New Zealand Restaurants

Posted by Patrick Lam on Monday, January 24, 2022

Table Of Contents


When we landed in Wellington, the Uber driver said that if we liked restaurants, we’d love Wellington, with its high restaurant-per-capita count. It turns out that we don’t love most NZ restaurants (MP: “savory foods shouldn’t be sweet!”) but there are a couple we quite like.

  • Satay Palace: first restaurant we went to in NZ. Pretty good but somehow we didn’t get there often at all. Good noodles.

In the remainder, sometimes I put the place I liked most first.


Takeout from Upesh Kitchen.
  • Upesh Kitchen: Nothing like a good curry/noodles after a lockdown. Also other times.
  • Yellow Chilli Indian Restaurant: Decent choice for Indian food in Kelburn.
  • Brezelmania: Source of pies and other bakery items near home.
  • Cable Top Eatery: Quite good fish n chips right next to our place. Much better than the other Kelburn fish and chips option.
  • Milk and Honey: Canonical on-campus restaurant; white-people food not bad, but I don’t recommend anything that tries to be Asian. (Also went to The Lab, NAM D, and coffee at Vic Books).
  • Rātā Cafe at Zealandia: I think I underrate this place, but every time I eat something here it’s good.

Central Wellington


  • Mr. Go’s: We’d walked by many times but never actually tried it until March 2021 (so many missed opportunities). It’s good pan-Asian cuisine. The decor is non-fancy. Fried rice is MP’s favourite.
  • Dumpling’d: what it says on the tin.
  • Monsoon Poon: Asian fusion. I think there was a Bangkok Street Noodles which was worthwhile.
  • Seoul Salon: been here twice; once for a Wellington on a Plate burger. Would go more often but somehow don’t make it to Korean food that much.
  • Siem Reap: fancy Cambodian decor, good exemplar of the genre, should have gone more often.
  • K&K Food Caravan, Wellington: had great Cambodian noodles.


  • Dragons: favourite place for dim sum, aka yum cha.
  • Regal is not as good as Dragons.
  • Orange Chinese at Harbourside Market is open again, though in a different corner (the vendors are now more spread out). Usually quite a lineup but we went once when it was windy and there was no lineup.
  • Taste of Home: I’d heard about this place and we finally managed to get some food from there (the hours are challenging). Lives up to its reputation. Here’s a glowing review. Chinese street food.


  • NAM D: I like the banh mi here. Several small locations around Wellington, including a relatively new one at VUW.
  • Fisherman’s Plate: best pho in Wellington; also does generic burgers etc, but why would you do that.
  • Go Vietnam: “chef’s special duck pho” (chicken stock with duck).
  • Restaurant 88: More fancy than others. Haven’t had Ga Con Chien before. Liked it.
  • Mekong Café: snacked here while waiting for our food to be made at Taste of Home. Goi cuon not as good as my grandma’s. Not packed tightly enough.

Japanese: I think there’s a supply chain issue. Salmon is everywhere. Tuna sometimes. Other fish quite hard to find.

  • Tatsushi: not bad.
  • Ozeki: bit further from the centre.
  • Yoshi Sushi: better than I would have thought.
  • Kazu: a bunch of different Japanese restaurants in Wellington, including kaiten (on Cuba) and izakaya.
  • Hey Ramen in the Majestic Centre is decent.

Bakery-ish and miscellaneous:

  • Best Ugly Bagels: St-Viateur and Fairmount fans may complain, but these are fully acceptable Montreal-style bagels 8000 miles away.
  • Pickle & Pie: confounded my expectations for pies with a $10 pie (which came with a pickle, of course). Probably worth $10, but still.
  • Martha’s Pantry: we especially liked the savory part of the high tea, which ends up being quite substantial.
  • Mt Vic Chippery, Wellington: good fish, extremely generous serving of fries: had leftovers which I put in the oven and ate at home with mayo, yum.
  • Zelati Dessert Cafe: proper milkshakes (most milkshakes in NZ have flavour squirts, like slushies; they actually make milkshakes from ice cream).
  • Le Moulin: you can get croutons there; they are surprisingly hard to acquire in NZ except in pre-made salads. Croissant wasn’t as flaky as I’d hoped.
  • Concorde Cafe: a last-minute discovery (literally just before getting on the flight out of NZ), good bakery right in the middle of Lambton Quay in Wellington.
High tea at Martha's Pantry.


  • Ombra: Italian restaurant, pretty good, but we don’t go out to Italian restaurants much.
  • 1154 Pasteria: super central location; walked past it so many times; finally had pasta there, worth going to if you want quick pasta.

Other white people food:

  • La Cloche: somehow always busy at lunchtime even weekdays in Kaiwharawhara. Legit French food: bakery but also more meal-type foods.
  • Logan Brown: we did the @home version during Level 3 (which was fancy & delicious); meant to go either here or to Bellamy’s, but never quite made it.
  • Shepherd: meets expectations for brunch
  • Ti Kouka Cafe: RIP; was fairly famous Wellington brunch spot and deserved its reputation

Not white people food:

  • I liked my hangi croquettes at Karaka Cafe, had a smoky taste. But I always like croquettes.

Newtown and further

Both Newtown and Petone have a concentration of good restaurants. Let’s start with Newtown.

  • The Ramen Shop: best ramen in NZ?
  • Café Laz: I often have Turkish food while travelling in New Zealand. Iskender isn’t really iskender. But I’ll have lamb on fries. Here was better than most.
  • Chan’s Eatery: more good Chinese food, including roast duck with noodles
  • Bebemos: had a Feijoiada here


  • Jo’s Pies (Brooklyn): not as fancy as Pickle & Pie but way more substantial than I expected.
  • Salty Pidgin: quite good; had good whitebait and greenlip mussels here. I’d had a whitebait sandwich elsewhere before and that wasn’t so flavourful, but this was. Also ox tongue.

Further out in Wellington:

  • Oikos: near the airport but easily accessible by the #2 bus; packed on a Wednesday night, deservedly so. Greek food in Wellington is available from them and from a food truck; Oikos is more upscale. I always enjoy pastitsio. Tzatziki was extra garlicky.

  • Greta Point Cafe, Hataitai: location is sweet as, on the water

Hutt Valley

  • Nora Kebab in Upper Hutt, highly-reviewed on Google Maps and tasty mix iskender. Also good decor.
  • Vietnamese Restaurant and Cafe in Petone: not very inspired name but correct Vietnamese food
  • Dumpling World in Petone: exceeded expectations for Wellington, but generally what I expect for a Chinese restaurant. Dumplings (pork & Chinese chive with chili oil) were great, of course. Also many other dishes, including Hofun noodles and pork ribs.


Breweries and bars

No individual comments. Wellington has a lot of choice.

Greater Wellington

  • The Tin Hut (Featherston): good pub-type food; tripadvisor review from 2016 said it was closed, but I’ve definitely been there more recently.
  • Kiss and Bake Up (Otaki): semi-fancy bakery
  • Entice Café and Catering, Masterton: a quite good museum cafe, I had eggs benedict. We double ordered a hot chocolate and they refunded us. Thanks!
  • Scoops Icecream Parlour & Café, Masterton: we got there the last day before they were selling to new owners; looks like a community hub for Masterton.

Not really Wellington


  • Hansens Cafe promises “seriously good sausage rolls” on the sign outside and lives up to those expectations.
  • The Strong Room in downtown Feilding: ravioli is pleasant after a short hike, salad even more so.

New Plymouth:

  • Area 41: We were off to climb Taranaki and stayed in New Plymouth. This Italian place was decent.


How it all started: Patrick's Pie in Rotorua.
  • Patrick’s Pies Gold Star Bakery: the reason I visited NZ; after more than a year, I finally made it there. That other Patrick Lam definitely deserves to win awards for his pies. Will go back.
  • Saigon 60s: light dinner at a reasonably authentic Vietnamese restaurant in Rotorua.
  • Abracadabra Cafe: good risotto.
  • Hobbiton mid-winter feast (link is to the evening banquet tour, which is similar but not identical): I mean, we didn’t go specifically for the feast, but it was highly competent too. Hobbiton is really well done as well.
  • THE BAKER in Tirau: has great Google reviews. As I recall, the eclair was first-class, the almond croissant decent. The pie was good too, although not as superlative as Patrick’s Pies. Also Tirau has a bunch of corrugated iron art.
  • Kebab and Pizza in Putururu: I said I went to a lot of Turkish restaurants, didn’t I? Good enough that we went there twice. Not as good as Café Laz. The lamb is good. I found the chicken not as tasty as it could be.
  • And Rice in Rotorua: I think I had the ramen? Again, good but not superlative. The Ramen Shop in Wellington can be superlative. Would go again. Curious to see how they do their onigiri. I used to have grocery store onigiri before judo practice in Switzerland.


  • BBQ Noodles House in Albany: definitely Cantonese; tasty noodles
  • Huai Yang A Noodle Less Ordinary in Mount Eden: more tasty noodles; also more modern than BBQ Noodles House
  • Ken Yakitori in central Auckland: Free cabbage! Sauce extra. Also, pretty similar to the yakitori place we wandered into in Tokyo once, except that I could understand what I was ordering.
  • Red Earth Bistro, Papakura: getting back late (in NZ terms) from the Firth of Thames we were happy to see this place was still open
  • Hallertau Brewery: biergarten with good food; I think I had the krokets.
  • Sal’s New York Pizza: It’s a chain. I went to a location in Albany. OK but not great. I had one slice of pizza (and some other food) the day before weigh-in and was pretty light.


  • Fat Camel: prominent restaurant with well-executed Israeli food in Whangarei
  • Green’s Russell: Thai or Indian (take your pick) in Russell

Top of the South

  • Harakeke Restaurant at Awaroa Lodge & Cafe: We were there on opening day for the 2021-2022 season. The staff were quite enthusiastic about being open and the food was fantastic, especially for a place that’s really in the middle of nowhere. (One might additionally hope that they could be on the water, but they’re not). MP had a salad, which was nice on a multiday hike.
  • Picton Village Bakkerij: off the ferry and to the pie shop
  • O’Sha, Takaka: we went here in July 2020 and discovered that they had recently opened; good Takaka option.


  • Why Not Cafe, Kaikoura: Kaikoura has fewer good eating options than I would hope. This place was recommended by the bus driver and lived up to its recommendation.


Proper sushi at Kinji.
  • Kinji: Best sushi in NZ that we’ve had yet; we went twice in one trip, and then every time we can on subsequent trips!
  • Smokey T’s: 4.9⭐ on Google, superlative BBQ
  • Costas Taverna: Was great to have a meze platter here.
  • Le Panier: Best croissants I’ve had for a while!
  • KUMO: Not bad for kaiten sushi.
  • Riverside Market: More of a (non-chain) food court than a market, but has diverse options.
  • Original Sin: Italian, and good oysters
  • Commi: I had bánh xèo, yellow Vietnamese crepes. The texture wasn’t quite right but it was tasty.

Canterbury and out to Mount Cook:

West Coast

  • Betsey Jane, Fox Glacier: Exceeded expectations. Everything was just tasty. They did mussels right (not universally true here), fish and chips and pasta were both great. It being a pandemic, the place was deserted the first time we were there on a Saturday night (2 parties including us), but on the Monday there was a reasonable crowd.
  • Sevenpenny, Greymouth: Had a whitebait sandwich here. Has potential.


Went to Wanaka a few times.

  • Big Fig, Wanaka: counter service of non-fast-food.
  • Kika, Wanaka: had good seared tuna. The cabbage dish was a bit weird: it had okonomiyaki toppings on a big head of cabbage.
  • Burrito Craft had tasty tacos. I got the fish, beef, and pork.
  • Aki Sushi had properly vinegary rice in their chirashi sushi. Also things that were not salmon. A win.
  • I overheard that Little Cup of Happy had recently opened. Worth visiting for your flat white needs. The last three places there were in a food truck lot.

We didn’t spend much time in Queenstown, but we went to a few places.

  • Fergburger, Queenstown: super famous; no lines on Dec 2 2020. (It had lines just before Christmas!) Excellent burger.
  • The Lodge Bar, Queenstown: Had a game pie, which was actually a NZ pie (not quite a hand pie). Tasty.
  • Queenstown patio dining at Pedro’s By the Lake while waiting for COVID test results. The issue with staying in a closet of a hotel room is that it’s hard to hang out in the room. It was marginally OK for having class at least.


  • Bao Now, Te Anau: excellent bao, poutine (-ish, with cottage cheese), dumplings; Te Anau staples.
  • South Sea Hotel, Oban (Stewart Island/Rakiura): They have a monopoly in the winter but their daily specials are excellent. Also their Quiz Night is famous. We took 3rd.
  • Fat Duck, Te Anau: more upscale, maybe go here after finishing your Great Walk and showering.
  • Fat Bastard Pies, Invercargill: Walked by, had a pie, enjoyed.
  • Tuatara Cafe/Bar, Invercargill: Chill place to chill while we were waiting to go back to Te Anau.
  • Tui Base Camp, Tuatapere: OK but not the best ribs I’ve had; MP liked the comfort food she ordered (seafood chowder).

And also:

  • Dost Turkish Cafe, Dunedin: Iskender with spicy sauce was indeed spicy.
  • not a restaurant, but I got a good loaf at Harvey St Merchant in Waitati on our way to Silverpeaks. Was good when I remembered I could have it with margarine. Cheese would have been even better.

Cook Islands

See Cook islands trip report.

Boat shed on Aitutaki.