority on getting into the alluringly named Chocolate Dayz Cafe, then, was hot drinks to warm us up again. Mr Cake had a chai, which was nice, and my hot chocolate definitely hit the spot - rich and warm and lots of froth on top.

Though the cafe was very busy our food didn't take long to come, and though the pictures don't really do it justice it looked pretty good. Very hearty cafe fare - a smoked chicken and kumara salad for Mr Cake and salmon pasta for me.

Mr Cake's salad was generous with the smoked chicken but not so much on the kumara - but had a nice mix of greens, shredded cabbage, slivers of carrot, and lots of delicious sun-dried tomatoes scattered through it. He was a bit disappointed not to have more kumara but the salad itself was nice - and definitely a good light lunch option.

My pasta was good, again helping warm me from the inside (nothing like a big plate of carbs to ward off the wind demons!) and had lots of big chunks of salmon scattered through it. The sauce was a creamy lemon concoction, with dill and capers, and it was delicious and just what I needed. My one gripe is that it was huge, at least three times what I would normally serve myself. This often seems to be the way with pasta dishes, and I usually avoid them for this reason (I was taught to finish what's served and it's hard to retrain that instinct!). I left at least half of it, which I don't like because it seems wasteful, and I don't want to insult the chef, but my belly was already groaning! On top of all the pasta I was served a couple of pieces of ciabatta, which I had a little of (Mr Cake helped with that!), and was a great way of enjoying the creamy sauce.

I was pretty impressed with Chocolate Dayz - I'm not entirely sure where the name came from but be warned that chocolate is not a feature (which I did thankfully know ahead of time, else I may have been sorely disappointed), though they did have some lovely-looking items in the dessert cabinet. My only advice would be if you're after the pasta (unless you've just run a marathon) you might want to find someone to share with.

Do you find it hard to leave food on your plate if served too much, or have you learnt to stop when your belly is full?

Chocolate Dayz Cafe is located at 614b Marine Drive, Days Bay, Wellington, ph 04 562 6132,

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