Wellington's varied cuisine scene will keep every family member happy, writes Anna King Shahab
In what might be becoming an all too familiar story, August's Wellington On a Plate festival was derailed slightly by Covid lockdowns, but the capital is a year-round top destination for a family of foodies. Here's what you should add to your menu for your next Wellington getaway
Arriving in the city mid-morning, a quick-fix breakfast from Fix & Fogg's Eva St "nut butter window" was just right. Family members were sated regardless of smooth or crunchy preference; for a wee gem (it feels a bit Alice in Wonderland, bending down to order from the underground kitchen) there's plenty of choice, from topped toast to toasties, porridge, and smoothies.
We closely followed that up with a capital must – salted caramel chocolate chip cookies all round from Leeds Street Bakery. There would be more chocolatey adventure had in this laneway precinct later on in our trip: a visit to Wellington Chocolate Factory, where the kids were able to get an insight into how their favourite food is made, from bean to bar. (If you're around on a Saturday, you might like to book in for a tour.)
Not quite done with the chocolate theme yet – there's more! Upstairs off Hannahs Laneway, we discovered Lashings, specialising in all things brownie, known to our children as "food of the gods".
Some savoury balance – and caffeine – was required, and Romeo's hit the spot. This teeny and hip Vivian St deli does mornings well – with the bacon and egg sandos and coffee we were in need of - then dresses up in the afternoon pouring classic cocktails and natural wines. Being in the city in the month of Burger Wellington, it would've been rude not to sample a few.
Top pick with the kids was a nod to a weekend tradition we're well familiar with – Shepherd @ Bunnings Warehouse sees the iconic weekend sneaky snack given a burger makeover – a Longbush pork and beef patty with tom sauce, mustard, and onion... slightly elevated, yes, but still fittingly humble.
At the other end of the scale was Atlas' creation – buttermilk fried chicken with caviar, seaweed hot sauce, and Zany Zeus creme fraiche. And, the entry from Hot Sauce provided a pick-and-sip situation. The Bloody Outrageous Mary – a seriously spiced Bloody (or in our case, virgin) Mary came with a platter's worth of snacks hovering on top: a crisp tofu and kimchi mini bao, a petite cheeseburger, dumplings, fried chicken, candied bacon. On that note, with Burger Wellington and the wider Wellington On a Plate festival popped on ice halfway through due to Covid restrictions, it was impressive to see the quick shift to a homely burger creation comp – #burgerwellingtIN had amassed hundreds of entries, and festival communications manager JoAnne Carr says to keep an eye out on their social channels for further online content likely to come.
Hot Sauce was a great dinner choice for the family – a catalogue of foods to please them all: popcorn chicken, kimchi-loaded fries, crispy squid, dumplings, and sashimi. We saved room to make our way upstairs to Hippopotamus for dessert – a lovely final stop on a busy day (all the more so because we only had to travel one level up afterwards to rest our heads: the interconnecting rooms at QT were amazing for our family of four).
Relaxing with a pot of peppermint tea, our "Q The Smash Hit" dessert arrived at the table and in no time, two out of four spoons were smashing into the shell of a giant chocolate egg, revealing an assortment of treats hidden inside: chocolate truffles, macarons, candied pecans, almond sable, and freeze-dried raspberries.
Saturday on and around Cuba St was so much more fun than a bland mega mall could ever be: loads of families out and about shopping, eating, drinking, and soaking up the vibe. It would've been rude not to join in.
Duck Island icecreams all round was a wise move to kick things off as we meant to go on – this pastel parlour an excellent addition to the strip. We loved the plant-based take on pizza and pasta at Nolita – full of flavour, the pizzas with the requisite wood-fired blistering on delicious sourdough bases and creamy pools of cashew mozzarella.
In the late afternoon, Ombra beckoned us with Venetian-esque promises, and delivered: aperol spritz sipped in the sunshine spilling softly through the window – their "aperitivo hour" (3-6pm) meant happy prices, and a complimentary bite to eat with each drink ordered.
A final port of call I'd highly recommend to anyone with an evening flight out of the city is Oiko's, tucked in just behind the airport in Miramar. Owner and chef Theo Papouis calls on his Cretan heritage and the bounty of local produce to turn out dishes absolutely full of bold, zesty flavours.
Highlights included keftedakia se kokkini salsa – lamb meatballs in an incredibly rich tomato sauce, creamy tarama, and epic herby roast potatoes. Baklava – overflowing with walnuts and served with vanilla bean icecream, sent us on our way to the baggage check deliciously replete.
Get news on Wellington On a plate at visawoap.com
For more things to see, do and eat in the city, go to wellingtonnz.com
Check alert level restrictions and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz