The Gables, Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

A trip to Russell on the ferry from Pahia on a hot sunny day is something which makes me very happy that I was born in New Zealand. And when there’s a delicious bowl of seafood chowder at the end, it’s hard to beat.

We got off the ferry at Russell around midday on 29 December 2014 with the temperature in the mid-20s and the red flowers of the pohutukawa running right around the Russell sea front. There were swarms of people in shorts, teeshirts and jandals/sandels strolling around the town. After a bit of a wander we decided to get some lunch and checked out the menu at a place called The Gables (19 The Strand, Russell). Apparently it was built in 1847 – many more details on the website. I didn’t think we’d have a chance, but we scored a table for four outside the restaurant right on the seashore and under a big old pohutukawa.

The service was laid back but attentive and friendly. All four of us really enjoyed the setting, the food, and the welcome beers/wine/fruit juice. It was a magical experience. And the seafood chowder didn’t disappoint.

The menu said The Gables Chowder was “a creamy soup of prawns, mussels, scallops and local fish served with homebaked ciabatta”. The price was quite steep at $21, but it was really good. And it included more than the menu said, with several juicy clams in the shell included, along with a couple of other things.

The Gables

The picture isn’t all that good unfortunately. We were sitting outside on a gloriously sunny day in the partial shade. The Gables’ chowder was a bit on the thin side (I’ve used this term a couple of times, but in my quest for the Best Chowder of All I’m looking for a chowder which has the perfect balance; not too thick and not too thin – and The Gables was on the thin side of perfection). The chowder had a lovely seafood taste and I really enjoyed it. As well as the promised prawns, mussels, scallops (at least four) and local fish, it include the clams (nice and sweet) and a couple of oysters plus some squid, diced onion and carrot. A really good seafood chowder and I gave it 8 out of 10.

There was one piece of ciabatta, untoasted, and this was very good as well. Great chowder, great location, great meal overall, great service. If you’re in Russell on a sunny day, head for The Gables.

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