Check out some of the best cafés, bars and restaurants in Wellington, New Zealand’s foodie capital. Here you’ll find local beers and interesting wines, lively bars and buzzy cafés. Check out our local food and drink guide to Wellington…
Just off Civic Square, in the City Gallery, you’ll find Nikau Café. A stalwart of the city, it serves an inspired, NZ-produce-driven menu, with some of the best breakfasts in town. Beautiful coffee, an array of sweet treats, and sage fried eggs are standouts, but it’s most famous for its kedgeree.
The Wellington waterfront is worth a wander in any season and, rain or shine, its Harbourside Market is a great place to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, and to browse an array of food vendors and trucks. Don’t miss the barbecued halloumi on a stick from Brazilian Skewer.
Fairly new to the Wellington restaurant scene, Shepherd comes with a high-calibre team. Serving an ever-changing and inspired menu, expect surprises such as baby kimchi croissants or miso crème brûlée. With local beers and interesting wines, it’s equally good to stop by for a drink and a snack as it is for a full meal.
Golding’s Free Dive
Hannah’s Laneway is home to various artisan food factories (think peanut butter, bean-to-bar chocolate and soda). There’s also a dive bar called Golding’s Free Dive. Like something out of a movie set, the eclectic fit-out has a rotating selection of the best beers from NZ and abroad. Order a legendary pizza from across the laneway (pizzapomodoro.co.nz) and eat it at Golding’s with the local brew of your choice.
Low-slung lights and a healthy dose of velvet adorn Hawthorn Lounge, the place in Wellington for a cosy, late-night cocktail. Sometimes weird but always wonderful, seasonal drinks here include the likes of a cauliflower sour crafted from house-made saffron and mole bitters. Tucked away upstairs, it also serves a small range of snacks, including a ham and cheese toastie with hot sauce and, if you’ve got room, a bread and butter pudding served with warmed caramel.
One of three local cafés run by the cool kids at coffee company Coffee Supreme (which began in Wellington but now spans Australia and New Zealand), Customs specialises in toast, with rotating toppings and doughnuts of the day, as well as single-origin cups and perfect espresso. Try the deconstructed lemon meringue pie doughnut with a filter coffee served in a beautiful mug.
Wellington’s speciality food store Moore Wilson’s sells everything from restaurant-quality ingredients to kitchenware. Browse an array of seasonal produce, buy local food and drink products (there’s a dedicated cheese room) – or a souvenir gadget for your kitchen – then grab a buttermilk-fried chook burger or a chicken and peanut salad from the on-site Chook Wagon.
Ortega Fish Shack
A dining room that errs on the side of quirky, Ortega Fish Shack is the epitome of modern New Zealand dining. The regularly changing menu focusses on the best NZ seafood (with influences from around the world) and service is that perfect mixture of professional and friendly. If it’s on, try the ceviche.
Wellington has long been known for its abundance of excellent and cheap Malaysian food, but when unassuming Little Penang opened a few years ago it proved to be a game changer. The cooking is dedicated to authenticity here – you’ll find the best assam laksa this side of Penang.
The 2am food craving after a few of Wellington’s finest brews (they’re famous for them) is best dealt with at Tommy Millions. Pizza by the slice (go for a classic margherita or the spinach and mushroom), sub sandwiches and coffee are all on offer, and it’s ideal for lunch or a snack when you’re not under the influence.
Gin-loving food writer Delaney Mes is editor of the New Zealand Restaurant Cookbook, published this month by Penguin.
Delaney spent eight years living in Wellington and visits regularly.
HOW TO DO IT
Return fares from the UK to Wellington start from £686 (quantas.com). Doubles at Ohtel start from £130 per night, b&b.
More info; wellingtonnz.com
Words | Delaney Mes
Photographs | Getty