Wellington's Indian flavours

Wellington – dubbed the world’s ‘coolest little capital’ by Lonely Planet – has earned its title based on a clever, often quirky style and an intimate walkable downtown that flows around an attractive waterfront.

This is a city that’s recognised for a creative arts scene, international café and restaurant culture, and friendly cosmopolitan locals. Wellington’s citizens (and visitors) enjoy more cafés, bars and restaurants per capita than New York City, and its coffee and craft beer producers are internationally recognised. 

A little less well known are Wellington’s long-standing ties to the Indian sub-continent, perhaps most visible in a thriving hospitality industry that counts some 70 tandoori houses spread across the city centre and sprawling suburbs

Indian connections

In fact, Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city and centre of government – has more than a few Indian connections including a population of some 11,000 ethnic Indians (1.8% of the city’s population) who call Wellington home, according to New Zealand’s 2013 census. 

India is the third most common country of birth for New Zealanders and a third of all Indians in New Zealand were born here. These facts are reflected in Wellington’s strong Indian culture and cuisine scene. 

Indian immigration to New Zealand goes as far back as in the early 1800s when British ships brought their subjects across the ocean. These visitors were often crew on large sailing ships bringing supplies to New Zealand and Australia, and some decided to stay on in Oceania permanently. 

A general increase in immigration during World War I and another surge in Indian arrivals during the mid- to-late 20th century brought New Zealand a significant Indian population of varied religious and geographical origin. 

Early Wellington connections

The early Indian history of Wellington is especially evident in the northern hill suburb of Khandallah which is liberally peppered with Indian-inspired place names – Delhi Crescent, Ganges Road, Cashmere Avenue, Calcutta Street and Mandalay Terrace to name a few. 

This Indian influence goes back to the late 1800s and a British army officer Captain Edward Battersbee who had lived in India. Clearly inspired by a passion for the subcontinent, Battersbee bestowed a swathe of Indian place names. 

According to an ASIANZ report into Wellington’s Asian populations, many of the city’s first Indian citizens were market gardeners, greengrocers and other retailers – cementing Wellington’s strong Indian cuisine scene.

Indian Wellington today

Today, Wellington continues to have a strong Indian community which actively participates in local sport, music and art.

Indian artist Swaroop Mukerji, who has twice visited Wellington as an artist in residence, has compared Wellington to Kolkata, noting that in both cities, art and culture saturate all parts of society.  

The strength of Wellington’s Indian population can be seen in the turnout for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, renewal and knowledge, which is celebrated in spectacular style at the TSB Arena on the waterfront and in a number of other locations. Over 30,000 people attend the colourful Diwali celebrations.

Indian cuisine

Visitors to Wellington during the Cricket World Cup can expect a diverse city that welcomes them with open arms, offering delicious tastes of India alongside large doses of classic Kiwi cuisine and culture. 

For a taste of Kiwi Indian style, try:

  • Little India – close to The Basin cricket grounds - serves authentic Indian food cooked in an open kitchen with charcoal tandoori ovens. Chefs are trained by the wife of the original owner’s mother, Premijit Kaur Gill, in her Chandigarh kitchen. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
  • Great India - specialises in Anglo-Indian cuisine, with Indian dishes from South Gujrat and North India. The menu features traditional and modern dishes.
  • Zaika – in central Willis Street, this is among the most authentic Indian dining experiences in Wellington.
  • The Curry Pot – in Newtown, Wellington’s ethnic hub, The Curry Pot specialises in South Indian cuisine. All meat options are Halal.
  • Indian Sweets and Snacks - another Newtown business offers its famous puri chole and bhel puri, along with sweet and savoury meals and treats. 
  • Masala Restaurant – chefs use fine, fresh ingredients to create tantalising dishes including Halal food on request.
  • Mister Chai – is the place for a cuppa. Mister Chai’s spicy organic tea – rich and spicy, and brewed by Kiwi herbalist Tim O’Sullivan in a traditional Indian way - is served from a solar-powered cart in central Cuba Street and other outlets.
  • Moshim’s Grocery Shop - is a purveyor of Indian produce, fresh whole and ground spices, snacks, sweets and even beauty products.  

Kiwi cuisine - Wellington favourites

  • Matterhorn is a Wellington institution – in central Cuba Mall and established in 1963, Matterhorn is a much celebrated and awarded destination for innovative food and cocktails. Plus, it was a favourite of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy stars during filming.
  • Prefab - new on the block, and already a city favourite eatery, coffee roaster, community hub, events facility and showcase for New Zealand design. ACME & CO breads and baked goods are baked and served warm from the Prefab oven throughout the day. 
  • Olive – for casual family dining, Olive in central Cuba Street, offers an eclectic mix of cakes and an 'always-on' Mediterranean-style tapas menu, and grill food from the pretty, sunny courtyard. Organic produce and tasty vegetarian dishes are a feature.
  • Logan Brown – housed in a 1920s banking chamber, Logan Brown is a Wellington institution offering innovative, full flavoured cuisine including vegetarian dishes and an excellent wine list. 

Essential Wellington attractions

  • New Zealand Cricket Museum - located in the historic Museum Stand at Wellington's iconic Basin Reserve, the New Zealand Cricket Museum houses a wealth of national cricket mementoes and memorabilia. Stroll through the picturesque Basin Reserve where Brendon McCullum scored his epic triple century against India in early 2014.
  • Mount Victoria Lookout: Immediately above the city, Mount Victoria lookout has spectacular views over Wellington city, harbour and Cook Strait. There is parking at the top and expansive forested walking tracks and picnic spots.
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa: Te Papa – New Zealand’s national museum – is a bold, innovative museum experience of New Zealand culture and history experience. Centrally located on the Wellington waterfront, Te Papa tells great stories about New Zealand’s land and people in provocative, challenging and entertaining ways.  
  • Adrenalin ForestAdrenalin Forest offers family adventures in an outdoor forest setting. The adventure park features a multi-level aerial obstacle course up to 30 metres high, with five pathways of progressive difficulty to entertain and test balance and agility.