A Foodie’s Guide to Wellington

A woman sitting at a table with plates of food at Ombra 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.

Customs

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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. 

Mystic Kitchen

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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.

Dragons

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25 Tory Street, Te Aro

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.

Mabel's

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66 Tory Street, Te Aro, Wellington

Simply put, a trip to Mabel’s is a must-do when visiting the capital. This eatery shares stories and celebrates its roots through more than its deliciously authentic Burmese cuisine; co-owner Marlar’s (eponymous) grandmother, Mabel, opened one of the country’s first Burmese restaurants almost 50 years ago, and the warm, earthy hues against the interior exposed brick is reminiscent of Yangon’s colonial-era architecture. For a taste of Myanmar — pickled tea leaf salad, chickpea tofu, of course mohinga (the national dish), and more — you only need to get yourself to Te Aro to tuck in.

Ombra

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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.

Cicio Cacio

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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

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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.

Apache

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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.

Puffin

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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.

Scopa Pizzeria

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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.

Crumpet

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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.

Atlas

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.

Neat Wellington Places

Olive

Plants in outside area.
Place Wellington
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Olive provides attentive service, luxurious ambiance, perfectly poached eggs and a top cup of black coffee.

Natty

Close up of items to buy.
Place Wellington

Part studio, part shop, this sweet space in the middle of Beramphore has come a long way from its previous life as a butchery.

Baylands Brewery

Interior of taproom at Baylands Brewery in Lower Hutt
Place Hutt Valley Lower Hutt
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Based in Petone, Baylands Brewery and Taproom is a relaxed, welcoming space offering up a wide range of fresh beer and tasty food.

RUBY Wellington

Dresses on hangers at RUBY, Wellington.
Place Wellington
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A New Zealand favourite brand is well at home in Old Bank Arcade.