If you're the type with Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, then eating at Hippopotamus is the thing for you. Celebrating fine dining and supreme elegance, this is one of Wellington's swishiest joints.
Prices are as rich as the fare, but it's worth every penny. With commanding views over Chaffer's Wharf and the marina, Hippopotamus has one of the finest views in the capital. The interior is pretty impressive too, with a selection of the Museum Hotel's art works on show amid the stuffed peacocks and highly polished glass. It could be a little intimidating, but the friendly, skilled service takes the toffy edge off, making for an enjoyable dining experience.
Of course, all that would mean nothing without the food to back it up, and chef Laurent Loudeac delivers with a bold, elegant menu of classic French cuisine enhance by a few Kiwi accents to capture the local flavours.
The signature breakfast dish, the Hippo Breakfast, is a daunting pile of food delivered with a hearty "good luck" from the waiting staff. While dinner options rage from Loudeac's degustation menus (a range of three options) to a quintessential French pastorale parfait of goodness. Try the creamy foie de canard (duck pate) followed by Moroccan lamb with cous cous, or truffle (naturellement!) fried polenta followed by braised fennel with Milanese risotto. Finish the experience off with a selection from the dessert menu - there's always room for banana mousse or bergamot ice cream. Always.
Set in a hotel, Hippopotamus is all about being hospitable, so there is a private dining room that looks like it was decorated by Versace for special occasions. The restaurant hosts divine breakfasts from 6.30 till 10.30, lunch from 12 till 2 and genteel high teas from Wednesday to Sunday, 2pm to 4.30pm. Dinner is from 6pm till 10pm, bow ties and martinis optional.