The Best Lower South Island Food Spots

In my own humble opinion, Te Wai Pounamu (The South Island) is by far the better of both islands. Why? Aside from its breathtaking scenery, blockbuster-famous mountains, and abundance of wildlife, the food scenes down there are pretty impressive – especially as the whole population of the island is still less than Auckland alone. To prove the food scene of the south is something worthy of contention, I’ve compiled a list of the best lower South Island food spots that alone show why this is New Zealand’s favourite isle.

1. Lake Matheson Cafe 

Is there anything better than sitting down for a hot cup of joe on a cold winter’s day? Yes, actually. When that hot cup of Joe comes with post-card perfect views of Aoraki and Horokoau (Mount Tasman). Lake Matheson Cafe is the perfect pit stop for those long trips down the West Coast, and serves up some delicious treats to go with that hot drink you so desperately need to warm up! Oh, they’ve also got a little selection of trinkets from local artists for a great holiday souvenir. 

2. Burrito Craft 

Normally people flock to Wanaka for their awesome hikes, thrilling mountain bike tracks, and alpine activities – but not me. I come here for one thing and one thing only; burritos. Last year I was introduced to Burrito Craft by a good friend, and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Sat in amongst a circle of other tantalising food trucks, Burrito Craft serves up killer Mexican food that feeds the belly, heart & soul. My top pick is their fish burrito; it may sound weird having fish in a burrito, but believe me, those breaded fillets fit the flavours better than carnitas any day!

3. Francesca’s Italian

Summer and Winter activities may differ, but one thing stays the same; you need a damn big serving of carbs after a whole day of them. Luckily, after you’ve set down the skis (water & snow), Francescas is right there to fill that ginormous hole in your stomach. Whether your preference is a plate of saucy pasta or a whole family-sized pizza, Francesca’s serves a huge bounty of both of these dishes to the highest quality, so you can tuck into your favourite feast knowing a flavour volcano is about to erupt. 

4. Gibbston Valley Cheese Cafe

Who, and I mean WHO, doesn’t love cheese? Even if you stick to a strict vegan or dairy-free diet, I’m almost positive you can be swayed by a good chunk of cheese. The Gibbston Valley Cheese Cafe is set within the storybook-esque Arrowtown and serves up an array of award-winning cheeses to hungry punters. Not only have they created a fine selection of cheeses to take home, they’ve also curated a whole menu based on their best-sellers. Think gooey Mac & cheese, stuffed baguette, and of course, the famous Southland cheese roll!

5. Nest Kitchen 

We’re kicking things up a notch with this hillside haven. Imagine sitting in a beautiful scandi-inspired restaurant, fire blazing, old-fashioned in hand admiring the gorgeous views of the remarkable reflected in Lake Wakatipu. At Nest, you can live this fantasy. Part of the Kamana Resort, this high-altitude restaurant offers drool-worthy a-la-carte and degustation menus for their diners to relish. With supporting seasonality & local produce being a huge ideology here, you’ll never have the same menu two months in a row, but you’ll always enjoy the highest quality ingredients.

6. Ferg Burger 

Along with soaking up remarkable views, getting stuck into alpine activities, and thrashing the luge lanes, there’s a reason people flock to the shores of Queenstown – and that’s to get their hungry mitts on one of Ferg Burger’s stacks. Over its 20 years of operating, this place has become QT’s busiest attraction, garnering lines & waits of up to 2 hours during peak season – but patience does not go without reward at this place. The burgers are big, beautiful, and full of bold flavours that keep you coming back for more.

7. Bespoke Kitchen

If Nadia Lim gets her coffee here, you know it’s good. Vegan, vegetarian, dairy & gluten-free people rejoice, as this hideout at the foothill of the gondola has all of your best interests at heart (& stomach!). Dining here is like sensory overload; from a superbly stocked cabinet that features everyone’s favourite sandwiches, bakes & cakes, to a menu full of cult-favourite classics with a bespoke twist. I recommend coming here for brunch after a long day (or night) and replenishing your energy with a big plate of pancakes and one of their fresh, fruity & rejuvenating juices.

8. Yonder 

These days I find cafes make a hard trade-off between style or substance – but not the guys at Yonder! They prove that you can have the insta-worthy interiors AND serve up dishes that knock your woolen socks off. Whether you’re feeling like a spot of brunch, a dash of dinner, or a night on the cocktails – this place exceeds any of your wining and dining needs.

9. Patagonia 

What would you get if a more sophisticated Willy Wonka set up shop on the shores of Lake Wakatipu? Patagonia – that’s what. This chocolate shop is one of QT’s foodie hotspots, and if its gorgeous Aspen exteriors don’t lull you inside, then the crowds of chocoholics chowing down their signature ice creams in the streets will! Choose from over 10 award-winning flavours to create your own bespoke ice cream, or if you’re beating the cold then grab one of their decadent hot chocolates to warm your heart and soul.

10. Beam me up bagels

I can’t say I’ve ever been jealous of Southern scarfie uni students, but that all changed when I had my first ever feed from Beam Me Up Bagels. How lucky they are to have this awesome little bagel shop right on the doorstep of their campus is almost infuriating to me. Here we’ve been under the impression Best Ugly Bagels is the top dog in NZ when these guys have been showing their Dunedin audience just how bagels should be done! For just $15 you can get yourself a super-stacked bagel you can barely fit in your mouth, or your stomach for that fact, that’ll keep your tummy quiet for the rest of the day.

11. Let them Eat Vegan 

I know lots of plant-based people always promise “you won’t even miss the meat” when they share their dishes and sometimes that’s a down-right lie, but at Let them Eat Vegan, I can assure you this claim is 100% true. Making all their meat & cheese alternatives in-house, they’ve mastered their recipes so these ingredients look, smell, feel and taste exactly like the real things. How? I Don’t know. But after chowing down one of their teriyaki “chicken” Baguettes, I found that it’s better to ask fewer questions and just enjoy the delicious dairy-free, meat-free, cafe classics they serve up!

12. Fleurs Place

This is Rick Stein’s favourite seafood restaurant in the world, and now it’s mine too. Humble, unassuming, and underrated are just 3 words to describe this seaside haven. Tucked away on the shores of Moeraki, this restaurant attracts all kinds of different holidaymakers that have just 1 thing in common; they all were blown away by their experience at Fleur’s Place. The chefs here not only nail the classic seafood dishes, but they also like to experiment with other locally sourced ingredients you may have never tried, like the famous Titi/mutton bird (which looks like duck but tastes a lot like anchovies!).

13. Riverside Market 

Can’t decide on what you want to eat? Why not try it all! Riverside Market is a newly build hub of all things food & drink right next to Christchurch’s Avon River. The best thing about this food court is that all its vendors cover cuisines from every continent, so you can fill that meal-shaped hole in your soul with your fave international dish! Feeling like a fajita? You can get it here. Craving a creamy carbonara? Again, right here. Longing for a laksa? Need I say it again – you’ll find one right here!

14. Miro

Now this place is somewhere I hold close to my heart, not just because its vibe, people, and food are all stunning, but because it exceedingly satisfied my hunger after a 4-hour journey to Christchurch. Set in one of the only heritage buildings in the South Island capital, Miro takes you back in time atmospherically, but when it comes to their flavours & techniques, they’re all 21st century. The star of the show has to be their breakfast tasting board, which features small servings of all their best-selling dishes, so you can experience all the enjoyment of brunch at Miro without any of the food envy.

15. Hello Sunday

Another place that I hold high praise for, for the sole reason of gratifying my growling stomach. Hello Sunday is like a fairytale cottage crossed with a Michelin Star restaurant; Charming, cozy, and above all, a culinary delight. We came here expecting your bog-standard brunch food but left impressed with the unique dishes they featured on the menu and inspired to try to recreate the gorgeous flavours we experienced ourselves. The team here has created something truly magical with this establishment, as when you go out to dine here it somehow feels like you’re coming home for one of your mum’s heartiest meals.

Best Italian Restaurants Wellington

For a small city, Wellingtons dining scene boasts cuisines from every corner of the world – with each eatery bringing something delicious and unique to our tables. However, out of all the countries, Italian fare is the one that is loved the most by our little capital – and here are the best places to get your fix of fantastic continental food.

Cicio Cacio Osteria

With a goal to deliver an authentic Italian food experience to everybody who dines here, Cicio Cacio prides is somewhere to come for humble Italian meals that you’ve probably never heard of, but will become fast favourites. I would recommend some stand-out dishes, however, in true ‘Osteria’ or ‘family-restaurant’ fashion, the menu changes every month to based on produce, and to shed light on a variety of incredible dishes from all Italian regions. That being said, I can guarantee any dish containing their house-made pasta will be a sensational one.

Check out their menu here.

Bruschetta from Cicio Cacio

La Bella Italia

The 10 minute drive (or 20 minute train) ride here out to La Bella Italia is a minuscule price to pay for the second-to-none wining and dining experience you get in return. Pizza, pasta, gelato, anti-pasti, sauces, wines, oils; you name it, if its Italian in origin, this place either serves it or stocks it. Not only do they provide Wellingtonians with an authentic dishes and products – they also teach you how to make them too in one of their immersive cookings classes (which also make for fabulous birthday or Christmas gifts!).

Check out their menu here.

1154 Pastaria

Wanting for some quick, cheap & tasty pasta for a midweek meal? Look no further. 1154 has just one goal; to source the best ingredients possible to curate a menu made from all our favourite carb-centred pasta classics – and I think they do a pretty bang up job. My top pick has to be their Fettuccini Carbonara; a stunningly simple dish who’s punchy flavours never fail to astonish me.

Check out their menu here.

Pasta from 1154

Pizza Pomodoro

At Pizza Pomodoro, their pride comes from delivering to the “original” Neapolitan pizza experience to us dough-hungry Wellingtonians. However, even though they’ve mastered the art of the Margherita, it doesn’t mean they don’t like to get creative. Toppings such as sausage, aubergine, smoked chicken and even roasted potatoes feature on some of their more flamboyant pizzas – and they even let you build your own pizza too (if you think you know flavour combos better than they do).

Check out their menu here.


One of Cuba Street’s many famous food digs, who also happen to serve up some incredible food and drink inspired by the informal barcari (restaurants and bars) of Venice. Forget pizza and pasta dishes (although their Pizzette is bangin’), the real gold is hidden in amongst their small bite & vegetable menu items. Oozy arancini balls, crunchy cheesy broccolini, and thick crispy polenta chips – need I say more?

Check out their menu here.

Pizzette from Ombra


Scopa is another one of Cuba Streets Italian hotspots – but rather than serving up plates of pasta, they put all their focus into crafting the perfect pizzas. Staying true to their Italian roots, their pizza base recipe and method is exactly how the old Nonna’s all make theirs, but when it comes to the toppings, this is where they like to push the boundaries of tradition. Of course they serve up the perfect Margherita (which are $10 on a Tuesday), but their other pizzas feature ingredients like clams, spicy sausage, zucchini, potatoes, and even mint. Oh, and if you’re a sucker for sweet things, you’re going to love their molten hot chocolates (they’re the best in the city).

Check out their menu here.

Hot Chocolate from Scopa

Where to Buy The Best Hot Cross Buns in Wellington

It’s coming up to Easter, and you know what that means (apart from a very celebrated 4 day weekend)? Hot cross buns! That’s right, its that time of the year to triple your bread consumption in the name of christ – and (in no particular order) here are the best place to do so:

Leeds Street Bakery

Not only do these guys slay a salted caramel cookie (seriously if you haven’t tried it you need to), but they also bring a whole new meaning to the classic Hot Cross Bun. With a tasty tangelo twist, these sultana-laden buns have that extra depth of flavour that you won’t find at your average-Joe bakery. 


Its only fitting that a place who prides themselves on the best brownies in town also whips up some strong contenders for Wellington’s best HCB (hot cross bun). And, they even incorporate some of their chocolate mastery into the batter of these bad-boys – creating a spicy, sweet and tangy explosion that’s all mellowed together with chunks of single-origin Dominican Republic 70% chocolate. 


Vegans & Paleos – here’s something for you! On a mission to provide New Zealand with diet-friendly products, the guys at Thoroughbread prove that thigh-slappingly good hot crossed buns don’t have to contain any wheat, gluten or dairy. If you want nutty, spicy, fruity, fluffy buns with none of the allergy-nasties, these are the buns for you.

Aro Bake

Of course, I couldn’t write this piece without including our cities Hot Cross Bun breadwinner. Operating for over 30 years, you bet the team at Arobake have spent that whole time perfecting their recipe to create beautiful buns that never fail to put a smile on the ol’ dial – just ask any of their many stockists and they’ll sing the same praises! 

Sweet Release

Another dairy free, nut free, egg free and vegan hot cross bun?? You betcha, baby – Wellington Easter’s are getting woke. Known for their vegan takes on naughty home style cooking, their uber-fluffy and diet-friendly hot cross buns are just as drool-worthy as any of their cult classics. 

Clareville Bakery

Even though this bakery hails from over the Remutaka hills, their second-to-none baking skills make up for the time it takes to travel to this haven, just take one bite of their cronut and you’ll see what I mean. Here, hot crossed buns aren’t just a little snack to kill some hunger pains, they’re actually incorporated into the classic NZ’s brunch meals – think hot cross bun French toast with a dollop of cinnamon mascarpone and a sprinkling of seasonal fruit, bacon and maple syrup. 

Your Guide to the Best Vegan Food in Wellington

Even though the plant-based diet isn’t so much a commodity anymore, it can still be hard finding a place to eat that ticks all the boxes for a good vegan meal (no, we don’t want avocado toast AGAIN.). Luckily, I’ve taste-tested my fair share of vegan-friendly cafes & restaurants so you can learn where to get the most plant-based bang for your buck.


My absolute go-to for a cheeky cheap vegan dinner. At Boquita, they believe food should be nourishing for you, for the planet and for everyone involved in making their food. Here they offer a range of delicious, plant-based Mexican meals, perfect for a delicious and nutritious speedy lunch, a family favourite take-home meal, or easy eat-in dinner. Even though it sounds too good to be true, believe me, this place prides themselves on no nasties, no short-cuts and no compromise on flavour.

CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: You might think I’ve got the wrong cuisine, but believe me – Boquita proves that falafel does in fact belong in tacos.

Check out the menu here.


Courtenay Place’s answer to a vegan/vegetarian’s “where should we eat?” dilemma! Formerly the swainish-inspired rooftop bar, Mockingbird was transformed into a bold, hip new dining hub that offers plant-based burgers, bowls, tacos, loaded fries and more. Not only have they introduced a huge variety of unbelievably tasty vegetarian/vegan food, they also pride themselves on their 13 rotating craft beer taps, vegan wines, and a range of diversely delicious sangrias. Oh, did I mention they also run bottomless brunches on weekends? What’s not to love!

  • CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: Available anytime (until 3pm), any day – it’s their bountiful brunch bowl. Why? Hash browns, obviously.  

Check out their menu here. 

Sweet Release

Everybody’s favourite comfort food made vegan! From saucy stacked rib burgers to ooey gooey Mac and Cheese, Sweet Release are an all vegan cafe that is taking the vegan community of Wellington by storm. Not only are they the new Manner’s street hangout that’s taking all my money, but they’re also the organisers behind the all-vegan monthly night market called The Vegan Vault and the team behind Not a Butcher, a vegan meat subscription service. Not vegan but do have a few pesky allergies? Don’t worry – they don’t serve dairy, eggs, meat or nuts anywhere.

CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: Not-Rib Burger – I’ve never tasted real ribs before, but now I don’t need to knowing I’ve got this mouthwatering meat-alternative to sink my teeth into!

Check out the menu here.

Willis Kitchen

Sometimes it can be hard finding a place that promises good food for vegans and non vegans alike – but not here! Willis Kitchen is the place where you & your mates can tuck into ‘Fakon and Ekks’ or “Bacon and Eggs’ at the same table. For them, the most important principle is to create delicious food (both plant-based and not) for everyone to enjoy, and change the mindset towards vegan food.

  • CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: Some would argue its not a meal, but I reckon you’d have the best night of your life tucking into their vegan family-sized tiramisu! 

Check out their menu here. 

Aunty Menas

Sometimes you never know whether that vegetarian fried noodle dish you ordered is gonna contain some secret meat, but rest assured knowing you can be safe from any imposter-meats here. Aunty Mena’s is a bustling upper Cuba Street kitchen that serves up your go-to Asian/Malaysian classics but with a vegan twist. Whether it be breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, this place never stops serving up hearty portions of beautifully balanced food that don’t break the bank – or your vegan diet!

CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: The curry noodle – this dish is so spectacular it made my meat-lovin’ mate who absolutely despise vegetables fall in love with tofu. 

Check out the menu here.

Aroha Plant Based Cuisine

Beautiful bowls made up of plant-based bliss! At Aroha, they believe plant-based food does not have to forfeit it’s flavour. We want to show you how we subvert the stereotype, to demonstrate vegan and vegetarian foods not only healthier but also can be very creative and delicious. From succulent superfood salads to cosy chickpea-laden curry’s, this upmarket food hall joint serves up high-hitting healthy workday lunches that’ll keep your brain juice running for days!

CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: Basically, every single salad they offer mixed together for maximum flavour impact!

Check out the menu here.

Hare Krishna

These guys are the pioneers of Wellington’s vegan business lunch. Situated in the heart of Wellington City, Higher Taste Hare Krishna restaurant is a pure vegetarian/vegan restaurant providing a divine eating experience. Originally Inspired by the streets of India, but also influenced by the ways of the North and West, Higher Taste knows exactly what Curries, Chaats and cult-favourites to serve up to either get you through your 9-5, or as a little dinnertime treat.

CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: Basically any of their curries will fill your tummy, but if you’re feeling especially naughty (or feel like you deserve a mid-day treat), then get a syrupy serving of their gorgeous Gulab jamun. 

Check out the menu here.


A vegan take on fabulous fine dining degustations. Vegetarian, Vegan, Plant Based, Meatless, call it what you will, for them, their main focus is simply serving up good food – taste wise, and health wise. Their menus offer a creative, inclusive style of cuisine that pushes the boundaries of modern New Zealand dining experiences. Rather than trying to trick people into eating meat substitutes, they’re focused on celebrating ingredients in their own right, and work closely with local suppliers and producers to create dishes that boast the beautiful flavours of vegetables in the best way.

  • CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: Get the non-alcoholic drink match with your degustation, and prepare yourself for some seriously sobering but outstanding concoctions.

Check out their menu here.

Pranah Cafe

Your one-stop plant-based coffee shop. Pranah is a small cafe in the heart of Newtown that dishes up delicious homemade food that’s all vegetarian/vegan, so people from all walks of diet can enjoy! On the surface the food & drink look hearty and humble, but once you tuck into one of their towering pancakes stacks, boss-ass burgers or even just one of their sweet-treats, you’ll unleash a pandora’s box of beautifully balanced flavours that get you coming back for more & more.

  • CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: Satay + Tofu + Pie Crust = heaven. Trust me. (And it’s freaking vegan!

Check out their menu here.

The Botanist

Do you love mouthwatering vegan meals, superb hospitality staff, and long walks along the beach? Well, swipe right to this bad-boy because here you can can get all that and more. The Botanist brings the best in innovative plant based cuisine to the stunning south coast of Wellington. Views to the sea, with a sheltered sunny courtyard, six rotating craft beer taps, botanical cocktails, local & organic wines. 

  • CCL Supreme Menu Suggestion: The pancakes!! And if the image below isn’t enough to convince you to dive into this terrifically good tower, maybe knowing that these are 241 on Tuesday’s will?

Check out their menu here. 

World-Famous Burgs at Ferg’s

Ah, Queenstown. What else can I say apart from it’s one of the most beautiful, serene places I’ve ever visited – not just in New Zealand, but in the world. Not only is Queenstown a hub for all adventure sport fanatics alike, but it’s the perfect place to come to relax, take in the beautiful views – and to eat. Of course, Queenstown has its famous cookie time shop, an abundance of awesome bars, and some super special waterfront eateries, but there is one place that springs to everybody’s mind when you mention food and Queenstown in the same sentence – and that’s Ferg Burger.

Just around the corner of the beautiful waterfront sits what I like to call, the Ferg establishment – a building that’s broken into three incredible food places; Ferg Bakery, Ferg Bar, and of course, Ferg Burger. Ferg Burger is famous world-wide for its gigantic burgers and generous servings of chips, so it’s no surprise that you can either smell the scent of food or see the line of hungry punters before you see the burger bar itself. On a normal day, you could be waiting up to an hour for one of these burgers, but luckily due to Covid-19 (the only time I think I’ll say that), Queenstown was stripped of its international tourists, so us locals could get our mitts around one of these bad boys in about 10 minutes flat.

Honestly, it took less time to get our burgers than to look at the whole menu. I don’t know what kind of magic they’re making here at Ferg’s, but they somehow manage to serve up about 15 different kinds of burgers without making a single one taste anything less than amazing. Since I’m on that vegetable grind at the moment, I went for their Holier than Thou – a deep fried tempura tofu patty with a spicy satay, coconut and coriander sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion & aioli – and oh my god. Satay and tofu are one of my all-time favourite combos, so I already knew I was going to like it, but heck I didn’t think I was going to scarf-it-down-in-5-minutes-flat like it. I literally couldn’t stop eating it because the flavours were so god damn addictive, and even writing about it now has me salivating. I managed to steal a cheeky bite of my boyfriends Bun Laden burger, which was a sensational combo of; falafel, lemon and chipotle yoghurt sauce, salad, avocado and aioli, and this was also a bloody knockout burger but with a fresher and lighter flavour combo. Oh, and how could I forget their chips?! They’ve even managed to make a humble chip something worthy of an award – they’re the perfect thickness, have the perfect crisp, have their skins on for that extra hit of nutrients, and come with some of the best tasting dips I’ve ever had.

So, all in all, the hype that you hear about New Zealand’s most famous burger bar is one that is definitely not overrated. Every single element of this place has been perfected to provide customers with a fantastic dining experience that you simply could not replicate anywhere else; the service, the atmosphere, the food, and the stunning views you can soak up whilst chowing down your champion sized burger. If you ever find yourself wandering around Queenstown with a rumble in your stomach, I beg you to go to Ferg Burger and see for yourself why this little burger bar has captured the hearts of customers far and wide.

So, all in all, the hype that you hear about New Zealand’s most famous burger bar is one that is definitely not overrated. Every single element of this place has been perfected to provide customers with a fantastic dining experience that you simply could not replicate anywhere else; the service, the atmosphere, the food, and the stunning views you can soak up whilst chowing down your champion sized burger. If you ever find yourself wandering around Queenstown with a rumble in your stomach, I beg you to go to Ferg Burger and see for yourself why this little burger bar has captured the hearts of customers far and wide.

Check out the amazing Ferg Burger menu here.

4 Ways to Support NZ Food and Hospitality Post-Lockdown

After a solid 5-plus weeks in lockdown, we’re finally lifting the blanket and making the first moves back to normality. For the everyday kiwi, phase 4 meant semi-acceptable day-drinking, embarrassing TikTok’s, and buckets of banana bread. However, for small business owners, these 5 weeks were filled with uncertainty, sleepless nights, and fear. COVID-19 has pushed our country to its limits and tested our capabilities in ways we were unprepared for, however not all effects of this virus have been negative. This virus has proved how strong we stand together as a nation, and how willing we are to act selflessly in support and protection of those who might suffer more from the effects of the virus.

With this in mind, it’s now, more than ever, that we need to keep this communal camaraderie going. Local businesses have been doing their best to stay afloat during the peak of this pandemic, but it’s the aftermath which is going to be their biggest battle. Luckily, if we spend that extra dollar to shop locally, we can help breathe some life back into these affected businesses.

So why am I talking about this on my food blog? Our capital is built on hospitality. In fact, we’ve got the most cafes per capita in the world. That’s a lot of businesses, with a lot of employees, who are all going to feel the impacts of this pandemic. Below is a little list of things you can do to support these businesses who are desperately trying to get back on their feet – and remember – no task is too small, every little helps:

  1. If you can’t be arsed cooking spaghetti for the 11th time in a row or waiting in line for the supermarket, get dinner delivered or by takeout! About every café and restaurant (and potentially, bar) in Wellington are jumping on the take-out bandwagon, which for us means doing our bit and ordering our favourite food and eating it at home in our dressing gowns (such a tax right?). So, jump onto your social media to see if your favourite food places are offering delivery or takeout, and get to ordering!
  2. Buy local ingredients and products. When I say local, I don’t mean just Wellington (although we do have some pretty premium products made in our capital) – I mean the whole of New Zealand. Sure, sometimes buying international is cheaper and seemingly more economical – but spending that extra dollar on some peanut butter is the difference between a local business staying afloat or a multinational corporation just getting richer.
  3. When we can finally get our caffeine fix, source it from Wellington’s smaller independent cafes. I know the pull of a Venti double shot caramel macchiato is strong, but believe me, a flat white made from locally roasted beans is going to taste just as good – if not better. Our capital hails some of the best cafes in New Zealand, so it would be almost rude not to make the most of our brilliant baristas’ skills.x
  4. Quarantine means missing out on your favourite fast food snacks, which I bet you now realise you’ve under-appreciated this whole time. But why not try make your own supreme pizza or original recipe? The great thing about people being deprived of their favourite fried food, is that they’ll go out there and try re-creating it. 5 weeks into quarantine, there’s a recipe for about every fast-food favourite which look and taste damn-near close to the real thing. Not only can you feel the achievement of making your favourite food from scratch, you can also get the family involved for some bonding and learning time in the kitchen – with delicious food being the reward!

So, there you have it, 4 easy ways you can do your part in supporting our awesome local hospo businesses, whilst getting some fantastic food and drink out of it at the same time!

Kia Kaha, stay strong and stand united, New Zealand.

North Islands Best Burger Joint: The Blind Finch

When somebody say’s “Mate, I’ve just found the best burger”, you instantly think it’s either in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, or even Hamilton. You would never once believe that a burger so good could be hidden away from the masses in rural Manawatu. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’ve thought wrong your whole life – because possibly the tastiest burger joint I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting is nestled right in the middle of Ohakune, or, as many Kiwis know it, the place with the giant carrot – The Blind Finch.  

After tackling one of New Zealand’s great walks, The Tongariro Crossing, I was seriously hungry. 6 hours or pure uphill/downhill walking in multiple weather conditions really takes it out of you. Luckily, The Blind Finch was just a stone’s throw away from our lodge in Ohakune – and you know when you’re starving, nothing fills you up better than a beastly burger. So, with our minds set on the meal ahead, we scooted out to Ohakune and arrived at this cute little cabin-like establishment that was absolutely humming with happy customers. When you walk inside, the sight is truly spectacular. The seats, floors and bar could’ve been taken right from a 50’s diner, however the walls are scattered old school kiwi memorabilia. But the cherry on the cake is the massive burger wall-to-wall custom burger grill they’ve got blasting in the kitchen, with as many dine-ins and takeaways these guys get, they definitely use every corner of it.

Now we’ve introduced you to the place, let’s introduce you to the burgers. Because we were absolutely starved, we ordered 2 of their large burgers and a colossal bowl of chips, which after chowing down on, I had absolutely no regrets about. Our chips were larger than life, and were absolutely smothered in rich kewpie mayo, sweet teriyaki and crunchy bonito flakes – not one chip was left un-sauced. Then we have the burgers – two toppling towers of truly tasty stuff. One was the Bombay Express, with a tandoori spiced dahl patty paired with fresh lettuce, tomato, coriander, raita and a sweet mango chutney – and then the other was the Casablanca, a Moroccan themed beast, with a fat falafel patty sandwiched between fresh salads, creamy harissa mayo, apricot tagine and fresh mint yoghurt. Which one I liked the best? I seriously couldn’t tell you – both burgers blew my mind with their unconventional vegetarian flavours and ingredients – and they really put standard mushroom burgers to shame.

So, how does a burger hub so good end up out here? Two reasons – ski season and walking season. Ohakune is right next to New Zealand’s Tongariro national park, whose Tongariro crossing walk becomes more popular than the beaches over summer. Then we have Mount Ruapehu which sits right next to the Tongariro Crossing, a well-known hotspot for skiers and snowboarders from all corners of New Zealand. So, you could say they have a pretty big fanbase all year round, which is the key to their success – along with their drool-worthy burgers. If you find yourself shredding down Ruapehu or hiking the hills of Tongariro, make sure you end your day with the biggest feed at The Blind Finch.

See The Blind Finch’s menu here.

Cicio Cacio x Oiekos: A Mediterranean Master-feast

We all know that when you go to an Italian dinner, you don’t leave until you’re well and truly full. But what happens when you got to a Greek and Italian degustation? Well, I can only describe it as an incredible feast that leaves you more stuffed than a turkey on Christmas. A few months ago, Cicio Cacio, also known as everybody’s favourite Italian in Wellington, announced a special collaboration between their chef, Gulio, and the chef from Oikos (another fabulous restaurant in Wellington), Theo. This collaboration was going to be a feast of the senses and the seas: bringing together the two cuisines that truly make Mediterranean food a favourite for all – Greek and Italian. 

On a chilly Sunday lunchtime, my partner and I set off (a little hungover from the night before) to Cicio Cacio, where we would be greeted by our two chefs and a lovely waitress, Daniella. After our very warm and welcoming hello’s, we were sat down at a long 20-seat table, which for me emulated the very idea of the feast – to bring together from all walk of life to simply enjoy good food and make everlasting friendships – which I can definitely say, it did.

With it being a Greek feast too, we were warmly welcomed with a cold glass of Ouzo – which after hearing my mum’s experiences on it, I wasn’t too keen. But hey, so I did what any other 21-year-old would do and downed it very politely, and it wasn’t too bad (although I could see 8 of these being an issue…). After the others had arrived and we’d all introduced ourselves, it was time for the feast to begin – and boy it was smelling good.

To entertain our stomachs, we snacked on a selection of classic horiatiko psomi and focaccia breads, with dipping oils, which only made me hungrier for what was to come. Soon after the last crumbs had been vacuumed up, plates of scorched asparagus and deep fried aubergine graced the table and were soon demolished by hungry diners. The asparagus was super smokey, but still had the earthy crunch – but the little dusting of parmesan and balsamic was what really made the asparagus flavours sing. And the aubergine, whilst not being the most colourful to look at, the flavours definitely created a spectrum in the mouth. Sweet aubergine and nutty tahini was an amazing combo, but what really elevated this little starter was the crunch of the perfectly fried batter – this was what my hangover needed.

We were only getting started, as soon after the last stick of asparagus had disappeared along came a mountain of giant prawns, oozing with seafood-y juices. Usually I eat the whole prawn, but these suckers had a shell ten times hard – but also that meant they had ten times the succulent meat on the inside. We were at a Greek/Italian feast – so a bowl of prawns is definitely not enough seafood. And I was right in thinking there was more to come when a giant bowl of salted sardines were placed among us. My neighbour diner being Greek, absolutely jumped with joy at the sight of these and couldn’t wait to get his fingers on them. I didn’t quite understand his excitement until I ate one for myself, and found them to be the perfect snack if you’re a seafood lover like myself (if you’re not a fan of fish, AVOID these at all costs).

Now the snacks were over, it was time for something a little less light. Now, it was time for pasta. For the Italian fare we had this super traditional pesto pasta, which was the first time I’ve ever tried pasta made from just flour and water – and it was sensational. For the Greek main, we were served the most tender and tasty octopus I had ever eaten, all mixed together in Israeli couscous and a tomato-based sauce. These two dishes were a perfect example of just how mouth-watering Mediterranean cuisine truly is.

After our carb-loaded courses, we entered the meat round. My partner and I are usually pescatarians and try to eat as little meat as possible. However we also have a goal to waste less, and so to not waste the life of an animal and the time and effort from the chefs, we put down our vegetarian gauntlets. The chicken was tender, juicy and melt in the mouth – it didn’t make me miss meat but heck it definitely was a good eat! This chicken was served with petite lamb chops, a fresh and tangy fennel salad, and of course, it wouldn’t be a Greek feast without the classic Greek salad – a jumble of feta, juicy tomatoes, crusty bread, and olives. Even though all these dishes seem simple, when you pick and choose a forkful-of-this and a spoonful-of-that, the resulting flavours that you get are something completely but deliciously different.  

You’d think after this we’d be pretty full – well, we were definitely tipsy from the free-flowing wine, but our tummies knew there was one more treat left to try – dessert! I was expecting some traditional tiramisu or baklava, but instead what we got was this lovely light and airy coffee granita with cream, and a baked custard with caramelized filo and freeze-dried raspberries. These two desserts were the ideal end to a grand feast, both had exceptionally delightful flavours and textures that emulated the coffee-and-biscuits that you usually have at the end of a degustation.

The whole point of this feast was to bring food lovers together from far and wide to celebrate the food from the Mediterranean, and I think if you’ve got to this part of the article, you can agree that both Gulio and Theo executed it beyond anybody’s expectations. Every single part of this experience was worth every cent I paid to be there, and I would go broke just to live it all again. If you’re ever looking for authentic and exotic foods, a great ambiance, and second to none service – Oiekos or Cicio Cacio are the places to go.

Click here to check out the menu at Cicio Cacio, or go here to have a geez at Oikos’ menu.

A Hunger for Hiakai

Wellington is known for 3 things: It’s wind, its’s locals who can’t get their head around wellington on a good day, and its vibrant food scene. Our coolest little capitals streets are all dedicated to a variety of establishments, all go-to’s for different occasions: You want cheap Asian food? You go to Cuba. You want high-end French cuisine? Head to Queens Wharf. You want greasy chips after a night out? Courtenay’s got you covered. Nearly all culinary bases have been covered – but what about the more daring side of food? The side where molecular gastronomy is the chef’s religion, they practice day in day out? Where in Wellington do you find this place? I’ll tell you where. Try opposite Massey University. No – not the dairy, a little further down. To Hiakai.
Hiakai is the baby one of New Zealand’s most accomplished chefs, Monique Fiso – who gained fame through a little Netflix show called ‘The Final’ table (you might’ve also binge-watched). Since witnessing her skill I’ve been following her adventures every day.

I didn’t know it existed, but when I found out about Hiakai, I knew I had to go and experience Chef Fiso’s fare at it’s very best. So last Thursday that’s exactly what I did (we had to book months in advance – but you’ll soon find out why). You’d agree that Mount Cook is a weird place to have a restaurant, but once you step inside the restored brick kiln, you don’t even care where you are – you’re too absorbed in the warm, cave-like ambiance of Hiakai. Trapezing up the stairs, we were met by waiters who excitedly took us to our corner booth, and as soon as our bums hit the smooth velvety seats, the degustation began.

Course 1: Snacks & Aperitif: Toasted Potato Bread & Horopito butter, Oysters, Snapper skewers, Potato and parsley crisp, Ceviche flatbreads. Once drinks were sorted and cutlery was down, the starters came out – and they didn’t stop! After all the snacks hit the table, there was no room left to move – so of course we had to get to eating! My favorite out of these were the snapper Skewers. Even though it was just one piece of snapper on a skewer, the flavour and texture it delivered when eating it was mind-blowing, and even once swallowed the delicate fishy flavour marinated on your tongue.

Course 2: Broccoli & Tuatua Clam. I was shocked that all the snacks were just ONE of the courses, but don’t worry, I had pre-prepared my tummy for enormous amounts of food. When this plate hit the table, I was taken back by just how beautiful a somebody could make broccoli look. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I knew this dish was going to taste just as gorgeous as it looked – and yep, I was right! Forget any blanched greens your mum used to feed you – this bright green puree was a whole new flavour of broccoli anybody would drool over. This dish was a sensation, and it got our palettes prepared for the food-finesse that was to come.

Course 3: Potato, Green-lipped mussel ice cream. This dish had me utterly speechless. I’ve watched plenty of Heston Blumenthal, and this was nothing short of one of his creations. Set in front of us were small cubes of Maori potato, topped with shoestring Maori fries, and then to pair with these? A dollop of green-lipped Mussel ice cream of course. The waiters also drooled a small pool of mussel sauce around the dish – and then it was time to tuck in. My mouth didn’t want to like it – surely the textures and temperatures couldn’t work – but it JUST DID! It then hit me – the taste combo matched that of dipping McDonalds fries into a sundae – but this time, I wasn’t drunk at 3am, and I definitely wanted to dip in for more, and more.

Course 4: Ika, kowhitiwhiti, parsnip, leek, bone broth, kawakawa. So, by now I gauged that Hiakai’s specialty was fish – and was I complaining? Absolutely not. And by this, I bet you could imagine my pure glee when, yet another stellar fish course was plated in front of me. And oh my god what a fish this was. The unimaginably delectable fish (or ika) paired with those melt-in-the-mouth vegetables, and a dunk of the bone broth created a mouthful of kai that was a true homage to the sea. That broth took my palette to places it’s never been, and I had to hold myself back from asking the waiter for the whole jug (though I think it would’ve been a compliment had I!).

Course 5: Sweet Potato Cappelletti, Truffle, butter sauce, sage. Okay, after 3 light fish dishes it was kinda’ nice to have something different – and for me, this heavy and decadent pasta dish was the ideal successor. When I took a bite of the cappelletti, butter sauce, sage and truffles all together – I had what you would call a ‘Ratatouille’ moment. I tasted something that took me back to a fond memory, but what was the flavour?? And then it hit me – a vegan mac and cheese I have made only once, but always crave. This made me love the meal even more, not because of how impeccable the depth of flavours were, it took me back to a memory I am forever fond of.

Course 6: Feijoa, Kiekie gin, apple, sorrel. 5 courses in, and we were finally hitting the sweet spot. To refine our palettes after all those strong and savoury dishes, we were given a palette cleanser crafted from the sourest & freshest of fruit. A spoonful of feijoa gel, sour sorbet, citrus marinated apple ribbons, and a gin meringue was enough to clear my mouth of any savoury flavour, and replace it with an explosion of sweet, sour, and citrus fireworks. It’s a hard call to made, but if I had to choose a favourite dish of the degustation – it would be this little lip-smacking snack.

Course 7: Hokey Pokey ice cream bar. What do Kiwi’s love most? Eskimo Bars. What do Kiwi’s also love? Crunchies. Put these two together, and holy. You’ve won over the nation – and Hiakai is doing just that with their Hokey Pokey Ice Cream bar. The crossover of these sweet treats creates a dessert that’s smooth, light, crunchy, sweet, bitter, and of course, very naughty. But hey, it was my night to splurge – so I ate the whole damn thing and loved every millisecond of the flavours melting on my tongue.

Course 8: Petit Fours: Horopito, mamakau delight, ’Shrewsbury’, and tarata harakeke truffles. The food baby was gestating, but the degustation wasn’t over yet. Oh no, we couldn’t leave our seats until we had tried what is seen all over Hiakai’s Instagram – the Petit Fours. A plate of handmade marshmallows landed in front of us, followed by a cloche of smoke-covered truffles, then a small box of dainty jellies, chocolates, and their famous ‘Shrewsbury’. The drama when the smoke spilled over all the sweets was intense, and the act of rubbing our hands in the native Horopito before devouring our treats was comical. The marshmallow was packed full of sugar and Horopito and tasted wonderfully like lemongrass. The truffle dark and Smokey, the jelly soft and sour, the chocolate rich and gooey – and of course, the Shrewsbury was homely and very retro – just the way I like it.

And that was it. After 8 stunning courses, my quest through the menu at Hiakai had come to an end. Sitting here now reminiscing on each ingredient and component of the dishes, I feel truly blessed to have tried some of the best food New Zealand has to offer, and some of the native ingredients so uncommon in our kitchens, yet so delicious in our meals. Hiakai was an experience like no other – the food was of course second to none, the wait staff were highly professional, but also warm and friendly, and the chefs – you can see they work non-stop in the kitchen to the nth degree, but after making my way through each course they’ve meticulously mastered, I can safely say their efforts have paid off. I don’t even know if this place can be compared to anywhere, I’ve ever been to – yet even if Hiakai had its own scale it would reach the top. So I’m just going to go and say this: No matter where you are, who you’re with, or how much money you have – an evening experience the artistry Hiakai has to offer is worth it. Please go and see what I’m banging on about – you won’t regret it.

Rita: The Restaurant That Makes Wellington Winters Worth It

Ah, Wellington Winters. Wondrously windy, classically chilly, and right-annoyingly rainy.  They make you want to never leave your home, but at the same time, make you crave good food that is warm, earthy and homely. Tuesday night last week was a perfect example of one of these days, and as the day turned into night, my craving for hearty food grew to an insatiable level. Luckily, my needs weren’t going to go unattended – since coincidentally, my sister had booked a table at what I can say is the place to go for a plate of exceptional home style meals – Rita.

There is no better way to describe this place than with the word home. Nobody lives there, yet when I walked inside, I instantly felt like it was somewhere I could happily stay forever (and also eat their food forever). Once inside the cosy abode, their head waiter cheerily met us with open arms and even offered to take our coats for us – I felt like I was at the Ritz! Upon sitting down, we were explained the nights menu (in plenty of detail so we knew exactly what to expect!) – so that diminished the ongoing ‘food envy’ issue that every foodie faces – however I celebrated too soon as I was then asked ‘What would you like to drink’. Dammit. The drinks list was short, so there wasn’t too much decision juggling to be had, and in the end I chose their Damson vodka and soda. What I ordered and what I drank were two very separate entities since my partner didn’t like his drink, so I did what every good girlfriend would do, and swapped drink (turns out I liked his Campari Cocktail better, so that worked for me!).

Right, now that I’ve set the scene – let the degustation dissection begin. Firstly, we were given a little appetite teaser of homemade cheese pastries. These were super deceiving, as the humble appearance of the pastry masked the sheer strength of the delicious cheesy flavour that came from within.

Now that our palettes were warmed up, we were ready for the feast. Our starter was a beautiful garden of roasted beetroot, charred sprouts, crunchy walnuts, crisp parsnip chips, and a beautiful creamy parsnip puree. This dish shone light on some of the most incredible winter vegetables, and one forkful of all these earthy flavours combined was enough to warm my soul from inside out. I absolutely smashed back this dish, and nearly licked all of that puree off the plate (but I then remembered where I was and put the plate back down).

Next, main course. This was a beautifully roasted mackerel fillet with crispy skin, paired with marinated chickpeas, toasted cauliflower, chunky tomato sauce, and a pop of fresh sour cream. Now, I’m just gonna go out here and say it – Mackerel is the underdog of fish, and Rita is proving just how amazing this fish can taste with this dish alone. This plate of food brought together the bold flavours of fruit and vegetables with the strongest flavours of the sea to create brand new flavours to savour. And the bonus? A big ol’ slice of potato focaccia to soak up all those delectable juices so we didn’t have to lick the plate.

3 meals in, you could imagine we were all getting a little full – but of course we saved room for the much-anticipated dessert dish of Rum Baba’s, a rum infused cream, with a stewed sour plum. Hands down this was my favourite dish of the evening, and finished off the hearty & wintery degustation faultlessly. The combination of the rich rum cream, the dense and sweet Rum Baba, with a little pop of sour fruitiness from the plum was indescribably delicious, and I still dream of those flavours to this day. When I say the service is incredible, I really mean it. The waiter overheard my sister saying she’s not a big fan of plums, and came rushing right to the table to offer her some fresh mango instead. How wonderful is that?!

Ah, what a journey! If you’ve made it this far on the ride, well done, and also I think you can agree with me that the degustation that Rita put on for me and my family was second to none. Each course was a celebration of the beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables that grow in Winter, and each dish brought new flavours and textures which elevated everyday dishes that your mum or grandma would serve. For the food, the drinks, the service, and the homely atmosphere, I have to award the guys at Rita a bloomin’ brilliant 9.5/10. Rita has created a tier of its own, and has quite successfully separated itself from any other restaurant category in Wellington. For $75 you can get 3 amazing dishes, 2 complementary sides, and an experience that takes you back to your childhood – so what are you waiting for? Book now!