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Wednesday 24 June 2015

The inside info on New Zealand's biggest food and wine festival

It used to be known simply as “wet, windy Wellington” but in recent years the New Zealand capital has become something of a gourmet and nightlife magnet.

Local folklore has it that Wellington has more bars, restaurants and cafés per capita than New York.

And with more than 300 bars, restaurants and cafés in the downtown area alone, Wellington is certainly not short of places to have a good time – particularly after dark.

And Wellington goes into overdrive once a year when the hospitality industry puts its collective creative juices into delivering Visa Wellington On a Plate, now regarded as New Zealand's major food festival. 

The shining star of Wellington’s culinary scene, held every year in August for the past seven years, the two-week festival has become by far New Zealand’s largest culinary event - and has something for everyone; whether they are into burgers, beer or fine dining. 


It involves more than 300 restaurants, producers and suppliers over 17 days of restaurant offers, cocktail creations, the annual battle for the city’s best burger and a celebration of the region’s artisan producers.

There more than 100 festival events overall, stretching from the Wairarapa wine region, to the scenic Kapiti Coast and into Wellington city. 

Featuring everything from pop-up restaurants to classes that aim to have you mastering the art of perfect patisserie, celebrations of food and film and lessons in foraging for wild produce, the events cover a broad spectrum. 

Beervana, a two-day celebration of craft beer, is the festival's biggest drawcard, attracting over 10,000 visitors and featuring 200 different craft beers from across New Zealand, Australia and the world. 

And, for wine lovers, there are a whole raft of vinous events that have been unveiled, including a Sensory Evaluation Laboratory where guests’ ability to detect the five primary tastes - sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami - will be tested and common wine faults will be sampled, including ‘cork taint’, brettanomyces, oxidation, reductive characteristics and volatile acidity. 

Red, White and Bleu will feature Martinborough wines paired with food from Le Cordon Bleu culinary students, and chardonnay lovers can attend a dinner hosted by John Kavanagh (Te Kairanga) and Pip Goodwin (Palliser Estate). 

Martinborough winemakers Roger Parkinson (Nga Waka) and Lisa Coney (Coney Wines) look at will different varieties paired with food, while Larry McKenna and Helen Masters (Ata Rangi) will examine the wonderful world of pinot noir. 

The Match Wine Bar will offer a collection of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton wines for tasting, which can be matched with small plates from star caterer Ruth Pretty, while there will be an Ata Rangi dinner at Hippopotamus Restaurant and Lance Redgwell of Cambridge
Road Vineyard will host a dinner at Pinocchio. 

Winemaker for a Day will teach guests about wine and the winemaking process at Matahiwi Estate, while La Boca Loca has teamed up with Martinborough wineries and Woody's Free Range Farm to create an afternoon of carnitas and pinot noir. 

Among my favourite Wellington restaurants that are involved this year are: bustling perennial favourite Floriditas, and the funky Duke Carvell’s, with its late-night tapas and renowned cocktail list.

Don't miss the sophisticated food at Logan Brown, or the buzzy Ortega Fish Shack & Bar, 
thoroughly modern seafood restaurant with European influences and a very friendly vibe,
along with a terrific wine list. 

Great places for a drink include festival participants Matterhorn, Hawthorne Lounge and the Library Bar. 

I'm told there is also a major wine component to Welly on a Plate, about which the organizers are promising to send me details. Stay tuned. 

Visa Wellington On a Plate, various venues, August 14-30. Beervana, August 14-15.

1 comment:

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