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. 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. The White Swan Country Hotel

    $$$ | New Zealand

    A big open fireplace, light modern furniture, and glittering chandeliers create a warm, welcoming dining room where the service is impeccable...Read More

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Horseshoe Café Restaurant

    $$$ | Contemporary

    This restaurant takes its name from the horseshoe shape of its high-ceilinged room with glistening chandeliers. Padded seating and windows follow...Read More

  • 9. 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

  • 10. 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

  • 11. The French Bistro

    $$$ | French

    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...Read More

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