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Wellington For Foodies

Wellington, capital of New Zealand, could also be called the capital of the food empire of New Zealand. For such a small city (approx. 200,000 residents) it has a huge amount of cafes, bars and restaurants.

I recently visited Wellington as a guest of Air New Zealand and the Wellington Tourist Office as a part of their annual ‘Wellington On A Plate’ Festival. Wellington On A Plate runs for 2 weeks in August and celebrates the food of New Zealand from their fresh produce, to their coffees and boutique brewers. During the festival there are many events including special meals but there are 2 events that stand out; Beervana and the burger competition.

For beer connoisseurs, Beervana is, well, Nirvana. All of New Zealand’s best boutique brewers come together in one place vying for people’s choice. Held at the stadium, ticket holders can purchase tasting glasses of the various brews, voting for their favourites. For the non-beer drinkers there is also cider, soft drinks and of course, coffee. There is also various food trucks scattered around the stadium to make a day of it.

During Wellington On A Plate, the cafés and restaurants of Wellington compete in the best burger competition. Each venue concocts a special burger for the event and patrons vote for their favourites. Now you may think that would be great, spend a weekend trying out the burgers but the numbers competing means you would need to try approx. 20 burgers a day for the whole 14 days just to try each one!

A stop at Wellington is a must on anyone’s trip around New Zealand and not just for the food and beverages. We visited the excellent Te Papa museum at the waterfront and; whilst their exhibitions on New Zealand’s flora and fauna and human history were wonderful; it was their deeply moving Anzac exhibition that had the tourists queuing. The museum had commissioned the Weta studios (more on them later) to construct large replications of actual New Zealand soldiers from World War 1. These replicas were approx. 10 times larger than life size and are displayed as they would have been on the front line, like shooting at the enemy, tending to the wounded etc. They even have real hair, not only on their heads and face but also on their arms. Along with these is an actor’s voice over reading out exerts from the soldier’s own diary. Between these are displays of life at Gallipoli that the soldiers had to endure.

Te Papa is located on the waterfront which has been revamped and is a lovely place to stroll along, especially during Summer. There are of course bars and cafés all along the waterfront as well as the Underground markets.

As mentioned earlier Weta Studios is also located in Wellington. Actually the studios are located in one of the outlying suburbs of Wellington across the bay from the CBD. For the uninitiated Weta Studios, part owned by direct Peter Jackson, are the special effects/model makers behind some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. The most famous would have to be the Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit franchises but also worked on The Last Samurai; Master and Commander; King Kong; Narnia; Avatar; District 9; Elysium and lots more. They also worked on the kids tv shows The Wot Wots and Thunderbirds Are Go. About 6 years ago they decided to open the studios up to tourists and opened Weta Cave. From Weta Cave you are taken into one of their studios where you are shown how the weapons and armoury are made. From there you hop on a shuttle bus to be taken out to one of their sound stages where you are shown through the Thunderbirds Are Go studio. Yes those Thunderbirds. Thunderbirds Are Go is a remake of the classic show of the 60’s/70’s but instead of the puppets of the original series, the characters are all animated. What remains the same are the set models which Weta have made using the “junk” modelling of the original series creators. Junk modelling is creating models using junk found around the home. Skyscrapers are actually paint tins stacked up, rocket hoses are actually vacuum hoses, etc etc. Tours are guided by actual model makers at the studios so your guide might have worked on your favourite movie. Back at Weta Cave you can purchase models and weapons from your favourite movies which are all made in house at Weta (our guide spent his time between tours on our visit working on replica swords for the shop). So Weta is well worth a visit for any movie buff.

In Wellington we stayed at the wonderfully quirky QT Museum Hotel. Located across the road from the waterfront and Te Papa this hotel is like a museum all by itself with quirky modern art pieces throughout including the large gold hippopotamus on the roof! I stayed in a 1 bedroom self-contained suite. The hotel’s restaurant, Hippopotamus (hence the gold statue), is like stepping into Alice’s Wonderland, all luxury mismatched chairs and tables with peacock statues and more of the quirky art. The hotel is well placed to access the great restaurants, bars and cafés of Wellington as it is one block back from Courtenay Place where a huge concentration of the restaurants and bars are located.

One restaurant/bar located a short walk from the QT is the Bangalore Polo Club. Great name right? But no, they do not serve Indian cuisine. The décor is right out of the original Bangalore Polo Club in India with old photos on the walls, stuffed animal heads, and up on the high ceiling, lots of antique bird cages some of which are converted to light fittings. There is a large fireplace as you walk in and the food is a mix of Asian street food, steaks, fish and chips, burgers etc. Great food and great friendly staff.

Across the road from the Bangalore Polo Club is Dragonfly. A modern Asian Fusion restaurant that has a lively bar and courtyard out the back and the décor is very Japanese.

If you’re after the bizarre then try ‘The Library’. You enter through an unassuming door, climb 3 flights of dodgy stairs and open an unmarked door to find a lively bar/lounge with the walls lined with books. They serve tapas style snacks, desserts and cheese platters.

If you would like any more information about visiting Wellington please give us a call today.


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