Wellington and Auckland are a funny old pair. When Al Brown decided to open Depot Eatery in 2011, it came as a shock to some that one of the 'true blues' of the Wellingtonian dining scene was embracing Auckland and its local produce, and had the foresight to recognise it'd catch on. Just three years later and already the dichotomy that once separated the capital from the north has already begun to dissolve, with a racing speed of new openings that consistently challenge the already high standard Aucklanders have come to expect - from brunch, to coffee, to degustation.
It's no wonder, then, that council body Positively Wellington saw an opportunity to tap on the shoulders of Aucklanders and say 'Hey! Remember Wellington? We fed you so well!'. This particular tap on the shoulder came in the form of a two night pop up 'city' within 5 silos at Auckland's waterfront.
Inside awaited a herschel backpack of hipsters, sumptuous warm styling and beautifully lit rooms, all hosting Wellington's best food and drink producers, cafes and restaurants.
The first room welcomed the senses with the scent of fresh citrus and herbs mixed with smoky incense, with dim lighting and orange trees transforming a concrete tower into a cosy yet exotic living room. Boutique soda syrup producer Six Barrell Soda Co. were found to be the origin of the scent, with a stand showcasing their latest line of pre-mixed drinks, in some really unusual and delicious flavours. Sarsparilla was a definite favourite - a drink originating from the smilax regelii plant - tasting like a mixture between root beer and red bush tea - whilst I could already taste the celery tonic adding zing to a bloody mary.
Next up was a pop up restaurant with little round tables and chairs and antique candle holders, in respect of the fact the food Scopa were sampling deserved to be eaten at a table. The richest rabbit ragu was served with perfectly cooked pasta. Meanwhile, mini smoked mackerel bagels were being prepared on the other side of the room by the team at Duke Carvell's restaurant, one of Wellington's cosiest hidden gems. Packaged in basic brown paper bags, there was a humbleness to the offering.
Round the next corner was Flight Coffee, who'd alluded to their distinctively designed 'Hangar' cafe in the (actual) capital, with an installation of model airplanes hanging amongst industrial lightbulbs. Partnered with bean-to-bar specialists, Wellington Chocolate Factory, they offered nitrogen-cooled chocolate milk with single origin soft-brewed coffee, garnished with a slab of salted caramel dark chocolate.
The sweetness continued with gooey Leeds Street Bakery cookies, but before we knew it we were onto beer from Garage Project, miniature burgers from Grill Meats Beer, and cocktails made with beautifun gin from Hawthorne Lounge, that took on the Old Fashioned for sophisticated class. We finished off at the Logan Brown stall, too full to manage a paua fritter gingerman.
I began by mentioning the senses, so I mustn't forget to say that the whole evening was underscored by a live contemporary soundtrack performed by New Zealand musician Estere. I left the neon-lit exit with a map of Wellington in hand, curated by Neat Places, a cookie, and a definite desire to go on an eating holiday to Wellington, there and then. Mission accompalished, bar-raised, challenged accepted, Wellington.
The Capital ran for two nights only, but most of the producers showcased will also be making appearances at various events throughout Wellington on a Plate, which you can find out about here.