Wellington and the Wairarapa Restaurants

In Wellington, restaurants, cafés, and sports bars spring up overnight like mushrooms. Although you'll never be without the classic meal of steak, fries, and ale, city eateries have also embraced more adventurous fare. Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Mexican, and Italian cuisines are increasingly common. Indigenous food, too, is appearing in restaurants around the city—native plants might be paired with traditional seafood or made into sauces to accompany meat or sweet-potato dishes.

In rural areas outside Wellington, the wine industry has revolutionized local tables, with excellent dining and wine-tasting spots. In the Wairarapa, restaurants are winning a reputation for creative cuisine.

Generally, lunch runs from noon until 2, and most restaurants close for a few hours before opening for dinner around 6. On Monday, many restaurants are shuttered. Dress codes are still really relaxed; jeans would be frowned on only in the top restaurants.

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  • 1. Boulcott Street Bistro

    $$$$

    A well-respected institution on the Wellington dining scene, this old colonial-style house conveys tradition and class. The delightful bistro menu features long-standing dishes like the...Read More

  • 2. La Bella Italia

    $$$ | Petone

    On the otherwise sleepy Petone Wharf is a vibrant Italian trattoria, where prestigious awards, relics of family history, and shelves of the finest Italian ingredients...Read More

  • 3. Loretta

    $$$ | Wellington Central

    Adorned with its earthy-chic accents and wide wooden tables, Loretta makes a daily, but effortless transformation from a relaxed brunch spot to a bustling candle-lit...Read More

  • 4. Dockside Restaurant & Bar

    $$$$

    A wood-beam roof and oiled floorboards enhance the nautical vibe at this former warehouse on the wharf, and you can get close to the water...Read More

  • 5. Grill Meats Beer

    $$$

    A relaxed and fun place to enjoy conversation and good food, the focus here is on the casual beer drinker rather than the aficionado. Each...Read More

  • 6. Master Kong

    $$$ | Wellington Central

    Reveling in the lively waterfront atmosphere, Master Kong has a vibrant, fun, and sometimes spicy personality, both in its cuisine and its decor. The menu...Read More

  • 7. Pravda

    $$$$ | Wellington Central

    Three king-size chandeliers dominate the high ceilings in this classic, old Wellington building; the café area has half-paneled walls and a matching bar that gives...Read More

  • 8. Saint Sebastian

    $$$

    Experience delicious and unique takes on kaimoana (seafood) in this pale blue monument to the sea. The restaurant specializes in home-style cooking and features locally...Read More

  • 9. Shed 5

    $$$$

    Huge windows facing the harbor disguise the fact that this historic building on the wharf was once a woolshed. On the menu, seafood stands out;...Read More

  • 10. The Backbencher Gastropub

    $$$

    Right across the way from the Parliament buildings sits this landmark watering hole where politicians grab a cold beer after a hot debate. The walls...Read More

  • 11. The Botanist

    $$$ | Wellington Central

    Though right at home among the seaside cottages of Lyall Bay, this plant-based haven is anything but traditional. The Botanist offers tasty and innovative takes...Read More

  • 12. The Crab Shack

    $$$

    Set on the waterfront, with crab-pots and ropes hanging from the ceiling and walls bedecked in old-world maps and colorful recycled timber, the Crab Shack...Read More

  • 13. The Farriers Bar & Eatery

    $$$

    At The Farriers, you can watch the chefs in the open kitchen while waiting for your order to arrive. Much of the large menu is...Read More

  • 14. The Village Café

    $$

    At this rustic barnlike café with a sunny outdoor courtyard, all the food is made from local ingredients. The cooks even smoke their own salmon...Read More

  • 15. The White Swan Country Hotel Restaurant

    $$$

    This former railway administration building was chopped into several pieces and relocated before being transformed into a grand country hotel. The menu changes seasonally and...Read More

  • 16. Tirohana Estate and Cellars Restaurant

    $$$$

    The dark-tile floor and white tablecloths put this classy dining area way above the usual winery restaurant, and a wrought-iron door, black leather chairs, and...Read More

  • 17. Union Square Bistro and Bar

    $$$$

    Located and independently operated within the historic Martinborough Hotel, the decor here is understated yet comfortable. The classic bistro menu offers European favorites for lunch...Read More

  • 18. WBC

    $$$$ | Wellington Central

    An art-deco-era factory floor is now a popular fusion restaurant and local institution. Enjoying the large, elegant windows from its predecessor, WBC's dining hall has...Read More

  • 19. White House

    $$$$

    Consistently ranked amongst the capital's finest restaurants White House has also gained an international reputation. A combination of creativity, experience, attentive but understated service, and...Read More

  • 20. Horseshoe Café Restaurant

    $$$

    This restaurant takes its name from the horseshoe shape of its high-ceilinged room with glistening chandeliers. Padded seating and windows follow the pattern and along...Read More

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