Wellington is a major foodie city with more restaurants per capita than New York. Knowing that, it was one of the stops we were most looking forward to on our trip. We had taken a 5-hour drive from New Plymouth and arrived at around 3pm (because we stopped at Mike’s Brewery on the way). My first thought of this windy city was, it’s really really windy!! I could not even keep my tied-up hair out of my face. My first general impression? It reminded me of San Francisco. Wellington has very similar architecture houses, houses on hills. The city is also hilly with a gorgeous harbour view.
Arriving later than expected we quickly checked in and walked to the amazing Te Papa Museum. Four flours of natural, cultural and artistic historical displays. We spent 2 hours there and there was still more to see but….closing time…..and we were hungry so yea.
I should probably note that we did not make any prior reservations anywhere for dining so what we ate and where we could get in to was on the fly but I can honestly say we did not have a single bad meal. Must have chosen alright. With so many restaurants and cafes it’s very competitive so they have to keep up their standards right down from the street food to fancy restaurants. I’m a street food and market kinda girl mostly because I like variety. The one thing I DID plan though, was picking a hotel near Cuba St quarter. Best decision, ended up being walking distance to lots of eateries. Our first meal was actually Malaysian/South Indian mamak-esque food. I was seriously craving Asian food by now and the restaurant was packed out. I wasn’t sure whether to take a gamble because…well it’s often not authentic but then I went in to look at the menu, saw the Indian guys and looked at the plates coming out – SOLD.
It was nice to get a taste of home, the sort of food we would normally eat at the “mamak”. Predominantly South Indian influenced Malaysian food. Service was good and the food came out fast, just like home. We enjoyed some Satay Chicken and Thosai then moved on to our mains. Mr Foodie had the Nasi Lemak Beef Rendang which came with a generous serve of delicious sambal. The beef rendang was legit! 9 out of 10 times I’ve had it overseas it’s not beef rendang. This was delicious, fragrant and tender with deep flavours. The only minor thing was there was no fried anchovies and nuts but this bean sprout salad was there instead.
I had the Nasi Biryani Thali which was again aromatic and delicious. It came with curry chicken, potato masala, raita and chutney. We cleaned all the plates it was that satisfying.
After dinner, we strolled around the city to see the nightlife. I went on my phone and somehow found out there was a pop up Milk Bar by Garage Project at Prefab Hall. Well, milk bar means booze and in this part of town? Beer for sure.
Garage Project is a small brewery in Aro Valley, Wellington. Tonight the pop up bar showcased some wacky brews like Cookies & Cream Ale, Carrot Cake Ale, Cereal Milk Stout etc. You get the idea. The place was pumping with all these beers on tap, a DJ and food. Yes, there was food from partnering vendors. The pop up was American Diner themed and the food – fried chicken and dessert pies. We would’ve liked to try the fried chicken but we had already eaten. It was pricy though. A fried quarter chicken with slaw was $16 and a whole chicken $64. They did toasties too and were charging $16 for them! We grabbed a couple of drinks and a slice of red velvet cake then headed upstairs to people watch and chill.
Day 2 began with some Lord of the Rings location visits. Mr Foodie is too big a fan to let us skip this one. I won’t bore you with the details or the 57 photos we took in Rivendell. Just know that from Wellington you can drive to “River Anduin” where they leave Lothlorien, some place where Aragorn washed ashore after he fell off the cliff in Two Towers, “Isengard Gardens” and Rivendell. Now, the place where Aragorn washed ashore is the least worth it so unless you are a mega mega fan give this a miss. You cannot access the actual spot, it’s overgrown. After all, it has been 15 years. Isengard Gardens requires some serious imagination because, well, the trees have grown and new trees and bushes pop up don’t they. Rivendell was eye opening, how they could shoot such a “big scene” in such a small place. Movie magic. It’s fully signposted as well by the way. The road signs literally say Rivendell. They have left a lot of it there for tourists along with background stories and details on each filming spot so this one is worth a visit.
After this we were back in Wellington but it was kind of too late for lunch so we just walked around and grabbed snacks. Like a waffle and some pizza. Mr Foodie couldn’t resist a slice of New York Style pepperoni pizza from Tommy Millions.
Beer time! Just walking distance from Cuba St quarter lies Tuatara Temple of Taste. A brewery and tasting room with an awesome mural outside. You can’t miss it. I loved the decor inside and what they’ve done with it. It’s a small place but there’s upstairs seating as well. You can see the brew tanks in the corner.
Their beer range is quite big but we like ours dark here at Foodie Ling. We ditched the conventional and went for a full dark tasting paddle. The bartender said it was the first time he’s ever seen a full dark paddle. It caught the attention of the other bartenders too because it was just unusual I guess, but Mr Foodie just really wanted to try all the darks. And yes, they do good beers, great beers. New Zealand has some of the best beers in the world we reckon. It’s definitely something you don’t want to miss out on when you’re here. Just make sure you do some research ahead and avoid the average ones because there are that many choices you will never have time to try them all.
Hearing there’s a night market is like music to my ears. Every Friday and Saturday night from 5pm to 10.30pm there’s a market off Cuba Street. Friday nights are at 116 Cuba St while Saturday nights are at Lower Cuba St. Markets are always fun, there’s a huge variety of food, everything is bare for the public to see. How the food is made, all the aromas, hot steam, hustle and bustle. I love it. There was even a ska band playing. All the better, excellent atmosphere.
The highlight was definitely the Sichuan Spicy Noodles for me. It was flavoursome, noodles cooked nicely, the mince had good flavour and the chilli wasn’t just spicy. It was fragrant. You can choose your level of spiciness when you order so do give it a go. Mr Foodie’s burrito was pretty yummy too, fitting meal to eat sitting by the steps in the middle of no where watching the band.
The next day we were up bright and early to go to Weta Cave. We wanted to get there before the doors opened so Mr Foodie could take photos like these.
The shop front was pretty cool with plenty of merchandise (of course). There was a cave prop display of all the figurines, statuettes and statues along with weapon props. We never realized how many movies were done there. We got our tickets for the Weta Workshop Tour where a guide showed us some props, insight into how it is made, today’s technology and of course lots of cool stuff. No photos allowed so you’ll have to believe me.
Lunch was back across the bridge in Wellington. Ended up on Cuba St again. No regrets because we walked into Fidel’s. Hello Cuban food. The place was packed out and we had to wait for a tablet. Always a good sign. While it is mostly Cuban food there are other favourites of English and American origins too. I ordered Chicken & Waffles with real maple syrup and Mr Foodie had the Cuban Sandwich. Food here is good, like I want to come back all the time good. Service is good and efficient, the place is absolutely buzzing. Definitely put it on your list. Coffee is good too.
The afternoon was spent souvenir shopping and wandering around. There are a lot of street art and sculptures around Wellington.
Eventually we came across the i-Site and saw a giant Azog in there. Geez!!! Really cool and detailed, probably done by Weta Workshop. Obviously we were glad we walked past and saw people taking photos.
While we did not dine at the highly recommended Crab Shack, we did stroll along Wellington Harbour and dined at Shed 5 instead. It had a lovely boat house style wood interior, very classy. Their menu places a heavy focus on seafood, fish particularly. Rightly so with New Zealand having some of the best fish in the world. I’ve managed to try different types of fish on my whole trip in New Zealand and it was all delicious from the humble fish and chip shop to a fancy restaurant. Great produce, I now understand why people rave on about fish (and beer) in New Zealand. The variety of white fish is bigger as well.
You’ll have to excuse the photos as you can see lighting is very very dim in there. Food however was incredible. I started with Tuna with sake and mirin glaze served on soba noodle salad, fried ginger, lotus root and chilli sesame mayo. The tuna was cooked perfectly, just lightly seared and still pink the middle. There were multiple levels of flavour which made it an interesting and appetizing dish to eat.
We ordered Gorgonzola Pannacotta because we had never seen one before. Besides it sounded delicious. Well it was. Smooth creamy perfectly set pannacotta with that beautiful blue cheese flavour through it. This was served with smoked sweet potato puree, walnut and ginger snaps, cabernet sauvignon spheres, freeze dried manuka honey and a pickled purple carrot salad. Again many elements covering all 5 tastes on the place. It was an absolute delight.
The mains menu was very tempting. We would actually eat every single item on the menu. While the usual us would go for things like pork belly and definitely wild venison, we didn’t want to miss out on the chance to enjoy fish before we left the next day. The first thing on the menu is Market Fish. The waitress kindly told us the fishes available that day and we could choose how we wanted it served. I thought this was a fabulous idea. The accompaniments all sounded delicious it was hard to choose. Mr Foodie went for Tuna with roasted Moroccan carrot and chickpea salad, lemon vinaigrette, garlic and herb labneh and spiced tomato mascarpone. The fish was beautiful, fresh and tender, so nice and red in the middle. The accompaniments were interesting to eat and absolutely delicious. 5 thumbs up!
For mains I was so happy to hear Grouper was available. It’s a beautiful white fish with very smooth textured flesh. That was my market fish pick. I had it with squid ink spaghetti, diamond shell clams, crispy baby octopus, preserved lemon and vermouth cream. ZOMG. Mamma mia!!! Everything was cooked perfectly. The flavours were amazingly balanced and delicious. I could easily have another serving.
As the dark night set in after dinner, we discovered the Lux Light Festival was on so we took a night walk along the wharf and through the city to check it all out. Had to walk off that dinner after all. It made for a lovely last night in Wellington.
Looking very much like a temporary pop up Ekim Burgers does in fact live here in this graffiti’d courtyard with a food truck as a kitchen. Open 7 days a week it was the closest thing to us on our last morning. Our curiousity got the better of us after walking past so many times. Their breakfast buns and burritos actually sounded pretty yum. I can also see this being a good hangover cure people.
We actually can’t remember what exactly we ordered but it was a pretty darn good dirty breakfast in a bun. When we went, it came with bottomless filter coffee as well if you need to wake up.
We had some time to kill before our flight so we took a scenic drive to Miramar Peninsula. It’s just through the Mount Victoria tunnel on the airport side. It was a gorgeous sunny morning and the views were spectacular (when I wasn’t sweeping hair out of my face). Good time to walk off our breakfast too!
Our last meal was at The Larder (near Weta Cave). We almost didn’t get a table in time but luck was on our side. It’s an elegant place with good service and terrific food. I had some Lamb Meatballs Pappardelle which were simply perfect. The roasted tomato sugo sauce was really delicious. It was also served with some chopped mint to freshen the dish. Mr Foodie took the rare opportunity to have Croque Madame crossing his fingers and toes that it was proper. Sure enough it was just as he wanted it with a runny poached egg on top instead.
It was time to head to the airport. We didn’t expect that the airport would have so many statues and displays of Lord of the Rings stuff. That helped us kill a lot of time walking around the airport taking pictures. We almost missed the signage outside the airport until a ground staff member pointed it out to us.
New Zealand has been a very friendly place, they are very excited to showcase their country and proud of their tourism. So long Middle Earth! Until next time.