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volante: new zealand

Capital dining—eating out in WellingtonCapital dining—eating out in Wellington

Jack Yan, the man who entertains visitors to Lucire HQ in Wellington, New Zealand, summarizes his favourite places for dining


A FEW YEARS AGO, Megan Johnson at Thread asked me about dining out in Wellington. Even though the email was originally private, Megan thought it was good enough to be published (with my permission).
   Today, I still seem to be the one who makes dinner plans on where to go, and it was time to revisit the old guide and provide visitors to New Zealandís capital on where my haunts are.
   As a rule, I try not to go to too-trendy joints. For a start, I canít stand being grouped in with a bunch of tossers. Secondly, too-trendy means waiting for food. Thirdly, you might not get very good service.
   Besides, if you are courting or even entertaining out-of-towners, why take them to places where you canít hear them talk or share some heart-to-heart moments?
   All premises take American Express and the sole commercial connection with our magazine is noted.


Top of the list. OK, so it means a drive out to Eastbourne but if you like motoring or checking what your carís handling is like, then Cobar at Days Bay offers great views back of the city, and since a price reduction this year, a decent feed for more reasonable money. The chicken is consistently good based on four visits between December 2007 and this writing, and Caroline and Emma, the proprietors, do offer personal, real service. At 612 Main Road, Days Bay, 64 4 562-8882;


Villa Margarita
Not technically a restaurant, but a private villa in Pauatahanui, but the food served by Mark and Margarita Owen and the personal service are worth it—if they can have you. Better book a weekend away here (Lucires on site), but know that great food is part of the package. Arguably the most international of the properties on this page. At 234D Flightys Road, Pauatahanui; see; call 64 4 234-8870.


Soi Café and Bar
While Soi did indeed advertise with Lucire a few issues ago, I had been frequenting it long before. A brother-and-sister team has turned the property at Greta Pt around, making it one of the trendy, just-out-of-the-city places that serves decent food (with an east Asian bent, but occidental enough for most) with an amazing ambience (part of the restaurant is over water). Forget the Tugboat if you want a watery experience: Soiówhich is a romanization of southern Chinese dialects for waterógives that calming experience along with the intimacy courting requires. And the space means that you can have a larger party in another part of the restaurant. It even has a private function room. At 305 Evans Bay Parade, 64 4 386-3830,


Simply Paris
Agnès and Pascal Chivotís Simply Paris is known for its cakes and wine list, and they are genuinely French. Anything from the pâtisserie menu is to die for, and the restaurant deserves the reputation of being the most French in town. At 181 Cuba Street (near the Vivian Street end), 64 4 801-5486. URL


Monsoon Poon
Mike Eganís Monsoon Poon was so successful that it spawned an Auckland branch, but the original is still popular after all these years for its Asian-fusion cuisine. If youíre on Blair Street, this is one to check out (at no. 12), 64 4 803-3555,


Satay Kampong
Increasingly my new Malaysian haunt when in the Courtenay Place area. Satay Kampong became famous when it was a shack-type place in front of a massage parlour on Wakefield Street, taking cash only. To get the trade in, they made the food exceptional.
   So many other Malaysian places have popped up since, and Satay Kampong has upped its game by opening on Allen Street (no. 24) and taking all major credit cards. The food is still very good, but while others have caught up or learned the secret recipe, itís still just slightly above the rest. Call 64 4 384-7594,


If you are Chinese, then donít mention the war and youíll get decent service at Kazu on 13 Tory Street, 64 4 802-5298. The raw fish is fresh, unlike some places that we wonít name, but the terayaki chicken is a good choice. A sister property at 43 Courtenay Place (up the stairs, 64 4 802-4868) has a similar menu but the addition of Calpis on the drinksí list.


St Johnís Bar
The former HQ for Wellington Free Ambulanceóolder Wellingtonians will remember when the white-and-red Bedfords exited from the frontóhas great drinks and a very good pork steak. At 5 Cable Street;, 64 4 801-8017.


Boulcott Street Bistro
Justifiably one of the places that could charge over $30 for a beef steakóthis is considered Wellingtonís top of the tree place for refinement, interior class, and itís just far enough away from the buzzy centre to be tosspot-free. At 99 Boulcott Street, 64 4 499-4199,


Known for its wine list, but I think itís better known for some Francophone staff who will spend more time indulging français etranger than their colleagues back home. Best place on Featherston Street (no. 125) and I would dare include Lambton Quay into that. URL, call 64 4 499-5530.


A few places around the city have Mojos, known for coffee and a high standard for its brand: the idea is that all Mojos exhibit the same values. See •


Jack Yan is founding publisher of Lucire.



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As a rule, I try not to go to too-trendy joints. For a start, I canít stand being grouped in with a bunch of tossers



Above and left: Soi has a bright ambience and the water has a calming effect.


Monsoon Poon

Boulcott Street Bistro


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From issue 16 of Lucire