A Foodie’s Guide to Wellington
Whether you’re in Wellington for a good time, a long time, or anything in between, here are our top picks to sate your hunger.
Words by: John Son
Photos by: Anna Briggs and Naomi Haussmann
With its central location, renowned arts and culture, and status as the national capital, Wellington is considered by many to be the beating heart of the country. Visitors to Wellington are always pleasantly surprised, however, what a treat their stomach is in for as well.
Whether you live here, are stopping by for work, or making a long weekend of it, there are plenty of ways you can carve a foodie itinerary through the compact city. Here are our picks of the places you don’t want to miss.
39 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington
As its flagship café, Customs more than lives up to Coffee Supreme’s venerable reputation, serving up some of the finest brews in Wellington. It’s also a fantastic spot to just sit and soak in the city’s vibes - you’ll always find a great cross-section of Wellingtonians buzzing about the place, and it’s a prime location for people-watching on the busy Ghuznee Street.
Make a meal of it while you’re here and tuck into one of Customs’ renowned loaded toasts (the grilled cheese with dill pickles has a cult following). If you’re stopping by on the weekend, make sure you get there early enough to nab a Little Dough Co doughnut.
Photo supplied by Customs.
4 Glamis Avenue Strathmore &, 37 Jessie Street, Te Aro, Wellington
If you’ve got a morning flight into or out of Wellington, see if you sneak in a quick trip to Mystic Kitchen. An easy drive or walk from the airport, this hidden gem is one of the neighbourhood’s most-loved spots and a real treat for visitors in the know. The cosy space, a flamboyant mix of homely and happily chaotic, provides an apt welcome to Wellington. Mystic Kitchen boasts one of the best cabinets in the city, so take your pick from the range of tortillas, wraps, scones, pies, and other savoury and sweet delights as your own unique souvenir.
25 Tory Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Sometimes, a restaurant transcends its function as an eatery to become an institution across literal generations of families. Dragons is one such example, having earned its place as the go-to yum cha spot for swathes of Wellingtonians. The place is jam-packed every weekend as families and friends grab their yum cha fix, and is just as busy in the evenings as well, as groups book in for a sumptuous banquet. With an ever-evolving menu and a friendly, efficient team bringing the goods, Dragons knows how to keep people coming back for more.
118-120 Victoria Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Simply put, a trip to Soul Shack is a must for any spice fiend visiting the capital. Rick and his crew dish out the top-notch banter and hot chicken in equal measure, the latter of which you can get as a three-pack of wings or in a sando. You’ll be asked what spice level you’d like - choose wisely, as even a level one is likely to get you hot and flustered.
199 Cuba Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Among the numerous world-class eateries that line Cuba Street, Ombra continues to hold its own as one of the best of the bunch. With its classy interior and prime location in the heart of Cuba, this Venetian-inspired restaurant is a top pick for either a long lunch or an intimate dinner for two. Take your time to peruse the regularly updated menus - with pizzas, pastas, meat dishes, and salads to choose from, you’ll be forgiven for wanting to try the whole lot.
behind Moon Bar 167 Riddiford Street, Newtown, Wellington
A short trip from the city centre in the trendy suburb of Newtown, you’ll find Cicio Cacio, an Italian eatery that’s simply one of a kind. Based in a lovely rustic house tucked away at the end of a laneway, it’s like stepping into another world - one filled with delicious Italian food. A constantly changing menu means no two visits are likely to be the same. The menu’s entirely in Italian too, but the friendly staff are on hand to translate and talk you through it.
Ortega Fish Shack
16 Majoribanks Street, Mount Victoria, Wellington
One of the most popular high-end restaurants in Wellington, and for good reason. Ortega Fish Shack is a must-visit for any seafood lover and those of a pescatarian persuasion. Set in a beautiful old-school building on the eclectic Majoribanks Street, Ortega serves up a splendid array of entrees, fish, meat, and other dishes, as well as a delectable dessert range.
122 Wakefield Street, Te Aro, Wellington
A delightfully intimate restaurant in one of the quieter pockets of town, Apache serves a unique proposition: French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine that is sure to impress even the harshest of critics. Inspired by South East Asian hawker food culture, each dish is designed for sharing and intricately prepared to deliver a unique combo of flavours. Round up the mates, order as much of the menu as you can, and buckle up for a culinary trip through Hanoi.
60 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Wellington does hidden bars exceedingly well, and Puffin may just be the pick of the bunch. Look for the unassuming entrance off Ghuznee Street, venture down the dimly lit hallway, and be transported into an opulent yet welcoming space, where you’ll want to spend the rest of the night plonked in one of the plush green booths. A staggering range of organic wines, cocktails, and beers means your every need is met, complemented by a tasty selection of bar snacks.
141 Cuba Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Brought to you by the talented Bresolin brothers, Scopa is many a Wellingtonian’s favourite pizzeria. The team here know their stuff, effortlessly whipping up the classics as well as a range of small plates, salads, and fried snacks. There’s something for everyone, making Scopa a great choice for a family dinner or an outing with the friend group.
109 Manners Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Crumpet is another great central city pick for one last nightcap before you head home. Rather than relying on a traditional cocktail menu, you’re invited to just tell the bartender what tickles your fancy and they’ll shake something up to hit the spot. Order a warm crumpet to go with your drink before you kick back in one of the most beautiful little bars in town.
36 Customhouse Quay, Wellington
A truly fancy restaurant that oozes class from every corner, Atlas is the place you take that person you want to impress. Chef James Pask’s take on contemporary New Zealand cuisine is expertly presented via a la carte and tasting menus that change with the seasons. Pair that with an exceptional range of top-notch wines and you have the makings of a memorable night out.
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Neat Wellington Places
When it comes to evoking a sense of identity through spatial design, few restaurants in the capital do it better than Mabel’s.
Part studio, part shop, this sweet space in the middle of Beramphore has come a long way from its previous life as a butchery.
Comes and Goes
Comes and Goes is a brilliant addition to the Wellington café scene, bringing an explosion of edible flowers and culinary masterpieces that Wellingtonians are welcoming with open arms.
Havana Coffee Works
This cozy, retro café on Tory Street moves through to an open-air, garage-style roastery.
Frank’s Newtown is a little replica of its sibling café on The Terrace and has found itself to be a quickly loved part of Newtown culture.