29 JUN - 2021
From beers and burgers to cocktails and exquisite food events, there’s something to please those with even the most fastidious palate.
When it comes to food, I’m a terrible fusspot. And although I’m nearly 30, I can get into these fits of hanger and at times, completely lose the plot like I’m in my terrible twos. But when I claim to be fussy, it doesn’t mean I have to dine at only hoity toity places. I love a good hole-in-the-wall destination where you have to queue around the block and squat on small plastic chairs to eat out-of-this-world noodles.
If I’ve got you saddened by the sudden urge to fly away, you need not be so glum. As travelling is still forbidden (not technically… although, highly not recommended) due to the 2020 disaster of COVID-19, Wellington is bringing the essence of travel to New Zealand via Wellington On A Plate, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest food festival.
This year’s festival theme is ‘Out of Place,’ and 2021 has the usual offerings of festival events; Beervana, Dine, Burger and Cocktail Wellington; except it’s beefed up like a gym junkie on steroids.
Last year, I didn’t go anywhere except to the neighbourhood cemetery and parks and dining was quite limited to Uber Eats. I live way out in West Auckland so you can imagine the offerings are… limited. The year before, I went down to Wellington for Beervana and experienced a snippet of Dine and Cocktail Welly, but unfortunately, I couldn’t experience Burger Welly, which is a massively popular event that foodies flock to.
Festival Events (1-31 August)
This year, they resolved this problem of FOMO with ‘Super Bumper Culinary Weekend’ - a weekend in which Festival events, Burger, Dine, Cocktail and Beervana are running at the same time. Obviously, I’ll be going down with a pre-stretched stomach and a bunch of Milk Thistle tablets so I can dine and imbibe to my heart’s content while caring as much as possible for my already tainted liver.
Throughout the month of August, the impressive Wellington hospitality scene will be offering the most wild and wonderful experiences.There’s more than 150 festival events running for the entire month of August and they include ticketed events as well as free pop ups. Since they’re providing an overwhelming abundance of choice, I’ve rounded up the top 16 most eclectic events, bars and restaurants you ought to go to.
If you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, you probably already have booked tickets. If you’ve not heard of Visa WOAP before, you’re about to get your mind blown.
Sex & Food: A Burlesque Dining Event
Sex sells - so let’s start there. New Zealand’s premiere drag king, Hugo Grrrl, will be taking over the Black Sparrow at The Embassy Theatre to host two nights of R18 fun. Renowned patisserie chef, Jackie Lee Morrison, owner and chef of Lashings, will be serving you interactive dishes to make you blush. From what I hear, it’s going to be a right hoot with plates being served in the shape of our divine genitalia that you’ll need to lick clean. Get amongst it. Who knew cunnilingus could be so tasty? :P
Aug 26 & 27, 7pm, $200.
Shepherd At Sea
In collaboration with the Interislander, Shepherd will be serving a travel-themed menu and cocktails to go with your Wellington Harbour cruise. Think live music, panoramic views, bright lights, all in an epic dress code of the Golden Age of travel. I’ve heard insane things about Shepherd. Go figure - it’s a two hat restaurant. I’m absolutely gutted I won’t be in Welly for this one. For those who love a fancy dress party and endless cocktails on cruises, I reckon it will be well worth the trip.
Aug 22, 6pm, $250.
Call yourself an art connoisseur? Did you shed tears because you missed out on a cultural Euro trip? Enter Te Papa after hours to their latest exhibition ‘Surrealist Art: Masterpieces’ from museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. An exclusive tour led by curator, Lizzie Bisley, you’ll be immersed in a night of alternate reality. Doesn’t this sound so divine? Your art degustation will be served with a three-course drinks-paired meal.
Aug 3 & Aug 4, 7-10pm, $250.
The Body Electric: An Aerobic Cocktail Experience
Now this sounds hilarious and fun. You’ll be making cocktails with the spirit of the 80s at retro-fitted Lovebite. It’s a fun learning experience for those who wish to learn how to shake up a cocktail at home. This is the chance to unleash your inner aerobics demon and velcro hair rollers for an 80’s dress up dance party.
Aug 21, 7pm.
It All Felt Too HardIt All Felt Too Hard
I totally thought this was a dick joke. It’s classier than that. Australian-based artist, @imakesoftfood, will be exhibiting a selection of her existing collection at Te Auaha (from 2-8 Aug) with nine new pieces of food made in felt form, created especially for the exhibition, as well as nine existing pieces. It All Felt Too Hard is a statement on food as a commodity, as well as changing people's perception of perfect and natural food, and the jarring experience of looking at food that is imperfect by creating food with "faults" and imperfections.
Aug 2 - 8, 10am.
Current Mood: Current Food
This is dining with emotional awareness - live music, lighting, decor - all adapting to create a setting, and in turn, evoke a feeling with each plate. In collaboration with chef, Max Gordy, the Sensonauts are hosting yet another experiential escapade dinner show with five courses and matched drinks. If you’re wanting to be thrilled with an abundance of sensations and feelings, this event is the one for you.
Aug 20, 21, 25, 27, 28, 7.30pm - 10pm, $130-$150.
Great Aspictations - Daisy’s
An ode to Wellington’s cultural diversity from the 1960’s influx of immigrants, Daisy’s is bringing a unique dish with an exotic twist. Roast pumpkin, candied carrot and sweet potato is doused in chocolate gravy with cinnamon crackling to create a high-gloss wobbly dish of aspic.
Aug 1- 15, $18.
Kupe on Mars - Mockingbird
Rooftop bar and restaurant Mockingbird brings us a plant-based festival dish to make even the meat eaters curious. Parkvale mushrooms and Shoots NZ oregano 'mince' and cheese flying saucer pastry is adorned with crispy shallot, rice soil, roasted red pepper, tamarillo chutney and red pepper foam rocks. With overseas travelling being limited, kiwis have been exploring local areas; Red Rocks has been one of those places. Combining this with the story of Kupe - who stained the rocks red with his blood after a paua shell clamped his hand - this dish is a portmanteau of our backyard origins.
Aug 1-15, $25.
Under the Sea but Not What it Seems - Bebemos
Slow-braised pulled wild venison 'kina' with chilli, micro-coriander, red wine gravy and cheese with Parkvale funghi 'scallops' seared in garlic butter, crispy kale, potato, spring onion ‘wakame’ and ‘caviar’ pearls - inspired by the Nga Kina sculpture on the waterfront, head chef of Bebemos, Vic, gives the kiwi staple an unexpected twist. Doesn’t this dish sound unreal?
Aug 1 - 15, $25.
The Baller - Atlas
This is the one I am personally most excited for. I’m so pumped to experience Burger Welly in general but The Baller burger sounds so simple yet bougie. Buttermilk fried chicken with caviar, seaweed hot sauce and crème fraîche in a potato bun. I can almost taste it. Matched with Garage Project Golden Path, this one is a dinner only option at Atlas and booking is required, obviously.
Aug 13-31, $35/ with GP beer, $45.
The Fat Elvis - Dillinger’s
Dillinger’s is serving up a hefty ‘Murican burger that brings the flavour of stars and stripes to New Zealand. Grilled beef patty is layered with pepper candied bacon, American cheese, Fix & Fogg Smoke & Fire peanut butter, grape jelly, sweet and spicy pickles and beer battered banana fritters - neatly housed in a Brezelmania brioche bun topped with cherries and a side of shoestring fries with dipping vanilla shake. I’ll be wearing an old t-shirt to eat this burger - I suspect it will be insanely messy.
Aug 13-31, $29/ with Garage Project Raspberry Cabaret, $35.
El Chupacabra (The Blood Sucker) - Panhead Custom Ales
At Panhead Custom Ales, they’re fusing classic kiwi goodness with a bit of Mexican to create the El Chupacabra. It looks freakin’ insane. The patty is made with slow-smoked pulled New Zealand lamb, salsa verde and caramelised shallot stuffed with beetroot and goat cheese sauce. This magnificent patty is then placed on a seasoned charcoal churro bun and topped with queso drip, pico de gallo and sour cream. Add a couple of blue tortilla chips for crunch and some height in the presentation, and there you go. A sculpturesque burger - served with duck at confit agria hand-cut chips and hot sauce. I’m salivating as I’m writing this and trying to organise an extra night in Wellington to extend my weekend of pure excess and gluttony.
Aug 13-31, $25.
Torre Lasagne - Wilson Barbecue
As soon as I read about this, my heart palpitated. I could feel the cheese clogging up my arteries - but in a good way? I’m mildly lactose intolerant but I may just have to bite the bullet and order one - or steal a couple of large bites from someone else - as it’s made at Wilson Barbecue where their slogan is #allaboutthemeat. Tendered for 12 hours in their offset smoker, I 100% have got to try their BBQ meats while I’m down there, even though it’s in Johnsonville. I’m not sure what else is in J’ville but I think the burger is enough of an attraction for a 7km road trip from Welly’s centre. House made barbecue sauce, sweet mustard bechamel with cheese, smoked tomato sauce and cheese sauce are drizzled over deep-fried cheesy smoked pulled-pork lasagne, and encased in an Arobake cheesy garlic bread bun, with garlic bread. So much cheese. So much sauce. This one will not be for the faint hearted. Defo will need a nap in the cab back after this burger.
Aug 13-31, $28 / with Garage Project Arvo XPA, $38.
Mekong Milo - Dragonfly
Acclaimed South East Asian restaurant, Dragonfly, has put forward a theatrical cocktail you will want to gram. Are people still doing boomerangs these days? The Bond Store vodka is infused with toasted rice, milo and coconut water and mixed with Koakoa limoncello. Creating a smokey bubble to pop, this surprising burst is accompanied by Asian Food Republic milo soil and rice syrup marshmallow.
Aug 1-31, $20.
El Chapulin Verde - El Culo del Mundo
A grasshopper frozen inside a large ice cube floats on a pool of house made Mexican-style horchata, creme de menthe and blanco tequila. The drink comes with a dulce de leche and guajillo chilli chocolate ganache sandwich cookie. I guess I’ll be drinking this one relatively quickly… I don't think I’ll be able to continue drinking it when the ice melts and the dead grasshopper is staring right into my eyes. Definitely an experience worth having though.
Aug 1-31, $21.
Last, but most definitely not least, is Beervana. There’s a million and one beers, ciders and wines that you can try at Beervana. It’s the best $49.50 you’ll ever spend. If you’ve already been, then you probably know that loading money onto your wristband is an annoying time-eating hurdle. This year, they’ve got a bunch of different passes so that you can have pre-loaded wristbands and take the fast pass lane on entry to get 30 minutes early access.
I’ll be writing up a thorough list of all the breweries and beers that you need to try leading up to the event, so keep your eyes peeled for an Instagram update or better yet, sign up to our e-newsletter.
Aug 13 - 14, tickets from $49.50.