Wellington mega-local Beth Brash offers her go-to list of places to eat, drink and play in The Capital. It’s a perfect starting point for getting the best out of a weekend in Welly.
Ortega Fish Shack
If you’ve got a hankering for seafood and want to splash out a little, then Ortega should be at the top of your list. There is never an air of pretentiousness here; instead, maître d’ Davey’s welcoming smile as you arrive is more like a refreshing ocean breeze. The wine matches are always extremely good, and Ortega easily has the best beer list in town.
16 Majoribank Street
Customs Brew Bar
It’s hard to pick the best coffee shop in Wellington, as we’re pretty spoilt here – but nowhere captures every aspect of our daily ritual as perfectly as Customs does. The fit-out is as if Don Draper gave up advertising and went into hospitality. Choose from the ever-changing array of premium single-origin coffees or go classic and have the best flat white you can get your hands on.
39 Ghuznee Street
Golding’s Free Dive
Golding’s is the place you want to show off but also keep quiet about at the same time. This pint-sized bar gets better with every visit – whether it’s the weird and amazing things that adorn the walls, the constantly updating beer list, the excellent pizza or the wonderful staff. Golding’s is the local you wish you had.
14 Leeds Street
Tucked upstairs on Tory Street, Hawthorn is an oasis from the madness and messiness of Courtenay Place. In this sophisticated cocktail bar, with its low-hanging lights and green-felt poker tables, you’ll feel as though you should be off solving crimes or saving the world. Try to nab the prime position: in front of the roaring fire, toasting marshmallows while sipping whiskey sours.
2/82 Tory Street
Egmont St. Eatery
This new kid on the block didn’t make it easy for itself by being tucked down a laneway in a converted car park, but it’s already been welcomed into the cool group with its slick fit-out, great coffee and a small yet perfectly formed menu.
15–21 Dixon Street (entrance on Egmont Street)
Field & Green
Another new kid, this one’s the best friend you always wanted, with the most delicious home-cooked meals waiting for you when you come over to play. Chef Laura Greenfield serves up a weekly menu that excels in finding perfection in the simplest dishes.
262 Wakefield Street
Cicio Cacio Osteria
Tucked down an alley off the gritty streets of Newtown, walk into space that’s part Swiss Chalet, part Italian osteria – the latter is where your taste buds will be transported to. The menu is mostly in Italian, which means the friendly waitstaff get to talk you through the mind-blowing menu. Entirely authentic and deeply delicious.
167 Riddiford Street, Newtown
Wellington loves Malaysian, and there is nowhere more authentic than Little Penang. Husband-and-wife team, Keith and Tee, run it, with their children, sisters and aunties all helping out. Tee cooks from the heart (and her family cookbook), and after a few visits Keith will welcome you like a long-lost relative. Family is clearly the key to this wonderful restaurant.
40 Dixon Street
Garage Project’s Cellar Door
You don’t need a golden ticket to visit Garage Project, the Willy Wonka of the beer world. It’s got a growing international following, and we’re lucky in Wellington to be able to tap directly from the source. With lots of fresh beer to fill your flagon, rare treats already in the bottle and lots of excellent merchandise, you’ll walk away with your hands full. In 2015 they also opened a tiny, perfect taproom across the road at 91 Aro St.
68 Aro Street
Two ramshackle cottages sit next to each other like weathered twins (Patty and Selma, maybe?), separated by a thin corridor. Turn left for a relaxed late-night tapas restaurant. Go right for a speakeasy bar with delicious rum cocktails and lots of nooks and crannies for nocturnal chats. Or, just start on one side and end up on the other.
32a–34 Wigan St
All roads lead to Moore Wilson’s in Wellington. Maybe not literally, but I always end up here so it feels that way. Fishmongers, cheesemongers and all other mongers reside here. You’re sure to find the freshest produce, the best cuts, the stinkiest cheese, and artisan food products from down the road, across NZ and around the world.
93 Tory Street
This feature, written by Beth Brash, initially appeared in The Seasonal #01 SPRING 2015.