Four new Wellington restaurants to try right now

Four new Wellington restaurants to try right now

The capital’s hottest places to eat include a place devoted to porridge – yes, really.

Words by Ute Junker

Photos Graze wine bar_Celeste Fontein

Forget about thinking big.  A new wave of F&B entrepreneurs is showing you can make a splash by going niche. From bars showcasing New Zealand spirits to a diner devoted to porridge, these recent openings prove that narrowing your focus can expand your horizons.

Graze Chef Max Gordy and partner Stina Persen’s low-impact philosophy permeates every aspect of their compact wine bar, Graze in Kelburn Village, with interiors done entirely in repurposed materials and a wine list that celebrates small organic producers. Gordy’s menu is sustainably-sourced and meat-free – which is ironic, given the building was previously a butchery. “My philosophy is that it’s easier to use every part of a vegetable than it is with animals,” Gordy says. Every dish on the menu is also available in a vegan version.

Kuikui Lane “We wanted to bring what’s important to the front, instead of just doing the usual thing,” says Riann Umaga-Marshall, co-founder of Kuikui Lane, Victoria Lane’s newest gin and cocktail bar. For Umaga-Marshall and partner Hamish Mexted, that means showcasing the best of New Zealand and Maori culture. The tapas-style menu is in English and Te Reo Māori, and both food and wine lists focus on homegrown products. Even the tequila is local – and it is one of the most popular choices, despite costing $70 a shot. Hospitality first timer Umaga-Marshall loves helping the community shrug off the pandemic blues.  “People are tiring of this whole situation – they want places that bring a bit of joy and celebration.”

Nolita “It was born from being greedy, really,” laughs Lydia Suggate of her latest venture. Suggate and her partners already operate a number of vegan eateries, including Mockingbird and The Botanist, but Nolita is particularly close to Suggate’s heart, who has suffered pizza cravings since going vegan. Made with rye sourdough and a cashew-nut cheese born of many hours’ experimentation in the kitchen, this vegan pizzeria has even won over meat lovers. For those with nut allergies, a smoked cheese made from potato is an alternative option.

The Oatery Smashed avocado has some competition in the favourite-breakfast stakes in Wellington, thanks to Anna Campbell of The Oatery. Her take on Goldilocks’ favourite food has proven so popular that she recently swapped her food truck for permanent premises. “Porridge is like pasta – you can dress it up,” says Campbell, whose ever-changing toppings include baked apricot, burnt honey butter and mint in summer and rhubarb, lemon curd and spiced granola in winter. Wellington is a good place to follow your passion, according to Campbell. “Locals are good  at supporting small business,” she says.


A longer version of this story first appeared in Departures.

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