Once upon a time (30 years ago) New Zealand was best known for dramatic scenery, not gastronomic experiences. Lamb and 3 veg with occasional whitebait for a treat was pretty standard. Although the Maori knew Aotearoa was nature’s larder – especially rich with seafood, Pakeha food was bland.
The nation’s capital Wellington – a ‘government town’ was grey and so was the food. Immigration coupled with an influx of local and imported creative talent revolutionised the city seemingly overnight. Fuelled by coffee and with serious money to spend, Wellington as a food destination was born.
Here are just 5 of the reasons the food-obsessed should visit Wellington.
With just the right mix of farmers market stalls and food trucks in an unbeatable location, many locals make the city’s oldest market part of their Sunday routine. The aromas of sizzling bacon and halloumi sandwiches, fresh doughnuts and spicy German sausage sharpen early morning appetites. http://www.harboursidemarket.co.nz
Once you purchase some excellent and well-priced fresh fruit and veg it’s time to taste some of the superb French cheese on offer at Le March Francais Cheese. Magnificent cow, ewe, goat, raw and pasteurised treasures take pride of place next to delicious saucisson, rillettes and pate. www.lemarche.co.nz
Nothing goes to waste at the Harbourside Market. The Food Partnership Programme is an initiative between Kaibosh Food Rescue and the stallholders. Unsold and still fresh produce and other food is collected by volunteers, sorted and distributed to various charities, refuges and shelters. http://www.kaibosh.org.nz
Mojo is undoubtedly one of Wellington’s biggest success stories with 35 cafes in Wellington, Auckland and now Japan and China. Wellington now has more Mojos than Maccas. Each café is a partnership with seasoned staff members ensuring a signature Mojo experience.
Hangar is appropriately is the flagship café of artisan coffee roaster Flight Coffee. The former car park’s original vehicle turntable and painted parking spaces are part of the décor. Often cited as Wellington’s best caffeine dispensary, Hangar is much more. Working in Colombia and Rwanda with growers and their families ensures that their coffee is not only sustainable – it changes lives.
Hangar offers 10 coffee variations including 4 cold and 3 different Espresso options as well as 3 Fetco Batch Brews. But it’s the tasting flight I’ve come to supercharge my day. There are flights of flat white, flight of filter and for me, coffee 3 ways – 1 bean– prepped three different ways.
The breakfast menu is full of surprises: Bacon Egg Butty of maple bacon, sage fried eggs & bloody mary ketchup or Japanese hotcake with poached rhubarb, lavender cream cheese and pistachio. For me, it’s bruschetta with a sublime combo of grilled halloumi, avocado, pickled beetroot & dukkah.
At night Hangar transforms from specialty coffee to cocktail den with a suitably delicious menu to match. www.flightcoffee.co.nz
Zest Food Tours
Zest’s Capital Tastes Tour is a 3.5 hour personal, guided, walking tour of Wellington’s most delectable tastes, including Moore Wilson’s Market and Gelissimo.
Our guide Helen knows everything worth knowing about Wellington’s dynamic food scene and as Wellington reputedly has more restaurants per capita than New York, there is a lot to talk about.
As it was Sunday we missed tripping down Hannahs Laneway where 7 of Welly’s quintessential food experiences reside. Luckily quintessential local brands Fitz & Fogg Peanut Butter, Six Barrel Soda and Wellington Chocolate Factory are all represented on sumptuous platters for the enjoyment of Zest guests at Moore Wilson’s. Ruth Pretty – NZ institution and legendary caterer is also showcased through her exemplary chutneys and relishes. And don’t forget to try the mouth-watering Zany Zeus Feta with Mint.
Moore Wilson’s was once solely the domain of local chefs but now Wellingtonians can shop some of the NZ’s most innovative brands, just-caught seafood and outstanding fruit and veg. https://moorewilsons.co.nz/
Gelissimo – First thing local IT dynamo Graham Joe did when he bought Gelissimo was toss out the imported artificial syrups and flavours. Gelissimo’s gelati is made from 99% locally sourced ingredients from the Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay, the adjacent Harbourside Markets and is made with 80% fresh Zany Zeus organic milk. Graham and his staff work with local growers and suppliers to make the next biggest thing in gelati and sorbetto. http://www.gelissimo.co.nz
QT Museum Wellington’s Hippopotamus is glam, girly, gorgeous and most importantly genteel: everything you ever wanted in a high-tea destination. Despite the flourishes of floral carpet, fuchsia velvet, mirrors, glittering crystal and floral china it is also considered one of the country’s finest French restaurants.
The Elegant High Tea (with bubbles) is one of 4 options for an oh swish afternoon. There’s the Museum, the Hip (with a cocktail) and the Luxury (with a glass of Louis Roederer).
Chef Laurent Loudeac takes High Tea to a whole other level at Hippopotamus. (And we’re not just talking about the view). The captivating presentation and attention to detail is only one reason the Hippopotamus team won the World Championship of High Tea in 2015. The Dilmah Real High Tea Global Champions Chef Laurent Loudeac & Camille Furminieux created a provocative menu that astounded and delighted the judges.
Masterful mini lemon tarts wear burnished meringue kisses and nestle up to exquisite pistachio choux pastries and blissfully sweet crimson macaron with a dust of black sesame seeds. Delicious just made ham and cucumber sandwiches and mushroom and goats cheese tarts provide some of the savoury action. Regular top-ups of Dilmah Exceptional Tea are graciously served and replenished unintrusively. https://www.qthotelsandresorts.com/wellington/eat-drink/hippopotamus/
Ortega Fish Shack & Bar
Maitre d’ and co-owner Davey McDonald introduces himself and lets us in on what makes Ortega a consistent favourite of Wellingtonians. It’s Tuesday and the restaurant is busy with a crowd that look and sound more like Saturday night than a school night.
Ortega is a restaurant where you know you’re in the hands of professionals. They have created a relaxed, casual place where the food is serious. Chef Regnar Christensen has staged at some of Europe’s finest restaurants and his menu provides lots of twists and turns.
Fresh Clevedon Pacific Oysters are served natural with Sherry vinegar, Ponzu or battered with Remoulade. The Groper, leek risotto, green beans, prawn Anglaise, potato crisps and burnt leek is not the prettiest thing on the menu but it is sublime. And you have to love a restaurant with six Rosés on the wine list. http://ortega.co.nz
For a city that was once so grey, it is now vibrant with street art colour and personality. Blessed with a ‘give it a go’ attitude the city is home to many successful start-ups from a peanut buttery to chocolate makers and countless cafés. They are quietly confident and proud to call Wellington home. And aren’t Australians lucky to know it is just a short trip across the ditch?
For more: http://wellingtonnz.com/
TML was a guest of Tourism Wellington