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 tag “courtenay place”


The new Kera-la-carte Indian on Courtenay Place gave us the best Indian we’ve had in a good long while recently – light, tasty, fresh and more refined-feeling than most Indian around.

Keralacarte art.jpg

The food is centred on Kerala region in Southern India, one of the first spice trading areas with early Portugese and European influence.

The Uzhunnu Vada savoury donuts were outstanding, and the butter chicken had more flavour layers than any I’ve had before.

The chip fiend’s Chicken Chettinadu with spicy, aromatic chili’s hit the spot too. As did the Kallappam fluffy pancakes with crispy edges, made from fermented rice batter. Excellent on their own, and more excellent when used for the requisite mopping.

Don’t let this under-stated wee restaurant fool you (but maybe pass on the salted lime soda, that was just a step too weird).

Lunch and dinner Tuesday to Sunday.

25 Courtenay Place.




Hugo’s Whisky Lounge

I was reasonably impressed with the style and ambience of Hugo’s Whisky Lounge created above the Establishment on Courtenay Place. With a bunch of different nooks and crannies, and a bible-ful of whisk(e)y’s you could wile away a good amount of time up here.

Hugos bible2

The food was bar snack/tapa style, and ranged from sliders to homemade pork and shrimp wontons (very good), to crumbed camembert with spicy plum sauce to meat skewers to mini seafood fritters etc. And the staff very knowledgeable and helpful.

I won’t repeat what I wrote in my Word on the Street post, but suffice it to say you should pop by for a whiskey and bite sometime on your way out or back from somewhere, and check it out.

Best entry is just around the corner on Blair Street.

From 5pm til late Tuesday to Saturday.

Hugos lounge pic 3


Vinyl retro

I’m drawn to Vinyl.  The bar that is.

Vinyl makes me smile.  The LP’s, the music, the booths, the fun bar snacks, the teapot cocktails, the interesting mocktails.


I’m sure its a younger party place after 11pm, but earlier its a perfect fit for us 60’s and 70’s children (I just saw Bruce Springstein pluck Courtenay Cox out of the audience to dance onstage! – on screen that is).

Who can resist fairly bread (deliciously light, buttery and sugary), deep fried mars bars (the nutrition coach in my head couldn’t quite get me there), doorstop fries (great textures) and mocktails with names such as Strawberry Fields, Power and the Passion, Timewarp and You Sexy Thing.

Vinyl fairy bread

I’m sure the main draw in ordering You Sexy Thing was the caramel, chai, mayan spice, chocolate and fresh orange components (and jeez, was it a meal in itself), but there might just have been an imp prompting me to check out how the bar lad would respond to the You Sexy Thing declaration.  In reality, he didn’t bat so much as an eyelash, but I think he did have a wee giggle at me having a wee giggle at it all.

Vinyl u sexy thing

The wall booths are heated in winter, which is lovely on the derrier, and the outside courtyard bar is rather delicious in the sun (protected on all sides), other than the usual issue of smokers all having to chug away out there too (did you spot the secret door in the wall?).

Vinyl do a happy hour from 5-7pm every day (maybe a happy two hour?), serve jugs and hold a meat raffle at 8pm Fridays.

What more of a blast from the past could we want?

66 Courtenay Place.

Ancestral yakitori

Finally I’ve managed to get my butt on the lovely warm concrete seats in the Ancestral courtyard (very cool, err warm) and try out their yakitori offerings.


Because I’d been drinking elsewhere beforehand I didn’t imbibe, but did count 37 wines by the glass, 8 sakes, a big range of whisk(e)ys, and several chinese teas for two (without even getting to their cocktail list). Phew!

We chose about six plates between the two of us, which turned out to be about right, including beef, lamb, chicken, mushrooms, eggplant/peppers and seaweed salad (highly recommended by a waitress to a friend previously).

Ancestral skewers

Not convinced the seaweed salad was anything to write home about, but the skewers were all tender, flavourful and well presented.

Part of the fun of eating this way is the theatre of someone cooking near you, and the fun of trying many things.

Ancestral certainly have a polished system, with friendly staff, and even though it was only midweek, the courtyard was full.

Ancestral chef

The only thing I disliked was the smokers at the very next table puffing away, which does taint the whole dining experience.

Although I’ve personally found the indoor restaurant at Ancestral overpriced and underwhelming (and heard the same again from someone else recently), the yakitori value and delivery is about right.

Also for males, I’m told they should go check out the bathrooms – pitch black and a little eerie – although not so much for the ladies who experience varying shades of white and cream.

31-33 Courtenay Place

Ancestral map

C G R Merchant and Co

UPDATE: The food is now more toasties, cheese boards, ice cream sandwiches and salted caramel chocolate cookies. Great infused gins and rums, and always interesting creative cocktails.

The replacement Hooch.  Now C G R (Coffee, Gin, Rum) Merchant and Co upstairs on Courtenay.

CGR Merchant hours

As you can imagine, coffee, gin and rum are the focus of this bar, with the cocktail list divided into gin and rum creations of the week (although they offer to turn their hand to any other kind of cocktail if those aren’t to your liking).

I had a gin fixer (spirits, no mixers) and he had a rum fizz (spirits with mixers).  Mine was a lovely orangey number (strong but pleasant sipping) and his had a vanilla tone with milder taste (and probably all the more dangerous for that!).

They infuse all their own gin and rum syrups, so there’s an interesting array of jars and ingredients apothecary-style behind the bar.

I won’t repeat what was said in the Word on the Street article, but thinking about the Rum Diaries isn’t too far wrong.  I definitely went away thinking English, Indian and colonists.

CGR bar

The coffees include a Vietnamese egg coffee (apparently rum, coffee and condensed milk), something I shall definitely try next time, and a variety of Kenyan, Ethopian and Nicaraguan cold coffee infusions.  I note they open 10am to midnight weekdays (from 5pm Saturdays), so you can get your weekday coffee fix should one of these brews become a must-have in your world.  Might be interesting to pop in during the daytime to see how much following they’ve actually got.

CGR decor

I also noticed from their facebook page that they have Gipsy Kitchen deli fare.  Delishimo!  (Especially the rhubarb and caramel scones if you can ever get your mitts on one of those).

The evening we were there we partook of their goat cheese, honey and pear brushetta (nicely done), and noted a pea puree and ricotta brushetta, aged cheddar / pickle or beef / aged cheddar grilled sammies, and house baked beans (an intriguing bar offering), so the food aspect is suitably covered.

The only criticism I had on our visit (6pmish on a weekday evening) was the music being too loud for conversing.  As always with new places, I’ll see how a second or third visit goes down.

But so far, this really looks like another interesting gem tucked away in Welly.

46 Courtenay Place.

Kazu Yakitori & Sake bar

What better way to showcase a number of Wellington eating experiences to a visiting friend than a progressive dinner?

So Saturday night’s excursion was peanuts and Badgers Piss (truly, I’m not taking it….!) at Bangalore Polo Club, skewers and Japanese beer at Kazu Yakitori Bar, tapas and craft beer at the Hop Garden, and dessert and gewurtz nectar at Ambeli.

Kazu Yakitori (yaki – to grill, tori – chicken) is tucked away upstairs on Couternay Place.  From the Japanese greeting to the quirky English translation on signs, to the bandana-wearing chef entertaining with flames and skewers on the bench top grill, it’s a casual and fun place to experience a small slice of Japan.

The staff are respectful and mostly Japanese (chefs only speak/read Japanese), and the revamped menu now appears to offer a greater range of non-skewered dishes as well.  Good for us slightly vego personalities who like lots of veges with our meat.  Not entirely convinced about the non-Japanese repeat-track music playing on the night though.

The 5 stick combo platters range from traditional all-chicken including hearts (firm but pleasant) and gizzards (crunchy and variably received!), to mixed (beef, tuna, salmon, scallop and vegetables), to spicy, to healthy etc.   And for the adventurous, a roulette sushi dish presented like a wheel with one of the 8 pieces having the mother load of wasabi tucked inside.  Surprise!

Of appeal for my next foray to Kazu Yakitori are the lotus root chips, tofu and sansai (mountain vegetables) salad and taiyaki sweet dessert pancake (grilled in a fish shape and filled with red bean paste) with green tea ice cream.  Open evenings only.

Also in the Kazu stable are the Kazu restaurant on Tory Street, Wasabi sushi (Cuba & James Cook), at Mison in Woodward Lane.


Pizzeria Napoli

Having very much enjoyed the wood fired pizza and bruschetta on our first foray to Napoli a few weeks ago (new pizzeria at 30 Courtenay Place between Allen and Blair), we decided on a Friday evening return with a friend to see how they were faring.

The café has a delightful mural along one wall, welcoming staff, and does feel like you could be somewhere in the mediterranean.  Nice to be able to step in off the street and be transported so easily.

Two pizzas between three of us was sufficient (a capricciosa and a contadino), with a couple of pleasant montepulciano and chianti’s to round out the experience.  The pizzas here are thin crust with a light airy puffed edge and the toppings are not stinted on, whilst still kept light and fresh.  There are a range of fresh pastas and salads to complement, or for those who are not pizza fans (really, do they exist?).

On this occasion the pizza bases felt a little too soft and didn’t hold enough shape from plate to mouth.  Nor were the crusts quite as puffed, crispy or airy around the edges as last time.   I wonder if there was too much pressure on speed and getting people through? Or had maybe lost some heat out of the oven?

However, the flavours were good, the pizza’s non-greasy and the toppings suitably generous across all pieces.

I will give them the benefit of the doubt at this point given the first experience was very good.

Napoli is definitely worth a visit for a casual and convivial time, but do book as seating is limited.  Or plan for your pizza to be takeaway.

Arashi, Courtenay Place

So off to Sherlock Holmes with friends last week, and a graze afterwards.  Given we saw Sherlock at Reading (as entertaining as number one, with a very clever finish…), somewhere cheap, cheerful and nearby was in order.  And so we proceeded to Arashi (thanks Andrea!) for a bite of Japanese.

This was a Wednesday night, and the place was full of large groups, so noisy as a noisy thing (not for you Mr Sharp), but still fun.

The boys opted for a Japanese $40 tankard of Asahi beer (which seemed to be the gift that kept on giving, for at least 7-8 glasses worth – very impressive!), whilst the girls tended towards the wines.

A variety of food was ordered and consumed (relatively promptly too), and all commented as  tasty and of pleasing quality.  Presentation again was very good (some non-Japanese restaurants could easily sustain a lesson or two…), with the pork dumplings arriving in their own wooden box, and those of us with tempura mains receiving them on wooden dishes that made one think of punts (boating variety).

The assorted tempura main came with about 10 pieces, of which 5 were a mix of seafood – large shrimp, crab, fish, scallop – and the rest a mix of vegetables – cauli, capsicum, pumpkin, bean  – all in a very light tempura batter with accompanying home-made dipping sauce.

The menu is fairly extensive, with a large selection of skewered dishes (being a kushiyaki restaurant), sushi, sashimi, rice, noodles, tempura etc.  For dishes in the $18-$20ish range, of good presentation and quality, this is definitely a place worth going.



41 Courtenay Place




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