MEALS IN WELLINGTON We found Wellington to be a great food city. There are more restaurants here per capita than in New York, a fact cited to us several times. With our short visit, we only scratched the surface of good eating.
Artisan. The weather was so miserable our first evening that we opted to eat in the hotel dining room called Artisan. We were pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. We started with some mixed olives and two breads with a flight of four olive oils. The olives were lovely, the olive oils good, but the so-called artisanal bread disappointing. Our next courses were superb; both my smoked cheddar soufflé with cherry tomatoes and spinach and the Chief Penguin’s smoked salmon. We like small plates rather than large entrees and often order these smaller, usually lighter, dishes. My soufflé wasn’t light, but it was exquisite!
Ombra. The concierge in our hotel has been most helpful and enthusiastically recommended several restaurants. We’ve been taking him up on them and today’s lunch was at a casual Italian bistro. We ordered the gorganzola picante with walnuts and honey, gnocchi with cheese and lamb ragu, and fritto misto. Everything was delicious, but especially the gnocchi. To top it off we had three chocolate truffles: coconut, lemongrass and hazelnut.
Whitebait. Dinner here was by far the best meal we’ve had in New Zealand. It’s on the waterfront and the dining room is simple with bare wood tables and high back fabric-covered chairs in muted shades of gray, blue, and aqua. Yvette and Josephine gave us friendly service and everything we ordered was not only beautifully presented, but superb. This is sophisticated dining. We started with anchovy toasts and smoked eel mini tacos (for the C.P. who likes eel) followed by snapper filet on slices of preserved Meyer lemon topped with celeriac for me and for him, lemon sole topped with a mix of peas and beans (very green), and a seasonal citrus salad with fennel, pistachios, and bits of green olive. The salad was reminiscent of a similar salad served at Ports of Italy in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, but more elegant, although I’d leave out the olives. The chefs here are fond of salty tastes.
Chow. Our hosts at Te Papa tooks us to this Chinese place for lunch, which was perfect for our group of five. We ordered seven or eight dishes which were all small platters with five or six pieces including fish cakes, sesame crusted seared tuna, two kinds of dumplings, and chicken satay. Everything was tasty, but could have been spicier for this twosome.
Noble Rot Wine Bar. For our last evening, we dined at Noble Rot, a very happening place recommended again by the hotel concierge. He adopted us and seemed to eagerly wait our reporting back after each meal. The front bar and high tables were fully occupied when we arrived, but fortunately for us shorties and oldsters, there were tables of normal height in the side room. Most were empty at first, but by the time we left all but one was taken.
With our wine (they have an extensive list of wines by the glass), we started with some chorizo and pecorino cheese with black truffle and accompaniments and then moved on to a couple entrees. The Chief Penguin had the chicken with parsnips and mushrooms which had been done sous vide and was marvelously tender and lovely. I had the fish of the day which was a local white fish served with capers and some roasted cauliflower and a bit of sauce on the side. Also lovely. Being chocoholics (at least I am), we had a dark chocolate truffle each.
Note: All photos ©JWFarrington (some rights reserved). Header photo is gnocchi with lamb ragu and Parmesan.