In the lead up to a festival, particularly one as lengthy and diverse as Wellington on a Plate, excitement takes over, leading to long, ambitious lists of everything one has to do while they have the chance. I've found that as the event nears, this can lead to one of two outcomes: wild, jubilant list ticking as you devour every bite the festival offers up or (too often) frozen panic as the sheer amount of options becomes overwhelming.
While all you seasoned, list-crossing foodies won't need steering in the right direction; hopefully this short and sweet guide will help those who don't know where to start. (Spoiler: I think you should start with some beer and ice cream).
Garage Project Milk Bar
Judging by the amount of people making their way through Prefab's hall last night, Garage Project's idea to set up a bar serving a selection of their sweet beer alongside old-fashioned desserts and baskets of fried chicken and fries was a good one. Although, I probably could have told you that before I saw the queues. Luckily it's a huge space and we only had to spend a few moments sipping our drinks before settling on some stools. I went for Garage Project's dark, caramel Cookies and Cream ale (a collaboration with Auckland's Moustache Cookie Bar) and we sat in a prime position to appreciate the snippets of kitsch movies projected on the wall. Not that we spent long watching - it was hard to tear our eyes away from the stream of desserts that passed before them as people headed for their tables. I'm probaby going to head back for an ice-cream sandwich. It's only open until Saturday – I'll see you there.
As you might have guessed from the previous suggestion, Wellington on a Plate is filled with so many delicious options that you don't have to fork out or dress up for – particularly appreciated when there's so many things to try. Everyone loves a good burger and during the festival over 80 chefs will be battling it out to see whose is best. The good news for you is that your opinion is a highly valued one and the public voting element means there's a case to be made for needing to try every single one. I almost stepped off the plane and straight into Charley Noble to devour their sea-inspired entry: the Ebisu burger served complete with a hook on a bed of stones with (varying) fresh fish patty held between a squid ink bun. This was matched with Garage Project's Hāpi Daze Pacific pale ale and a kite of fries and I wasn't surprised to hear the chefs had been inundated with demand, selling around 100 each day. Only moments before I'd been wondering where to buy an umbrella but my lunch had it feeling like summer for a few moments, at least.
A curated selection of over 100 Wellington eateries have created a series of special yet affordable menus for Wellington on a Plate, meaning you can enjoy a long lunch at a top restaurant for only a portion of the usual price. This is a perfect option for those wanting to try as many places as possible – click here to find the list of selected restaurants and find out what they've decided to serve up. Of course, if you're after something a little more refined there's bound to be more than enough for you to choose from here too; chances are your favourite restaurant has dreamt up a menu to remember.
With their casual nature and element of surprise, it seems food trucks are fast becoming a crowd favourite during festivals as well as day-to-day. The Doughnut Popup on the corner of Victoria and Dixon street is Wellington's answer to this trend: each day a different chef or baker will be serving up a selection of sweet treats. It seems it's a good one for early birds (as long as a bit of morning sugar doesn't phase you!) – doughnuts and baking is sold from 7.30am until sold out, which I can't imagine would take too long at all. In terms of flavours, forget jam and cream and expect the unexpected - this isn't just any old doughnut truck...
Another competition that needs your tastebuds? While it sounds to good to be true, I can assure you Capital Cocktail's search for the perfect drink/tapas combination is a serious affair indeed. Matterhorn, Wine Match Bar, Bebemos, The Arborist and Waimea are just some of the genius contenders – find the full list here and get ready to eat and drink your way around the city before casting your vote. If you'd rather something alcohol-free you can see who's mastered the perfect mocktail and also search the entrants by your favourite drink. Don't leave finish the festival without trying something new, though!
Or, simply go with the flow...
The clever team behind the festival have put together an amazing website that makes finding out what's on each day a breeze, even if you're hoping to head to something in an hour's time, or simply wanting to stumble across the closest event. By clicking here you can see what's lined up for the day – a perfect option for those with little time to plan ahead or wanting a spontaneous outing. There are so many one-off events happening throughout the festival too (which you can find here). Whatever you choose, get ready to be delighted, surprised, satisfied. And to wander home, very, very full.