Winter is coming, but it need not be filled with dreary weeks of boring food leaving you feeling cold and lonely while you wait for spring and all that that show-off season has to offer. Although Wellington has perfect weather most of the time, sometimes our disposition can be challenged by occasional rain and light winds; in these instances I look to food and friends to lift my spirits. Feeling good in the cold seasons is easy peasy if you fill your belly with food that reminds you of all the things that make you happy. So grab your mates and try these five offerings that are sure to remove any discontent the season brings.
Yum Cha Dumplings
25 Tory St, Te Aro
If there is any food that is a cuddle for your constitution it has to be dumplings; these magical treats are perhaps the universe’s perfect breakfast, lunch and/or dinner food. Dragons is easily the benchmark yum cha joint in Wellington (and there’s some good competition) but they pip their peers with quality and service. Under the watchful eye of Eric Kong (assistant CEO) steamed goodies on trollies are whisked around by thousands of waiters wearing Madonna-like head mikes making sure that everyone orders far too much – it’s slick. My go-to flavour nuggets are the pork, ginger, prawn and chive steamed dumplings; the wrappers are steamed to breaking point but not beyond and the interiors are piping hot. Once you dunk these little fellas in the sublime chilli oil–soy sauce and get them in your gob, any overindulgences from Friday night will wash away.
Grilled Wagyu Beefsteak & Ripped Chips
10 Kent Terrace, Mt Victoria
Steak frites is my death-row meal and I find it very difficult not to order it when I see it on a menu. I know I should try the fish or the risotto but for goodness sake I’m weak, OK! This incarnation of France’s best contribution to the world apart from the Concorde is a killer lunch and you will need some friends so you can get a good bottle of red going as well. Capitol is almost 20 years old and Kate and Tom Hutchison run this incredible bistro with aplomb. This steak instantly makes me wonder why I was contemplating risotto. It’s cooked to perfection, the ruby red centre with a good char on the perimeter ensures every mouthful is perfect. Then there’s the ripped chips. Everyone has opinions on what chips go best with steak, but studies show that ripping chips gives you 50,000% more surface area and I’m glad Tom believes in the science as these are the best – crunchy on the outer and soft and pillowy in the middle. This is like being fed by your parents when you need to feel the love of home and familiarity.
Field & Green
Fish Finger Sandwich & Bacon Sandwich
262 Wakefield St, Te Aro
I was going to write about fish and chips, and bacon and eggs as they are most likely NZ’s favourite comfort food, but favourite fish-and-chip shops and best brunch arguments are for the pub and are boring. So this is why I went for Wellington’s best surf ‘n’ turf sandwich duo – they are nostalgic, familiar and magnificent. Served by the ever-smiling and massively talented Laura Greenfield, my fish sarny with crunchy battered goujons of hot tarakihi and sharp tartare sauce is bookended by the softest house-made white bread ever and is devoured in minutes. While one sandwich is plenty, my appetite turns to sandwich course two and I have zero regrets about this decision. The perfect bread now cossets lashings of crispy bacon with ample HP sauce to provide sweetness and extra depth of flavour. This is knocking my death-row meal into second place. Next time you’re thinking about a ‘full English’ to lift your spirits, head to F&G and catapult them into orbit with the breakfast of champions.
Moore Wilson’s, Chook Wagon
Free Range Rotisserie-Cooked Chicken
Corner of Tory Street & College St, Te Aro
Want to feed four people for under $25 and feel pious as hell about it? Of course you do, so grab an entire cooked chook and a baguette from the Citroën food truck in the carpark above New Zealand’s best supermarket. Moores is culinary Disneyland and everyone there is snatching ingredients to make the best meal in history, no matter what it costs. That’s why this selfbasting roast chicken hack is such a doozy. A glistening wall of hot, slowly spinning golden birds is the greatest menu board in history and gets your mouth watering in an instant. The warm and succulent chicken crammed into an over-buttered fresh baguette is the stuff of dreams. Roast chicken is one of life’s most simple dinners and, done well, is always welcome at any dining table. Shared with friends and family, is there anything that could deliver more comfort? I think not.
The Smokey Burger
129 Willis St, Te Aro
Wellingtonians love their burgers. The greedy buggers consume about 200,000 in August alone but during the rest of the year Burger Liquor are rolling out the best in the city and it needs to be talked about. Their stalwart burger ‘The Smokey’ is a juicy, sweet, salty meat bomb that delivers world peace to your hangry tummy. Double-smoked patties, bacon, crunchy onion strings and some sort of yellow cheese combine to let you know all is going to be OK with whatever has you upset. All of this is no surprise as Burger Liquor’s smiling proprietor Dan Haycock has been officially named nicest guy in the world for several years running now – what a champ.