By Cuisine5 Minutes
October 30, 2023By Cuisine


A Wellington fine-dining institution bounces back.


As a deluxe city hotel the InterContinental Wellington is no stranger to fine dining and its inhouse restaurant has been refreshed and rebranded as GPO, a nod to the post office that used to occupy the site. It’s a canvas on which executive chef Carl Maunder creates refined dishes championing our country’s top produce, matched by an impressive cellar.


GPO is a showcase for the most innovative high-end New Zealand producers: the likes of Bostock organic chicken and Cloudy Bay clams may now be household names, but other GPO brands remain assuredly special. Begin with the brilliantly textured Ruakākā kingfish crudo (a first for Wellington) then proceed to the equally delicious kurobuta pork, the so-called ‘wagyu of pork’, farmed and grain-finished in Fairlie, South Canterbury. Some plays on the classics are very successful and most delicious, notably the crème catalan, in which the caramelised sugar cap is replaced with a fragrant layer of mandarin and Campari caramel. The smoked tomato update of patatas bravas is totally valid, too, even if there’s no aioli included in this spin on the classic Spanish bar snack. But to be fair, the waiting staff are happy to bring out a little dish of the missing component on request.


Carl Maunder began by washing dishes at Chevy’s in Wellington but learned his craft at two legendary London restaurants: Le Caprice (whose sauce soubise now appears in an improved form on GPO’s menu), and Scott’s, whose raw bar has been enduringly influential as well. He was head chef at the Nourish Group’s best-known restaurants (Euro, Pravda, Shed 5) and as Sean Connolly’s executive chef he won Cuisine hats both for Gusto and The Grill by Sean Connolly. After stints in Australia, Dubai and Singapore, he briefly owned two New Plymouth restaurants before settling in Lyall Bay, Wellington.


Remy Degas may be designated the hotel’s F&B Team Leader but he is effectively GPO’s sommelier: as a stand-in for the no-longer-available 2019 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time Chardonnay, he wittily produces a fruity, almost Californian chablis. As to the rest of the FOH team, there is not a lot to be said. They perform the delivery dance around the table perfectly well, but they really should not presume that the Ruakākā kingfish is fished off the coast at Ruakākā, rather than emanating from the tanks of the ground-breaking NIWA facility at Ruakākā, bringing GPO’s diners an exciting new crisper- textured yet rich and creamier version of kingfish not previously seen in kingfish from the wild. Nor should they openly speculate that Lumina refers to a company the chef deals with, rather than to the now-famous South Island breed of sheep with a distinctly milder flavour and increased intramuscular fat, both of which introduce new eating qualities to GPO’s customers. Another waitperson said she knew the chefs grill the lamb and then “do something with it”, but could not confirm that an overstay in the sous vide bath might explain why our lamb rump was medium rare yet incongruously soft in texture. That said, the accompanying jus was perfect and the puréed onion soubise even more delicious than the classic white-as-a-sheet version, having been allowed to caramelise and brown.


The hotel does not reveal to social media the full list of sparkling gems that constitute their wine cellar. On the printed list the by-the-bottle collection runs to 60-plus but they siphon off the odd rarity for their Coravin section. Unfortunately this is done at the bar, rather than showing you the bottle and performing the ceremony at the table. But never mind, the extraordinary aromas of the Hans Herzog Pinot Noir 2017 still billow from the glass and linger forever in the aftertaste.

ADDRESS: Hotel InterContinental Wellington, 2 Grey St, Wellington
Check website for opening hours
MAINS: $36 – $50
CONTACT: 04 495 7841