Teresa Pert has known she was going to be a chef since she was a child growing up in Mahia, at the very tip of Hawke’s Bay. Now head chef at Ortega Fish Shack (one of the capital’s most acclaimed restaurants), she’s cooked around the country, including at Roxburgh Bistro and The Matterhorn in Wellington, and Pegasus Bay Winery in Waipara, Canterbury. Pert is based in Trentham near Upper Hutt and, what with visiting her partner in Ōtaki and long hours behind the pass, dining out is a rare occurrence. But when she has a moment to spare, these are her top picks.
What’s your go-to for a quick takeaway?
My favourite is just around the corner here in Trentham: The Oyster Palace. I only ever have one thing though – their chicken wings are so bloody delicious. They’re marinated in wine and garlic and the rest – I dunno, secret recipe I guess! They’re then crumbed and fried in the wok. And chips. That’s my lazy and reliable comfort meal.
How about for lunch on the go?
Sunday brunch, if we’re here in Trentham, we head to Fig Tree Cafe. They do the meanest breakfast called The Big Fig with eggs of your choice, a thick slab of homemade hash brown, mushies, spinach, bacon and good sausage – all on their yummy toasted sourdough. Coffee is always spot-on there, and they do the best date and caramel scones, which I bring for the boys at work on occasion. If I’m on the run and driving past on a Monday around lunchtime, I’ll pop in and grab one of their tasty salads, or a beef pie to heat up at home. I tend to not be around the city on days off, so it’s really great to have such a lovely place nearby. It’s always busy, and I would say easily one of the best in Upper Hutt.
In Petone, another little spot that we frequent is Kilim – a Turkish restaurant. We stop in when we’re perusing second-hand shops and need a delicious bite. The falafel kebab is always superb – fresh and tasty, and it doesn't fall apart as you eat it.
Where’s your favourite for great baking or pastries?
This would have to be my friends at Baker Gramercy in Berhampore – although I’ve still managed to never set foot in their shop, as I’m always working when they’re open and my days tend to start too early for a quick scoot all the way across town for a visit. Somehow, they’ve always managed to make it to me, though! Their croissants are amazing and the bread is, I reckon, the best in town. The seedy loaf with caraway is one of my favourites.
And where do you think does the best coffee in town?
If I’m in the city meeting a friend, we’ll head to Swimsuit on Dixon Street for coffee. That’s not a frequent visit and I don’t tend to have the time to frequent all the coffee hot spots in town – but it seems to be always my go-to. Their coffee is beaut! And of course, super friendly service.
If it’s a special occasion, where are you headed?
It’s an extremely rare occasion that I get out for an evening meal. I haven’t got a recent recommendation here, but there is one place on my wish list: Margot, in Newtown. It’s owned by our friends Tom and Juno, but this is not the only reason why I’d like to eat there. I’ve heard such fabulous things about it from many different people – that it’s just delicious, with a lovely vibe. We have the same opening days, so this is part of the challenge. Maybe the next birthday treat.
What’s your personal favourite dish on the menu at Ortega?
That’s hard. Everyone loves the ceviche; it’s so delicious and fresh. It’s also totally not my dish – this is a longstanding member of the Ortega repertoire. For me, the teeny-weeny creamy fish sammies hold a special place in my heart, so there’s a fair amount of nostalgia attached there. My mum used to make us larger, more rustic versions with leftover fish (we grew up at Mahia Beach) for lunch. One day, I decided to make them at work and they’ve stuck ever since. I lost my mum a couple of years ago, so they’re extremely special and make me feel really proud.