PO Box 6030
Wellington 6141, New Zealand
+64 4 801 9198
Greetings from Jakarta, the city of two-hour traffic jams, luxurious shopping malls and six Din Tai Fung restaurants! The weather as we speak is a lovely 33 degrees – well, it would have been lovely if it weren’t for the 94% humidity. It was certainly a far cry from the winds and the rains and sub-16 degree temperatures of Wellington, New Zealand some months ago.
Wellington might have been cold and miserable when I woke up on our first morning there. However, that didn’t stop me from getting excited as I got ready to attend a Zest food tour that morning. Unfortunately for Marty, the rain and a dodgy meat pie made him bed-ridden for most of that morning so he had to forfeit his place (and my payment) on this tour.
Zest is a company that runs walking food tours around Wellington, in addition to Auckland, Dunedin and Martinborough. Food lovers may choose from several options; the one that I joined was the three-hour Capital Tastes tour which is NZD$169/AUD$134.12 per person. It was the shortest tour available yet it also had more than enough to keep me stimulated.
I met my very lovely guide, Heather, at the i-SITE visitor centre in the heart of Wellington. As we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, we got to know each other a bit Heather is passionate about her food and loves Wellington dearly so I knew that she was going to be a great guide before the tour even started. Unfortunately, the rest of the group couldn’t make it either so it was just me. Normally, the tour wouldn’t go ahead with just one person but Heather got the green light from her boss so it was off with our brollies to brave the weather.
Our tour started along Wellington’s waterfront with the Te Papa museum to our left. As much as I would have loved to visit this museum, time constraints meant that I’d have to leave it for another trip.
No wonder people call Wellington the ‘Harbour City’…
On Sunday mornings, this fisherman parks his boat by the harbour to sell his catch. When the sun is out, you can see long queues of people lining up to buy trevally or snapper.
We took a stroll around Harbourside Market, the oldest and most popular market in Wellington. Since the 1920s, Wellingtonians have been getting their produce from this spot. There are also stalls dedicated to deli items, snacks and meals such as duck confit.
One of Heather’s favourite stalls is the one that sells Hungarian ‘chimney cakes.’ Dough is wrapped around a wooden stick, covered in sugar (with the option of also adding other toppings such as chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla etc) and is then cooked over fire.
I never knew what their traditional names were – and I used to always call them ‘sweet twisty things’ – but I now know that they’re called Kürtőskalács.
These fresh, colourful dips looked amazing – if I ever decide to spend a long weekend in Wellington, I’d be packing a couple of dips away in a basket along with some bread and a bottle of wine before driving slightly out of town for a nice picnic.
Fresh fruit and vegies! Heather explained that most of the produce on sale are grown locally with the exception of bananas which are imported from the islands or Ecuador.
I had to laugh at this. This truck reckon it’s Cambo but it sells Vietnamese pork rolls?
Because I’m such a nice girlfriend, I bought a pork roll to take back to Marty. I can’t remember how much they were but I did remember them being slightly more expensive than your typical Footscray pork roll. They were nothing like the ones I’m used to back home which made me think that perhaps these were the Cambo version – wait, do Cambos even have pork rolls? Either way, the rolls were soft all over and the filling too sweet all over. Marty pretty much agreed with me but accepted that it wasn’t terrible, just ‘different.’
We then headed indoors for the City Market, which has more of an artisan feel to it. This market is where you can see Wellington’s finest coffee makers, breweries, chocolatiers and cheese-makers under one roof. Additionally, the market allows a new restaurant each week to showcase what they can do. It’s a fantastic environment where everyone supports each other.
I was thrilled to meet Martin Bosely, one of Wellington’s most esteemed chefs. During the week, he’s seen working at his eponymous restaurant but on Sunday mornings, you can find him flipping eggs and streaky bacon at this stall that sells all manners of fresh fish, sauces and dips. He said that he was happy to set aside a table for me and Marty if we wanted to rock up for dinner tonight but unfortunately, we couldn’t make it.
Something fishy is going on…
Next to Martin’s stall was Rachel Taulelei’s Yellow Brick Road, who provide seafood for Martin’s restaurant. The sign on their table claim that they make the ‘world’s best chowder.’ ‘According to who?’ I asked Rachel. Rachel laughed as she replied, ‘Well, us…’
Thing is, she was probably right. I’m no chowder expert but I’ve had a couple during my stay in New Zealand and this was by far the best I’ve had. It was so creamy, so full of lovely flavour and the plump Te Matuku Bay oyster just gave it that extra oomph.
We also swung by for some coffee. I can’t remember the name of the provider but I’d say that my latte is almost on-par with some of the best I’ve had in Melbourne.
If I wasn’t so full on chowder and Hungarian twisty things, I would have so bought some dumplings.
Our next stop was the Kura Gallery, where we got to sample three types of honey: the Manuka honey, Rata honey and the Kamahi honey.
My personal favourite was the Rata honey which was beautifully creamy with a slightly caramel taste.
Oh, we also looked at a bit of local art while we were there.
Next, it was to Moore Wilson’s, a gourmet supermarket. If I was living in Wellington, I think I’d be going crazy here every weekend as there was just way too much wonderful food.
Not sure if I’d be happy to pay that much for mangoes though. I’m so glad that we have easy access to beautiful Queensland mangoes during the warmer months.
I’m also not sure whether I’d buy ready-made crepes…
Great, more things I couldn’t bring back to Australia.
We then enjoyed a cheese and fruit platter. With Ruth Pretty chutneys and jams and cheese from the likes of Linkwater and Holy Zeus, it was a wonderful way to finish off our session at Moore Wilson’s. We were also fortunate enough to try some salted caramel chocolate truffles and some feijoas. The platter was supposed to be for five people but obviously, there were only two of us so we got to enjoy a bit of a feast. I took whatever we couldn’t finish to Marty later on.
Our final stop was at trendy café, Floriditas on busy Cuba Street. I was thrilled that Floriditas was on the tour because it was on my ‘to go’ list.
We enjoyed an affogato as we wrapped up the tour. It was delicious. The ice cream was creamy and beautiful, providing just the perfect contrast to the warm shot of toffee-like espresso. Beautiful.
Our tour ran over time but I certainly didn’t mind and Heather wasn’t in a hurry to go back home to her family (nah, jokes). The weather might not have been the best but it proved to be the perfect morning for a spot of walking and food. I highly recommend going on a Zest food tour if you want to learn more about Wellington’s food culture but don’t know where to start. And if you were planning to go to either Logan Brown or Floriditas, Zest will give you a discount voucher to use at either of those restaurants if you book a tour with them (which I must admit was my main reason for booking, hah).