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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Harbourside Market: greens, plus good quantity of food vendors.
- Paraparaumu Beach Saturday Market: cute hipster stuff plus some greens.
- the late Victoria St market: mostly green-grocer focussed, but their site got condo-fied.
- Carterton Farmers’ Market was quite modest. Bought some fruit.
Breweries and bars
No individual comments. Wellington has a lot of choice.
- Heyday Beer Co
- Southern Cross
- Garage Project
- Rogue & Vagabond
- Fork & Brewer
- Choice Bros: don’t come here for the poutine
- One Fat Bird
- The Occasional Brewer
- Thistle Inn
- Lulu Bar
- Library Bar
- The Arborist Rooftop Bar
- 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.
- Area 41: We were off to climb Taranaki and stayed in New Plymouth. This Italian place was decent.
- 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.
- 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:
- Blue Lake Eatery & Bar: Amazing French food by an expat pastry chef. We tragically had no room for dessert!
- Geraldine Farmshop & Cafe: Well, they have quite the bouncy castle outside, but I can’t say that much about their food. I did get some produce though.
- Last Post, Oamaru: MP had wanted bangers and mash for a while
- Oamaru Farmers’ Market: luckily we arrived in Oamaru on Sunday when they were open and also could watch the steampunk cosplayers.
- Whitestone Cheese Factory Outlet: well worth buying cheese from this Oamaru outlet.
- Mount Cook Alpine Salmon: Lake Pukaki views and e.g. salmon sashimi.
- 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).
- 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.