The winds of change blow through Wellington's restaurants almost as often as the prevailing nor'wester the city is famous for. Popular Courtenay Place boozer, Basque, is the latest spot to enjoy a breezy makeover, recently hatching as Mockingbird.
While some of Basque's beloved bits remain, including the rooftop, craft beers and casual vibes, Mockingbird is serving up some refreshing new features.
The downstairs space has been given a spruce up, with tidy feature walls, wood panels and greenery replacing the gaudy decor of Basque. There's a nice mix of high and low tables, so will suit those wanting to settle in for a meal or groups after a few casual bites with their drinks.
Along with a snazzy refit, Mockingbird is also dishing up a brand-spanking new menu. Gone are the Spanish eats in favour of plant-based, vegan-friendly delights, with an emphasis on fun, fast food.
Boasting a mix of hunger-busting burgers, nourishing bowls, various forms of spud (curly, kumara, loaded) and desserts, the menu is sure to please vegans hankering for some naughty food as well as carnivores who want to eat a bit more sustainably.
On our Friday night visit, my friend and I opted for a couple of burgers and side plates (the bowls are only on offer during the day).
We chowed down on the cheeseburger ($13) — a vegan take on the classic, with a faux beef patty, vegan cheese, pickles, onion, mustard and ketchup. The patty did a decent job as a replacement for its meaty relative, however the burger fell short with an overload of onion and sauce. The crumbed seitan 'chicken' in the K-Pop burger ($15.50) was a yummy inclusion, but the slaw was a bit absent and overall we found this one a bit bland.
Our side dishes were really the winners on the night. We smashed a plate of Cauliflower Wings ($11) — big chunks of cauli, battered and covered in a sticky buffalo glaze. These were seriously moreish with the added benefit of being guilt-free, after all, a plate of cauliflower totally counts towards your five plus a day.
The loaded fries ($13) also went down an absolute treat. With a generous helping of beer battered fries, covered in vegan cheese sauce, pulled barbecue jackfruit and jalapenos, these were tasty and filling. The jackfruit is a pretty remarkable substitute for pulled pork and would likely fool most meat-eaters.
The drinks menu is substantial. There's a solid lineup of wholesome drinks on offer, from vegan smoothies to kombucha, juices to herbal teas. Or if you're in the mood for something stronger, there's ample beers, wines and ciders to quench your thirst. Basque fans will also be stoked to know that they can still get their sangria fix, with four tasty flavours on offer. As always, this is best enjoyed on the rooftop on a cracking day.
While the service was a little haphazard, the staff were friendly. The restaurant was humming with diners and had a chilled, low-key vibe — a welcome change from some of the raucous establishments along the strip.
For cheap and cheerful eats, Mockingbird is sure to hit the spot. Big props to team for opting for a sustainable, earth-friendly approach. If you're after good food that's good for the planet too, add this one to your list.
19 Blair Street, Wellington