For worthy eating and drinking experiences around Wellington, NZ (and the greater region) – you can also catch Heather out and about hosting Zest Food Tours around the city…

Archive for the category “Iconic / Finer”

Stunning Hiakai

Oh. My. God.

The new Hiakai at Mt Cook is stunning, and blows the rest of Wellington’s dining scene totally out of the water. And I don’t say that lightly.


Based in a relatively nondescript modernised old villa, you will enjoy some history on the ground floor before making your way upstairs to the dining space. I’m not saying any more about that so I don’t spoil the experience and dichotomies present.

Then menu is chosen at booking time (how many courses and whether you want the wine or very inventive non-alcoholic matches) so there is nothing to do on the night but sit back and enjoy. Beware if you cancel too late or fail to show you will be paying for the experience anyway, and I have absolutely no problem with that given the level at which they’re delivering. They also cater to dietary challenges with advance notice and discussion.


This is a journey through Maori and Pacific history in terms of ingredients and food evolution, thoughtfully designed and shared in detail by the servers for every single dish, including the first snacks. The only comparisons at this level I can think of are Steirereck in Vienna and Stone Barns at Blue Hills Farm out of New York city, both world top 50 restaurants. Truly.

We chose not to do the wine matches, but instead sampled a couple of drinks from the menu – wines for the rest of the team, and an excellent pea soda for yours truly.

I’m simply going to let the pictures and their captions tell the story for you.

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Every dish had us thinking they’d reached the pinnacle until the very last dish arrived (and there’s a couple of snack dishes I’ve missed photographing given the haze of deliciousness I was in).

The only teeny tiny thing I could fault was my pet hate of no fork with dessert and having to chase food around the plate to get it up.

But overall, I would have sold my first-born (luckily there isn’t one or it would have been the chip fiend’s first-born) or been happy for them to charge my credit card with virtually any price for this experience.

If you want to read a little more about Monique Fiso (a local Porirua lass), check out these articles from Viva and Stuff.

Groups of 6pax maximum given the style of dining, Wednesday to Saturday.

Book well ahead.

40 Wallace Street


New vegan eats and a slightly swished up Hippo

There’s another wave of new vegan eats around the city (check out my latest Word on the Street post for detail), but I mostly want to talk about Hippopotamus at the QT Museum Hotel here.

Having been there over the years, I realised I’ve never written about them on this blog. And felt compelled to rectify!

Hippo high tea


To me Hippo is the last ‘fine dining’ restaurant left in Wellington. Where you’d dress up and have a classy evening out, with fine french food, fine wines, and respectful proper service. And although sold to QT late last year, that hasn’t changed.

The decor throughout has had a wee swish up to create a slightly more contemporary sophistication, rather than the previous traditional formality, but it’s been done with a light touch so the character of the place has not been compromised. So at Hippo, there is new branding in the tableware, fewer white table cloths, sleek black polished tables, and a hint more casual styling in the staff uniforms, etc.

You’ll still have a fine time, but with a notch less stiffness.

I’ve enjoyed a pre-Christmas team lunch at Hippo, a Guy Fawkes dinner with that wonderful display over the harbour, high tea, a lovely anniversary dinner and many other cocktail and tea visits over time.

And recently, I went along to enjoy Laurent’s new vegan menu. A totally separate menu with choices for most courses (although I suspect there’s a little swearing in the kitchen at times for this Frenchman used to his cream and butter!).

The dishes we enjoyed were:

  • Tofu sashimi with wakame salad and ginger syrup
  • Roast baby vegetables with ‘soil, rain and snow’
  • Mushroom risotto with vegan cheese
  • Coconut and mango panna cotta, with bruleed fresh pineapple, kaffir lime gel, toasted coconut crumble, mango gel, freeze-dried pineapple, mango passionfruit glass (yep it look and broke just like glass!), and finally, guava sorbet. OMG. And only $18 for all that.

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This menu will evolve over time, but was delicious, beautifully presented, and had some clever layering and flavour/texture combinations.

The one thing I haven’t done yet, and been told is really worthwhile, is breakfast at Hippo. As well as buffet food, they have an a’la’carte breakfast menu with light dishes at $15 and substantial ones at $25. That’s not much more than a bunch of cafes around town, who won’t give you that same elegance and finesse. Checking that out very soon!

QT are also converting their foyer carpark into a ‘Hot Sauce’ Korean/Japanese tapas bar and lounge (the same as QT Melbourne has) for a mid-year opening, so stay tuned folks. More good things to come.

90 Cable Street, CBD




Beanbags and courtyards

I’m hoping I haven’t jinxed summer by writing a post about the best beanbag and courtyard spots in the city!


But it had to be done, as there are some very groovy spots, with many tucked away and not immediately obvious.

Feel free to share your favourites in the comments below, as there’s still plenty of summer left for us all to go exploring.

Time to relax and enjoy…




Intercontinental’s Chameleon

Chameleon restaurant changed to a series of $26 plates between entree and main in size during the Intercontinental’s 2014/15 refit, categorised into ‘seafood tastes’, ‘tastes from the farm’, and ‘vegetable tastes’ (there’s a couple of bread-type starters between $4-$12, the oysters and shellfish bouillabaisse are priced separately, and the desserts are $16-$18).

You can crack into it at two courses for $50, three courses for $70, or four for $80, with wine matching accordingly $20, $30, and $40.

So given I had a wee celebration to mark, and one of my friends had never been there, we trucked off to check it out.

We were presented with a pumpkin mille feuille amuse bouche to start which was delightful, and then some of us shared a roti starter so we could fit dessert. I enjoyed the crispy roti itself, but I’m still feeling a little discordant about the capsicum-hazelnut dip and baba ganoush accompaniments (I guess it challenges my favourites of the plain light and flakey one at Satay Malaysia dipped in a sumptuous curry, and the one with lemon butter at Two Souls).

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The summary of the plates we had was this (when ordering two or more courses, you get to decide which sequence you’d like them in):

  • Whitebait salad – crisp and tasty.
  • Serrano ham, apricot, fresh goat cheese and mint – beautiful flavours and textures, but maybe a struggle to justify $26 against some of the other dishes.
  • Venison loin with crispy potato cake, truffled leek, apple and cranberry – classic pairings and pleasantly lightened by both the cranberry and caramelised apple.
  • Lamb tongue with kumara foam, lemon hazelnut and pomegranate – soothing textures and flavours.
  • Beef tenderloin with rosti, portobello mushroom, and tarragon/balsamic butter – beautifully cooked with smokey mushrooms, although the balsamic butter was rich and better with the truffle fries.

Overall a sensation of flavourful dishes done with a light hand. And if you want dessert, maybe just choose one ‘main’ plate that takes your eye and share another with others, as two nearly-mains can be quite filling. To dessert then.

The lemon trifle was nicely dense and rated. The chocolate mousse was nice and light with tangy complimentary summer berries. And the petit fours were beautifully presented and plenty for two (or actually four people just wanting a mouthful of something sweet to finish).

So, a very pleasant experience overall with the professional and reasonably formal service you’d expect, although we all found it cold by the windows (and this on a summer evening). The wine matching was judged to be very good and included a couple of new taste experiences, and you can do dessert and cocktails in the revamped bar area, so that’s another way to have a wee taste if you don’t have a full evening available.

2 Grey Street, Wellington

Long live Logan Brown

LB dessert
Logan Brown have made a few changes in recent months to ensure there’s something for everyone.

It’s still a quality delicious experience, whether you’re doing a full evening of dining, a pre-show graze, dessert and cocktail, or specialty Jazz brunch.

Full detail here.

Wonderful Whitebait

UPDATE: The head chef is now James Pask, of various Auckland and Wellington ventures. A good pair of hands, so the quality continues, with the addition of a workday lunch Tuesday to Friday now, $35 for 2 courses, $45 for 3 courses. Exceedingly good value for the quality of food delivered.

Whitebait is the new Whitehouse venture, run by Paul Hoather’s ex-Sydney in-laws (who both have considerable respect in the food world from all accounts).

In the interests of brevity since there’s still many xmas pies to eat and carols to sing, here’s my initial thoughts:

  • It had a very Auckland viaduct feel to me (views, diner mass, reasonably generic décor).
  • If you enjoy all kinds of seafood, you’ll enjoy this menu (approx 80% is seafood).
  • No disputing the food quality, especially the dessert work of arts (do make room for one).
  • Take a walletful of cash (the herb and parmesan crusted
    bluenose needed a side, taking the $41 price tag to $50).

Whitebait entree

  • Entrees are substantial enough and of sufficient interest to have as a main with a side ($24-$32 + $9), and include a couple of whitebait options as you’d hope for a place named Whitebait (I can recommend the semolina noodles with whitebait, garlic and chilli).
  • The wine list was varied and split into helpful categories (smoky and rich whites, dark and brooding reds, fine and rare, etc).
  • The service needs to settle in a bit (early days).
  • I’m keen to try lunchtime and see how that compares (overall vibe).

Whitebait dessert

It’ll be interesting to see how they go after the honeymoon period given the average diner these days wants to eat out more often for the same $.

Clyde Quay Wharf (old Overseas Terminal for those of us over 20).

Whitebait decor

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