Aotearoa’s capital city is seeing a good chunk of action during the FIFA Women’s World Cup – including the quarterfinal on August 11. Maybe you’re visiting for a game or two, or you’re a local getting in on the buzz; either way, use this guide as dining inspiration during the tournament and beyond.
If you want a handheld treat to start your day exploring the capital, swing by petite Cuba Street bakery Flur for a gently inventive pastry such as espresso and chocolate brioche buns with a cream cheese glaze. Cafes Olive and Loretta are less than 300 metres away; sit in the former’s sheltered courtyard for classics like eggs Montreal with house-smoked salmon, and at the latter eat chai-spiced maple waffles or mushrooms on seeded toast. A little further down, you’ll find some of the best coffee in town at Customs on Ghuznee Street and excellent proximity to vintage finds (and more great coffee) at Recycle Boutique which is fronted by Lunch Money. For matcha fans, Evil Twins is the place to go (founders Steph and Nat Chin have some topnotch breakfast recs of their own) and for a truly Wellington experience, scrambled tofu eaten gazing out to sea at Maranui can’t be beaten.
Wellington might be known as the coffee capital but its sandwich game is also strong – we highlight several of our favourites here, including Fred’s for ever-changing specials like broccoli and four cheeses, or smoked fish rillette on sourdough. The city is also blessed with excellent Malaysian eateries – head to Little Penang and KK Malaysian Restaurant for classic nasi goreng, roti chanai and rendang, and Aunty Mena’s for vegan and vegetarian versions of all your favourites. For hand-pulled noodles in a cosy, compact space, seek out Taste of Home on Vivian Street – it’ll warm you up from that bracing Wellington wind.
With sophisticated wine bar vibes and memorably great food, Highwater Eatery is a favourite on lower Cuba Street for seasonal sharing plates that focus on ethically sourced and predominantly organic produce. Further up in an art deco corner site, order a Middle Eastern feast of wild tahr kebabs and flavourful meze at newish gem Kisa, or book in for a wholesome, three-course set menu at charming Aro Street restaurant Rita. Over on Tory Street just up from the buzz of Courtenay Place, the team at Damascus will welcome you for authentic Syrian food made with love, and Burmese restaurant Mabel’s is only a few doors down serving curries, noodle dishes, and fresh salads such as the signature lahpet thoke – pickled tea-leaf salad. If you’re more in the mood for classic European fare, Boulcott Street Bistro is a longstanding go-to for the likes of braised lamb shank and confit duck leg. Sidle up to Mount Victoria restaurant Koji for pan-Asian flavours through dishes such as miso-glazed eggplant, chicken and prawn dumplings, and yellowfin tuna sashimi.
If the sun’s out, a visit to craft brewery Parrotdog Bar in Lyall Bay will mean you can make the most of it, while natural wine bar The Puffin (attached to The Intrepid Hotel) is a cosy, chic bolthole no matter what’s going on out there. Hawthorn Lounge has long been the pinnacle for cocktails and whisky lovers, and the speakeasy’s location on Tory Street means it’s an ideal stop either before or after dinner at Mabel’s, Damascus or anywhere nearby. On Cuba Street, find Ascot upstairs with a laid-back vibe and regular pop-ups, and not far away on Ghuznee Street Humdinger pledges great cocktails, novel bar snacks (Spam nuggets, anyone?) and rock’n’roll blaring from the jukebox. Should you be game to venture outside Te Aro’s radius, Margot and its bar Next Door are great reasons to head to Newtown, and Kelburn cutie Graze Wine Bar nails the brief for thoughtful, ethically sourced small plates and locally brewed drinks.
Naumi Hotel Wellington
Situated on Cuba Street among its many cafes, restaurants and boutiques, Naumi Hotel Wellington is known for its colourful, eccentric aesthetic, with all the rooms and shared spaces themed in quirky, vibrant tones and patterns. Of the hotel’s food and drink offering, there’s the Lola Rouge Restaurant with a Southeast Asian-inspired menu and a fittingly rouge-themed fit-out. In the cosy, dimly lit Grand Bar, there’s a curated cocktail list and selection of award-winning New Zealand wines. And the saturated green-and-pastel-pink Parlour is a more daytime-appropriate space where you can nibble on high tea or sip a few cocktails.
On Cable Street opposite iconic Wellington museum Te Papa, QT Wellington offers the plush accommodation you’d expect from the QT brand, with artful decor and thoughtful amenities. Unwind in the on-site spa, sauna, gym and lap pool, and dine on-site at third-floor French-inspired restaurant Hippopotamus, or at pan-Asian restaurant Hot Sauce on the ground level.
The Intrepid Hotel
Find this boutique hotel in a heritage-listed building in the centre of Wellington. Across three levels, 18 stylish rooms seamlessly weave contemporary touches with the building’s original turn-of-the-century features. Choose between queen, king and super-king rooms, decked out with artwork and rugs. No matter where you end up, you’ll find a smart TV, bluetooth radio, wi-fi and a minibar brimming with complimentary drinks and snacks by local brands – best enjoyed in the comfort of the plush robes provided. Wine bar The Puffin is on the ground floor.