Capital ideas: Wellington's best eating

Special New Zealand feature

Winsor Dobbin explores the best dining and drinking New Zealand's capital city has to offer.

IT may be known as “Windy Wellington” but the New Zealand capital offers plenty of places to keep warm and well fed if the wind does blow, including some of the country's top restaurants like Logan Brown and Martin Bosley's Yacht Club, plus a range of cafes and wine bars on funky Cuba Street.

With more than 300 bars, restaurants and cafes in the city alone, Wellington is certainly not short of options.

Dine In Style

Logan Brown is the domain of Steve Logan and Al Brown, both popular TV chefs in Kiwiland. The old art deco bank building is right on Cuba Street and diners can choose from a bistro menu or a la carte dining on dishes like seared hare loin with garlic custard, mulled wine, duck parfait and fig molasses, or maybe Hawke's Bay lamb rack with olive-braised Merino shoulder, falafel and ratatouille.

It's a warm, friendly place with dishes and service that are quintessentially Kiwi but the food is of serious quality – it was Cuisine magazine's restaurant of the year for 2009.

The Yacht Club showcases the talents of uberchef Bosley, a local boy made good.

The emphasis here is on fresh seafood; dishes like snapper with smoked eel terrine, seaweed gelee, cauliflower puree and oyster/lettuce emulsion, or maybe the six-course degustation menu of smaller portions, which can also be matched with premium wines. Bosley says he focuses on what's in season, what's local, and what's fresh.

Le Metropolitain is an authentic, old-school French bistro, while Arbitrageur offers European flavours and international wine list, while the Boulcott Street Bistro is a long-time favourite with locals.

Kick Back and Relax

Matterhorn, also on Cuba Street, is a late-night hangout for Wellington trendsetters; and regularly wins awards as New Zealand's best bar. Tucked away down an unpromising corridor, it also serves top-notch food, has great cocktails and an admirable wine list. There's an outdoor courtyard that's popular in the summer months.

Bustling Floriditas is a cafe by day and restaurant by night while near neighbour Olive Cafe is an eatery cum art gallery.

Sweet Mother's Kitchen has a Mexican theme with a range of Latin beers while the eclectic Ernesto has a Cuban theme and Chow is a local favourite for its Pan Asian menu.

The funky Duke Carvell's Swan Lane Emporium offers late-night tapas and is renowned for its cocktail list, while the upstairs kitsch of newcomer Mighty Mighty has seen crowds flocking. Hawthorn and Motel are other favourites with the cocktails crowd.

There's a thriving coffee culture during the day with Fidel's, Ernesto and the Mojo chain (who roast their own beans) all popular venues. Master roaster Lambros Gianoutsos is on site most days at Mojo's Shed 13 headquarters so visitors can take a peek at the roasting process.

Those with a sweet tooth won't want to miss the hand-made chocolates (and hot chocolate drinks) at Ciocco in Tory Street.

Wine and dine

Just an hour's drive out of town is Martinborough, a tiny town in the South Wairarapa region that has established itself as a European-style “wine village”.

Martinborough is home to the wonderfully atmospheric Wendy Campbell's French Bistro, a little slice of Paris in Kiwiland that was named New Zealand's best regional restaurant in 2008. A buzzy spot just off the town square, it serves local delicacies like whitebait and paua (a local shellfish). The dishes often have a French accent (duck a l'Orange with puy lentils, anyone) and there's a splendidly decadent wine list.

Chef Kent Baddeley also cooks up a storm at Parehua Country Retreat where he offers a Martinborough Experience wine and food degustation dinner, while it is also worth checking out the excellent cellar door restaurants at Gladstone Vineyard and Murdoch James and popping in to the colonial-style Peppers Martinborough Hotel, which dates back to 1882.

Toast Martinborough, which bills itself as New Zealand's premier food and wine festival, is held annually on the third Sunday in November. See for details.


Logan Brown, 192 Cuba Street. Phone (04) 801 5114.

Martin Bosley's Yacht Club, 103 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay. (04) 920 8302.

Matterhorn 106 Cuba Street. (04) 384 3359.

Wendy Campbell's French Bistro, 3 Kitchener Street, Martinborough. (06) 306 8863.

This series of articles has been sponsored by Tourism New Zealand.