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

    $$$$ | Eclectic

    A well-respected institution on the Wellington dining scene, this old colonial-style house conveys tradition and class. Start with crumbed calamari...Read More

  • 2. Logan Brown

    $$$$ | New Zealand

    Occupying a 1920s bank building with Corinthian columns and a classical dome, Logan Brown is a winner. An aquarium tank is set into the bar...Read More

  • 3. Dixon Street Deli

    $$ | Café

    The owner's grandfather opened this establishment in 1920; the friendly staff and excellent pickings have kept it a local favorite ever since...Read More

  • 4. Dockside Restaurant & Bar

    $$$$ | New Zealand

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

  • 5. Dragonfly

    $$$ | Asian

    Cylindrical orange shades hovering over polished wood tables and brightly colored parasols hanging from a dark ceiling give this modern Asian...Read More

  • 6. Juniper

    $$$$ | Wellington Central | Contemporary

    In this narrow space, red leather couch-style seating blends with plum-color walls under muted lighting. An upstairs dining area is more open...Read More

  • 7. La Bella Italia

    $$$ | Petone | Italian

    Within sight of Petone Wharf, this old warehouse has been transformed into a vibrant Italian restaurant and delicatessen; in-your-face murals...Read More

  • 8. Matterhorn

    $$$$ | Te Aro | New Zealand

    A long passage from the street leads you to this hidden treasure where the bar stretches nearly as far. A large wood burner lends warmth to...Read More

  • 9. Picnic Botanic Garden Café

    $ | Café

    In a sun-drenched corner of the Botanic Gardens, this delightful café is in a large conservatory attached to the Begonia House. You can't go...Read More

  • 10. Pravda

    $$$$ | Wellington Central | European

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

  • 11. Shed 5

    $$$$ | Eclectic

    Huge windows facing the harbor belie the fact that this historic building on the wharf was once a woolshed. Crisp white tablecloths and sparkling...Read More

  • 12. Smith the Grocer

    $ | New Zealand

    Sip your coffee at this character-filled spot, where ornaments range from old radios and beer crates to an ancient set of golf clubs. The menu...Read More

  • 13. The Back Bencher Gastropub

    $$$ | New Zealand

    Right across the way from the Parliament buildings sits "the house that has no peers," a landmark watering hole where politicians grab a cold...Read More

  • 14. The Crab Shack

    $$$ | Seafood

    Set on the waterfront, the Crab Shack is an American-style diner with a Kiwi twist. Crab-pots and ropes hang from the ceiling. The walls are...Read More

  • 15. The Green Parrot

    $$$$ | New Zealand

    Talk about character: this stalwart steak-and-seafood joint, which has been serving meals continuously since 1926, has a grill made from melted...Read More

  • 16. Vista

    $$$ | Café

    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

  • 17. Zibibbo Restaurant & Bar

    $$$$ | Eclectic

    Sit in the cozy downstairs bar with its imitation log fireplace or try the upstairs restaurant, which has dark leather seating. The off-beat...Read More

  • 18. White House

    $$$$ | New Zealand

    Consistently ranked amongst the capital's finest restaurants White House has also gained an international reputation. A combination of creativity...Read More

  • 19. Maria Pia's Trattoria

    $$$ | Italian

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

  • 20. SOI Café & Bar

    $$$ | Eclectic

    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...Read More

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