Fun and irreverent Kiwi-style dining at Shepherd
With a mix of high and low, award-winning laneway restaurant Shepherd is the epitome of dining, New Zealand style
What exactly is a “New Zealand restaurant”? In the case of Shepherd, which wears this label with pride, it’s a mixture of the food itself and the spirit with which it’s served – a Kiwi sense of fun and irreverence that’s often lacking in the global fine-dining scene.
Chef and co-owner Shepherd Elliott delights in mixing highbrow and lowbrow food culture. Exquisitely slow-cooked pāua and octopus are served with a side of salt and vinegar chips. On the brunch menu, exotic steamed tofu custard sits shoulder to shoulder with grilled cheese.
We want it to be fun. We want it to be interesting. We’ve tried to create a space that’s quite changeable. Each time you come in, something’s different.
Shepherd Elliott, chef and co-owner
Ingredients are seasonal and locally sourced as much as possible, so on return visits you’ll notice subtle changes that celebrate and reflect our surroundings. For example, the wild venison tataki, served with almonds and locally made pecorino cheese, might also be accompanied by plums or tamarillos or figs, depending on the time of year.
Shepherd is part of the celebrated Hannahs Laneway precinct, one of Wellington’s food and drink epicentres, and it makes full use of its neighbours’ offerings: peanut butter from Fix & Fogg, chocolate from Wellington Chocolate Factory and bread from Leeds Street Bakery, which Elliott also co-owns.
Staff dinners are often courtesy of Pizza Pomodoro, and the path between Shepherd and Golding’s Free Dive bar is well worn by both workers and diners. (Indeed, Wellington hospo legend Sean Golding both owns Golding’s and co-owns Shepherd. Are you keeping up?)
The weekly Sunday brunch at Shepherd is a much-anticipated weekend event that combines delicious and innovative brunch dishes with cocktails and bottomless filter coffee. The menu is a collaboration with local pop-up Braw Snacks and merges favourite dishes of both establishments, including Braw's decadent grilled cheese with mushroom XO.
There’s no doubt the food at Shepherd is fine-dining level – the many awards it’s garnered since opening in 2016 are a testament to that – but the ambience is relaxed and unpretentious, somewhere you can feel equally comfortable having a three-course meal, a lazy Sunday brunch or a casual drink. The quirky seventies-tinged décor is partly to thank for this, but mainly it’s down to the front-of-house staff, who have earnt themselves a reputation for outstandingly great hospitality, in a city where everyone’s competing to do just that.
The warm welcome even extends to the kitchen, with space reserved for nine diners to sit right on the sidelines and watch Elliott and his team work their magic. (Get in there and book early if you want to secure one of these prime spots.) It doesn’t get much more down-to-earth than that.