One Day in New Zealand, I Ate Here…
Eating and Learning about Green-Lipped Mussels at The Mussel Pot in New Zealand
When I first heard of green-lipped mussels from New Zealand, I didn’t think they’d really be green. Maybe ever so slightly dark greenish black on a corner.
But, turned out, they were very green. And HUGE.
I got the experience of trying the famous green-lipped mussels from the South Island’s west coast while in Havelock at the appropriately named The Mussel Pot.
I immediately judged the place. I mean how touristy could you get? And it wasn’t just because of the name. There were green mussels – with smiley faces – dancing on the roof.
But…you can’t judge a book by its cover and all that jazz so in I went.
Inside the Mussel Pot
As soon as Tom and I walked into The Mussel Pot, I lost all sense of the kitschy, tourist trap vibe and decided that their exterior was just good marketing (hey, as a marketer…I can appreciate. It did after all catch hungry Tom’s and my attention to stop.) The inside had honey stained tables and soothing blue walls. A pretty courtyard was in the backyard full of flowers, which on this rainy day in New Zealand were being framed in droplets. We opted for an indoor table.
We sat down, realizing we got there shortly before they closed between lunch and dinner and got more and more excited that we made the cut off time as we looked at the window.
There were mussels, mussels, and more mussels. Steamed mussels, baked mussels, smoked mussels, mussel chowder. You could get it all.
“It doesn’t say they’re green-lipped mussels,” I said fervently to Tom across the table. “I have to try green-lip mussels!” Despite this being only the third day of a two week trip, I was already scared of running out of time to try all the things on my New Zealand must-do list.
“I’m sure they’re green-lip mussels,” Tom assured me. He had studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester in college so I decided he must know what he was talking about and decided not to ask our server if they were indeed green-lipped mussels and risk looking like an idiot.
Especially since, as I looked around the room, I began to realize there was no doubt I was getting green colored mussels.
Learning About Green-Lipped Mussels
The whole wall on one side of our table was covered in info about green-lipped mussels. I began to feel like the kid in Jerry Maguire. “Did you know the human head weighs 8 pounds?”
“Did you know the Latin name for green-lipped mussels is Perna Canalicula?” I asked Tom.
“No, I didn’t know that,” Tom replied absentmindedly, still drooling over the menu options.
I glanced at the wall again, feeling like a kid in the candy store. Not only was I going to eat green-lipped mussels, I was going to learn about them, too! Or, well, any type of mussels for that matter. Before this wall appeared in my life, my knowledge on mussels had been pretty nil. Basically, I knew I liked them. That was all.
That was enough.
But now, here in this cute little restaurant, I was learning mussels were interesting. I was learning how they’re harvested and how they mate. Thank God I was quite certain they didn’t have a brain or feelings or I probably would have had to forego eating them, what with all this new info about female and male mussel mating (more on that in a minute) and the green, smiley mussel faces dancing around the restaurant.
“And did you know that female mussels are orange and male mussels are white?” I added excitedly to Tom.
He finally looked up from his menu and looked at me, amused. “Where are you learning all this?”
“There!” I said like a five-year-old, pointing at the wall.
He nodded and smiled. “Can we order first before you become a walking mussel encyclopedia?”
I grinned and abided.
After ordering 24 mussels and a side of fries, I got up from the table and walked over to read the wall of green-tipped mussel wonder closer. Tom was content to live vicariously through me when it came to learning about mussels and stayed at the table with his green tea (served in a cute little teapot).
I learned that green lipped mussels are also some of the largest mussels out there. This fact came true when the mussels we ordered arrived. They were huge! I was actually a bit scared of eating them. They looked like mussels on steroids. It’s like when you order a really crazy sounding sushi roll that comes and it’s so big you wonder how you’re going to fit it into your mouth without gagging.
I figured I’d manage.
Eating Green-Lipped Mussels at The Mussel Pot
I first dove into the steamed mussels, a huge pot of them. I immediately saw where the restaurant got its name.
Tom and I ordered them steamed in a garlic white wine and herb sauce, and they were delicious. The garlic gave the mussels a tangy taste. I decided I liked the males better than the females. Tom claimed he couldn’t tell a difference. (There was totally a difference.)
Next, it was onto grilled mussels, which I’d never had before. They arrived in a wide, shallow bowl. One type was cooked with garlic and herb butter and the other was an adventurous one – cheese and bacon mussels. The butter-herb was average. The cheese and bacon mussels were incredible. I was seriously obsessed.
We realized two dozen mussels of the large green-tipped mussels were extremely filling. Our order of fries went largely untouched until we forced a few down in order to look like we didn’t dislike them. (We did like them, but the mussels were so good we preferred to fill up on those.)
If near Marlborough County, take a jaunt to the town of Havelock for some amazing mussels at the Mussel Pot – and if you do, leave a comment and let me know if you can tell the difference between the male and female mussels!