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. 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. Dragonfly

    $$$

    Cylindrical orange shades hovering over polished wood tables give this modern Asian eatery a warm, intimate atmosphere. A scattershot approach of ordering multiple small plates...Read More

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. 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

  • 9. 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

  • 10. 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

  • 11. 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

  • 12. 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

  • 13. Maria Pia's Trattoria

    $$$

    Patrons relax and laugh often in this homey Italian gem. Large potted plants sprawl across window ledges and dark, polished wood tables reflect candlelight through...Read More

  • 14. Martinborough Hotel Bar and Grill

    $$$

    Polished floors, chandeliers, and glistening glassware are the hallmarks of this restaurant adjacent to the Martinborough Hotel. There are some interesting paintings on the walls,...Read More

  • 15. SOI Café & Bar

    $$$

    Watch low-flying aircraft land at the nearby airport or white horses (white caps) sweep across Evans Bay from the floor-to-ceiling windows of this restaurant. It...Read More

  • 16. The French Bistro

    $$$

    Like the black-and-white photos of Parisian models that adorn the walls of this award-winning bistro, the regional cuisine is done with style. Settle into the...Read More

  • 17. Vista

    $$$

    For a breezy meal and some morning sunshine, grab an outdoor table at this busy café with views across Oriental Parade to the bustling harbor....Read More

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