I'm keen to share things that I've done with others - I love learning about culture and history, I know the importance of great service, good quality products and positive experiences. I love to experience life's opportunities. I live in Melbourne.
Published May 17th 2014
Visit these eateries to experience more than food ... I've found some lovely places to eat in Wellington – why lovely? … some have a really enjoyable vibe, some offer great food and service, others just have a charming outlook. I encourage you to try them out:
One Sunday evening, I'm ready for a relaxed dinner so I stop here to see if it fits the bill. At first, it looks like a cocktail bar and I wonder meals are actually served. Although tables are set with cutlery, it's a bit hard to tell and no menu is displayed. Within seconds the manager greets me warmly - "Are meals served here?" - "Yes". Good - I survey the menu and give it a try. There's very few people about and I'm one of the first here … hmm, will that be an indicator? It's a wintry Wellington evening and on Queens Wharf it's particularly breezy. But - the heaters and ambience make this feel warm and relaxed. My Pumpkin Soup and toast is delivered by the Chef - a great touch. He's friendly and chats a little. I have Beetroot, Rocket & Feta Salad. The flavours are good and I linger over it in the hope it doesn't come to an end. What a nice way to spend a Sunday evening - here in the warmth, watching the blustery world through the open doors, but sheltered inside. The service is marvellous – responsive, friendly, informal and it's good.
Fork and Brewer - 14 Bond Street, Wellington This bar has a hip, relaxed atmosphere that's nice even when it's crowded and noisy. Atop the stairs from Bond Street, I have a choice of directions. Left to a dining room or right to a bar? Massive brewing apparatus is on display - it adds a great feeling - "industrial and grungy". I go left for food, the server happily shows me to a table in the bar area. The artwork is fascinating – a giant black and white piece has swirling shapes that (when I look closely) is text and phrases – it's unique, engaging and well chosen. Beer drinkers will delight here - day or night. A delicious creamy spicy Pumpkin, Ginger and Coriander soup with garlic bread soldiers arrives. It has lovely flavour, it's hot enough and the garlic soldiers balance it nicely. My server recommends the Manuka Smoked Duck salad as the duck is smoked on the premises. When the salad is delivered, it's spectacular – she precariously balances a high pyramid of salad.
Wow …. but ... disappointingly the delight is in its look not its taste - bland. The only flavour comes from a spicy BBQ dressing, the sad duck is tough and tasteless, served between layers of celery, bean shoots and Asian greens in mayo. The "pyramid" is tapering wontons. It looks good – but doesn't deliver on taste. The best part of my visit is in the ladies bathroom ... it's dramatically decorated with basins set in giant angled beer barrels. What a great touch - the décor and atmosphere are worth the other mediocrity.
Green Man - Corner of Victoria and Willeston Streets, Wellington Eat and extend your brain at the same time here - come on a Monday evening – Trivia Night! The "eatery" is a dated pub dining room with heavy velvet furnishings, timber panelling and darkened spaces - but the food is tasty. Pumpkin, Potato and Parsnip Soup is actually hot enough - rare for a restaurant, well done chef! In real "dated" style it comes with a dollop of sour cream.
Fish of the Day is pan fried Terakihi on salad. It's cooked nicely, but the plating doesn't work - under the hot fish my cold lettuce and cucumber quickly goes limp and watery. A side of vegetables is broccoli, cauliflower, carrot and lots of onion. As I eat, questions are shouted out next door – loud enough for me to hear and answer to myself, but not to be in the midst of the action, nor interrupt anyone who is. Many people settle in for a lively evening of Trivia. I have an enjoyable time over my meal.
Arthur's - 272 Cuba Street, Wellington Sunday morning brunch ... half of Wellington has had the same idea. We're in a converted terrace house at the top of Cuba Street and the little rooms make it a bit hotch-potch in presentation. It feels just like anyone's kitchen at home, right down to the mismatched crockery and shabby surroundings. Our table is up steep narrow stairs on the first floor. I could be sitting in my Nana's front room - except she'd never get up those stairs. For a health-nut like me, the limited menu id disappointing - variations on a "Full English" cooked breakfast. There's no sign of fruit, healthy options, cereal or any type of yoghurt.
We order coffees and breakfasts, then wait … and wait … and wait … over half an hour before even coffees arrive. We linger over these for a long time then the breakfasts come. They are good – just as the menu promises. I leave my companions early and go to pay, but the server has no idea of prices and even when I tell her what I had she can't give me a price. She's grateful for my offer to leave cash with my friends so they can pay in full. It's really busy - perhaps that explains the chaos and slow service. I can overlook this for the pleasure of the "Mum's kitchen" feel, the souvenir teaspoons, Temuka pottery and Crown Lynn crockery - it brings back so many home memories!
Crown Lynn crockery ... memories of Mum's kitchen ...
Boulcott Street Bistro - 99 Boulcott Street, Wellington
A historic Victorian house in Wellington CBD hosts this charming French bistro. It can be all things to all people and the warm atmosphere envelops me. It's not quite 6pm on a week night and it's rippling with chatter. I order a drink at the bar to await my companion.
The tasteful, light, European inspired décor makes it a nice place to wait. The bar area is small, but conducive to conversation. Our table is in a good location – each one seems delightfully light with plenty of room. Fellow diners are close, but don't seem on top of us and we chat readily without having to shout, or fear being overheard. Our dinner is cooked beautifully and our supremely charming server recommends a wonderful red wine for us. It's great and I tell myself I'll be back – but there's one irritating thing … no bookings. Diners must "chance it" to enjoy this French vibe.
Try these for great food and/or service …
Café Thyme - 238 Middleton Road, Glenside, Wellington
This suburban café is at the Garden Centre on Middleton Road between Johnsonville and Tawa. It's relaxed, calm and never appears to be crazy busy, but there's always plenty of diners. Why? … because it's cosy with fresh homely food. The soup is always delicious, hearty and servings are generous - just the thing for a wintery day. I've had marvellous Roast Pumpkin Salad with Feta and croutons here too.
My companions often choose toasted sandwiches - the BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato toasted sandwich) looks particularly nice. One of the main reasons I like to come here it to catch-up with friends - that may take 3 hours and the staff don't bother us. They won't suggest we order more or rush us away. That's appreciated. The cafe is easy to find, parking is easy and coffee is very good too. Return visits are always great.
Pravda Café - 107 Customhouse Quay, Wellington
Don't be put off by the exterior - it's unassuming and even looks a bit run down, but inside I step into a different world. It's a beautiful, formally decorated restaurant that is truly enjoyable. The decor puts me in mind of Moscow Underground stations - the high ceilings, hard floors, marble and chandeliers. I assume this is a nod to the heritage of the owners, but the waitress doesn't know of any Russian connection - curious, with a name like "Pravda"?
The service is professional and great. I am instantly offered a magazine when I arrive - being a solo diner most of the time, I'm accustomed to my own company, but the offer is appropriate and very much appreciated. The decor suggests a stiff formal vibe, but it's relaxed and enjoyable. The Sommelier gives me great advice for wine (Mt Difficulty Pinot Grigio - he was right). My waitress is friendly and good. My Market Fish is pan fried Terakihi with onions, potatoes, corn and I have sides of Rocket/Pine Nut/Date/Machengo Salad and steamed broccoli. Beautiful - the whole thing's great.
Charley Noble Eatery & Bar - Ground Floor, Huddart Parker Building, 1 Post Office Square, Wellington
If you're a visitor, don't leave Wellington before you come here. It is quite unobtrusive, I'd even say hidden. It doesn't shout its presence and when I arrive at the big timber front door it seems I'm too early and the place is still closed. But ... I push open the door and find a happy, warm and bustling eatery. The service attentive - not too familiar but warm and welcoming. When I first arrive I'm welcomed by Rob the Maître'd and shown to a rear bar stool at an open kitchen. I expect it to be hideous, but I'm wrong - I get the best seat in the house. I'm enthralled by the teamwork and professionalism in the busy area. It goes without saying their food is as much an art as a science and the output from the team is fabulous. I enjoy the entire experience.
My seat overlooks the Commis Chef (Geordie) at work, who prepares seafood entree dishes, shucks oysters, plates sashimi and slices meats for charcuterie. His deft hands produce quenelles with ease. He graciously answers my questions. I select the intriguing Fire-grilled Cauliflower, with Grilled Octopus and Mixed Leaf Salad. The Cauli, with almonds and fresh mint, sits on a bed of baba ghanoush - delicious, a lovely balance. The open kitchen is a real winner. It's great to visit a place where the people are personable, make themselves known to me and seem to welcome interaction with me. I Iike it a lot and will be back, without a doubt.
Charley Noble - Commis Chef Geordie and Head Chef Darren Shead at work
Chameleon Restaurant & Bar- Hotel Intercontinental, 2 Grey Street, Wellington
What a pleasure to get a table at 9pm on a Sunday night - at short notice. Service is attentive and very personable. The chef sends a delicate Smoked Salmon appetiser which is appreciated and the staff don't bat an eyelid when I order something a little unusual. Due to the late-ish hour to be eating, I order Chameleon Soup du Jour - today's is Creamy Green Vegetable with choy sum and lemongrass, delivered to me with complimentary house-made bread. I get Smoked Salmon Rillettes with pickled shallots, shaved fennel, apple, cress and black pepper cristino, with a Garden Salad. Everything is fabulous - for a hotel restaurant, no, forget the "hotel", for a restaurant it surpasses most.
Foxglove - Queens Wharf, Jervois Quay, Wellington
The Maître D here is flexible - I can wait 30 mins for a table or be seated now and order quickly. I choose the latter and expect a really bad table – wrong. I'm immediately seated at a table with a lovely outlook across Wellington Harbour. I order there and then. A hot crusty dinner roll with oil and butter comes, then Seared Scallops with baby carrots and beans – oohh, lovely. Then ... I'm wrong again, I expect my main course to arrive before I've finished the entrée, but no … it isn't rushed at all – and it's worth the chef's time.
The beautifully tender Loin of Venison, with oyster mushrooms, pea, pancetta and walnut is divine. Sides are Spiced Cauliflower and Radicchio Salad. It's delicious and enjoyable. My waitress is much too effusive for me - but I'd rather that than a sullen person who seems to prefer to be elsewhere. It is all very good.
Shed 5 - Queens Wharf, Jervois Quay, Wellington
My family have a special celebration here with a group ranging from teenage to octogenarian. We accommodate gifts, a cake, flowers, lots of chaos and a pleasant level of chatter - all accepted with aplomb and no fuss. Our table is well situated, food is very good and presentation is consistently nice. There's no undue delays and timing of each course is well balanced and nobody has to wait unnecessarily.
We have Seafood Chowder, Dips & Bread and Tuna Carpaccio entrees, followed by Market fish (Salmon), Lamb Pie, Angus Steak and Fish & Chips. All are beautifully cooked, well presented and smoothly delivered. We have birthday cake with candles delivered nicely to our table. After our Guest of Honour blows out the candles, away goes the cake again to be plated for our desserts. Overall, our entire evening is a roaring success and I have no hesitation coming back or recommending it to others. Fabulous evening.
Enjoy the great outlook to make your day at these ...
Maranui Surf Lifesaving Café - 7 Lyall Parade, Lyall Bay, Wellington
On a Saturday morning I like to go for a brisk walk then find somewhere to sit, read the newspaper and watch the world go by. This is the ideal place to do this - to just hang out - it's relaxed, the breakfast food is good (actually, the food in general is good), the coffee is great and the outlook almost distracts me from my newspaper. I divide my time between the pages of the newspaper, my food and watching the waves roll in to Lyall Bay. The food is home-cooked, muffins are good, breakfast is good and salads are nice. No matter what the weather, the outlook is nice - being a south facing beach, with the airport in the background there's always something fascinating to see. The waves crash onto rocks, wind surfers are exhilarated as they battle elements and the wind howls all around.
Portofino - Queens Wharf, Jervois Quay, Wellington
A qalk along the boardwalk at Queens Wharf going west will bring you here. Just a general Italian pizza place with tasty food and massive servings, but it's in a really nice place. I have Minestrone Soup - doesn't look appetising with its layer of grease on top with a "tide mark" around the white plate, but it's tasty. Chicken Salad is huge with nice (not overdone) dressing. The Bloody Mary cocktail adds to my relaxed enjoyment of the harbour. It's very nice to walk along the waterfront.
Boat Cafe - Top of the Cable Car, Kelburn, Wellington
Find the Cable Car, in Cable Car Lane off Lambton Quay and buy your ticket to the top for around $5. Sit back for a quick, steep and spectacular journey up to Kelburn and in less than 10 minutes you have a stunning panoramic view of Wellington harbour and across to Mount Victoria. The Boat Cafe itself is just a cafe, but if you get yourself a coffee or a snack, take in the view - that's worth the visit. You'll get almost a 360 degree appreciation of the fantastic harbour and lie of the land. You can either ride the Cable Car back down again, take a bus down into Wellington or walk through the Botanical Gardens back to Wellington City. My favourite is the walk through the gardens - for the most part it's an easy 20 minute downhill stroll. I do this every time I visit Wellington.
Cable Car, Wellington: A grey day - but still stunning view.