Wellington, New Zealand
I don’t make any secret of the fact that I love food, and so it will come as no surprise to you to find that one of my favourite things to do when travelling is to eat. Understanding how a place views food is so revealing about how its people view life, and one of the greatest joys of travelling, for me at least, is experiencing the food culture of a new place.
And so how did I go about discovering this food culture when I travelled to New Zealand recently? Obviously there is no one-size-fits-all answer to discovering how a place eats, but one way I chose to do so was through an excellent foodie tour of Wellington with the lovely Stephanie of Zest Food Tours. We walked what seemed like the length and breadth of Wellington as Stephanie told us all about the history and architecture of this city we were visiting, stopping by artisan producers and food stores (with time for taste testing!) as we went.
To give you a quick peek into the foodie heart of Wellington I’m going to share with you some of its best food experiences, as discovered on our Zest tour.
Moore Wilson’s is a supermarket for foodies. This spectacular shop brings together all the fresh produce and artisan goods you could possibly want into one convenient location – there’s no need to travel between the bakery, grocer, butcher and fishmonger – it’s all here! The products are all sourced from local producers and are of the highest quality. When we visited Moore Wilson’s with Stephanie we were treated to a delicious cheese tasting plate, sampling a delicious cheddar, a soft blue and a mint-covered fetta with a selection of chutneys and yummy oat crackers, along with a soft drink flavoured with feijoa – a fruit commonly found in New Zealand, but which us Australians had never heard of before!
Floriditas is a gorgeous café on Cuba Street, the heart of Wellington’s foodie scene. It’s one of those places that looks like it’s been there forever but can’t possibly have been – the tasteful ambience created by the combination of old-time style with a bright and airy space makes this such a pleasant place to have a meal. On our tour we stopped in at Floriditas for morning tea, sampling some of their cakes and excellent coffee. Ginger loaf with caramel sauce, anyone? Or perhaps you’d prefer a cheese scone or a cherry-topped cupcake with your cappuccino. We were so impressed by Floriditas that the day after our tour we returned there for breakfast – eggs in all manifestations were on offer with a range of delicious accompaniments. How do you like yours? Scrambled with smoked salmon? Poached with avocado and rocket? In an omelette? All were represented, and all went well with a peculiarly Wellingtonian invention – the delicious Rocket Fuel barbecue sauce. Amazing!
This boutique chocolate factory is more or less made up of one large room. Their machine for separating the cocoa nibs from the bean husks is powered by a household vacuum cleaner and each of their chocolate bars is wrapped in patterned paper by hand. Hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea about the kind of chocolate production that is going on here! All the ingredients in their chocolate bars are organic and ethically traded, with beans sourced from producers around the world. During our visit we sampled single-origin chocolate varieties, each with their own distinctive character: the Peruvian, with its hints of apricot and dried fruit, citrusy Madagascan, and the dark and slightly berry-flavoured Dominican Republic. A must for chocolate fiends.
This Wellington institution has been bringing the freshest produce and an enormous range of food stalls to the Wellington waterfront for many years. Think Mexican, Indian, and many, many other cuisines interspersed with local vegetables, honey and other products. Deciding what to try is a real challenge! I recommend the Hungarian chimney cakes – sweet dough tubes with a hole right through the middle, freshly baked as you watch and devoured, steaming hot, with your fingers as you wander.
This innovative and award-winning gelateria creates incredible sweet sensations using organic milk and fresh ingredients, churning out flavours including Bounty, cucumber, damson plum, chai and a truly delectable dark chocolate. The perfect sweet treat to finish up our tour.
Our one-day introduction to Wellington’s food culture really set the scene for the culinary side of our New Zealand journey. High quality and local production seemed to be the hallmarks. If you happen to find yourself in Wellington I highly recommend a Zest tour as a great day out, and by the end of it you really do feel as if you’ve walked off all those treats you’ve consumed along the way! Even if you don’t find yourself in Wellington I’d still encourage you to find a food tour somewhere on your travels – understanding a place through its food is a delicious way to go!
Have you encountered a great foodie tour on your travels? I’d love to hear about it!
Cover photograph: Corn fritters for breakfast at Floriditas.