Last Night's Drink – Whistling Sisters

. May 28, 2018
Photography by Rhett Goodley-Hornblow.
Last Night's Drink – Whistling Sisters

Standing proud on the corner of Ghuznee and Taranaki, you'll find Whistling Sisters brewhouse and restaurant. Some might remember this building as The Salvation Army, but those days have made way for restoration, achieving nothing short of perfection.

Wellington's newest craft beer brewery is a bustling hive of activity – with a distinct point of difference.

Upon entry, Whistling Sisters creates a sense of transparency between the customer and the brew, communicated throughout the menu, with each beer boasting its own intricate backstory.

For almost fifty years the Scott family have been shaking up the Wellington hospitality scene. Back in the 80s, husband and wife duo Russel and Elwyn created The Backbencher pub, filled it with puppets and started Wellington’s political party. They then converted a Christian book store into Irish pub, the Black Harp, before reworking an old hairdressing salon into Belgian beer café (Leuven), shortly before turning their attention to a long-forgotten Cuba Street sex shop, which they rebranded as Venetian Baraco, Ombra. They created Chicago, a three-storey waterfront bar that was opened by Sir Peter Blake, and Flanagan’s, a Creole eatery with flaming alligators out the front.

In recognition of all this, Russel was inducted into the Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2016. Along the way, Russel and Elwyn were joined by their younger daughter, Lisa, who runs Whistling Sisters marketing, and holds the title of manager of the Karen Louisa Foundation, in honour of her beloved sister who lost her battle to breast cancer 2015. 

This is a family opened and operated endeavour at its best. Russel, Elwyn and Lisa have named the complex ‘The Fermentery’ because here, the process is not solely used for beer. Head chef John Allred uses fermentation as inspiration when creating the menu, creating a series of standout dishes.

I'm a firm believer that every good meal starts with bread, and here it's a freshly baked sourdough made with beer grain and smeared with cultured butter. Even the simple sides like the hand-cut fries have their complexities. Fermented for a number of days, the chips are fried to perfection and served with homemade ketchup, giving the golden fries a serious saltiness, enough to quench your thirst and set you up for one of the signature brews.

All brews are nice and easy, entry-level drinking – no matter what your experience is with craft beer. We try the beer taster, available before 5pm, offering a tasting selection of four different beers, to sip, sample and compare to see what floats your boat. One beer that stood out for me was the Rooty Toot a classic goose beer. Both tangy and refreshing, this beer would be great for a warm summer's day. For a cold, wintry night, there's the chocolate oatmeal – it'll warm you up from the inside out.

Meat plays an integral part in the menu, with many different and traditional techniques showcased over a number of proteins. The charcuterie platter is a perfect example. Freshly cut cured meats, beer mustard and house pickles it is sure to satisfy the meat-lover within all of us.

The chicken dish is another standout – expertly seasoned with espelette pepper, garlic and lemon and created using a number of cooking techniques to achieve a succulent dish that simply melts in the mouth. It’s impressive when you think about all of the different methods at play, with many of the ingredients prepared days, even weeks, in advance, to make sure they're ready for service come nightfall.

This is one establishment that you'll have to visit multiple times to fully discover all that is on offer, even their coffee is batch-roasted daily by their in-house barista

I think it is fair to say that there has been no half measures taken here, and the proof is in the pudding. I'll drink to that.

Whistling Sisters,
100 Taranaki Street, 
Te Aro,
Opening hours: 
3pm – 12am
Tuesday: 3pm – 12am
Wednesday – Friday: 11.30am – 1am
Saturday: 9am – 1am
Sunday: 9am – 12am