Beth Brash's Wellington
It’s no surprise that I’ve ended up working for New Zealand’s biggest and best food festival, Visa Wellington On a Plate. At university, I was the one cooking elaborate three-course dinners or big Indian feasts, for my flatmates, and watching Anthony Bourdain instead of doing my course readings. I live, eat and dream, food. I enjoy meeting the people behind the plates. And there’s nothing I love more, than walking into my favourite haunts and them greeting me by name.
Find foodie heaven at KC Café
39A Courtenay Place, Te Aro, Wellington
This is the chef’s haunt and the foodie’s local. This late night Courtenay Place spot is the last stop on the pub crawl for revellers and the post-shift meal for chefs. But really, KC Café is a great meal anytime of the day, and with 160 items to choose from, you’ll never get bored. I always try to choose at least one new dish each visit, but my go-to dishes are Eggplant Claypot, XO Green Beans and Crispy Pork on rice.
Wine narnia at Puffin Wine Bar
60 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Like Narnia for wine, this gorgeous bar with plush green velvet booths and murano chandelier, is hidden amongst a bunch of scaffolding and the only signage is an empty wine bottle. Those who know, know - and now you know! With an ever-changing list of wines by the glass, many with unrecognisable grape varieties, let the knowledgeable staff talk you through each one. I guarantee you’ll walk away with a new favourite. The corner booth is the choice spot for many, but for me the indoor/outdoor area out the back is my favourite, sheltered from the rain and wind and surrounded by plants - it’s glorious.
Intimate Dining at Rita
89 Aro Street, Aro Valley, Wellington
We do pint-size so well here in Wellington. This 25-seater restaurant really feels like you’re at the best dinner party ever. Kelda creates a three-course meal each day from whatever is at its peak that day, and, I tell you what, I was peaking after I stopped in here just after a three-week trip to the States. It made me realise that what we have in our own backyard, is on par with San Francisco’s all-day eateries, New York’s neighbourhood restaurants and the trendiest SoCal diners.
Cocktails at Mason
3 Wilson Street, Newtown, Wellington
Mason, like Rita, is small, but that might be because chef Matt was Kelda’s sous chef for many years and knows what works. Oh, and it works. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and that attitude is catchy. The restaurant is always buzzing and the food can be eaten with your hands (how Matt gets his pita so pillowy I’ll never know). For bigger groups there’s the booths, but for two of you ask to be sat at the bar, in amongst the action, and watch Matt plate up your food right in front of you. The staff are always having a great time and they’ll make sure you are too, with lots of great cocktails and interesting wines to be had.
Find your local at Goldings Free Dive
14 Leeds Street, Te Aro, Wellington
This place is my Cheers, my local, where everybody knows my name. It looks like the inside of a pinball machine and it’s just as fun. It’s colourful, filled with fairy lights, taxidermy and Star Wars. It has a small-but-perfectly-formed tap line up which changes constantly, so the beer and the banter is always fresh. Their nitro tap is perfect for dark winter beers, but really you can never go past a fresh IPA anytime of the year. Pro tip: your $5 bowl of twisties (and other cheese flavoured corn snacks) has unlimited refills, but good luck getting through more than two bowls. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Chili Cheese Scones at Milk Crate
35 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Within a few square meters, you can find three excellent coffee shops (shout out to Customs and Leeds Street Bakery), but Milk Crate is my ride or die. You know your day will start right with Morgie on the coffee machine and one of Brigid’s chilli cheese scones, and maybe one of those matcha Oreo cookies for later.
Escape to Tory Urban Retreat
80 Tory Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Wellington isn’t known for its tropical weather (although there was that one summer of 2015), so you have to find other ways to warm yourself, and Tory Urban Retreat is my escape. This Finnish sauna feels like walking into an oasis, with its lush greenery, blue plunge pool and Roman frieze on the wall. I go to the womens’-only night on Tuesday and it’s just the most wonderful vibe. When we live in such a connected world, this is the perfect place to log out and literally leave it all behind for a while.
The Smokey at Burger Liquor
129 Willis Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Wellington is a city obsessed with burgers. During Visa Wellington On a Plate last year, more than a quarter of a MILLION burgers were consumed as part of Garage Project Presents Burger Wellington. During the festival, the burger chat can be overheard at the pub, over coffee or heated debates in the office lifts! At any other time of the year, my go to burger is The Smokey at Burger Liquor, which is a solid gold winner in my eyes all year round.
Explore Makara Wind Farm
140 Opau Road, Makara, Wellington
A quick drive from the city, the Makara Wind Farm feels like stepping into the future, or a whole other world. The wind farm is often seen out the plane window, but up close these things are enormous, magnificent feats of engineering that make the most incredible sound. On a clear day, this spot also delivers a stunning view of the Tasman Sea and the South Island.
Source handmade souvenirs at Vessel
87 Victoria Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Filled with local potters and ceramic artists, Vessel is where I go to source gifts for visiting chefs - much more meaningful and practical than a bottle of wine to say thank you. They’re literally taking a piece of New Zealand earth home with them. I’ve been doing my own pottery the last 18 months, so definitely have an appreciation of how hard it is to get one thing perfect, let alone four perfect tea cups!