This time last year I was relatively new to Wellington and when WOAP 2015 came about I was seriously caught off guard. So many events to go, not many tickets left and even less money to fund the situation. But this year I was ready. By the time tickets came on sale I had already mapped out every event I wanted to go to, every burger I wanted to try and each cocktail I wanted to taste. A blessing in disguise (as I didn’t have as much money as I’d envisaged) was that some of the events actually sold out faster than anticipated, meaning the ones I did manage to get tickets for saw me even more excited. But it’s not just the events that excite me; the burgers, cocktails and festival dishes available around town make for an exciting two weeks for any foodie.
The Burger Wellington competition is always a great time. With over 100 entries from restaurants and food trucks in and near Wellington there is something for everyone, including vegans, children, the sweet tooth, and even the less cashed up students. This competition is accessible to the pubic; not only are the burgers extremely affordable, it is us who gets to “Eat. Rate. Repeat.” by voting for our favourite burgers online and helping decide the overall winner. While last year’s winner, Egmont Street Eatery, cooked up another prime burger, for me another primo burger, it was somewhere different that topped my burger list for 2016 (find out where in my burger post).
Cocktail Wellington is a similar gig; and enables a slightly different range of restaurants and bars to participate and have their chance to get creative. My favourite cocktail experience was at The Library. This cutesy but lively bar is tucked away in the heart of Courtenay Place, and they put on a special cocktail just for the duration of WOAP. When creating the cocktail menu it certainly looks as though they didn’t hold back! My absolute favourite was the Hipster Heart Throb, made from rye whisky, pumpkin bitters and milk shaken together and served over a L’affare coffee ice-cube. Other highlights were “Probably the Best Espresso Martini Ever” (the name says it all) and the Lululemming (lemon and sage sorbet with frozen absinthe blackberries and champagne).
After a few burgers and cocktails across the opening weekend (and plenty more throughout the fortnight) I was more than ready for my first actual event: The Laneway Progressive Dinner. Beginning at Egmont Street Eatery and eating and drinking our way down the inner city laneways with our informative and humorous guide Delaney, we tasted, sampled and enjoyed the artisan delights of Wellington’s not-so-hidden laneways. It was my absolute favourite thing about this year’s Wellington on a Plate, and I wouldn’t hesitate in become a repeat offender for the same event if it were offered again next year. Read my full recap here.
Next up was a visit to the Salt Bar at Prefab. Mix and match a huge array of salty goods to satisfy enough salt cravings for a year. From Garage Project beer and frozen (beer) margaritas to freshly shucked oysters and a range of fried food including croquettes, calamari, chowder, donuts and pie – I’m glad I arrived hungry.
Café Gourmand provided an excuse to visit L’affare Roastery’s new location in Mount Cook. Hosted by coffee connoisseur Dave Green, we got to pair three different single-origin coffees with three delectable French desserts prepared by Michelin star patisserie chef Eric Hauser (of French Cancan). It was such an informative and worthwhile afternoon; Dave was fantastic and even took us on a mini roaster tour afterwards, happily answering our never-ending stream of questions.
I was in no way ready for my event line-up to be over, so I was thankful to have tickets to Logan Brown’s ‘Welcome Home’ dinner. A night celebrating Wellington’s ethnic community, a 4 course meal (paired with wine) saw us indulge in a range of food modelled from Egypt, Myanmar, Syria and Iraq. The food was served family style, which not only gave more of a community feel, but also meant we were able to try absolutely everything. There was no way I was going home hungry!
Continuing on from 2015’s successful donut campaign, the pop-up donut shop was this year located outside Moore Wilson’s. Throughout these two weeks a donut stop (aka detour) became normality. Different days meant different suppliers, which of course results in a wide variety of different flavours. Available from 8am until sold-out, the donuts were gone by about 11am most days – so it paid to get in quick! What I loved about it is that Sixes and Sevens Deli (opposite Les Mills on Taranaki Street) creates heavenly food but is shut on the weekend (meaning I hardly ever get to it as I work so far away) were stocking the weekend donuts meaning I really got to treat myself.
Last but not least was Jano Bistro. When they were announced winners of the Festival Dish for 2016 I just knew I had to visit. The briefing for the competition was to showcase the 2016 WOAP theme “An Element of Surprise” and boy, did Jano do just that! Our visit was my first and it was so cute, quaint and simultaneously elegant, nestled in what looks like a refurbished historic cottage on Willis Street. The food was exceptional (as was the service) from the salmon, mussel and watercress entrée, to the beef with beetroot, horseradish and onions (each component served in multiple forms demonstrating different textures) and finishing, of course, with Whittaker’s chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! (This was comprised of chocolate mousse, cookie crumble, chocolate soil and a chocolate sorbet.) The festival winner was incredible: someone’s chemistry knowledge was really utilised as red cabbage juice was mixed with both baking soda and separately vinegar to create two beautifully coloured potions, which were then combined to form a sparkling cabbage puree – well-deserved winners if I dare say so myself!
Now as WOAP 2016 draws to a close, I feel more cultured, informed and sentimental about Wellington’s incredible culinary scene. Unfortunately I also feel a little bit heavier (despite my wallet being lighter) so am looking forward to focussing on something other than food and drink for a while… well, not really!