19 Feb 2017

Where to eat in Wellington

This might be the last freedom travel for a while! When I secured a job for this year, one of the first things I did was book a trip to Wellington.

I was attracted to Wellington because of the highly acclaimed Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa museum. Which, if you haven't seen, you really must especially if you're a New Zealander. It was mindblowing how advanced the technology they used to make the figures so detailed and lifelike. The emotions on their faces were captured to create a sobering and eye opening experience. I couldn't believe it was free entry; they could charge $20 and it would still be worth it.

Aside from Te Papa, another attraction was the cafes that Instagram tempts me with.
Wellington is known for their arty vibes thanks to the architecture and design schools in the area. I wanted to visit some 'instagrammable' cafes and there was no one better to ask than my architecture and design friends who are well acquainted with the area. To give you an insight into the credibility of these friends of mine; one of them is a potter, one of them wears tortoiseshell glasses to work and the other has a man bun.

I asked for "hipster" and they gave me a looong list of places to check out. For four days, I went through that list and I had so much fun eating and taking photos.
Most memorable meal at Sweet Mother's Kitchen
Let's first start with the restaurant that isn't "hipster" but is definitely worth the hype.

Sweet Mother's Kitchen
We came here because Chow around the corner on a 2 for 1 Monday had a long queue and Flo and I were starved.
The menu at Sweet Mother's is New Orleans/ South American cuisine and the interior decor reminds me of Mexico restaurant in Auckland; full of character, eclectic and intimately cluttered. Everything on the menu sounded divine, don't come here if you're on a diet, this is food for the soul. For chats, for sharing, for messy fingers.
Dinner at Sweet Mother's Kitchen
I ordered buttermilk fried chicken with curly fries and "Mississippi comeback" sauce. Not sure what the sauce is but it was delightfully perfect with the curly fries. What's even more delicious is the fries with the ribs BBQ coating dipped into the sauce.

It was so filling we didn't have room for dessert, but look at the pies in the cabinet!
I was satisfied and now understand why so many of you told me to come here!

I came back another day to try the beignets, only because this is what Tiana in The Princess and the Frog makes in the film. Beignets are essentially doughnuts covered in icing sugar.
Beignets + coffee
The menu says to dip it in coffee, so that's what I had for supper.
A little disappointing though; the beignets were overcooked, they had a hard shell and they weren't as fluffy and light as I imagined.

Regardless, it was a still a highlight and one I'll be recommending to everyone. Sweet Mother's Kitchen tend to be busy, so book if you're in a group!

Prefab's outdoor seating
Another place that was highly recommended, especially when I mentioned "hipster", is this cafe on Jessie Street.
Double doors open into an industrial-decor large room, bustling with midday chats. I took a seat by the bar and watched the man label coffee beans to sell.
Hanging lamps and metal chairs make up the industrial decor
Coffee bean machine
I ordered the waffles special that week, which was coconut and caramel with fresh fruits. It was so delicious and I ate it so quickly that I regretted not taking a photo of it.

The cabinet food looked delectable too. Look at those donuts!
The coffee was surprisingly good. If you come here, have a coffee to accompany your people-watching afternoon and let me know how the cabinet food is. Prefab was... pretty fab.

The ladies that I had dinner with at Sweet Mother's told me about Tahi, a Thai-fusion restaurant right next door to Sweet Mother's.
It was a quiet restaurant when I went in at 6.30pm. But don't let that deter you.
Chicken cashew stir fry 10/10
I ordered the chicken cashew dish that I always order at Thai restaurants. And oh my goodness.
I was not expecting this work of art.
This is Thai fusion with a twist.

It was encased in a crispy noodle basket and inside that, a lettuce cup holding the mouthwatering chicken cashew stir fry. The sauces were a perfect companion and I'd never eaten anything so fast.

Tahi is no cheap eats, but if you're wanting a treat that won't disappoint, try Tahi. Come here on your next date ;)

Mama Brown
The sign outside Mama Brown says "best milkshakes in town". I have to disagree, not that I've tried other milkshakes in Wellington, but it just tasted like any other ordinary milkshake.
I didn't realise I had paid $10.90 for this large cup until it was too late. And I was doing some calculations in my head. Pack of tim tams $3, bottle of milk $3. What's with the high markup?? Did I accidentally order a 'hard shake' but couldn't taste the alcohol?
No, it was just their weekly special flavor, the other regular flavors are the usual $8.90.

Will try Fidels' shakes next time.

Just down the road from Prefab is L'affare, where I enjoyed the nicest brunch of avocadoes on toast.
Avocado, tomatoes, ricotta on wholegrain toast with dukkah.
So basic I know. But it was so wholeheartedly satisfying that I popped across the road to Moore Wilson's to buy a pack of dukkah to make my own version of this healthy breakfast at home.
In front of Moore Wilson's supermarket is a courtyard with a little smoothie stand.
They had run out of dome lids for their cups so the lady gave me a discount for having to use flat lid with less smoothie.

Perhaps a favorite of mine in terms of the physical place is Husk cafe, located down a little alley off Ghuznee Street.
The seating was cosy and intimate. It was quiet on a weekday morning and the setting would be perfect for a catch up brunch.
There is a brewery behind the seating area and the cafe morphs into a bar in the evening.
I had their homemade crumpets, which for $13 is a good price to pay for a cooked cafe breakfast. But I wished it had an extra crumpet, it wasn't filling enough.

I didn't know what to expect of Husk, so I was pleasantly surprised at the food and ambience. Will definitely be returning next time!


The next day I met up with a friend for brunch at Olive. They have $10 waffles every Wednesday.
Tiramisu waffles. $10 at Olive every Wednesday.
We were so busy talking that I forgot to take photos of the place! I didn't even get to admire the courtyard that it boasts, I completely forgot.

But the waffles tasted as good as they look; berry compote, coffee syrup and mascarpone sprinkled with dark chocolate shavings. A man even asked us what we were eating because it looked "incredible".

They have other specials on different days worth checking out, big breakfast and coffee $22 on Mondays, a three course dinner for $40 on Tuesdays and $12 desserts on Wednesday evenings.

Maranui cafe, Lyall Bay
I took the bus to Lyall Bay. Windy Wellington dissipated my plan to hire a bike and do a scenic cycle trip to the bay.
Maranui cafe is in a big weatherboard building, the peeled paint and the wooden furniture adding to the vintage rustic feel. Up the stairs and you'll find yourself in a surf club style diner.
I loved the colors, loved the oars and even the cloudy day did not bring down the mood.
View of Lyall Bay and the surf club next door
Bright colors on a dreary day
I got food from the cabinet, nothing noteworthy, but I enjoyed the sea view past the red yellow and blue benches on the deck which would've been a stunner of a day if the sun was out.


"I hear you do amazing hot chocolates. Am I in the right place?"
I asked the waiter who nodded and grinned before serving this delectable liquid chocolate in a cup.
Scopa's famous Italian hot chocolate
I'm not a fan of hot chocolates to tell the truth, but so many of you told me to try it and I needed a place to escape the #weatherbomb outside.

If you're a fan of rich, decadent treats, then this is for you. Not to be eaten with anything sweet, just a warning, it is a "full flavored Italian hot chocolate". $4 for a regular size which a lot of other cafes can't get you.

Scopa is on the corner of Cuba and Ghuznee with open glass doors and a sophisticated feel to it. They serve Italian food and aside from the hot chocolates, my guess from looking at the other tables is to try the pizza!


The inside of this restaurant is simple, classic, with wooden partitions to create an impression of privacy between the bench seating. While the gale stormed outside, the three of us sat cosily, catching up on the past year.

If there was one thing that stood out from Loretta's menu, it would be the prices. I'm just being honest, this is no cheap eats. The meat dishes come on its own and you have to add on the carbs and salad, which in total would be a staggering $50 meal.
Pasta tubes, lamb ragu, black cabbage, lemon + parmesan
So I ordered the lamb ragu pasta for a lot less and my, oh my, I did not know pasta could taste this good!!!

I was pleasantly surprised at the combination of perfectly al dente pasta, well flavored ragu with lamb that does not have that strong aftertaste that often puts me off. So tasty, so satisfying, no dessert required.
Freekeh; salmon, pea sprouts, savoy cabbage, chives, fennel top 
Organic chicken pie, roasted fennel bulb, tarragon
My friends, the two hot blonde girls, loved their dishes as well. Chicken pie and salmon salad. Big win for Loretta. Come here to splash out or show off to your Auckland friends ;)

Aunty Mena's

Normally a sign outside a restaurant that says "Vegetarian and Vegan" would put me off. What's an asian dish without stir fry beef? But I had spent my last dollar at the secondhand bookstore and there was no other option between here and the airport. Another reason for this visit is because those of you who aren't vegetarian or vegan spoke highly of this place that I was curious enough to try it.
Vegetarian hokkien mee with bok choy, tofu and mushroom
The hokkien noodles was too salty unfortunately. But my friends were right, I didn't notice meat missing. I'm not the best judge of Chinese food though, since they all taste the same to me. But try it out for an affordable simple meal.

Have you been to these places in Wellington? Let me know which ones you liked and what I missed! If you're going to Wellington, let me know which ones you're keen to check out.
Thanks to everyone who gave their suggestions! I had such a great time. Where to next??