That sinking feeling of arriving home and realising a: you don't have the strength to muster a Nigella-level dinner for yourself, or b: all you've got in the fridge is a sad carrot and half a carton of custard. That needn't be a thing anymore.
Wellington is home to a choice crop of cheap eating spots for those nights when you just don't have the energy to magic up a three-course meal — or you just can't be bothered doing a Metro run and then preparing the food. Don't sink to the last lone packet of mee goreng at the back of the pantry, but don't feel like you have to dip into your savings account to go out for dinner, either. These spots will leave you happily fed while also being kind to your bank balance.
Honestly, this Peranakan heaven is the place to go to if you want excellent Malaysian food that hits the spot, every time. Owner Tie Phee and her husband Keith Cheah use only the best Malaysian ingredients, some of which are hard-to-procure even in Malaysia. The mee goreng is city-famous, with its fried vege fritters and fresh greens cutting through the saucy noodles and prawns ($15.90), and the curries and roti are excellent on a rainy day, with different curries every day (I can vouch for the vege one, and at $8.90 it's spectacular value for money). Little Penang doesn't do alcohol — just truly great food, so you don't have to factor a glass or two into your dinner budget.
Ekim Burgers are a city institution. The old burger bus used to run on the beach in Lyall Bay, until it relocated to a spot at the top of Cuba Street. Lucky us. The burgers taste homemade in the best way, so you can just pretend that you whipped it up. Price-wise, you're looking at paying $6 for the classic Esther burger, increasing as you add more accoutrements to your creation.
Camel Grill's chicken shawarma is the ultimate can't-be-bothered-cooking-my-own-dinner dinner. Put your evening meal in the hands of Wellington's best kebab restaurant (in the words of our own falafel expert). A shawarma will only set you back $10 — make it a combo with spicy chips (the paprika sumac aioli is to die for) and a drink for $15. The baklava is also divine, in taste as well as price ($4). Pop in, listen to some Arabic pop, watch the pigeons doing their thing in Te Aro Park and pick yourself up possibly one of the best dinners in the city. Extra points for their heaven-sent homemade flatbread.
Sweet Mother's has been the go-to for years for curly fries fiends. But the dinner menu is also reasonable. I always go straight for the enchiladas — tortillas filled with creamy mushroom, roast pumpkin and green chilli, grilled in tomato sauce and cheese ($17.50). At that price, you can order a pitcher of margarita too and make a real night of it. What's an 8.30am start?
Rumour has it, Fisherman's Plate was the fish and chip shop of choice for Viggo Mortenson (Aragorn) when he was filming LOTR. Well, not rumour, it's documented in a laminated Dom Post article on the wall. But the thing Fisherman's Plate is reallyknown for around town these days is their pho. The shimmering, umami spiced broth is an absolute godsend in winter, with its thick rice noodles, chilli and herbs floating around in the steaming bowl in front of you. The greens and sprouts add a fresh touch, while the lemon cuts through the broth in a perfectly zingy complement. I always go for the lemongrass and ginger sauteed lamb option ($16), but the standard rare beef pho is an extremely reasonable $13. The spring rolls are awesome, too. A light meal of veges, noodles, meat (I choose the prawn option) in rice paper and delicious dipping sauce for $9 for three.
You know that intense, hangry feeling you get at about 5.30pm when you're about to finish work but the only thing you want to do is be at Belle's Hot Chicken in Melbourne getting stuck into some fried chicken? No? Only me? Okay, well in the event that you one day experience this, there's Lucky to quell some of your chicken pangs. The best fried chicken burger in the city (in my opinion) for eleven bucks (single patty). Also well worth a hoon are the gravy fries — a quick fix for a few dollars. You can be at home eating them in bed and watching Netflix in no time.