I was in foodie heaven in Wellington. So many great restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from. I was fortunate as I stayed at the fantastic At Home Wellington serviced apartments, which were a few minutes walk from the hotspot for restaurants and nightlife in the Courtenay Place and Cuba Street area.
I highly recommend that you stay in this area if you visit Wellington. A colleague who stayed in the CBD (pretty dead at night) said that Wellington was 'rather quiet at night', which was definitely not the case around Courtenay Place.
Anyway, rather than a play-by-play of what I did, for this posting I'm gonna just highlight some of my favourite eats in Welly.
I love seafood.
Ortega Fish Shack was quite possibly my favourite restaurant in Welly. Fantastically fresh seafood that was cooked perfectly and served with (sometimes fusion stylee) accompaniments that really complemented rather than overpowered. As a solo diner, I also loved sitting at the bar and chatting with the friendly waiting staff.
Exactly the kind of restaurant I would go to for reliable, great food on a semi-regular basis. Shame it's on the other side of the world...
Mt Vic Chippery (practically across the road from Ortega) quite possibly the best fish & chip shop I've been to (and I live in Britain). Fresh fish fillets are displayed and you can choose your batter (beer, tempura, panko, grilled, etc) and you can get a whole variety of chips including kumara (sweet potato). Fresh and yum!
The Crab Shack is located in one of the 'sheds' I mentioned (in my previous blog post) on Queens Wharf. While probably a little more upmarket than what I imagine American crab shacks to be, it certainly does serve lots of crab! I started with tempura soft shell crab that was really tasty with the wasabi mayonaise. But I really didn't know how much 1 kg of crab (the main event) actually was...
When the waiter brought it out to me, he beamed and said that Chef had overweighed it for me so I actually got more than a kilo. I was thrilled.
30 minutes later and only halfway through... I was not so thrilled.
Never one to let food defeat me, I worked my way steadily through the whole pot and finished with wrinkly fingers and a very full stomach.
The price for a whole kilo? NZ$30 (£15) in the UK would probably have gotten me a single crab in a restaurant. But needless to say, I didn't need to see another crab for a very long time.
Malaysian food... back to my roots
Apparently Malaysian food is quite big in Wellington. I sampled quite a few places and came to the conclusion that you generally need to figure out their speciality (e.g. Indian, Chinese, or even more particular dishes) and only order those.
Istana Malaysia was a classic example of this. I got rather excited when I saw rojak (one of my favourite Malaysian dishes) on their menu. The abomination that was served up, was really not a good interpretation...
Spring rolls, fish ball and tomato were a little strange, and I could even get over satay peanut sauce instead of proper passembur sauce, but sweet chilli sauce?!! No no no!
Thankfully, the curry dishes (southern Indian stylee) were fantastic, as was their roti canai.
Little Penang was actually pretty good, and they seem to actually play to their strengths in the more Chinese hawker style of food. I had fantastic siew pau (flakey baked buns filled with sweet roast pork), and their char kuey teow wasn't bad at all, although could have done with more wok hey (that classic chinese stir fry taste that only comes from oil hitting a superheated wok).
Malaysian Cafe in Lower Hutt (other side of the bay from Wellington City) was actually the surprise for me. Normally I would avoid any place without many diners like the plague, but the menu looked pretty good so I gave it a shot.
To start with,the roti canai (a Malaysian version of pratha) was every bit of fantastic as what you'd get in Malaysia.
Perfect balance between flakiness and chewiness, and the translucence and char marks spot on. It was also the only place I came across that let me order a small portion of curry gravy (as is the norm in Malaysia) to go with the roti rather than a main course curry. [Actually one restaurant tried to serve me roti with a satay sauce!]
David, the owner, apologetically let me know that their rojak made use of satay sauce instead of authentic passembur because of local demand. In contrast, another authentic Malaysian restaurant stared blankly at me when I asked what type of rojak they served.
Mee goreng was also really good.
Two Souls Bistro was just down the street from me but I only went on my final night in Wellington. Such a shame too, as it was a great meal. Elegant, delicious food that was actually a great showcase of classical cooking techniques, with hints of Asian flavours and much better than their 'bistro' name would suggest. Decor was a bit strange though and very red, but I'm all about the food...
Mmmm, as you can see, I very much enjoyed my three weeks in Wellington. Definitely put on some weight while there!
Those were my top picks in Wellington. What are yours?