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 and the spirit in which it’s served. The restaurant brings a Kiwi sense of fun and irreverence that can feel at odds with the traditional definition of fine dining.

Chef and co-owner Shepherd Elliott delights in mixing highbrow and lowbrow food culture. Ingredients are seasonal and local, with interesting flavour combinations. Every dish lets the hero shine — whether it’s wild venison, sustainable fish, or the humble carrot. The approach extends to the popular weekend brunch menu, which delivers a new (and delicious) take on morning classics. Think toast with egg and octopus, or pancakes that combine BBQ sauce and lemon yoghurt (trust us on this one).

Jacob Pietras

There’s no doubt the food at Shepherd is fine-dining level — the many awards it’s earned since opening are a testament to that. But the relaxed atmosphere makes it somewhere you can feel comfortable having a three-course meal, a lazy Sunday brunch, or a casual drink. The quirky, 70s-themed décor is partly to thank, but it’s largely down to the front-of-house staff. The team have earned themselves a reputation for outstanding hospitality, in a city where everyone’s competing to do just that.

The restaurant’s warm welcome also extends to the kitchen. There’s space reserved for nine diners to sit front row and watch the team work their magic (make sure you book early to secure one of these spots).

You’ll find Shepherd on Eva Street, part of Hannah’s Laneway. Counted amongst its neighbours are Wellington institutions like Pizza Pomodoro, Goldings Free Dive, and Shelly Bay Baker. Dining there feels like you’re at the epicentre of the capital’s hospitality scene.

Jacob Pietras