The Indian take away we had the other night got us talking about our favourite Indian restaurant in Wellington. Since then, I couldn't stop thinking about my food adventure in the coolest little capital.
Those ten months of food indulgence in Wellington definitely made up for the times that I refused to eat out because 1) it's expensive in London, and 2) you can't get in any of the best cheap restaurants without queueing up for hours. Until now, I still can't get into the groove of dining out here despite being surrounded by famous restaurants and inhaling the smell of my favourite Chinese food everytime I open our kitchen window. At the moment, I prefer cooking our own food not only for the love of it but also because I find it more convenient than going out.
But Wellington is a different story. There, I had the freedom to explore the immense food scene and I ate to my heart's content. Unknowingly, I became a voracious eater. I've never loved food as much as I did in Wellington. The thing is, they have far too many restaurants and cafes that could easily satisfy my evolving palate. I absolutely loved the diverse food culture of the city. Add to this the consistently high standard service and the relaxed atmosphere. I have been to a few of the poshest restaurants in Wellington and never once did I feel intimated by suited male and elegantly dressed female guests- because they are almost non-existent here. This is one of the reasons why I was more confident in trying as many restaurants in Wellington as I possibly could. And now, here I am, writing about some of them.
1. Boulcott Stree Bistro - 99 Boulcott Street
- Set in a cottage on top of Boulcott Street, this restaurant is a little charmer. It easily became our favourite restaurant in Wellington. I love the intimate ambience as much as the food here. J loved their French onion soup (NZ$16), while I was very impressed with their braised pork cheeks (NZ$36) and pan roasted market fish (NZ$36). Pricey you might think but with the greatness of the food and the excellent service, every dollar is worth it. And oh, the mouth-watering sticky date pudding (NZ$16) is a winner.
2. Ortega Fish Shack and Bar - 16 Majoribanks, Mount Victoria
- Located just below the hill from where we used to live, Ortega was the first fine dining restaurant we visited in Wellington. Based on reviews, the restaurant can get very busy so we made a reservation for 830pm. When we arrived, our table was ready and the waitress was quick to take our orders. As it was sort of late, I thought we should have the starter and the mains together. It was one of the worst dining decisions I have made. We waited for almost an hour for our meal to arrive. We were very hangry. When the food finally came, we hungrily devoured them. For J, his smoked white warehou with cucumber kimchi, egg, mayo and black pudding crumbs (NZ$34.90) was not as good as he was led to believe. But the starter- soft-shell crab, roasted pork belly with sweet tamarind and coconut dressing (NZ$22.90) and my main- Tarakihi with laksa sauce, vermicelli, egg and ginger oil (NZ$34.90) definitely made up for the long wait. They were divine. I've not much to say about the service though, as we received no apology for the food delay.
3. Osterio del Toro - 60 Tory St, Te Aro
- I have been to this restaurant twice - lunch with my friend Ei and dinner with J. I have been lucky on both occasions as the restaurant was not busy. In fact, Ei and I had the whole restaurant to ourselves and with J, there were only a family and a couple in the room. I am normally skeptical about empty restaurants but not with this one. The food was good and the staff was competent. When I went with J, he wanted anchovies on his pizza (meataly - NZ$23.00) but the waiter was quick to dismiss the idea. I insisted that he should at least ask the chef. He said he will try but didn't get back to us. But when the pizza came, there were anchovies all over it.
4. Restaurant 88 - 88 Tory St, Te Aro
- I first went to this restaurant a few weeks after we arrived in Wellington and then went back a couple more times since. It's officially my favourite Vietnamese restaurant (so far). The selection of food from entrees to dessert is out of this world. Their drunken salt and pepper baby chicken (photo below) blew me away. I never had such a very delicious chicken in my life. Imagine me eating the poor chicken to the bones. The shaking beef (NZ$29.50) was phenomenal. And for desserts, I recommend the banana leaf wrapped sticky rice pudding (NZ$14.50) and the creme brulee and black sesame ice cream (NZ$13.50)- they're amazingly good.
5. Majestic Cuisine - 11 Courtenay Place
- I actually wrote about this restaurant separately because for the first time in so many years, I actually dined in a Chinese restaurant with a good service. This is the reason why this restaurant will always be special to me.
6. PapaRich - 3b/1 Grey St
- My first Malaysian food experience in Wellington was rather poor so I was very glad that Paparich came to Wellington. They have a different take on food ordering in that you write your order number and food specifications on a piece of paper and when ready, hand it to one of the staff. They also have a buzzer on each table for when you need assistance at any time. The food came in huge portions and they were indeed very satisfying. The chicken skin is to die for! The plain looking Mantau with Kaya was surprisingly very good. For the mains, the crispylicious fried chicken and rice meals are the best! With an average spend of approximately NZ$30, you're in for a treat.
7. Shed 5- Queens Wharf
- I don't know but there was something romantic about shed 5 the night we ate there. The restaurant was calm and the music was light. The food was superb and we were looked after very well by the staff. Although it's quite expensive, it's worth it. If you're lucky, you can sit by the window overlooking the harbour or next to a happy and beautiful rubber plant. :)
8. Logan Brown - 192 Cuba St
- Apparently, Logan Brown is the best restaurant in Wellington. So, when I made the reservation online, I wrote on the special requirement box, "A good dining experience that I could take back with me to London". We went the night before we left Wellington and I'm glad that we saved the best for last. It was the best way to cap off our amazing 10-month stay in the capital. It was the highlight of my food experience in Wellington to say the least. Everything was beyond my expectation and more. We were given a good table in a corner behind the till that provided us with a bit of privacy. The restaurant with its fine dining atmosphere was far from pretentious. The service was personal, with a very competent and obliging waitress. The food was close to perfection. For entree, we ordered the market fish ceviche (NZ$25)and the pheasant and rabbit terrine (NZ$25) to share. For the mains, Ei went for the Hapuku (NZ$39), J got the wild Fiordland venison (NZ$43) and I chose the braised beef short rib (NZ$38).
9. Charley Noble- 1 Post Office Square
- Despite their industrial looking ceiling with exposed pipes and wires, I actually had a very good dining experience at Charley Noble. Their breaded flounder (NZ$39) was so crispy I barely left anything for the dog. Their truffled mac and cheese (NZ$12) tasted so good. The staff who served us was very honest and knowledgeable. Highly recommended.
10. Great India - 141 Manners St
- Our favourite Indian Restaurant in Wellington and still haven't found an equally good one in London. Their food is excellent whether you have it in the restaurant or as a take-away, and it's very affordable too. They actually have a daily lunch promo of NZ$12 for two courses. The staff is very accommodating, they always make you feel special.
11. Park Kitchen - 6 Park Road, Miramar
- I am not very keen on the staff at Park Kitchen but I love their food. My favourite being the linguini with chorizo (NZ$16).
12. La Bella Italia - 10 Nevis St, Petone
- Our friend suggested this Italian restaurant after a disappointing trip to a Filipino festival in Petone. La Bella Italia satisfied our hunger with its flavourful "Il Classico antipasti (NZ$23.50), "Calamari Grigliati (NZ$16.50) and huge servings of delicious "La Pasta" (NZ$25.50) . A very good place to go to for some proper Italian food and products. Yes, you can also shop for Italian food items in the restaurant. Una vera delizia.
13. Siem Reap - 99 Dixon St
- My first ever Cambodian food experience and it was very good. I am a fan of processed Mi-Goreng and when I had the real Mee-Goreng (NZ$17) in Siem Reap, I was over the moon. Deliciously cheap food and very friendly staff.
14. Two Souls - 290 Wakefield St
- In my humble opinion, Two Souls is Wakefield Street's best kept secret. It became our "to-go-to" restaurant when we wanted to have a good meal but couldn't be bothered to go anywhere far. Their hot wings was delicious (NZ$12)so as their pork spare ribs (NZ$12.90), and seafood fettuccine (NZ$23.90). And the lady who I assume was the owner was very friendly and helpful. Sadly, I just found out that they have permanently closed down.
15. Smokin' BBQ Grill - Capital Market, 151 Willis Street
- Until recently, there was no Filipino restaurant in Wellington. All there is, is a "carinderia" inside the Capital Market in Willis Street. Smokin BBQ Grill is on my list because Ei and I frequented this place. But honestly, Ate's food is super yummy. Their BBQ tastes authentic, just like the BBQ that I always crave for. Our favourite sisig is the best sisig I've had so far. And with a meal deal (ulam + rice) for just NZ$9.50, you're definitely in for a Pinoy food treat.
The restaurants above and my constant food buddies completed my amazing food experience in Wellington. I am beyond grateful.