We’ve been in Wellington two months now and safe to say we’ve made the most of the unbelievable food and drink scene…
I’m not the kind of person who spends a lot on clothes and make up, I’m not too fussed by regular spending on these kind of things. I’m more of an all or nothing girl, when I spend on these things I spend BIG, in one hit, one drain your bank account spree… But that’s beside the point. My point is that I much prefer to spend my everyday disposable income on doing things; checking out a new bar, meeting friends for all-you-can-eat Tostadas (more on that later), finding a new restaurant for date night. That’s exactly what Welly has been about so far and here’s my overall run-down.
Best for post-work drinks: Noble Rot Wine Bar, Swan Lane
Unpretentious, calming and atmospheric, this new wine bar has everything you need for a couple of wines after work. We went on a Tuesday and it was pleasantly busy. Still broke from our adventures in South America, we ordered two of the cheapest reds on the menu and there was zero snobbery from our lovely French waitress. They have a mouth-watering menu of cured meats and cheeses for a DIY style antipasto board, perfect alongside some sumptuous reds served in enormous glasses (my fave).
Best for city views: Dirty Little Secret, Taranaki Street
Having lived in Melbourne, I’m a sucker for a rooftop bar. Hidden behind a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it elevator door on Taranaki Street, Dirty Little Secret is an oasis amongst the concrete buzz of Courtenay Place. Head up to the elevator to the top floor and be wowed by the views (even better in the day) and cosy setting. They’re really doing Winter well at the moment, with mulled wine, electric heaters and extra blankets. Head up around 5, get snuggled up for the night and watch the world around you below.
Best for Brunch: Cafe L’affare, College Street
If Cafe L’affare isn’t your regular weekend brunch spot, it needs to be immediately. It’s on our walking route to the gym and every time we walk by its packed fully of happy-looking brunchers, obviously it went on our list pronto. We headed in last weekend nursing extremely sore heads from the night before. Before I even get to the food I have to mention the unbelievable customer service. We were seated quickly dispite it being busy and our waitress was sympathetic to our self-inflicted pain, ordering us two Bloody Marys before we could even face taking off our sunnies to read the menu. The breaky was sublime; oozy poached eggs, spicy chorizo, delicious beans all washed down with top-notch coffees. My Boyfriend opted for a gorgeous hash with sausage, green beans and the softest, most velvety hollandaise ever.
Best for an all out feast: Grill Meats Beer, Cuba Street
I can’t speak more highly of this place. The service is wonderful, the bar is cosy and the menu is spectacular. Their focus is on pairing their smoky, sticky, saucy grill menu with both local and international craft beer. As a relative newbie to the craft beer scene which is synonymous with Wellington, they really helped me out with picking a great beer to go with my burger (the ‘Bull and Pig’ FYI… Probably the best burger I’ve ever had in my life). The food is cooked in front of you by super talented chefs and comes to you on huge boards with abundant sides… Meaty heaven. They also do two-for-one ‘Beerginnings’ (starters) on Tuesdays and I’ve since gone back and indulged in the JFC (Japanese Fried Chicken) and chilli cheese fries… A delicious if not ridiculously naughty combo. Bonus: they have Stone and Wood, my fave beer from back in Melbourne.
Best for Date Night: Ancestral, Courtenay Place
This was the first restaurant we tried in Wellington, on recommendation from some friends in Auckland. The lighting is dim, the bar is well stocked and the food is designed for sharing – great for a romantic night. The modern-Asian inspired menu is a delight with plenty to choose from, all coming to the table as and when it’s ready. The flavours of the food are gorgeous, not too heavy but still full to the brim of oriental charm. I already can’t wait to go back.
Best for cocktails: The Library, Courtenay Place
Just down the road from Ancestral is this spectacular cocktail bar. Another relatively hidden gem if you’re just wandering down Courtenay Place, you’ll have to look for the sign and head up the stairs. The Library is unbelievably inviting, if you’re not careful you could easily spend hours in there sipping on cocktails and ordering nibbles. There’s something for everyone, with cocktails amping up with every page of the menu, from standard (and great value for money), to the super indulgent luxury cocktails (hello, sea salt and caramel martini). The wines are delicious and the cheese board even better… There’s even port on the menu to really round off your cheese experience. Go on a Tuesday for two-for-one cocktails. 10/10 for this little gem.
Best for group dining: Apache, Wakefield Street
With a menu based on the 5 fundamental Vietnamese flavours; spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet, there’s so much to love about Apache. Everything is designed to share so it’s perfect for groups. I can’t pick a favourite dish as every single one was amazing but to name a few we had the silkiest beef tartare, a tangy papaya salad and smooth as you like parfait. The service is quick and friendly and the wine list is great, an ideal spot for a Friday night with friends.
Best for tapas: Havana Bar, Wigan Street
We took a friend who was visiting from Melbourne here and did not regret the decision. Whilst the location is a little away from the action, the quirky exterior will quickly bring in any passers by. It was a Saturday night when we went and they don’t take bookings but were given a table in the bar while we waited for one in the restaurant. We quickly realised the bar is more than OK for your dinner setting so proceeded to just order there. As with most of the great places in Welly, everything comes when it’s ready so we had a wonderfully relaxed night where the food kept coming and the espresso martinis were flowing. The food was so fresh and so filling and we had everything from charred broccoli, gorgeous halloumi and chilli prawns. Definitely one for showing off the best of Wellington to out of towners.
Best for a cheap feast: Tequila Joe’s, Vivian Street
A tiny little vibrant place away from the main drags of Cuba and Courtenay, this bar is always packed and for good reason. On most weekdays they do all you can eat options and we went on a Thursday for unlimited Tostadas and fries (all dips and sauces included). For $23 this is a great deal and the food is fast, fresh and filling. Head to the bar for a margarita while you wait for your table (or just eat there if there’s only two of you, any more and you won’t really be able to talk) and then enjoy tostada after tostada being brought to your table in varying flavours with ridiculously indulgent sides (cheesy sour cream, cheese dip, chunky guac and more). Get there early to avoid a long wait.
This list is a work in progress and even someone as hungry as me can’t get through too many places in two months, so there’s definitely more reccomendations to come. If you’ve got any must-visits please send them my way!