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By Heather• 8 May 2018
How would I define Lulu, a new bar and restaurant serving oceanic eats and drinks on in the former Ancestral site on Courtenay Place?
If Lulu were a person, she'd be beautiful in every single way, always go out of her way to make you feel good, and genuinely cares about you.
Mat and Tracey Lear, the duo behind this new spot, have been involved with other bars for Trinity Group, and their experience really shows.
They roped in friend Johnon MacDonald, an award-winning chef from Canberra, to be their Executive Chef and assist with the set-up of the menu. And long-time Wellington cocktail stalwart Ricky Carter to set up the bar, which offers no fewer than 95 different rums, and a bunch of rum tasting flights.
The team have created a Hawaiian-styled contemporary bar and eatery, marrying traditional Hawaiian with modern Pacific influences - a showcase of land and sea.
There's lots of lush greenery against woven and darker panelling throughout, with bursts of pineapple yellow lighting. And a lovely mural of four local Pacific lasses keeping watch over the courtyard down the back (yes, still with the heated seating you might remember from Ancestral).
The balance of traditional and contemporary is clear in the food too. The poke was the best I've had in a good long while - light, fresh, flavourful, and textured with grains of black rice and plantain shards on top rather than the traditional bed of rice. And the Hawaiian fried rice was softly flavourful, complete with Spam and all.
Good use is made of a Josper over to produce tender proteins and impart a little smokiness through many of the dishes, such as the wood roasted edamame with shiso seasoning, citrus and chilli.
In terms of food provenance, the team only use line-caught sustainable fish, and as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible.
They're also about to launch another signature dish - second to the poke - of half baby suckling pig to be shared between four or more people, which I've been told melts in the mouth.
And they are currently getting final sign-offs for BYO kaimoana (crayfish and pāua only), so you can book in your live catch 24 hours prior and have it cooked one of three ways for you and your guests to enjoy. Mat himself is a free diver, so understands the beauty of fresh from the ocean.
Because Boom Burger next door is actually part of the same premises and kitchen, you can also order their burgers in Lulu to enjoy with a beer in the garden bar.
If a local craft beer isn't your thing, I noticed Samoan Vailima beer available, lots of Pacific-inspired cocktails, both a hard and virgin coconut sorbet spider, Lulu's own pineapple soda, and a slightly random Andert Gernischter Sotz white wine from a wee village in Austria. Oh, and a rum or 95.
The service was friendly and helpful (offering a great tip to dig the spoon right into the centre of the rice dessert!), and the vibe easygoing.
As with the former Ancestral, there are different spaces depending on your mood, but beware the music is equally loud everywhere. It is, after all, marketed as a place for food, drinks and partying.