Wellington’s reputation as New Zealand’s ‘creative capital’ goes into overdrive once a year when the hospitality industry puts its collective creative juices into delivering a food festival to be rivalled around the world.
But, Visa Wellington On a Plate™ is much more than a food festival – it’s an extravaganza of extraordinary creative events that brings a city to its tables.
Creatives and doers
A place packed with creatives, doers and dreamers, it’s unsurprising Wellington is known as New Zealand’s culinary capital. At every turn, the city’s culinary scene reveals itself; spilling onto footpaths, popping up in inner-city markets and hiding down laneways.
Local folklore has it that Wellington has more bars, restaurants and cafés per capita than New York. While New Yorkers might argue the point, there’s no denying that when it comes to foodie heaven, Wellington is your spiritual home.
The city’s chefs, baristas and producers are creating everything from boundary-breaking cuisine and amazing coffee, to casual street-eats and fine-dining. These culinary creatives take advantage of the region’s incredible produce showcasing exceptional seafood, lamb and dairy in their menus, which explore new concepts and reinvent classics.
A feast of possibilities
The shining star of Wellington’s culinary scene is the annual food festival, Visa WOAP!. Held every year in August, the two-week festival feeds the appetite for life by bringing them together to share different, inspiring and provocative culinary experiences.
Since launching eight years ago, Visa WOAP! has become New Zealand’s largest culinary festival, every year nourishing tens of thousands of hungry participants. It attracts more than 300 restaurants, producers and suppliers, each charged with fusing food, culture and creativity into 17 days of delectable restaurant offers, clever cocktail creations, a meaty battle for the city’s best burger and a celebration of the region’s artisan producers.
Also sprouting with life and action over the festival are more than 120 festival events stretching from the Wairarapa wine region, to the scenic Kapiti Coast and into the buzz of Wellington city. Featuring everything from food trucks and pop-up restaurants, to mastering the art of perfect patisserie, celebrations of food and film and lessons in foraging for wild produce, the events are a stimulating smorgasbord of culinary experiences that change every year.
For lovers of fine ale, you can’t go past Beervana, the Festival’s largest event. A two-day celebration of craft beer, Beervana is as close to heaven as beer enthusiasts will ever find.
Each year, over 10,000 visitors get amongst craft beers from across New Zealand, Australia and the world; learning, imbibing and celebrating. And although it’s all about beer, it’s not all about beer. Local eateries cook up various delights from dainty dumplings to lip-smacking ribs to partner with the immense variety of ale.
Beervana 2016 will be the biggest in the event's 14-year history. There will be 60 breweries represented with more than 300 beers to sample, including bars dedicated to Wellington's sister city in beer - Portland, Oregon - and, sour beer and IPAs.
Inner city artisans
There's a spirit of collaboration that's indicative of how Wellington’s food and hospitality sector likes to work. You’ll find hundreds of local ingredients and products spicing up the city’s restaurant menus, and various producers working together to create new products, such as Six Barrel Soda’s Coffee Syrup made from Coffee Supreme and Gelissimo’s Hardie Boys Ginger beer gelato.
Unlike many big cities, you don’t have to leave the downtown area to see producers at work. Pop into the Wellington Chocolate Factory to see how artisan chocolate is made from beans to bar, before popping next door to Fix and Fogg to try mouth-watering peanut butter made by hand from freshly roasted peanuts. While you’re in the area you’ll be tempted into Leeds Street Bakery by the smell of fresh bread baking and coffee being roasted. Don’t forget to try a Salted Caramel Cookie. But beware, they are seriously addictive. And after all this tasting you’ll no doubt be thirsty, so head next door to the neighbourhood bar Goldings Free Dive to try one of their many refreshing local craft beers.
Food to make the heart sing and the soul swoon
Whether you make it to Wellington for Visa WOAP! or any other of the 50 other weeks, you’ll find it’s the food culture that helps makes this city radiate with energy. Spend a few days tasting your way around Wellington’s best eateries such as Floriditas, Nikau, WBC, Little Penang, Duke Carvell’s, Logan Brown, Matterhorn, Charley Noble, Whitebait and Ortega Fish Shack, just to name a few. Enjoy cocktails at the Hawthorne Lounge, the Library Bar and Havana. Drink coffee at Customs Brew Bar, Mojo, Fidels, Prefab and the Hangar. You’ll leave with a happy heart and a settled soul.
Wellington, a city for people who devour life and let their stomachs lead the way.
Need to know
Visa Wellington On a Plate, various venues, 12 August - 28 August, 2016.
Beervana, 12 - 13 August, 2016
Visa WOAP! by the numbers
2016 celebrates the 8th year of Visa WOAP!
100-plus restaurants & 14 food trucks
127 festival events
72-page guide to events (2016)
136 restaurants offering Dine Wellington menus
116 burgers in Burger Wellington
41 cocktails in Cocktail Wellington
17,000 diners (2015)
9500 attendees at Beervana (2015)
74,300-plus burgers consumed (2015)
53,300 DINE Wellington meals consumed (2015)
Visa WOAP! contributes NZ$4.1 million to GDP
Visa WOAP! is in its eighth year
10 coffee roasters operate in Wellington
10 craft breweries operate in Wellington
45 million cups of coffee consumed annually
4.5 million eggs and 260 tonnes of bacon served annually