Five New Wellington Restaurants That You Should Plan Your Next Trip Around

Head to the capital for birria tacos, Peruvian street food and Kiwi comfort food.
Stephen Heard
Published on January 21, 2021

Five New Wellington Restaurants That You Should Plan Your Next Trip Around

Head to the capital for birria tacos, Peruvian street food and Kiwi comfort food.

As well as sideways rain, an over-inflated rental market and booming craft beer industry, the capital is best-known for a dining scene that, believe it or not, puts Auckland's offering to shame. The New York Times once stated that Wellington has more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than the Big Apple, meaning that you're never far from a quality feed. The tightly packaged Wellington CBD makes hopping between eateries a breeze — you just need to decide where to go. Here are five newish openings between the waterfront and inner suburbs that you should plan your next trip around.

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    The dining room at the bottom of Mount Victoria’s Marjoribanks Street has a lot of history. The spot is the former address of Ortega’s younger sister Frenchie as well as Slim Davey’s and the original Roxburgh Bistro. Two years after the former opened, it has now been replaced by another modern European-style bistro.

    New owners Thom Millott and Natasha Piper describe Amok as “part restaurant, part wine bar, with a focus on local ingredients.” Both Millott and Piper have extensive hospitality experience in the capital and across the ditch. Some of that Aussie flair can be seen in the trans-Tasman wine list.

    The pair say the new opening doesn’t particularly fit within any of Wellington’s stereotypical Italian, Asian fusion or tapas bar genres. Instead, the restaurant serves up modern sharing style plates with casual service.

    In an effort to try and cut down on waste, the food menu is scribbled on butcher’s paper. The list changes daily, but it always starts with a selection of snacks, followed by two or three pastas and dishes cooked on charcoal.

    Since opening in the last week of November the menu has featured oysters topped with pét-nat gelée, smoked mussels and crisps, steak tartare, kingfish crudo with kiwifruit and kosho chilli paste, and green tomatoes with stracciatella. The handmade pasta selection has ranged from your classic cacio e pepe with hand-rolled strozzapreti to tortellini in brodo broth, and gnocchi with clams in XO sauce.

    To pair, the drinks list features a concise selection of pét-nat, local craft beer and several non-alcoholic drops.

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    Wellington’s newest pop-up, YakiSoda, takes its inspiration from the combination of Japanese and Peruvian cultures — known as Nikkei.

    Bartender-owners Giancarlo Jesus and Kerry Burgess came up with the idea of pairing Peruvian street food and Japanese highballs after both of their lives and plans were uprooted with the COVID-19 pandemic.

    With bartending experience spanning both London and Wellington, including Ortega and Hawthorn Lounge, the pair say that YakiSoda is a collection of their favourite things about the drinking/dining experience.

    “The theatrics and flavours (of Nikkei) work well together. We want to give customers a new drinking experience and if they get hungry, they know that we have put the thought in to the food menu as much as the drinks.”

    They call the drinks list “a flavour journey,” that begins with more session-able highballs and moves into more complex, bolder and boozier drinks. To start, that might mean you’ll be knocking back a Peruvian pisco highball mixed with Albariño white wine, sake and bitterorange neroli soda. The whisky highball is there, too, only with notes of vanilla, Oloroso sherry and satsuma soda. Elsewhere, wines come listed simply as white, pink and red, and there’s one nameless lager and cider.

    For some sustenance between drinks, YakiSoda offers South America’s toasted cancha corn with chilli, Japanese-style grilled rice balls with pork or eggplant, market fish ceviche, vegetable tempura, anticucho kebabs in either ox heart or mushroom, and a kakigōri shaved ice dessert.

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  • 3

    From the hospitality empire behind Bethel Woods, Coene’s and Honey Badger comes a new spot specialising in the clash of Mexican-American street food. Perched on Wellington’s Queens Wharf in the former home of Munchen, Rosie’s Red-Hot Cantina & Taco Joint serves up everything from quesadilla pizza to corn dusted with Flaming Hot Cheetos.

    Tacos by way of Baja California are the speciality of the colourful new venue. Rosie’s pays tribute to the Mexican peninsula and official birthplace of the fish taco with its own turmeric battered creation paired with wasabi mayo and lemon and tequila jam. Diners can also order a pork belly and pickled pineapple offering or another with cauliflower and coconut — all come served on white corn tortillas.

    The venue’s birria street tacos come filled with the namesake sweet, sour and spicy beef brisket and are grilled on a flat chrome plate to provide an additional crunch and the gooey cheese pull. They come served with birria sauce for dipping.

    While Tex-Mex street food is the main approach, the venue still manages to satisfy the capital’s appetite for burgers. Here you’ll find a double pattie cheeseburger stacked with cheese, candied bacon and all the trimmings on a sesame seed potato bun. Vegans are catered for, too, with a hemp and chipotle burger, while the ‘Doggystyle’ tips its hat to the Snoop D.O. Double G with Koreatown fried chicken.

    Margaritas, of course, appear on the drinks menu — only here they come in slushie form, on tap or shaken and served over ice. And in the beer department there’s a range of Fortune Favours, Double Vision, Te Aro and Tuatara to enjoy in the 150-person outdoor space.

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  • 2

    Egmont Street Eatery arrived on the scene in 2015, tucked away in what used to be an old industrial carpark. The modern light-filled eatery has since become one of the capital’s favourite destinations for brunch, lunch and dinner.

    For the warmer months the Wellington favourite is extending its reach to Martinborough by setting up a satellite operation at Palliser Estate winery. The out-of-town offering, aptly titled Egmont at Palliser, is open for the 2020/21 season serving up fare inspired by the producers of the Wairarapa.

    The menu has also been designed to complement Palliser’s wines. Small plates might include chicken parfait, goat’s cheese profiteroles and falafel with smoked yoghurt. The platter selection will feature the likes of charcuterie alongside a daily cheese selection, preserved garden vegetables and house-made breads, while larger lunch dishes span from grilled octopus to crispy pork belly, roasted eggplant and a crayfish roll.

    The bistro-style lunch dishes and grazing plates can be enjoyed in the park-like surrounds of the vineyard and winery — be it sinking into a bean bag on the lawn, at a table in the shady courtyard or in the newly renovated dining room.

    Palliser will line up the wines for you to enjoy with your meal. Head to the cellar door and taste the full range, sip a tasting flight at your leisure or take home a bottle for later.

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  • 1

    Wellington restauranteur Asher Boote has reimagined another of one his popular venues. This time, long-standing Thorndon favourite Tinakori Bistro makes way for new neighbourhood eatery, Daisy’s.

    After 28 years of white tablecloths and French dining, Boote has pressed the refresh button in line with what he calls “a new, more accessible era of dining.” He believes the word ‘bistro’ has previously taken on a starchy, high-end connotation. With Daisy’s he wants to bring back the neighbourhood restaurant and take ownership of what the bistro originally was: “A local eatery to gather with great food, where you can come for a bite and a drink with friends or sit down around a multi-course meal for a family celebration, and everything in between.”

    On offer at the new opening inside the 150-year-old building is Kiwi comfort food with eclectic modern flavours. That includes smaller dishes such as creamed paua and flatbread, and pork and duck liver terrine with homemade piccalilli.

    Larger dishes include slow-cooked lamb shoulder with mint jelly, and roast half chicken with spiced butter, sage and onion stuffing. For something sweet there’s roast tamarillo, salted walnut with oat custard and the ‘Golden Milk’ pie with ginger cream. Fans of Tinakori haven’t been forgotten as the famous steak frites cross over to the new menu.

    Daisy’s is currently open for dinner service from Tuesday to Saturday, and the upstairs dining room is available for private functions.

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