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Sweet trail of delights in Hawke’s Bay

Whether you are on holiday with kids or just have a sweet tooth, there are options aplenty in Hawke’s Bay to satisfy those sugar cravings. Julie Haines shares her favourite spots . . .

I'm a firm believer in dessert tummies. And Hawke's Bay has some fine excuses to stretch them.

Lick This

Pineapple lump, chocolate fish, jaffa, nutella, coconut bounty, tiramisu, peanut butter chocolate chip, More oh (moro bar), gingernut . . . the ice cream menu at Napier's Lick This reads like the confectionary section of a supermarket. The uniquely Kiwi ice cream, gelato and sorbet recipes are invented and hand made on site using local ingredients.

Once you get over the mind-boggling array of flavours (there are generally 43 on offer), you can enjoy your ice cream during a leisurely stroll along the Marine Parade coastal path, or if you have children hit the playground or Bay Skate next door.

But Lick This is more than just an ice cream parlour. Owner Steve Manning collects ice cream scoops and antique ice cream signs from around the world, turning his ice cream parlour into something of an ice cream museum.

Antique scoops from the late 1800s onwards are displayed in cabinets by the booths, along with a fun collection of novelty scoops.

Silky Oak Chocolates

Chocolate fanatics beware — make sure you visit Silky Oak Chocolates on an empty stomach.

The complex on the outskirts of Napier comprises a café, shop and museum.

If you are serious about chocolate order the decadently rich “Chocolate Extreme” at the café — a ganache drink topped with whipped cream and optional chilli flakes.

Then roll yourself over to the museum to learn the fascinating 3000-year history behind chocolate and check out the collection of antique chocolate cups and tins. There's even a 2500-year-old Mayan chocolate pot.

The Mayans were the first people to cultivate the cacao plant and develop its beans into a drink called “xocolatl”, after throwing cacao pods on a fire and smelling the aroma.

They began using cacao beans as currency, as did many other societies in the centuries after them.

Fun fact: In 1540 Nicaraguan ladies of the night charged 10 cacao beans for their services.

But I must say English gentlemen back in 1685 had the right idea. They drank hot chocolate for breakfast because it was recommended as part of a healthy diet. That is my kind of diet!

However even a chocolate addict such as myself would have sworn off chocolate in Victorian times. Various poisons such as iron fillings, vermillion and brick dust were added to chocolate, surprisingly to make it more palatable. Fortunately, chocolate recipes have evolved since then.

Birdwoods

I tend to suffer from an extreme case of my eyes being bigger than my belly when I visit Birdwoods Sweet Shop in the countryside bordering Havelock North.

The quaint old fashioned lolly shop, run entirely by grandmothers in a replica colonial building, is a lolly addict's dream.

Lining the shelves are large jars of licorice, fairy mushrooms, spearmint leaves, marshmallows, tangy apples, rhubarb and custard lollies, nougat, candy necklaces, aniseed wheels, chocolate fish, conversation lollies, jelly beans, chocolate eggs, milk bottles, milk shakes, tangy sticks, jet planes, fizzies, wine gums, bubble gum, sour cola bottles, jelly skulls, neon worms, jersey cream caramels, feijoa drops, blackballs, humbugs, butterscotch, artisan chocolates . . . the list goes on.

But Birdwoods is more than a sweet shop. There's also a café, ice cream shop, gallery, and sculpture garden.

Birdwoods founders Bruce and Louise Stobart emigrated to New Zealand from Zimbabwe, and return to Africa each year to select textiles, artwork, craft, and stone and metal sculptures to sell from their gallery.

The interior items are displayed in a relocated church hall dating back to 1894, while the outdoor sculptures adorn the expansive lawn and pond area, which cleverly provides a nice space for kids to run around while their parents chill out at the café.

The Figgery Café at Te Mata Figs

If you like your sweet stuff on the healthier side go to the Figgery Café in Havelock North, where everything is gluten free and includes their signature figs.

Their sweet treats are made with local seasonal ingredients and include mouth-watering delights including fig and honey frangipane tart, upside down fig and almond cake, and fig, lemon and poppy seed loaf. Some of their delicacies, such as the Figgy Rocky Road, raw carrot cake, and the fig, hemp and tahini slice, are also dairy free.

The Figgery also sells a number of artisan fig based products, including jam, balsamic, relish, compote, mustard, and an award winning fig vincotto.

My favourites, hands down, are the “Salame di Fichi” made with walnuts or almonds. These fig and nut rolls can be served as a biscotti or on a cheeseboard — or if you are like me, simply devoured straight because they are so delicious. It's definitely worth buying some to take home as an edible souvenir of Hawke's Bay, or stocking up for gifts.

Peak House

Perched midway up iconic Te Mata Peak in Havelock North, Peak House is the place to go for spectacular views over Hawke's Bay while you dine. It's also my favourite go-to for smoothies. Try the “Banana Nutty” (banana, dates, almonds, cinnamon and almond milk) or the “Raspberry Rescue” (raspberries, avocado, spinach, banana and coconut milk).

Then walk or cycle off your weekend of sweet treats on one of the hiking or mountain biking trails on the peak.

Sections of the 99-hectare park are being replanted in native forest, but it is also home to giant 100-year-old California redwoods, pastoral land, and limestone rocks embedded with marine fossils that are around 3 million years old.

Alternatively, drive the short distance from Peak House to the summit of the 399m peak to enjoy 360-degree views.

For chocolate and cake connoisseurs, tummies and eyes now sated, it's the ideal spot to finish off a gastronomic trip to Hawke's Bay.

For further information see:

• Lick This, 290 Marine Parade, Napier, www.lickthis.co.nz

• Silky Oak Chocolates, 1131 Links Road, Napier, www.silkyoakchocs.co.nz

• Birdwoods, 298 Middle Road, Havelock North, www.birdwoods.co.nz

• The Figgery Café & Shop, 205 Napier Road, Havelock North, www.tematafigs.co.nz

• Peak House, 357 Te Mata Peak Road, Havelock North, www.thepeakhouse.co.nz

© Copyright Julie Haines 2021

Why stop at one: Picking from over 40 flavours of ice cream is a good problem to have when visiting Lick This ice cream parlour in Hawke's Bay.
Hawke's Bay sweet tooth: Venetia Winkfield is one of the grannies who helps run the sweet shop at Birdwoods.
The sculpture garden at Birdwoods.
The sculpture garden at Birdwoods.
The sculpture garden at Birdwoods.
Turning ice cream into an art form at Lick This.
Lashings of cream: Chocolate Extreme drink at Silky Oak Chocolates.
The chocolate museum at Silky Oak Chocolates tells the story of chocolate over the past 3000 years
Chocolate history: The chocolate museum at Silky Oak Chocolates tells the story of chocolate over the past 3000 years.
Sweet vista: Outstanding views over the Heretaunga Plains from Peak House.
Tasty figs: Fig ice cream and Fig Louise slice whet the appetite at the Figgery Cafe & Shop.
The enticing old fashioned sweet shop at Birdwoods.