Through a gourmet walking tour in Wellington, Mimi Hudoyo uncovers the delightful culinary scene in New Zealand's capital while learning about the city's history and architecture.
Wellington, which claims to have more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York City, is packed with places to eat and drink. Most of these establishments serve both local and international cuisines, but they mostly make use of local produce and products.
New Zealand’s Zest Food Tours offers the Capital Tastes walking tour, which takes guests on an exploratory journey of the tastes and flavours that Wellington serves up. The 3.5-hour tour comes with a personal guide to relay local stories, sprinkled with morsels of history and architecture along the way.
The tour also takes travellers behind the scenes of the various dining establishments, allowing them to learn the process of food production and offering opportunities to sample the high-quality products of Wellington’s artisan businesses.
Other food tours that Zest Food Tours operates include the Private Taste Wellington, which visits to a local foodie’s home, and the Wellington Walking Gourmet tour, which features a two-course tasting lunch matched with New Zealand wines.
The tour started from Wellington i-SITE Visitor Information Centre, where our guide, Fab, was waiting for us. After a short introduction and safety briefing, we walked down the road to Mojo Coffee at One Market Lane and had the choice of starting our morning with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. There was also a platter of petite fours – cheese scones, ginger crunches and caramel slices – laid out. While we munched on the delights, Fab shared with us a brief history of the café, as well as its organic tea and coffee products.
We then walked to the Gelissimo Gelato by the waterfront and tasted the variety of home-made gelato and sorbets, with flavours ranging from chocolate and salted caramel to passionfruit and lemon.
Owner Graham Joe also invited us to peek into his production kitchen just behind the counter, where he produces 300 litres of gelato and 400 litres of sorbet every day.
He explained that he has developed around 300 flavours since the cafe’s launch in 2010. Ingredients from local suppliers feature heavily, such as ginger beer from HardieBoys, peanut butter from Fix & Fogg, heritage plums from Hawks Bay, and mandarins from the orchards of Gisborne. These flavours are then mixed with 80 per cent plus organic fresh milk. Joe also tries to use seasonal fruits, and we were lucky to taste the feijoa flavour when we visited in mid-May.
Feeling energised and with a cup of gelato in hand, we continued the tour to Kura Gallery. Along the way, Fab pointed out to the street art adorning the walls and buildings, and relayed the story behind each of them. At Kura Gallery – which showcases Maori and New Zealand art and design – we tasted three New Zealand honeys of Manuka, Rewarewa and Tawari, each possessing its own unique flavour.
After a little souvenir shopping, we continued our walk to Wellington’s famous Moore Wilson’s grocery store. This 1918 establishment is said to be the best place to find local New Zealand produce and products. I then realised we were not here to grocery shop, but to have a cheese tasting.
Fab had set up a table in one corner of the bustling store, with a cheese platter awaiting our tastebuds. We gathered around it, and had a delightful time combining the different cheeses with an assortment of bread, crackers, seasonal fruits, chutney and preserves available.
Our last stop was the Wellington Chocolate Factory, located in a building that originally housed a shoe factory in 1923, before it was turned into a New York-style apartment in 1996. The building now houses a craft brewery, bakery, café, cocktail bar and restaurant. Wellington Chocolate Factory was the first craft bean-to-bar factory to open in the country and it produces only certified organic chocolate made in New Zealand.
Here we learnt and tasted different chocolate beans and various chocolate bars. There were single origin bars like Solomon Island and Peru Chocolate Bars; inclusion bars like Chilli Lime Peanuts and Craft Beer Chocolate Bars; and speciality vegan bars like Coconut Milk Chocolate Bars.
The tour requires a minimum of two, with a maximum group size of eight people. The small group made it easy to follow Fab’s storytelling, as well as obtain answers to our burning questions. Out of the 3.5 hours, actual walking was around 90 minutes on flat surfaces, so this tour is definitely suitable for most travellers.
Also, at the end of the tour, I was delighted that I had a couple of jars of honey and a few bars of chocolate to take home.
Duration Half-day tour from 09.15 to 13.00
Rates NZ$205 (US$131) per person