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Here are our picks for cafes and restaurants that are perfect for the whole whānau and feature such things as a decent kids' dinner menu, a decent wine list for the adults and staff who are sympathetic to the occasional mid-meal meltdown.
Everybody loves a burger, and Burger Liquor can provide a burger to suit almost everyone. The atmosphere is casual and laid back, with upbeat music, friendly staff, milk shakes for the kids and hard shakes for their hardworking parents.
Chocolate Fish Cafe in Shelly Bay is a slice of Kiwiana campground. Grab a beanbag on the grass or picnic tables and soak up the beautiful views across the harbour. The menu is based around traditional Kiwi BBQ with seafood sandwiches straight off the barbecue - simple, classic, and absolutely delicious.
With a laid back atmosphere, Joe's Garage is a great place to bring the kids (and the dog), listen to some cool tunes and enjoy a cup of Joe's Garage coffee and the grill-style menu. Their old-school toybox, complete with chunky vintage die-cast vehicles and other toys is a total hit with kids, too.
Mr Go's is casual, affordable, fun and fast. The menu is hawker-style Asian-inspired food: think dumplings, filled bao buns, popcorn chicken and Kung Pao cauliflower (the perfect way to persuade a reluctant vegetable eater). Mr Go's is most definitely one that the whole family can enjoy.
Lyall Bay favourites, Maranui and Queen Sally's Diamond Deli, are the perfect place to take the kids after a play at Lyall Bay beach. With some of the best milkshakes in town and legendary home-style baking, Maranui offers brunch and lunch, while Queen Sally's is counter food only. They're both bustling and busy, but the staff are friendly, expert at crowd-control and won't make a fuss if you're little humans spill their fluffy.
Set up each Sunday between Te Papa and the waterfront, the Harbourside Market is fun for the whole family. A fleet of food trucks park up to serve something to suit every family member's taste: from smoothies, to wood-fired pizza, dumplings, whitebait fritter sandwiches and much more. There's a very high likelihood of getting to pat some good dogs, and watching as locals buy fish from the moored fishing boat makes for great entertainment, too.
One Red Dog specialises in family-friendly pizza and pasta. There's a special kids' menu which includes a 'make your own pizza' where ingredients are brought to the table and your mini Massimo can create their own culinary masterpiece. Oh, and they make old-school 'traffic light' drinks so you'll probably want to order one for yourself, as well.
Kids love dumplings and Dumpling'd are Wellington's dumpling dynamos. With three handy locations around town, drop by for a dumpling snack or get some dumplings-to-go for a picnic at the waterfront.
Part of the successful Logan Brown Restaurant family, this young offspring is fun and low key, serving up delicious grilled food and juicy burgers. Grill Meats Beer has a kids' menu doubles as a colouring-in activity and features all-time favourites burgers and fish 'n' chips.
The Southern Cross works hard to look after families, putting on an impressive array of activities for the little ones and their grown-ups. On weekends between 10am - 2pm they go all out, laying on craft tables, colouring competitions and face painting. From 10am on Thursday mornings, there's a room dedicated to parents and kids completely with couches, carpet for crawlers and a specialist staff member whose only job is childminding, but best of all, there's a massage therapist offering FREE ten-minute back, neck and shoulder messages.
On the food side of things, their kids' menu looks to have been written by someone who's actually met a few, and has all of the usual suspects but with a healthier twist.
Located right on the waterfront, Karaka Cafe has a large outdoor area beside the lagoon which is lovely for lunching during the summer months (but maybe book an indoor table if lunching with adventurous kiddos). The refreshing kids' menu is packed with rather un-kids-menu-like offerings, like smoked fish cakes served with sliced apples.