Places to eat in Wellington

Wellington's food obsession bubbles up as an abundance of brilliant restaurants, buzzy street food markets and flavourful events.

The pursuit of superior food experiences is a compelling reason to visit Wellington. Some might even say it's the number one reason for a holiday in the capital. Whether you're hankering for New Zealand's most innovative fine dining or a plate of creative bar snacks at a craft brewery, the people behind Wellington's food and drink scene have set their standards incredibly high. There's a fierce competitive spirit driving this city's hospitality sector.

Discover the best Wellington restaurants

Are great chefs magnetically attracted to opening a restaurant in Wellington or does the city breed them especially? Whatever the explanation, there are a lot of clever, creative and knowledgeable chefs in New Zealand's capital city. They hold together a restaurant culture that thrives on rivalry and new strokes of culinary genius.

If you want to experience some fine dining meals that will jump right to the top of your memorability stakes, we recommend:

  • Boulcott Street Bistro, a perennial favourite that's been serving up excellence since the early 1990s
  • Chameleon in the InterContinental, which operates under the watchful eye of acclaimed chef de cuisine Paul Limacher
  • Bellamys by Logan Brown, where you might get to rub shoulders with a few politicians
  • Capitol, with a mouth-watering bistro-style menu that's both ethical and seasonal
  • Egmont Street Eatery, one of NZ's top restaurants located in a building that was once a carpark
  • Atlas, an upmarket waterfront eatery that uses native herbs and churns its own butter
  • Field & Green, an unassuming-but-fabulous restaurant that focuses on classy European soul food
  • Shepherd, a laneway eatery with a reputation that's getting more impressive every day

Wellington's markets are as much about eating as they are about shopping, so you definitely want to time your market visit for a mealtime.

Innovative and inexpensive places to eat in Wellington

Running in parallel to Wellington's fine dining scene is a smart-but-relaxed food culture that's all about inventiveness in an interesting environment. These are places that experiment with flavours, décor and ambiance.

This type of Wellington dining mostly happens in the inner city, but you'll also find examples further afield. Here are a few examples:

  • The Mt Vic Chippery, which is putting a new spin on fish and chips
  • Mr Go's, where you can get stuck into modern Asian hawker food
  • Aunty Mena's, if plant-power is really important to you
  • Apache, a Vietnam-meets-France fusion eatery that's insanely good
  • Sweet Mother's Kitchen, for five-star southern-style comfort food
  • The Botanist in Lyall Bay, where vegetarians and vegans will feel right at home
  • Burger Liquor, for next-level burgers that need a wide-angled mouth
  • Boquita, for tacos that dance a fiesta on your tastebuds

Hang out at the best Wellington cafes

The Wellington café scene is dynamic; as one place closes, another opens up. It means there's always somewhere new to try, as well as perennial favourites that keep on keeping on. 

Here's a quick intro to a few of the current top cafés in Wellington for breakfast, lunch or a sudden urge for cake:

  • Scopa in Cuba Street does amazing homemade pasta and pizza, and it's famous for addictive Italian hot chocolate
  • Midnight Espresso, also in Cuba Street, has a vego/vegan focus and a stylishly grungy décor
  • Prefab is nearly always full, which is the mark of a great café; bread is baked on site and there's bottomless filter coffee
  • Loretta is long, narrow and redolent with the scent of woodfired pizza.
  • Maranui Café in Lyall Bay is an inspired brunch spot with beach views; try their sourdough crumpets with whipped ricotta, then go for a walk on the sand
  • Scorch-O-Rama at Scorching Bay delivers a drop of surf culture with its healthy menu of brunch and lunch grub; if you're super-hungry, try the Scorch-O-Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong (another way to say big breakfast)
  • Betsy in Island Bay is a destination-dining kind of café that will spoil you rotten with toasted cinnamon brioche dripping in salted caramel butter and lemon vodka marmalade, among other things
  • Ti Kouka Café in the city is big on sustainability and organic produce; their dry-cured BLT with avo is exceptional

Find the best coffee in Wellington

Delve into the coffee history of Wellington and you'll find that this city has been ruling New Zealand's caffeine culture since the 1950s. Some Wellington roasters even have coffee farm projects, so they can take their brew all the way from plant to cup.

If you take your coffee very seriously, find your way to Customs, Milk Crate, Pour and Twist, Fidel's Café, Swimsuit, Seashore Cabaret, Caffe L'affare or the Flight Coffee Hangar. If you're feeling experimental, Neo Café is known for superfood lattes featuring ingredients like matcha and turmeric.

Kick up your heels at Toast Martinborough

One of New Zealand's most acclaimed food and wine events, Toast Martinborough happens every year in mid-November. It's the perfect excuse to book an escape in the gorgeous wine-making village of Martinborough.

With a track record stretching back two decades, Toast Martinborough promises a polished one-day food and wine celebration with a fabulous live music soundtrack. Participating vineyards match new and limited release wines to culinary delights from top restaurants. In essence, the event is like one big progressive dinner; a degustation that spans many venues. You can stroll or cycle easily between wineries or catch a ride on the free buses that are constantly circulating.

When the festival's over, other historic villages in the region - Greytown, Carterton and Featherston - will keep you enchanted with heritage accommodation, boutique shopping, restaurants, gardens and museums.

Graze and browse at the top Wellington markets

Wellington's markets are as much about eating as they are about shopping, so you definitely want to time your market visit for a mealtime.

  • Harbourside Market, at the corner of Barnett and Cable Streets, happens every Sunday from early morning until early afternoon. There are food trucks galore here, making it easy to grab a bite and take it down to the waterfront.
  • Thorndon Farmers' Market in Hill Street is a Saturday morning affair. It's a top spot if you want some self-catering ingredients for your pantry or picnic basket. You'll also find ready-to-eat goodies.
  • Wellington Night Market are held every Friday and Saturday evening on Cuba Street. Graze your way around the array of food stalls offering everything from Malaysian, to Indonesian, to Mexican, and Sichuan cuisine and enjoy a variety of entertainment, including live bands, buskers, cultural dance performances and even karaoke.
  • Riverbank Market, held on the banks of the Hutt River, the Riverbank Market is popular Saturday morning activity for locals and visitors. There's always a range of food trucks serving fresh and delicious food with global flavours to feast on, as well as a few arts, crafts and clothing stalls.
  • Capital Market at 151 Willis Street runs every day of the week from mid-morning until 9pm. Street food is this market's reason for living; you'll find Malaysian, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Southern BBQ and more. 

Eat the region at Wellington On a Plate

Timed perfectly to lift your mood in the depths of winter, New Zealand's biggest culinary festival Visa Wellington On a Plate (VWOP) celebrates the best talent and produce that the Wellington region has to offer. Running for the whole month of October, the Wellington region is transformed into a foodie's paradise, with international chef collaborations, pop-ups, culinary events, exclusive Festival Dishes, Cocktails and Burgers to warm up the winter months.

The VWOAP programme is released in August. Events - particularly for the international chef collaborations - sell like hotcakes, so make your plans and book online at the official website.

To make the most of Wellington On a Plate, we recommend you go for a long weekend or a whole week - and don't forget to pack your appetite. It's also worth noting that Wellington On a Plate includes restaurants and events in Martinborough and Greytown, which means you can easily extend your midwinter break to the Wairarapa region.