I’ll admit it, I had never been to Wellington. Although it’s sandwiched between three amazing wine regions–the Marlborough region for your classic heady Savs as well as the Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay regions–I never really considered it a ‘foodie’ destination. And oh how wrong I was…
Often affectionately positioned as the Melbourne of New Zealand, Wellington is known for its offering of great food, fresh produce, a burgeoning craft beer scene, amazing coffee, and (of course) wine. Sound good? Well, it is.
I started my long weekend in Welly at brunch (well, I am a foodie after all, and it is my natural habitat), heading to the chic, industrial Poneke down on the water at the ferry terminal–which is run by local roastery, Mojo Coffee. Well that’s a big tick… The 12 hour beef cheek mince on toast tempted me, but I went for the field mushrooms with lemon, feta, kale and basil pesto–and I wasn’t disappointed.
After a wander along the gorgeous foreshore in the sun (sun! In winter!), I ventured up the hillside on the vintage cable car to check out the botanic gardens. The view was pretty stunning.
As the sun set, it was time to meet up with the organisers of New Zealand’s best food festival, Wellington On A Plate to, well, eat mainly. We headed to the cosy and refined setting of The Bresolin and agreed to order the pork knuckle–so basically, these were clearly my people.
The Bresolin are just one of the amazing 136 restaurants participating in Welly On A Plate this year–held over the last two weeks in August. It’s basically the ultimate food festival, with 120 events and pop ups as well as themed menus offered around town. It’s also bookended by a craft beer festival–but more on that later.
In a red wine haze, I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning to head to Wellington’s pretty harbourside market. Some great, locally made hangover food was in order.
Refreshed, it was time for some culture–and by culture I mean beer. (Although if you’re looking for actual culture I can hand-on-heart recommend the Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa, it’s awesome. Plus, there were a lot of buttons and things to push, which is great for keeping my attention at museums kids.) So I headed to local icon Six Barrel Soda for some pre-beer refreshers with the organisers of Beervana–the craft beer festival that leads Wellingtonians on the delightful beery road to Welly On A Plate.
Over a tasting board of soda flavours that included hibiscus and celery tonic with ginger, we chatted about Beervana, the largest craft beer event in New Zealand, complete with themed bars, beer collaborations, and great food. They also hold a week long event, Road To Beervana, that includes a burger competition. So, yeah, I’ll be back in August then?
But I needed to do some tasting to really understand–so we headed to what is perhaps my favourite bar ever, Golding’s Free Dive, a delightful dive bar filled with Star Wars memorabilia and some of the most interesting taps imaginable. They also provide pizzas from a nearby champion who has the official Pizza Vero accreditation from Italy–so it’s not that divey really, is it?
I chose a sourdough ale, but was pretty close to nabbing a pint of the Garage Project spiced saison as well. Delicious! And speaking of Garage Project, intrigued by the spiced saison, I trekked up the hill to check out their tasting door the next day. These guys should be your first stop in Welly if you’re a beer lover. Or even if you’re not. I mean, they have a peach beer, and a Champagne beer. Something for everyone!
A couple more foodie stops ensued, including tasting the drool-worthy entry into that burger competition from the very, very fancy Charley Noble, and a Wellington On A Plate entry from cocktail legend Ray Letoa at the Roxy who has created a gastronomical delight including paua dumplings paired with a red wine cocktail with a foam (sounds weird, is weird, is also delicious). On a side note, if you want to try some really out-there cocktails whilst in Wellington, head to the gorgeously vintage Roxy Cinema for a pre-movie tipple.
If it sounds like a packed itinerary, it was. And I haven’t even mentioned the awesome vintage shopping on Cuba Street, or the million other cafes, bars and restaurants you should visit while in the best little town in New Zealand.
So if you’re looking for a long weekend getaway filled with amazing food, great craft beer, and a laid back attitude, then Welly is your place. I’ll be back imminently…
Image Credit: Bianca O'Neill and Beervana
Bianca was hosted in New Zealand thanks to Visa Wellington On A Plate and Beervana. She flew to Wellington direct from Australia thanks to Qantas, and was hosted for two nights thanks to The Intercontinental Wellington.