With its curved facade, contrasting buttermilk and brick-red tones, and detailed motifs, the art deco building at 195 Cuba Street is a Wellington landmark. It’s also home to Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant Kisa.
Owned by Dean White’s Dining Room Group (behind the bacari-inspired Ombra, across the road, and modern Asian restaurant Mr Go’s), Kisa started life as an eight-month pop-up in March 2021. The name, meaning “short’’ in Turkish, reflects the original’s impermanence.
The light-toned, 90-seat space has a patina interior in keeping with the overall vibe of Wellington’s most eclectic inner-city street. Designed by Buster Caldwell and Abi Phillips of Auckland studio Wonder Group, it has textured tiles and ochre hues. Yellow corduroy booths give you a view of the dining room, while wooden tables and chairs nestled along the other edge are for walk-ins.
As soon as you arrive, you’re greeted by fire blazing in the kitchen – a huge Josper Mangal charcoal barbeque, along with a custom gas-fired pita-bread oven.
The plasterboard walls were given a specialist art finish to resemble weathered concrete, and the hexagonal travertine tiles on the floor were custom-made in Peru. Sit around wooden or tiled tables on 1960s French bistro chairs that were imported and restored by Auckland’s Vitrine antique shop. Battered mirror tiles curving above the kitchen and bar reflect the lights of Cuba Street.
On the culinary team, there’s executive chef Jonny Taggart who led the original pop-up, with head chef Chris Morgan also leading the kitchen. The food is sophisticated yet approachable. It’s packed with flavour, with options for vegetarian and gluten-free diners, and uses Middle Eastern techniques but New Zealand produce and suppliers.
Food-wise, the dips and spreads such as hummus and lor cheese are Turkish-inspired – order house pita bread on the side. There's also a range of meze, plus large plates such as slow-cooked, shawarma-spiced lamb shoulder, and desserts.
Drinks-wise, the wine, beer and spirits selection is almost entirely from New Zealand. Cocktails like the Sumac Mule (vodka, sumac, pomegranate, lime, ginger and beer) are a nod to the Middle East.
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