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Wellington has some of New Zealand's top restaurants, bars and cafes, which have won awards for their incredible food, service and atmosphere. Here's a round-up of the most recent award-winners.
Having just opened in September 2019 on the Wellington waterfront, this upmarket eating establishment has already been included in Cuisine's top 100 New Zealand restaurants. Each day, Atlas build a menu reflecting seasonal sensitivity and the best produce on offer. The menu details the distance many of the ingredients have travelled to your plate including native herbs (within 10km), wild shot venison (20km), winter truffles (262km) and sea urchin from Bluff (1028km). Their butter is churned in-house and you can find the chefs, pickling, smoking, curing, and fermenting throughout the seasons.
A premium and quintessentially New Zealand dining experience, this is your opportunity to dine at the Beehive, where you might spot some Kiwi politicians if you’re lucky. Combining New Zealand Parliament’s rich history with the legacy of award-winning Wellington restaurant Logan Brown. Previously open for parliamentarian's exclusive use only, Bellamys by Logan Brown is now open to anyone wishing to experience the buzz and incredible food, but you must make a reservation with the restaurant in advance.
Generally regarded as one of Wellington’s finest restaurants, Boulcott Street Bistro is led by acclaimed and award-winning chef Rex Morgan. Opened in 1991 in historic Plimmer House, a charming inner-city Victorian cottage, the restaurant is warm and inviting. The Bistro has a long-established reputation for serving timelessly classic bistro dishes using the freshest seasonal produce and contemporary flavours; their red wine braised lamb shanks are a signature dish. With impeccable service and an atmosphere that speaks of old-world romance, the Boulcott Street Bistro never goes out of style.
Based on a classical Italian style, Capitol's food is fresh, pure and uncluttered. Awarded One Hat by Cuisine Good Food Awards in 2018, the bistro-style menu is strongly seasonal and is carefully designed to take full advantage of local produce. Led by chef and owner Tom Hutchinson, Capitol pride themselves on using ethical produce and the best New Zealand seafood. The restaurant has an intimate feel and the service is warm and professional. Grab a seat by the windows and watch the world go by as you sip your expertly-made martini and decide what to order next.
Award-winning Chameleon Restaurant is the perfect place to experience a seasonal snapshot of the best local produce treated in the very best way. Led by acclaimed chef de cuisine Paul Limacher, Chameleon is known for innovation and crafting dishes with global inspiration with a uniquely New Zealand flavour. If you’re one of those people who likes to taste everything, Chamelon is for you - the dishes served are designed to be between entrée and main size, to enable guests to enjoy multiples tastes. Located at the five-star hotel InterContinental Wellington, the modern window-lined restaurant is light-filled and the perfect place to enjoy a memorable meal as you watch Wellington go by outside.
Showcasing wood-fired cooking, local ingredients, organic wine and craft beer, Charley Noble is the perfect place to experience Wellington on a plate. A haven for lovers of seafood, Charley Noble’s menu features freshly shucked oysters and diamond shell clams, along with crudo kingfish and house gin-cured salmon. Their Zesti wood-fired chargrill and rotisserie is the first of its kind in New Zealand from which they serve delicious wood-fired meats and vegetables. Accredited by the Coeliac New Zealand Dining Out Programme, Charley Noble have won awards for both their food and drinks menus.
Weekend yum cha at family-run restaurant Dragons is a way of life for many Wellingtonians. It’s a chance to catch up with friends and whānau in an informal and relaxed setting, but it’s mostly about the steamed dumplings and Dragons’ are among the capital’s best. Stacks of dim sum steamers are pushed past your table on a trolley with a huge array to choose from, but the joy of yum cha is not having to choose – everything is shared with the table and you’ll be surprised at how many dumplings you can put away while you sit and drink jasmine tea. The vibe, particularly at weekends, is that of hustle and bustle and the service is friendly but fast-paced. Save some room for a custard or coconut bun for dessert.
Tucked down one of Wellington’s laneways, in what was once a carpark, is one of Wellington’s, and New Zealand’s, top restaurants. Egmont Street Eatery is a hidden gem that everyone needs to know about. The all-day eatery has well-deserved reputation for serving some of the best brunch in town, but in truth, excels at every mealtime. Egmont Street Eatery’s menu is a carefully thought-out arrangement of seasonal produce and ingredients – this is a restaurant that isn’t afraid to make vegetables the hero of their dishes. The restaurant caters for dietary requirements incredibly well and the level of service is always impeccable.
Award-winning Field & Green is a personable eatery where chef Laura Greenfield puts great care and thought into her food. Specialising in European soul food – think classy comfort food with dishes like smoked fish kedgeree, fish finger sandwiches but reworked with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. There’s a menu of house-churned ice cream with 17 flavours ranging from homely vanilla to the more adventurous saffron and cardamom. The service at Field & Green is always warm and welcoming, and the restaurant space is classic and simple with lovely personal touches – the mid-century bone and silver cutlery is a family heirloom.
Great India is an incredibly popular Indian restaurant on Manners Street. Their service is impeccable – start your meal with the poppadum and chutney while you decide what to order from the menu. Specialising in authentic North Indian cuisine using locally-sourced ingredients and fresh spices to create flavoursome dishes. The BYO license allows you to bring wine or beer, so take along a good bottle of Martinborough wine or your favourite local craft beer.
Celebrity chef Monique Fiso is revolutionising Māori cuisine and showcasing indigenous ingredients in her Wellington degustation restaurant, Hiakai. Monique’s goal is to overthrow ideas about Māori cuisine and ingredients, researching and showcasing Māori and Polynesian ingredients in modern and innovative ways. Items like tītī bird, red matipo and mamaku are rarely seen on restaurant menus, but regularly feature in the degustation menu at Hiakai. Her kai has been described as intelligent and thought-provoking. Food writer Lauraine Jacobs raved: “This chef is forging a path and showing the food community just how good our New Zealand-grown ingredients can be."
With a vegetarian and plant-based menu, the award-winning Hillside Kitchen offers a creative, inclusive style of cuisine that is more than just dinner – it’s an experience to remember. Chef and owner Asher Boote is focused on celebrating ingredients in their own right, not simply as a substitute for meat, and works closely with local suppliers and producers. Some ingredients are sourced from foraging within the region, and Hillside also has its own kitchen garden. The waste from the kitchen and bar is converted into compost for the garden creating a low waste loop.
Experience exquisite French-influenced cuisine in a glamorous setting at coolest little capital’s most creative and art-focused hotels, QT Wellington. Led by executive chef Jiwon Do, Hippopotamus carries on its award-winning approach to fine dining. By day, Hippopotamus offer an opulent and delicious high tea service that’s the perfect treat or way to mark a special occasion. By night, their beautifully presented dinner menu has a mix of comfort food and fine-dining dishes with wine or cocktails – made by the expert mixologists from the adjoining cocktail bar – to match. With its flamboyant elegance and stunning views over Wellington Harbour, Hippopotamus makes for an always memorable experience.
Housed in a stunning 1920s banking chamber, the always award-winning Logan Brown is charming without the fuss. Their food is innovative, generous and full-flavoured, their service is professional and friendly and their wine list is excellent. In true Wellington style, Logan Brown has its own little quirks – the bar is also a salt water fish tank. For people keen for a taste of contemporary Kiwi kai (food) where every plate tells an inspiring and sustainable story, Logan Brown is an absolute must. With mouth-watering treats such as Paua Raviolo with Coriander, Basil and Lime Beurre Blanc and Crayfish Dumplings with Bone Broth and Tamarind – this is an elevated taste of New Zealand you won’t want to miss.
Scandinavian-style design with a Californian-style menu on Wellington’s Cuba Street. Loretta is a smart but casual eatery serving up wholesome and delicious food in an award-winning, architecturally designed 120-seater restaurant. Perfect at any time of the day or evening, Loretta has menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and the food, served on ceramics by local potter Paul Melser, reflects the natural earthy style of the restaurant’s interior. Start your day with coffee and house-made crumpets and end it with day with free-range organic wood-fired chicken and fresh, seasonal salads. An extensive wine menu is available by the glass, or at the other end of the spectrum there’s fresh lemon verbena tea and kombucha.
Noble Rot is an award-winning wine bar, founded by a group of local sommeliers and restaurateurs and nestled between two of the country’s great wine regions of Marlborough and Martinborough. Tucked away down Swan Lane, Noble Rot has a lovely, intimate atmosphere and is the kind of place where one glass of wine can easily turn into two and then into dinner. Speaking of dinner, the award-winning menu is innovative with the kind of ease and simplicity that comes only with great skill. Noble Rot are also known for their attentive and very knowledgeable service.
What could be more comforting and warming than a bowl of freshly made pasta and glass of red wine? Let us know if you think of something, but in the meantime, head to 1154 for the best-ever version of classic pasta dishes that you already know and love, made from scratch. They make their fresh pasta daily and in-house and they source only the best local and Italian ingredients. The pappardelle alla Bolognese is made just the way they do it in Bologna, with a richer, less tomato-heavy sauce than we might be used to. The popular fettuccine carbonara is also true to its roots, with one small Kiwi twist: the not-quite-orthodox inclusion of cream. It's fresh, it's fast, it's fun and it's fantastically delicious.
Ortega's popularity is down to its two owners: award-winning maitre d' Davey McDonald, who'll welcome you to the Shack with a grin and fondly farewell you by the door at the end of the night; and Mark Limacher, an award-winning chef who has been quietly influential in the food world - Ben Shewry of Melbourne's Attica, voted one of the world's top 50 restaurants in 2018, started out working under him. Ordering steak frites at Wellington's top seafood restaurant will feel like a form of sacrilege but go with it - it's commonly known as the best you'll find in the city.
"Rita is what you get when people who really, really care about food open their dream restaurant and design every little thing to be exactly perfect." Said Auckland food critic Jesse Mulligan when he gave Rita a perfect score in his 2018 review and rated it not only his favourite Wellington restaurant but his favourite restaurant in New Zealand. Rita is an intimate eatery housed in a historic Aro Valley cottage. With two scheduled, staggered sittings each evening, Rita offers a menu that changes not just by season, but by day and by mood. Book a seat and know that you'll be in supremely capable hands in ‘this heavenly place'.
Located in the culinary hotspot of Hannahs Laneway, Shepherd serves refined, yet playful food in a playful, stylish restaurant. Shepherd's menu is fresh, seasonal, and local, and the team try to use every part of everything they cook with. The drinks menu features organic and biodynamic wines and the restaurant also brews their own non-alcoholic drinks in-house which can be paired with your meal. The dining experience has a relaxed informality with the option to sit at the chef’s pass and watch as the kitchen staff do their thing. This is a popular spot so it pays to book a table in advance if you can and if you miss out on a table, you can always drop by their bar for a drink and a snack on the deck.
An award-winning modern neighbourhood bistro, Salty Pidgin is warm and welcoming with an open fire that is lit on cooler days. Salty Pidgin’s menu is driven by quality and makes the most of local produce, meat and seafood. Open for brunch and dinner at the weekends and dinner during the week, their Turkish pide (flatbread with toppings) is a popular choice and their crispy cauliflower with harissa mayo will change your opinion of brassicas for good. There’s an excellent wine list (co-owner JP is a sommelier) and a changing line-up of local and international craft beer on tap. Right across the road from the popular Penthouse Cinema, Salty Pidgin is the perfect spot to head for a bite to eat after a film.
It begins the moment you walk through the doors and into the lobby of DoubleTree by Hilton into a beautifully restored historic building which has all the glamour and style of the 1920s. Head up the staircase or take the extremely dapper lift to Spring Kitchen – a restaurant designed for comfortable enjoyment of the kitchen’s excellent food. For dinner, you’ll be enjoying Spring Kitchen’s Asian-inspired flavours combined with modern European cuisine to create new flavours and experiences, like their signature dish of Angus tenderloin beef with smoked eggplant, curried potato and masala jus.
Set in the quaintly idyllic wine-making village of Martinborough beside the grassy, oak-tree lined town square and inside the historic old hotel on the corner, is Union Square is a bistro-style restaurant by Michelin star-winning chef Adam Newell. Surrounded by farmers and makers of incredible produce and products, including award-winning olive oil and cheese, the restaurant doesn’t have to go far for many of the top-quality ingredients used in the kitchen. Rated in Cuisine’s top 100 New Zealand restaurants in 2018 and 2019, this restaurant is as popular with out-of-towners as it is with the locals.
Specialising in nose-to-tail and fin-to-fin eating, WBC is a popular restaurant that tries to use every part of the best-quality New Zealand meat, seafood and fresh produce they cook with. Brightly coloured patches of chalk paint on the walls are updated with seasonal special dishes, new wine arrivals and the line-up of fresh oysters and clams, served on the shell. The menu has a distinct Asian influence and is made up of small and large plates that are best shared by the table – the chilled Goan raw fish curry served with poppadum is a highlight. Located in the former factory space of the Wellington Boot Company, the elegant restaurant space is dominated by enormous arched windows giving a vista out over Wellington’s boutique retail district, WBC is a lovely spot for a long lunch or dinner with friends.
Café Neo is a café that specialises in all-day brunch menu that celebrates the seasons and Wellington’s artisan producers. With a light and minimalist fitout and genuinely warm and friendly staff, Café Neo is the kind of café you’ll want to linger at. Café owner and experienced chef Luke Crawford is constantly developing new and delicious additions to the menu. The brunch menu features café classics done exceptionally well and catering to a range of dietary requirements. There’s also a delicious range of counter food including fresh baking made on-site.
Set-up and run by Irish ex-pat Dermot Murphy, D4 on Featherston is a modern take on a traditional Irish pub. Keeping the friendly, warm and banter-filled service you’d expect at a classic Irish bar, D4 has updated the concept to include a large selection of local and international craft beer that is continually updated. There’s a great range of food on offer and of course, live sport on large screens to watch the big game. The biggest compliment you can give Dermot is to compare the D4 to a living room – he and the D4 team work hard to make it a warm and welcoming spot where you’ll feel right at home.