Acclaimed plant-based dining at Hillside Kitchen

Seasonal and foraged eats at Wellington’s leading plant-based restaurant

Hillside Kitchen and Cellar restaurant front

Where

Thorndon

Location

241 Tinakori Road
Thorndon

After three-and-a-half years operating as an award-winning eatery serving both meat and vegetables, Hillside decided to go completely vegetarian in September 2018. It was a daring move on the part of owner and head chef Asher Boote, but it has undoubtedly paid off.

The Thorndon restaurant is just as popular and acclaimed as ever, and Boote believes the quality of their food has improved since they went veggie.

hillside kitchen and cellar tart
Hillside Kitchen and Cellar
Herbs at Hillside Kitchen and Cellar
Pickled jars at Hillside Kitchen and Cellar

Why? With meat no longer forming the centrepiece of dishes, he and his team were forced to innovate and explore the untapped potential of vegetables. It’s simple, he says: the best dishes come out of a deep connection with the ingredients; when you can use every part of an ingredient, you feel more connected to it; and it’s easier to use a whole vegetable than a whole animal.

Plus, using every part of a vegetable minimises waste, and sustainability is a big part of Hillside’s ethos. This also shines through in the way they source their ingredients, with almost everything either grown in the restaurant garden, bought from local suppliers or foraged nearby.

Seasonality is key, which means the Hillside menu is constantly changing. As a diner, you never know quite what to expect, especially since there’s no à la carte dinner option. Instead, you choose between a five- and seven-course tasting menu, with or without wine matches.

Although there’s no knowing in advance exactly what Boote will serve up, here’s what you can be sure of: the food will reflect ‘modern multicultural New Zealand’; a few key seasonal ingredients will crop up several times, used in vastly different ways; and every plate will be jaw-droppingly beautiful (check out their Instagram for proof).

The ever-changing wine list is small but varied, showcasing natural, organic and vegan wines. And, refreshingly, non-alcoholic drinks aren’t an afterthought. Hillside makes a range of sodas and kombucha in-house, and you can even opt for non-alcoholic drink matches with each course on your tasting menu.

Speaking of which, don’t be intimidated by the multi-course format. At Hillside, the food is gourmet but the atmosphere is far from stuffy. As soon as you step into the quaint little building on Tinakori Road, you’ll get a friendly welcome from the staff. Ron Crummer’s Kōwhai pendant lights cast a cosy glow over the stylish Scandi-inspired fit-out – think warm, simple timber rather than starched white tablecloths.

So leave your black-tie garb at home. Just come with an appetite for culinary adventure, and you won’t be disappointed.

Hillside Kitchen and Cellar exterior

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