Per capita, I think Wellington punches well above its weight for sheer number of different great eateries. Not even really trying, you have several fantastic options on most streets. Some are hidden away and need a local’s recommendation, but then lo and behold, the ultimate Wellington foodie festival, Wellington on a Plate; with fantastic restaurants identified, recommended and laid out in a guide and suddenly I have a laser-beam focus.
Wellington on a plate is on for 17 days in August each year. This is it’s 5th year and my first. Its a great foodie festival in that there is something for everyone, at every budget; from burgers, to lunches, dinners at 2 price points, cooking classes, pop up gourmet foodie stalls, banquet offerings, tapas, wine tasting, and kitchen tours behind the scenes.
My target? Burger Wellington, otherwise known as “battle of the buns”
Local restaurants and cafes register and enter their creations into the competition, then over the 2 weeks of the festival the public eat and rate the burgers via SMS, resulting in one eatery crowned the burger Wellington champion.
The actual burger offerings are very reasonably priced so with a bit of organization, you can sample (or methodically eat your way through) a couple of different entries in the 2 week period. Just make sure you have salad for dinner.
Here are the ones I have managed to sample:
Thunderbird: The Count of Catalina- $15. ParrotDog beer-battered fish fingers, with rocket, fresh dill, and housemade pickles and remoulade on a Brooklyn bun.
The Old Bailey: The Old Bailey’s Buck Burger – $19.50. Wairarapa venison patty with Kingsmeade Havarti cheese, Parkvale mushroom and beetroot jam in a Cottage Lane artisan bun, with rustic fries
Portlander: The Moolander – $25. Wagyu patty with mushroom sauce, gruyere, caramelised onions, roasted tomato and parmesan crisp on sweet brioche, with truffle steak fries
The General Practitioner: Kasbahbaa Burger- $22. Hand-ground spiced lamb and date patty with chilli, almond and coriander pesto, in a Pandoro bun, with chunky chips
Astoria: Hawaii 5-0- $18.50. Island Bay Butchery pork patty with On Trays Monterey Jack cheddar, grilled pineapple, lettuce and Astoria teriyaki sauce, served with fries.
Everyone I know was going to something during the festival; a Burger Wellington contestant, cooking class, wine tasting or themed dinner menu. It is such a brilliant way of showcasing the local produce, encouraging people to get out and take part, and just making food accessible.
Wellington on a Plate is especially perfectly timed as locals are still a little rattled by the recent earthquakes and (past) storms, so its nice to be able to take part in something fun.