You’ll never go hungry or thirsty in Wellington. This is a city that takes culinary pursuits very seriously, none more seriously than coffee. The city’s best baristas have rock star status, with fans faithfully following their takes on bespoke roasted beans.
The New Zealand capital is also the country’s capital of micro-brewing, and beer lovers will be dazzled by inventive styles and flavours. The wines of New Zealand are, of course, world famous and Wellington’s bar scene, thriving down laneways, up secret stairs and in cosy corners, showcases them in style. Healthy competition makes for amazing cocktails, with sophisticated mixology found in cool spots such as the Hawthorn Lounge or Library.
Wellington is home to some of the country’s most iconic restaurants, such as Matterhorn on Cuba Street. Venture further afield to Lower Hutt to discover pretty Petone with its vibrant café scene. Throughout the region are some terrific artisan producers, including Zany Zeus for cheese and the Eastbourne Deli for famous vanilla slices.
Our top picks
192 Cuba Street, Te Aro
An institution for long weekend lunches, Logan Brown is a national flagship of all that is great about New Zealand produce and wine. Described as serving New Zealand cuisine at its finest, this award-winning restaurant also encapsulates everything that’s great about Wellington: never fussy or stuffy, it’s classy yet casual, outstanding quality for great value and the setting, an ornate former National Bank of New Zealand building, is gorgeous. With more than 230 New Zealand and international wines on the menu, it’s also a great place for a tipple at the bar.
Maranui Surf Lifesaving Club, The Parade, Lyall Bay
Wellington is spoiled for great brunch spots but Maranui Café is unique. Housed in a beautifully-restored old weatherboard surf lifesaving club, the café is fitted out in a funky, sporty 1950s vibe, with vintage trophies and kitchen chairs offset by bright works from local artists and uninterrupted ocean views. The coffee is sublime, the breakfasts big, and as for those slabs of delicious cake, it’s worth heading back for afternoon tea after an exhilarating walk along the blustery, beautiful shoreline.
Eat like a local
161 Cuba Street, Te Aro
A brunch institution, “Florries” (as the locals call it) has a way with hollandaise. If it’s eggs you’re after in Wellington, then look no further. But this relaxed yet perfectly on point eatery is open all day and into the night – to miss dinner, accompanied by an extensive wine list would be a shame. Simple, locally sourced, often organic and very tasty dishes are the go here, especially if it’s fish or pasta.
27 College Street, Te Aro
This claims to be “New Zealand’s original café and coffee roaster”, and the fact their beans spread to more than 200 other cafes countrywide proves it’s no empty boast. Founded in 1990, Caffe L’affare is as busy as if it was the latest, hottest joint in town. That’s because in a town where it’s hard to get a bad coffee, there is none fresher. You drink your caffeine fix right there in the warehouse and plant. Grab a baguette, pull up a stool at the communal high tables and get chatting to the local devotees.
Little Beer Quareter
6 Edward Street, Te Aro
Need convincing of the Wellingtonian love of craft beer? More than a dozen taps pull a changing roster of brews, while the substantial fridges keep cool a hundred or so bottled. Meanwhile, well-versed bartenders lovingly share their knowledge of all things amber. Better still, ask the local next to you what their favourite is. Chances are, you’ll discover a beer you’ve never heard of from a corner of New Zealand you might want to visit some time.