Want to know where to dine in Wellington? Local chef Jiwon Do has expert recommendations
As a chef, my relationship with food is always top of mind. To me, this means a bond built between myself and the source. I'm a big believer that every dish should have a story.
While my restaurant Hippopotamus at the QT Wellington was in hibernation for the majority of 2020, I kept busy strengthening relationships with local suppliers in anticipation of our return in February.
With a focus on tableside theatrics, my vision for the new menu was to showcase the narratives of local farmers, producers and crafters of New Zealand foods.
Here's where you can find my favourite artisan producers in the Wellington region:
Zelati Dessert Cafe
Do yourself a favour and duck into Zelati cafe's friendly little outpost on Left Bank Lane off Cuba St. A family-operated business, this small gelateria makes each batch of their treats from scratch, including a range of gelato and sorbet flavours plus waffles and vegan cookies. The cheeky and cheerful mural serves as the perfect backdrop for enjoying your selection.
I've been working with Zelati's owner and master mixer Hillary Tuason for four years, creating custom flavours like Pāmu deer milk gelato and a kawakawa and Italian parsley sorbet. Outside of work though, my go-to order is purple dawn kūmara and coconut gelato.
No Wellington foodie adventure is complete without a trip to the locals' favourite supermarket, Moore Wilson's. Exploring every aisle for local gems is a must. You'll find one of my favourite suppliers in the produce section. Based in Te Horo on the Kāpiti Coast, Prana Greens grows certified organic microgreens, the unsung heroes of the culinary world that add incredible flavour to salads or as garnish on meats and more.
If you see oyster leaf, add it to your trolley immediately. As its name suggests, this plant's taste profile is a dead ringer for oysters. In 2019, I was working closely with Prana Greens' owner Mayatiita when I was participating in The Coastal Lamb Challenge. We began working on a project to plant the notoriously hard to grow oyster leaf, and now culinary enthusiasts can sometimes score it at Moore Wilson's.
As locals will agree, The Chippery is the best fish and chips shop in Wellington, hands down. With two locations in Thorndon and Mt Victoria, The Chippery takes the classic Kiwi staple to next-level quality.
With locally sourced ingredients and a daily market fish selection for maximum freshness, their menu goes way beyond the expected – from hand-cut agria chips to fish tacos and rotating seasonal specials like Bluff oysters and coconut prawns. My go-to order is simple, though. Who doesn't like good old fush and chups?
I'm mates with the owner Stephen Piper, who also manages Ocean Direct, our fish supplier for QT Wellington. Stephen messages me every night with a list of what's available for tomorrow's menu, based on what his fishermen caught earlier that day in the Cook Strait.
The Green Parrot Cafe
As a kid, my grandparents took me to what we called "Western restaurants" back home in Korea, which were fancy in an old-school way. As one of the oldest establishments in Wellington, The Green Parrot Cafe reminds me of my childhood, especially the white bread and butter that's remained unchanged. If you're visiting, you can't beat the classic schnitzel.
Wellington Chocolate Factory
Wellington's all-time favourite chocolate brand has opened its factory doors to the public. On the popular foodie laneway Eva St, you can sample their organic bean-to-bar confections and join a tour for the lowdown of how it's made – from roasting to wrapping. I have to sample the goods often, as there's usually a cocoa component on our high tea and dessert menu – all in the name of market research, of course. wcf.co.nz
DETAILSJiwon Do is executive chef at QT Wellington's Hippopotamus and Hot Sauce. qthotels.com/wellington