The Best BYO’s in Wellington

A BYO is the perfect place to get litty, whether it be for a birthday or just because you’re feeling extra thirsty on a Friday night. But the one question that always floats to mind when organising all the lads together is; where the heck do we go? To make this decision easier for you (so now all you need to think about is what wine has the most standards for the cheapest), I’ve compiled a list of the best BYO’s in Wellington that have always started me off well for a steamer of a night.

1. Great India

There are 2 things I love when its comes to a BYO – 1. A round table where you can chat sh*t to everyone, and 2. Flipping good food. Luckily, Great India has both of these (and a very cheap corkage) to kick your night off just right! The chefs at Great India specialise in dishes from South Gujrat and North India, with each dish bringing its own distinctive flavour and aroma (no matter how much you’ve had to drink) which simply can’t be replicated from your flats spice rack.

My top pick: Any curry, but get rice & naan for the whole table! This means they bring out a selection of different rices & naan to pick & choose from, and when I say a selection, I mean enough carbs to feed a small village.

Naan at Great India

2. Arashi

Arashi Kushiyaki Bar is, in my humble opinion, one of the best Japanese BYO’s in the CBD. If you’re looking for some lighter, less greasy meals whilst still being able to chug a bottle of wine in 15 minutes, then this is your place. From crispy skewered meats & proteins, to beautiful bowls of saucy teriyaki dons, Arashi can cater for any of your western asian food cravings – and has vegetarian/vegan options too!

My top pick: The Okonomiyaki! Savoury pancake, spring onions, Okonomiyaki sauce, and plenty of kewpie mayo – what’s not to love???

3. NewKor

“If you know, you know” is the phrase that comes to mind when I describe Newkor. Only a very select few of my friends know about this place, which after dining and (lots of) wining here, is an abomination. Situated just opposite the liquor store on Dixon Street (convenient, right?), NewKor serves up some of the sauciest Korean dishes around – and I can confirm that the dishes here are as authentic as they come. Oh, did I mention they have karaoke rooms upstairs and endless bottles of Soju? Newkor literally has everything you need for a night to (not) remember!

My top pick: Korean fried chicken. I only tried this because it was going to go to waste otherwise, but god it was like KFC on crack (without all the grease and using real chicken of course). Nobody, and I mean nobody, does fried chicken quite like Koreans do

Fried Chicken at NewKor

4. Rasa

Located at the top of Cuba Street, or what I like to call ‘the rowdy end’, Rasa is a humble abode that serves up some killer south Indian and Malaysian cuisine. If you can squeeze your group in between its small walls then you can be reassured your night here will only be a fantastic one, as the team here prove that even the smallest of restaurants can be huge on flavour and quality.

My top pick: Roti. You cannot go to Rasa without getting a healthy serving of roti to pair with your meal, and if you do, you’re a psychopath.

5. Satay Village

When you say BYO, everybody in earshot instantly imagines mountains of Malaysian food, and there’s no other place that quite executes that authentic south asian flair than Satay Village. Inside the restaurant the decor is quaint, unassuming and very simple – but this facade soon disappears once the dishes start coming out, as the fragrances from their rice or noodle dishes soon fills your nostrils. Fun fact, they were the first ever Malaysian restaurant established in Wellington – so that means they must know a thing or two about that cuisine, right?

My top pick: The Laksa. I like to pretend I’m going to order something different, but the aromas and flavours of this dish drawn me in every damn time.

6. Indian Alley

Led by an A+ husband and wife team, the folks at Indian Alley take you on an authentic food journey through India with an abundance of awe-inspiring regional starters, mains, and desserts. With 2 restaurants across Wellington (one on Wakefield Quay, one in Press Hall), they have built a reputation of providing dishes which are daringly different and prepared with ingredients of exceptional quality for an enticing level of Indian flair. Whether you’re looking for a more casual dining experience with buffet or à la carte options OR seeking more of a traditional full service Indian fine dining experience, Indian Alley has you covered – oh, and you can BYO wine to make the experience even more enjoyable (and, perhaps a little more blurry!).

My top pick: Kurkure Paneer. Nothing in this world prepared me for the unfathomable flavour and texture of deep fried paneer with a fresh minty chutney dip.

Paneer Tikka at Indian Alley

7. Tequila Joes

If you’re for something a little more Western on your night out, then look no further than Tequila Joes! Being the only Mexican BYO Restaurant in Wellington, this place serves up some seriously saucy Mexican faves such as tacos, quesadillas & nachos – plus they have vegetarian and vegan options so no matter your dietary direction, you too can don the Sombreros and Cowgirl Hats and have a fiery fiesta of a night!

My top pick: Baja Fries. I know you’re coming to this place for Mexican, but trust me these pillowy fried pockets of spicy potato will line your stomach nicely for the night ahead!

Tacos at Tequila Joes

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. 

Wellington’s Best Breakfast Granola Bowls

Whenever people ask me what my favourite meal of the day is – they’re always a little taken aback when I confidently reply breakfast. Sure, dinner is great, but how good is a greasy bacon Eggs Benedict, or a sky-high stack of buttermilk pancakes – or the big English breakfast featuring all of your fried friends. All these options are terrific – especially to a breakfast lover like me – but there is one dish that, in my opinion, ranks above them all – and that is the humble granola.

Why you ask? Well, the beauty of granola, is it can be anything it wants to be. It can be chocolate-y, it can be nutty, it can be fruity, and it can be served with other tasty ingredients like yoghurt, milk, honey, stewed fruit – the list is endless. So, now you know why it’s such a crowd-pleaser, I’m here to shine some light on the cafes in Wellington that are acing this simple but delicious dish.

1. Comes and Goes.

If you’ve had the granola from here before, I’m hoping you’re reading this and nodding your head in agreement when I say that the granola from Comes and Goes has to come number 1. Not only did this beautiful breakfast bowl have the most gorgeous nutty granola I’ve ever tasted – it was topped with a vanilla panna cotta that Mary Berry would’ve been proud of. Along with the tangy berry compote, bittersweet cacao powder and colourful combination of fresh fruit – this granola bowl isn’t just the top of the list for granola, its hand-down got to be the best brunch I’ve tasted to date, ever.

2. Coenes

If you love sweets, chocolate and caramel – you’re going to love this daytime delight. I brunched at Coenes for the first time a few weeks ago, and of course to do a little more research for you guys for this write-up, I simply had to order their granola (although their eggs bene did look divine). Well. All thoughts of food envy & ordering-anxiety left my brain once that stunning plate of granola was place in front of me. Underneath the caramelized granola sat a layer of tart berry yoghurt, which offset the rich flavours of the extra cacao, caramel sauce, butterscotch sauce, and whipped coconut cream. This bowl was a mix between breakfast and an indulgent after-dinner dessert – and I was totally there for it. 

3. The Oatery

Going to a café to get your granola fix is good and all – but what if you want the goodness of granola outside? Well, that’s where the gals at The Oatery have your back – as their fresh, fruit and wholesome granola and porridge bowls come in at third on my list. I had my first Oatery Granola Bowl after a 10km run – and I tell you, it was exactly what I needed to refuel. Every bite of the lusciously fatty Fix & Fogg peanut butter, mixed with tart berry coulis, rich bananas, and nutty granola was to die for – and even though this bowl was massive, I reached the bottom in no time because I couldn’t stop myself digging in for more.

4. Goldmine

Now this one here was a dark horse I never imagined would make my top 5 – but here it is, the granola bowl from Goldmine. I came to this place expecting a nice brunch, nothing out of the ordinary – but instead I was surprised with a bowl of granola that had everything I loved going for it. Crunchy, candied, nutty granola pieces? Check. Soft and sweet poached fruit? Check. Two dairy options (or non-dairy in my case) to make the granola as soft or crunchy you want? Check. Even though this bowl didn’t push the flavour boundaries like the previous two, it executed every single element that a granola bowl should consist of perfectly – which is why it has come number 3 on my list.

5. Beach Babylon

Last – but definitely not least – is the granola bowls from our Oriental bay-side friends, Beach Babylon. Their granola is in fact so good, that they released their recipe to the public after an overload of requests. Of course, no matter how hard we try – our homemade version will never be as good as their beautiful bowl of nutty, oaty, buckwheat bliss. And did I mention it’s all vegan? Oh yeah. They go the extra mile here – serving it up with some good old coconut yoghurt, berry puree & fresh seasonal fruit (with a dash of your favourite milk substitute on the side) – which means everybody can go ahead and enjoy what they’ve got to offer!

5 Wellington Cafes That Are Worth Meddling with Metlink

1. The Botanist

Sitting in the Number 1 spot is potentially one of my favourite cafes in New Zealand, let alone Wellington. This place has pioneered Wellingtons vegan/vegetarian food scene and has even made their meat-free meals favourite dishes for the carnivores among us! For me, there is no better time to hit up The Botanist than brunch – from beastly plant-based breakfast burgers to a forest floor of fresh & fruity muesli – this place has every dish a hungry soul could wish for. Personally, I recommend their pancakes – a 3 story tall stack of the lightest buckwheat pancakes swimming in orange blossom syrup, dollops of caramel cream cheese, poached peaches and a scattering of walnut & pecan crumb – utterly delicious!

Buses that run to Lyall Bay from Manners Street: 3, 2

2. Comes and Goes

Coming in second is of course Comes and Goes – Petone’s crowing café glory! Unbeknown to people who haven’t been in Wellington very long, but forever loved by long-term locals, this place disregards conventional brunch & lunch foods. Instead, Comes and Goes offers dishes inspired from every corner of the globe that make for a morning meal like no other – think bibimbap, bao buns, and my all-time favourite, breakfast panna cotta – a fruity & crunchy clash of all my favourite meals: breakfast granola & dessert.

Trains to catch to Petone from Wellington Station: HVL towards UPPE

3. Beach House & Kiosk

Ranking third on my list of cafes you’d be crazy not to travel out to is this little gem perched on the coast of beautiful Island Bay, Beach House & Kiosk. If you love the sea, you’re gonna love this place. Its nautical theme reflects the stunning seascape views, which can be enjoyed from the comfort of their warm & cozy café dining room. I’ve had many a coffee here, but one of my all-time favourite dishes I dug into was their 2018 WOAP entry –  a soft shell, Furikake & seaweed salad burger encased in a brilliantly light brioche bun, served on a bed of chips. This burger blew my mind, and it really showcased the sheer skill the chefs have here at Beach House & Kiosk. If you’re not a burger fan or are more of a sweet tooth, you’re in luck – they also boast an abundance of home-baked goods that are nothing less than drool-worthy to the eye.

Buses that run to Island Bay from Manners Street: 1, 29,

4. Scorchorama

There’s a common theme emerging here, as my fourth place favourite is yet another beach-side brunch haven – Scorchorama. Scorching Bay is probably the undecided best beach of Wellington – with gorgeous golden sand that attracts families, water-sport addicts, and most importantly, dogs, it’s only natural that there is a fantastic café here to feed all the hungry beach-dwellers. Again, brunch or lunch is the best time to come to Scorchorama as there is no better way to rejuvenate after a dip in Wellington’s famous ice-cold sea than to soak up the sun whilst eating some of the best Eggs Benedict’s our capital has to offer.

Buses that run to Scorching Bay from Manners Street: 2, 18e, 24,

5. Longbeach

And last but definitely not least, is a place that who’s abode is slightly further than a bus ride away, but worth the train trip any day – Longbeach. Again, fitting with our theme of today, this Kapiti beachside café and restaurant that is loved by Wellington locals far and wide. Even though this place is a little more remote than the previous four, it serves up every meal you could wish for – brunch, lunch, breakfast, dinner, pizzas, dessert, cocktails – the list goes on! I have only had their 2019 WOAP burger here, but holy moly if their other meals are anywhere close to how amazing this prawn-packed burger stack, then I’m down to order the whole menu. The best thing about this place is that it’s a stones-throw from Wellington’s Paekaririki walkway, which makes it the perfect place to enjoy a well-deserved lunch or dinner after all those stairs!

Trains to catch to Kapiti from Wellington Station: KPL towards WAIK and the 280 bus from Waikanae Station.

Hillside: Wellington’s Vegetarian Vigilantes.

Vegan and vegetarian diets are getting ever more popular around New Zealand, especially in our little capital, Wellington. I’ll say it here – it’s easy to become vegan or vegetarian, and your body feels so much better for it – all it takes is a little research and some budgeting. However, I do notice that even amongst the new restaurants and cafes within wellington that do cater for vegan/vegetarianism, the older ones actually don’t – making it super hard for non-meat or fish eaters to go out and enjoy a degustation of meals that don’t lack the flavour or substance. But there is one pioneer that is out to change this awkward situation for all searching the capital for meat-free decadence, Hillside. Hillside is tucked away down the quiet end of Tinakori street, whose humble abode juxtaposes that of their complex and intriguing dishes that champion only the best veg – seasonally, of course.

Once we all squeezed our way into the dining room and were seated and comfortable, the waitress brought over a menu that was curiously vague upon reading, but we know that between lines there were going to be some very special culinary surprises. With that being said, lets dive right into this degustation.

Course 1: Snacks to start – radish & aubergine skin, hush puppies, Corn chips & miso cream, Bread & butter: The little radish & aubergine cream delivered a fresh and earthy flavour, whose depth and richness caught you off-guard due to the unassuming size of the snack. The cornmeal hush puppies were lovely and crisp on the outside, but nice and soft on the inside – which was served with a sour and sweet yoghurt & strawberry reduction. You might think the combo is weird (which it was to me as well), but after one dunk you can’t help but come back for more of those strangely complementary flavours. The corn chips were the highlight for me, delightfully crunchy and thick, but not too heavy that it masks the punchy salty flavour of the smooth miso cream. And last but not least – the bread and butter, two thick slices each of crusty goodness with a light and fluffy texture on the inside, which was faultless when chowed down with a healthy lather of the hand-made butter.

Course 2: Mint & pea tarts: Mint is my all-time favourite herb, and there is no better pairing – in my books – than the humble mint & pea. Put this delicious combo in a tart and you’ve got yourself a winner. Even though the tart crumbled at the tap of a spoon, you still managed to experience how the superbly short pastry was the perfect vehicle to carry the very aromatic flavours of the minted cream & fresh garden peas.

Course 3: Tomatoes & Olive Tapenade: This small bowl of beautifully ripe garden tomatoes and crunchy olive tapenade was just blissful to eat – even after scraping the sides of the bowl clean, I was still yearning for just one more spoonful of that salty rich tapenade. This dish played homage to this classic Italian food pairing and makes for a lovely fresh starter to any meal or degustation. This dish was also paired with a very interesting soup – which from a distance just looked like a flavoured water, however when smelt and then drank it tasted like a thick and hearty vegetable soup – but with a water like consistency! The taste bud trick was unexpected, but also humorous and definitely worthy of Heston Blumenthal’s applause.

Course 4: Sweetcorn congee: This for me was one of my favourite dishes. A lot of the time I overlook the brilliant flavours corn, and how it can transform into so many delicious variations – but this dish brought my attention front and centre on corn and just how marvellous this vegetable actually is. The congee was polenta-like in texture, but in flavour it was carried the sweet and savoury flavour that is so unique to this vegetable. Along with this sweet congee was a slice of charred cob corn, adding some much needed smokey bitterness to balance out the sweet – and then of course a few puffs of popcorn to give a little crunch and highlight corn in one of its most favourite forms.

Course 5: Braised marrow & baba ganoush with quinoa, raita & fried veg: The previous dishes had been mid-sized, but this one was the big kahuna – the one we’d been prepping our stomachs for with the past plates. This giant hunk of tender and juicy roast marrow was absolutely sensational, and when paired with some of the roasted red pepper puree, quinoa, raita and stir fried veg – it created a combination of flavours that all sung harmoniously on the tongue. This dish definitely showed that you don’t need meat to have a hearty and delicious main meal that makes you come back for more and more and more!

Course 6: Rhubarb Crumpet & cheese: Being English, as soon as I saw crumpet on the menu, my mouth instantly started watering, and luckily my senses were correct in getting that excited for a meal because this crumpet was hands down one of the best little baked beauties I’ve tried. Hillside likes to push flavour boundaries, and this certainly showed my taste buds what combos are hidden out there. Who would’ve thought that the strong umami flavour of parmesan would complement the sweet and sour notes of stewed rhubarb? I didn’t before this dish, but heck am I an advocate for it now!

Course 8: Sweet Potato ice cream, nectarine & muesli: Now this pre-dessert dish here holds the real culinary sorcery – somehow, the remarkable chefs at Hillside have taken the humble sweet potato and turned it into an ice cream that kicks the asses of most high end ice cream manufacturers I’ve ever tried. This ice cream was lovely and thick in texture, but velvety on the tongue, and delivered a flavour that was sweet, but interestingly warm, with almost a faint cinnamon spice to the taste. Get a spoonful of this ice cream with a scattering of the crunchy nutty muesli and a slither of the poached nectarines and holy mother, you’re in pre-dessert paradise.

Course 9: Choux & strawberries: What’s better than one dessert? Two desserts – obviously. This sweet treat was the crème de la crème of the evening, a beautifully big and buttery choux bun slathered in smooth and silky elderflower crème and dotted with succulent stewed strawberries. The sweetness of the slightly squidgy strawberries brought out the sourness of the elderflower cream, that was then mellowed out by the buttery-ness of the crispy and fluffy choux. This dish is living proof that you don’t need a million elements and textures in a dish to make it a star, all you need is classic flavours done right.

Course 10: Petit fours: Caramel cookie, Peanut chocolate & crystallised apple: You’d think after 9 dishes we’d be done – but you’d be wrong. And I’m happy we didn’t stop at 9 either. There’s nothing better than regrettably thinking a degustation is over, getting ready to pop your coat on, when suddenly the waiter makes their way to the table, bearing a plate of petit fours just to tip you over from full to food coma – I just love it. I’m personally not a massive fan of caramel, nor peanut butter & chocolate, however I am a sucker for a fruit sweet, so my favourite petit fours was definitely that small cube of lip-suckingly sour granny smith apple jelly – it definitely kicked me awake from the food coma!

So, there you have it – a degustation that was decadent, delicious, damn-right-cheap-for-what-you-got, and most of all – vegetarian! That’s right fellow readers, Hillside has cracked it. 10 fabulous dishes that were curiously creative and confused my taste buds in all the best ways. We also paired these dishes with non-alcoholic drink matches that shocked us; some beautiful and some down-right bizarre, but both making the meals shine more nonetheless. Meat-eater, omnivore, vegetarian or vegan – if you haven’t ventured into the valley of Thorndon to check out this Hillside hotspot, you’re starving yourself of a fabulous night out.  

Check out Hillsides menu here.

Oikos X Townhouse Ramen: An Unusual Duo

Okay, by the title of the review, you’re probably thinking “How the heck can an Asian ramen chef duo do a food collaboration with a Greek chef??” – well, just hold your horses, because it’s not as crazy as it seems. A few weeks ago we were spinning yarns with the head chef & founder of Strathmore’s famous Greek Restaurant, Theo, and he was telling us how his hunger for ramen had got so crazed that instead of going out to get some, he just invited the famous Townhouse Ramen chefs over to his to make it there instead! Obviously, Theo wasn’t just going to eat all the ramen himself – no – he was going to open up the experience to 30-odd other ravenous ramen-lovers. So not having tried Townhouse Ramen either (it’s so hard to get a spot at these guys’ crib!), we jumped at the opportunity and saved us a seat then and there.

Fast-forward a few weeks later and the day to finally feast on some of Wellington’s most hyped ramen had come. I’d prepped my stomach for this: I’d gone to the gym, I’d made sure to have salad for lunch, all in anticipation of the ginormous ramen that was to come. 5:30 soon came around and It was time to jump into the wagon and depart on our ramen-discovery. Once we arrived, we were warmly greeted by a very enthusiastic Theo, who couldn’t stop singing praises about how bloody good the ramen tasted – making our already starving stomachs every hungrier. The thing about ramen is, that its always made to order, just so we can enjoy it at its peak warm flavours – so that meant no waiting around on people to arrive – about 5 minutes after we‘d sat down, the ramen had appeared in front of us in all of its steamy glory.

Now, disclaimer, I did eat chicken. I am usually a pescatarian, however I also am a firm believer of reducing waste and I’m not glued to my diet. Any who, I have to say – I’m glad I did end up ditching my diet for an evening because that chicken was radical. I would go as far as saying that the chicken floating around in that broth was hands-down some of the juiciest, tender and flavourful pieces of chicken I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. The seaweed, spring onions, noodles, chicken dumplings, and egg really brought some interesting textures and flavours, which I think makes ramen go from your average-joe soup to a bowl of something intriguing and addictive. And of course, the broth was just amazing – the depth of flavours in the were bottomless, and it had this unruly power to warm up my insides from my head to toe after even the smallest sip.

And if this humongous bowl of ramen wasn’t enough to fill us to the brim, after our empty dishes were taken away (I honestly don’t think anybody left even a drop of broth in their bowl) 3 incredible patisserie cakes were put in their place. The first one was a stack of hazelnut sponges sandwiched together with a light cream and caramelised Boba on top, the second cake was a smaller stack of coffee sponges and coffee cream, and the third was a classic chocolate cake that emulated a hot chocolate, and even had a little hand-made melt-in-the-mouth marshmallow plopped on top. Each cake tried separately had it’s own pop of flavours, both strong and delicate that danced on your palette – however the top tier cake out of them all was the hazelnut sponge, especially with its chewy caramelised Boba balls – utterly fabulous and unashamedly moorish!

This night was special, for everybody involved. It was very similar to what Theo and Gulio had achieved for their Greek & Italian feast a few weekends prior, but instead of a collaboration, this was Theo stepping out the limelight and just letting Townhouse ramen take the centre stage in an act of homage to their incredible ramen cooking skills. Everybody who came had already built this huge anticipation of what they were about to experience, and I can speak for the whole audience when I say we left with our tummies full, our hearts happy, and our minds inspired. This was my first ever taste of ramen, and after the show Townhouse ramen put on – I can promise you readers it won’t be my last!

Check out Oikos’ menu here, and for a chance to get a seat at one of Townhouse Ramens feast, keep an eye on their announcements here.

Noble Rot: Wine Bar or Wine Fungus?

To some people, noble rot is a type of fungus that infests crops of grapes, damaging their properties. To us Wellingtonians, Noble Rot is the prestigious wine bar tucked away on the corner of Swan Lane. But these two things have something in common – when harvested at the right time, grapes infested by this noble rot fungus can make uniquely exceptional sweet concentrated wine, and well, Noble Rot is an establishment that serves these unique and exceptional wines – so exceptional that its earned them a plethora or awards, including Chefs hats for 2017 & 2018, and also Best Wine Experience at the Felix Awards for both years.

So, knowing there was a place in Wellington that had been so publicly praised for their food and wine, I of course needed to scope it out. Luckily, my sister was turning 25 and also had a taste for fine dining and wine, so my family and I all got dolled up and headed out for a night that promised to be something special.

Once we got opened the door we were greeted by a tall and dark person donning an eyepatch, whom I now know to be the Wellington wine famous Maciej Zimny, who graciously took our coats and to our table. Upon sitting down we were greeted again by another person, Josh Pointon, who talked us through what our night was going to look like, and a brief summary of how they like to do things at Noble Rot.

After much excitement and anticipation over what the first course was going to be, we soon found it placed under our noses: a small Kanji filled to the brim of what I can only call a sumptuous pile of cubed sweet melon-like fruit, with a light dollop of a nutty vegan cream, and with a beautiful edible flower to garnish. This wasn’t an appetiser to pick at, it was all or nothing. And after getting it all down the hatch in one, the flavours then started to pop. Sweet, fruity, mellow, nutty – I couldn’t put my finger on what the individual ingredients were, but my god did they create a tantalising taste on my tongue. I knew that if every subsequent meal was going to be of this standard, I was in for a treat of an evening.

After a short interval, our man Josh came to greet us again, but this time he came carrying the favoured wine! For our starting course of Denzien gin marinated Ora king salmon, rock melon,  cherry tomatoes, pickled cucumber and blobs of mellow whipped coconut creme – with yet more edible flowers – we were given a very light and fruity wine, with a pinot noir-shaped glass to capture the full flavours of the mellow wine. Both paired together perfectly, with the fruitiness bringing out the freshness of the seafood and pickled fruits.

After we’d demolished our starter, it was time to move onto something a little heavier with some deeper and smokey flavours – a char-roasted celeriac placed upon a dollop of dark potato puree, with picked walnut, capers, apple, pear and a drizzle of herb oil. This dish clouded my palette with a deep earthiness, whose flavours got even richer with every sip of the deep red velvety wine that was paired with it.

2 wines down, and now it was time for the fish course. For this pairing we were given another light white wine, which I remember being a Gewürztraminer as it was my very favourite, which added a wonderfully sweet and fruity note to the dish – a smoked catch kedgeree, fresh green peas, crunchy wasabi peas, crispy shallots, radish, and daikon. This dish was by far my favourite, its slight spiciness with the wasabi and the freshness of the fish created a  rather addicting flavour combination, and the wine gave the ingredients that little bit of sweetness it needed to round off the perfect mouthful.

If we weren’t full enough, it was then time to get onto the fourth course and the fourth wine (we were feeling very merry at this point!). This dish was a celebration of the humble Heirloom carrot, paired with pickled dates, avocado miso, enoki, and okra. This dish resembled the earthiness of our second course, but it also gave me far-east Asian vibes with the added pops if the miso, enoki and okra. This dish was paired with yet another red wine – which I am terrible for not remembering the name of – but what I do remember, is that it had the most silky texture that gelled with the Asian flavours of the dish beautifully – a very well thought match!

If you thought the feast ended there, you’d be wrong. What’s a degustation without a little dessert? So last, but definitely not least, we had their 72% Whittaker’s chocolate mousse, with pineapple crisps, coconut, star anise, carta Blanca, and a sprinkle of chilli. This dish was pleasant to eat, the pineapple and chocolate wasn’t my favourite pairing (I wasn’t brought up in NZ, so never a fan of pineapple lumps), but can I please raise some attention for the dessert wine that was matched with this. Holy moly. I already knew I loved dessert wines, but I didn’t know I was going to become obsessed after one sip of the one Josh poured for us – even with it being a red wine too! It was so sweet and mellow, but not too sickly sweet that it overpowered the rich chocolate and spices. You only need a thimbleful of this wine with dessert, but believe me, I could easily drink a bottle it was that good!

Phew – you’ve made it to the end! Go and get yourself a ginormous of wine – you deserve it! My experience of Noble Rot is definitely something to behold – partly because of the food, but mostly because of the wines. I don’t even really like wine usually, but after spending an evening tasting wine that these boys have scoured high and low for just to share with the public, I’ve definitely become accustomed to good wine and could point one out from your $7 Clearskin  any day! The team at Noble Rot put all of their effort into making sure each and every person is catered for, comfortable, and not thirsty – and for this, I thank each and every team member! A decent 8/10 on the café crawler scale. The food was good, but I don’t think I needed a degustation to see the skill of the chef – however their wines and pairing skills were absolutely second to none, and I urge you if you go there to spend your money on the wine more than the food – you won’t be underwhelmed!

Check out the Food & Drink menu for Noble Rot 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.