Well it’s finally upon us, the most magical time of the year in New Zealand – Wellington on a Plate.
Three weeks of food filled pandemonium has begun taking over the world’s coolest little capital, transforming it from a hipster cool hub to an even more hipster food-filled hub, complete with a burger competition.
Remind me a again why I moved from Wellington to Wanaka? Because it wasn’t for the food.
Way back in the day (I’m talking 2013) when I first moved to New Zealand, I accidentally landed in Wellington and stayed for almost a year. It was never my plan to live in a city, but Wellington is one of those cities that doesn’t get on your nerve, well, except for the wind. It ain’t called Windy Welly for no reason after all.
Chill vibes, a cool creative scene, young folk, beautiful nature, small in size, kickass coffee, oh and did I mention the food? You can probably start to see why I stuck around.
Nowadays I regularly travel up to Wellington to see friends and for work, but no matter why I’m there, I always make time for good coffee, fab food, and great drinks.
Now everyone knows the classics like Fidel’s, Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, and of course, Memphis Belle, but I thought I’d go ahead and share some other fave foodie spots of mine in Wellington, some well known, some less known, all delicious and unique.
Here are my picks for my favorite spots of where to eat in Wellington. From my choice bars to restaurants and cafes, it was hard to narrow it down, but I’ve done my best. Enjoy.
1. Egmont Street Eatery
My favorite place to eat in Wellington is a recent discovery. A cool intimate space that was once a car park not so long ago, Egmont St Eatery is like something out of a food filled fantasy. Unique, beautiful dishes, amazing coffee, friendly people abound in a place that makes you want to sit down and stay a while.
In a country where so many cafes and restaurants offer variations of the same tired menu, occasionally throwing in an avocado toast dish to keep things modern (eye roll), Egmont St is paving the way in New Zealand for fresh exciting feeds.
While their brunch is all kinds of amazing (and the pastries – oh the pastries guys!) the dinner is equally fab.
And if you’re around for Wellington on a Plate this year, you gotta get their burger entry, which was my favorite by far. The Filet-O-Cray is a crumbed crayfish and squid, crayfish tartare, housemade cheese, steamed bun, served with pāua salt dusted shoestring fries HOLY CRAP YUM!
2. The Garage Project
Can’t talk about Wellington on a Plate and not mention The Garage Project in the Aro Valley. A grungy old petrol station turned brewery, the Garage Project is turning out experimental delicious beers faster than you pick a favorite.
Putting on the annual Burger on a Plate competition in conjunction with Wellington on a plate, and matching three surprise festival brews with them, Garage Project is all about innovation and creativity in the Wellington beer scene. Screw that, they ARE the Wellington beer scene.
You name it, they’ve brewed with it; pop into their Cellar Door at the old petrol station to try out some of their top beers, all with amazing labels with incredible designs, before moving up the road to the Taproom at 91 Aro for a more cozy vibe.
3. The Harbourside Market
I love a good city market Wellington doesn’t disappoint.
The Harbourside Market every Sunday morning next to Te Papa is a winner in every category. With fantastic and affordable local produce, live music, tons of people and a great vibe, it’s the place to be any weekend in Wellington.
The oldest and most popular market in Wellington, come hungry and be prepared to binge. All along the water there are stalls after stalls and food truck after food truck of every coffee, pastry, meal and dish you could imagine.
4. Hippopotamus Restaurant
FINALLY we have a QT hotel in New Zealand!
My favorite hotel chain in the whole wide world (and only in Australia before), these quirky and fabulous luxury hotels are right up my alley, and now they have one in New Zealand – the QT Museum Wellington.
That’s right, a museum hotel; with an incredible art collection and an emphasis on design, I pretty much love the QT because they are redefining the hotel experience, one place at a time.
But more on that soon, in the meantime, the French inspired QT restaurant and cocktail bar Hippopotamus (YES!) is bringing back high tea with a twist. From Wednesdays to Sundays book in in the afternoon and get your tea on – or if you’re me, your cocktail on; dress up and go out and enjoy one of the best dining spots in town and definitely with the best view overlooking the harbor and Te Papa.
And if you’re around during Wellington on a Plate, the QT is putting on a special chocoholics high tea (so much yes!) along with their festival dishes of kiwi French fusion, like deconstructed marmite French onion soup.
5. Flight Coffee Hangar
It is super super hard to pick the best coffee in Wellington. I mean, there are so many factors to consider. Location, bean, presentation, space and of course, taste and caffeinate-ability; how does one chose? And to even dare to blog about the best coffee in Wellington is putting yourself right in the line of fire.
Come at me.
Because, after all, I am one of the world’s biggest coffee drinkers. No, no. Don’t argue.
And for me, and I know for many Wellingtonians, Flight Coffee Hangar is consistently ranked the king of coffee in town.
6. Hawthorn Lounge
If your kind of bar is an intimate, cozy speakeasy with low lights, finely dressed people and very nice cocktails with ingredients you can’t pronounce served by dapper, eloquent staff, then head straight to the Hawthorn Lounge. That is, if you know where to go. Wink wink.
A 1920’s gentlemen bar, Hawthorn appeals to the gentlemen in all of us, me included. When I lived in Wellington I would often start my nights here, and accidentally stay until bedtime. It’s inviting, comfortable, and a good place for conversation.
And if you find yourself in Wellington this week, be sure to pop in for their fabulous cocktail, the Welly Sound; a divine tribute to Wellington music, it’s practically desert in and of itself. I’m copying and pasting the description of it here because there is no way I can paraphrase (read on and you’ll understand why):
“A foundation of Reid+Reid gin warmed like a phoenix with roots and seeds, harmonised with orange and poppy, poured over a chocolate butter box patrolled by fur. Accompanied by quince conserve and crème brûlée.”
Look no further than the trendy popular Shepherd for a great night out sharing plates with friends. Hidden away near all the wonderful spots around Leeds Street downtown, Shepherd opened with a punch only last year and has been booming since.
Modern fusion with a flair, with an emphasis on sustainability, comfort, and the best quality possible, the menu is local and fresh and always changing. And the dishes are really creative and innovative.
Trendy and hipster without the annoying trendy hipsters, it’s quickly become a local staple in town.
8. SHAKE — The Enormous Crocodile Company
Green Crocodile Bikes have been a classic on the Wellington harbor front on sunny days forever. Combined with an ice-cream on those rare bluebird days, what more could you ask for?
But now they’ve taken it to the next level and brought freakshakes to New Zealand! Finally!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with freakshakes, they are an innovative, evocative freakish mashup of desert and milkshake, usually served in some kind of mason jar with a handle.
SHAKE is the new milk bar in town, and they sell classic crazy milkshakes that regularly change. And they have healthy versions too (but why?!)
9. Sixes and Sevens
And the award for my favorite decadent donut in Wellington goes to, dun dun dun, Sixes and Sevens.
Smack in the center of the city, Sixes and Sevens couldn’t be more conveniently located for helping me get my connect with my inner American and get my donut fix.
And they got me with their candied bacon maple donuts. Swoon!
Their donuts change daily, and you got to get in early for the best pickings. But trust me, all of them are glorious and none disappoint. Except after when you’ve accidentally eaten four in a row. Cringe. Do not recommend.
One day I’ll learn self-control, but that was not the day.
10. Wellington Chocolate Factory
Did you know Wellington has a its very own chocolate factory? Forget Cadbury and head over to trendy Leeds Street to check out the Wellington Chocolate Factory.
Incredible artisanal chocolate, locally made, ethically sourced, traded and organic to boot (I’m surprised it’s not vegan – can chocolate be vegan? Nevermind), the Wellington Chocolate Factory has set the bar high for fabulous local chocolate, with each bar designed by a local New Zealand artist.
Obviously the llama one was my favorite.
Join in on a tour and get the full scoop from start to finish on how they make their chocolate, and watch it happen too, and be sure to try their hot chocolate while you’re inside, especially in winter, and especially the caramel one.
Here it’s an all hands on deck operation, and it’s the kind of place where everyone is nuts about chocolate and loves their job. Winner.
11. Golding’s Free Dive
A fab addition to the trendy Leed’s Street area of downtown Wellington, Golding’s Free Dive bar is a the perfect place to go straight after work on a Friday and stay til late. Playing homage to the great neighborhood dive bars of North America (whut up), Goldings has great beer, great company and a great space period.
And it certainly is a step up from my days dancing til dawn at the now-closed nearby Boogie Wonderland (and accidentally making out with nineteen year old uni students – shivers!), Goldings is a step up for all of us, really.
What a time to be alive.
For the past four years, Olive’s has been my favorite cafe in Wellington.
I know, I know, a bold statement. Originally I used to go here for their wifi. It was a great space to hang out and work in for a few hours, and there’s just something about it that gets all my creative energy going strong. I still go by and write here almost every time I’m in Wellington.
It’s a stunning space, and really centrally located right on Cuba Street, with a great outdoor courtyard brimming with plants and trees. The menu is classic and the coffee good. It’s the perfect place to just chill and people will leave you alone.
Don’t go here, it’s mine.
13. Six Barrel Soda Co.
Of course handmade small batch artisanal sodas are a thing, and you can find them in Wellington at the Six Barrel Soda Co.
You can find their sodas and syrups all over New Zealand and Australia, but you can visit their showroom and soda bar right in downtown Wellington. A nice change from bars and coffee, I’m all about the soda shops, especially when they have a selection like here.
Their soda menu is to die for. I dare you not to leave with three bottles.
If you want to check out somewhere different, come here.
14. Leeds Street Bakery
I literally stumbled on Leeds Street Bakery a few years ago by complete accident and I have been a loyal fan of their coffee and salted caramel cookies ever since.
Tucked away in an old shoe factory, Leeds Street Bakery offers amazing coffee and amazing freshly baked breads in one, with some great pastries too. Fresh, local and of the highest caliber in a cool space a bit off the main streets, you can probably see why I keep coming back.
And the cookies, definitely the cookies.
15. The Library
Finally my last and favorite bar in Wellington, The Library.
It’s a book themed bar, guys, need I say more?
Have you ever been to Wellington? What are your favorite spots in town? Do you travel to cities with a great foodie and coffee scene too? Spill!