Wellington: the food

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Excuse me a moment while I indulge in a memorable oyster moment.

In front of me are six of the plumpest, creamiest, tasting of the sea-iest oysters I’ve had since a Bluff Oyster moment in Queenstown. In fact, these ones could possible be even better than those. They have a name. It starts with t…I probably should have written it down, but I was too busy having my moment.

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This is the second day in a row that I’ve eaten at Charley Noble. Saturday lunch was with the girls…so is Sunday dinner- just a different bunch of girls. And why not? The food is good, the service is good, and the vibe is lively…and I love the lights.

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There are, however, plenty of alternatives. Wellington is one of those towns with a serious café and foodie soul- and you don’t have to look too hard for it. Here’s the best of where I ate this trip…

Charley Noble

Aside from the oysters, the crodo is amazing here- wafer thin slices of sashimi on a bed of horseradish sauce that has obviously never seen the inside of a bottle.

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Then there was the remarkable pork belly with sage bread sauce, mustard fruits, crispy crackling and a million calories…

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The girls on Saturday had desserts,

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the girls on Sunday had cocktails.

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And the name? It’s a nod to the shipping history of the Huddart Parker Building. Apparently Charley Noble was the nickname for the galley chimney, which drew the heat from the galley stove and carried it safely above decks.

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Best for: Catch up with the girls, dinner with the in laws, pre WOW yummos…anything!

Joe’s Garage

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I’ve been to one of these in Queenstown, and this version is far from a disappointment. Great breakfasts, but open late as well.

The music is vibrant enough to mix with morning coffee, the décor quirky and the textas distracting.

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Best for: breakfast in the city

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Karaka Café

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This one is located on the waterfront within the Te Raukura, or Wharaewaka, functions centre. You can’t miss it. The building itself comprises three parts: the Wharewaka (waka- canoe- house), Whare Tāpere (conference/events and entertainment house), and Wharekai (eating house). I got that from the website.

The menu, Rarangi Kai, is heavily based on local produce. I love the English subtitles to the Maori menu. It’s yet another touch of integrity.

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I had the whakapipi iti- a trio of sliders: lemongrass fish, pork belly with kimchi, New Zealand ground beef…oh and some seriously amazing chips- riwai- with kawakawa aioli.

Best for: a sunny day. Grab a table (or a beanbag) outside, if you can.

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Monsoon Poon

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Apparently this name translates into something a little more risqué than it sounds. I popped it into google translator…and…yep. It doesn’t explain why the picture outside is of an elephant and not a cat. And the elephant looks dry… are you putting the lines together?

This place feels a little like I’d imagine a den in Singapore of Penang, or somewhere else like that to feel. It probably looks nothing like an opium den, but it feels like I imagine one would look and feel. Except for the plates on the wall signed by famous (and apparently famous) people. I don’t see the point of these- they’re jarring in an otherwise exotic dining space.

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You can’t book here on a Saturday night, so be prepared to wait. Lucky the cocktails are good…as is the food when you get it. This is Asian street food with a twist and a kick- and an atmosphere to match.

If you’re into something a little spicy, you must try the firecracker sliders- spiced chicken in a fresh bun with chilli mayo- or the little dragon tacos- S.E. Asian shrimp in a smoky chilli sauce with avocado & fresh coriander in a soft roti shell.

Sadly they’d sold out of the wanzis- crispy bean curd, smoked pork, spring onion & panko crumbs, served with a honey, chilli, ginger soy dipping sauce. It was the name that got me- onesies…get it?

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Best for: groups, share plates, and noisy catch-ups.

Logan Brown

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Just one word describes this experience- sublime. Close your eyes sublime. From the first bite. Actually, before that- from the first sip of Urlah Pinot Gris, and the first nibble and olive oil dunk of sourdough. From there, it just got better and better. So good that I could do an entire post on it- but my food photos aren’t quite good enough.

Although we’d had our eye on the dessert menu, after a few of tasting plates and a main meal, we could barely muster the strength to even open the dessert menu- let alone order anything from it.

What did we eat? I’m glad you asked. We shared tastes of:

  • Beet Cured Salmon Gravlax, Wasabi & Popcorn Scampi
  • Paua Ravioli with Corriander, Basil and Lime Beurre Blanc (pic below- although the photo doesn’t do it justice)
  • Waikanae Crab Cake, Gribliche
  • Muttonbird Rillettes, Calvados Jelly & Cranberry Bread

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I followed that with Free Range Pork, Jerusalem Artichoke Flan, Confit Duck Shepherd’s Pie & Toffee Apple. It was remarkable.  My friend had a little more restraint and chose an entree for main- Pumpkin Pappardelle, White Asparagus, Blenheim Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins & Feta Gremolata.

Best for: a last night in Wellington thanks for the memories special meal, couples, proposals, impressing, a foodie experience. Don’t forget to lean on the bar and check out the rockpool inside the bar- complete with prawns, baby crays, starfish and sea urchins. Book ahead and dress up a little.

Mac’s Brewhouse

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Yep, it’s a pub. On the waterfront.

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With craft beers and a funky interior.

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Best for: beer, better than dude food, a sunny day…did I mention the beer? In case you’re interested, my choice (after sampling a few) was the Sassy Red.

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St John’s

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In an old ambulance station, next to NZX, on the waterfront, this bar is another great spot for a Sunday nibble and slurp in the sun.

 

Yes, we had chips and gravy….

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Don’t forget your sunscreen.

Comments

7 comments on “Wellington: the food”
  1. I found it difficult to get past the desserts & cocktails photos but, should I make it to Wellington, I will remember this post 🙂

    1. Jo says:

      lol…would you believe that my dessert count for the trip was zero…let’s not talk about my alcohol count!

      1. That’s impressive – zero dessert count. Well done – so you’re allowed a reasonably high alcohol count to balance things out 🙂

  2. Deborah says:

    Oh yum! My bestie lives in NZ I should make sure she’s tried these places (she lives in Christchurch!).

  3. Rae Hilhorst says:

    We will be visiting Queenstown next year so a stopover on the way would clearly be the way to go. I love good food, am from Auckland myself and have never made it much past Wellington.

    1. Jo says:

      Hi Rae, Queenstown is fabulous. Check out the NZ category for some Queenstown posts from the last few years.

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