Oh man, how good is sleep guys? After getting in at 6am on hardly any sleep into Wellington the day before (sure a nap in the middle of the day helps a bit, but it’s not the same), getting a full night of sleep was simply a dream.
Waking up fresh and recharged, first thing was first - breakfast!
We wandered over to The Flight Coffee Hangar, which is the flagship cafe of Flight Coffee roasters who supply ethically traded coffee in New Zealand.
At The Hangar, stone, wood and simple utilitarian style light fittings make the space have the feel of a warehouse, but also comfortable and unpretentious.
Coffees, and chai’s - even if you are somewhere new, it’s nice to wake up to the familiar! I love my big red pot of chai which seemed to never end, the Mister Chai that was used was well balanced, not too sweet with a nice tea flavour.
The menu reads familiar with a little twist, and also comforting - trust in the fact that you will want hearty meals when it is cold and blustery out!
It was still a bit early by Brad’s standards so he went for a slightly lighter option, of bagels topped with house cured salmon and dill cream cheese. Hard to go too wrong, I just loved the colour and how shiny the salmon looked.
I on the other hand, went for big hearty and rich - I was pre-planning to not have lunch! Crumbed black pudding with roasted potatoes, silver beet, roast red capsicum, caused and a poached eggs had my name written all over that business - and is basically one of the reasons I just this spot for brunch. It was rich, filling, and definitely hearty. Loved the black pudding obviously!
After fuelling up, we were ready for our main activity of the day….heading to the zoo!
When I travel, my priorities are almost always: food and animals. Where am I going to eat, and is there a good zoo or aquarium, and if there is can I find some time for it? There was actually an extra special reason for going to this zoo, but I’ll tell you more in a sec.
The Wellington Zoo is a small, but very well done zoo, with plenty to see and really well looked after enclosures. I was amazed at how many happy active animals I came across, and how visible they often were in their enclosures.
The kiwi enclosures was absolutely mesmerising and one of the highlights of the zoo. I had never seen an active kiwi running around, nor been so close to one. Brad and I easily spent 10 to 15 minutes just quietly listening and observing the little critters (there were two of them!) run around foraging in the darkness. Simply amazing.
These ‘Zoo Keeper Says’ signs were also a highlight of the trip - I couldn’t stop laughing every time I saw one - especially that lion one!
But the real reason I had decided we needed to go to the zoo, was because the zoo offers a ‘Up Close’ encounters with select animals…and one of the animals on offer was the red panda. Oh. My. God.
Red pandas are one of my favourite animals, so when I saw it was an option, I decided I would buy it for Brad’s birthday…as the excuse, but we all know it was really for my own benefit.
Happiest 30 minutes of my life.
We meet with the keeper at around 11 am, and she brings us around to meet 3 different red pandas, each in their own enclosure with a big tray of cut up grapes and pears. She pops us down on a bench and before we know it, the most gorgeous creatures are running up and down our laps eating fruity treats from our finger tips.
I am besotted - they are such charismatic little fellas, with the two males being a bit bolder and upfront and the female being a little slower to warm up, happily swatting at our hands to get closer to grapes and quite happily being patted as they munch. Their coats are coarse but dense and fluffy, and their claws firm, but not painful. I fall in love with how they eat grapes, squeezing down on them with their molars slowly until they pop out all the juiciness and then quickly gobbling it down.
Argh. I miss them so much already!
After the zoo, it was time for a late lunch, just as the rain started to pour. Fortunately we managed to duck into Five Boroughs before we really got caught in the worst of the rain…but even at 2pm, this place was pumping!
Five Boroughs is a New York style diner, with all the favourites, from burgers, fried chicken and bottomless cups of coffee.
Although we were quoted around a half hour wait, we fortunately only had around a 15 minute wait - our blood sugar levels had started to drop at a drastic rate, so sustenance was needed!
First, getting the sugar levels back up. beer for Brad and a 3 scoop triple chocolate ice-cream milkshake for me. I love how specific they were on the menu and for 3 scoops of ice-cream…who one earth can resist? It was one of the best shakes I had had in recent times, super thick and super creamy - as you would hope with that much ice-cream in it!
It had been a while since I had them, and maybe the craving was a result of low blood sugar and amazing smokey aromas, but my eyes kept darting back to the smoked baby back pork ribs lathered in 5B BBQ sauce. So before long, a half rack appeared in front of me, which I comfortably ploughed through by myself. This was messy finger food, and I loved pulling the meat off the bone, a nice balance of juicy but still structured as well. Note to self though, long finger nails and saucy meats you’re eating by hand? That stuff gets stuck under there forever!
Brad on the other hand, went gigantic with the Reuben with corned beef, champagne sauerkraut, platinum mayo and Swiss on rye. Just look at that monster! I loved who toasted the bread was, the melted Swiss with the generous amount of sauerkraut and all that delicious meat. When you haven’t eaten for 5 hours and walked for just about all of it? Life saving business.
Cheese fries were golden, crisp and perfect. That’s about all you can ever ask from fried potatoes isn’t it?
I was so tempted to have deep fried oreos, but after the meat-fest, just couldn’t bring myself to do it….this time….
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the numerous second hand and consignment stores (basically my kind of heaven) before retiring back in our room to prop our feet up for a wee bit with a cup of tea.
Couple of emails, many cups of tea later (because I could drink tea all day every day) and with a slick of fresh eyeliner, we wander back out in the evening to the Garage Project Taproom, just down the road from us.
Garage Project started, funnily enough, in a garage and is known for being pretty experimental and creative with the brews. The cellar door offers free tastings of the 8 beers they’ll have on taps for the day and also sell beer to take away.
We however, ended up in the Taproom, which is pretty much across the road, where you can actually sit down and buy a pint and try many, many, many of their beers (if you can handle it). These guys are rocking 18 taps and 2 cask lines, plus bonus can and bottle options. On a Saturday evening the Taproom, with it’s awesome mural walls, is quiet and relaxed.
The tap list here not only tells you what’s available, but at what temperature each is served at, ranging from 2 degrees to 10 degrees (on the cask). Brad and I pretty much stick with stouts and porters all night since it was the prefect weather for it and one of my favourites would have been the Two Tap Flat White.
The Two Tap Flat White is actually two beers that are brewed separately and then mixed together (one was a nitro coffee stout, forgot what the other was), in a very smilier fashion to a….wait for it… flat white! Gorgeously creamy, rich roasted coffee flavours and just…too easy to drink.
With a alcohol induced pink glow in my cheeks, we rugged up against the wind and wandered back into town to get dinner - ending up at Ombra, a cosy spot on a corner on Cuba Street, inspired by the informal bacaros of Venice.
The busting restaurant definitely had an Italian feel to it; tables were close and intimate and the soft, warm lighting painted the whole restaurant sepia. Smelt incredible too.
We were fortunate enough to be seated straight away even though the place looked almost full and quickly got to the business of wine in a carafe (freaking love the little bottle) and attempting to eat as much as I could off the menu.
First off the rank? Perfectly golden polenta chips with black olive aioli, with just a light crunchy batter, I adored the black olive aioli paired with this adding to the richness.
I almost forgot for some reason that we had ordered meatballs (obviously the beer and the wine talking) with beef, mozzarella, leek and prosciutto. I have never had meatballs that are filled with cheese, and these were a delightful surprise to bite into, to have the mozzarella oozing out afterwards. So delicious.
I’m fortunate that I have a partner in Brad who is generally comfortable to be as adventurous as I, which meant I could order the Fegato al vino romo - ox liver with onions and red wine, since ox liver is one of my favourite pieces of offal. These were rich, and I can only surmise that they had been drowned in red wine, but I was totally okay with that.
To finish, squid ink gnocchi, which were much smaller than I anticipated, but gorgeous in flavour and so fluffy and light.
I forewent dessert at Ombra, to instead pop into Kaffee Eis up the road on the way home, which, despite it being freezing, raining, and in the middle of winter, was full to the brim with youth getting their gelato fixes. Not a single seat in the store could be found if you wanted to sit down to enjoy your gelato.
The store wasn’t much to look at, and if someone hadn’t recommended it to me I may have just continued walking by, but the gelato and sorbet display was so enticing once you got in.
I felt obligated to stay as local as I could with my choice, and surely one could not be any more local than getting the peanut butter and chocolate chip gelato that’s made with locally made Fix and Fogg peanut butter (which I regret not buying any of to bring home). The peanut butter flavour and texture was so rich and so dense - possibly one of the richest peanut butter gelato’s I recall having.
Despite it not being overly late, Brad and I made our way back to our apartment to pop a movie on and cuddle up on the couch. Although we could’ve stayed out to check out the night life…I’m honestly not much of a party animal and was quite comfortably falling asleep with a full belly, sweet tooth satiated and very sore legs from walking all day!
119 Dixon Street
Te Aro, Wellington
4 Roxburgh St
Mount Victoria, Wellington
91 Aro Street
Aro Valley, Wellington
199 Cuba Street
Te Aro, Wellington
146 Cuba Street
Te Aro, Wellington