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. 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. Martinborough Hotel Bar and Grill

    $$$ | New Zealand

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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. 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

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