Mac and cheese, while being an undeniably wholesome comfort food, doesn't exactly have a reputation for sparking the imagination. That's unless you happen to be stopping by Wholy Mac, Petone's very own mac and cheese bar.
Based in a narrow but cosy space in the heart of popular Jackson Street, Wholy Mac's interior is simple and unobtrusive, a far cry from the food it serves. Glance over the diners' shoulders on your way to the counter to take a peek at what's on offer, before perusing the menu itself: a panoply of curious and out-there combinations.
All of Wholy Mac's mains come with a base of cheddar and mozzarella blend mac and cheese, accompanied by its signature herbed breadcrumbs and a selection of toppings ranging from seafood and fried chicken to bacon and more.
We had a tough time choosing just two from the menu, but eventually settled on the Wholy Cow ($14.90) and Mac X Mex ($14.50). The Wholy Cow is one of the plainer options on offer, with just slow-cooked beef brisket and gravy on top of the mac and cheese. While the brisket was decent enough and the gravy added a rich veneer to the dish, we felt that overall it was a tad bland and lacked any real punch — a bit unfortunate given that the individual components seem to be of reasonable quality.
The Mac X Mex, on the other hand, embodies what Wholy Mac strives to be: solid mac and cheese fused with familiar but fun flavour combos. It's exactly what you're imagining — a nacho-themed mac and cheese dish topped with chilli con carne, sour cream and jalapenos, with a ring of tortilla chips around the sides. The flavours are bold and zesty, with some sharp contrasts between the spicy toppings and the creamy mac and cheese, and it's a meal you can have a bit of fun with — especially with the hot sauces provided on the tables.
Wholy Mac certainly offers something fresh and funky to Lower Hutt's burgeoning foodie scene, with Petone locals now boasting a dedicated mac and cheese bar to call their own. It might not be fine dining, but if you're after a hearty serving of mac and cheese with some twists (and who wouldn't be, on a typical Wellington winter night?), there are few better places to go.