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Dine Wellington literally dishes up Welly On a Plate!

August 2, 2021

Visa Wellington On a Plate has taken Dine Wellington in a whole new direction in 2021! We thought, "What if restaurants were literally presenting Wellington on a plate for the festival?" But how to do that….? 

We asked restaurants participating in Dine Wellington to create Festival dishes using Wellington stories as inspiration behind them. This culinary narrative told through the medium of food is a new way to engage both diners and the chefs behind the dishes - because food always tastes better and provides a dynamic dining experience when you know the story behind it!

Dine Festival dishes have been inspired by Wellington's history, weather, topography, architecture, sculptures, people and personal experiences of Wellington, and stories are told via the medium of kai - through ingredients, plating, colours and textures. 

With more than 70 Dine Wellington dishes to try over the Wellington region, showcasing local Wellington produce and ingredients, the stories behind each Festival dish can be found on the Dine Wellington listings. 

Dine Wellington is also a wonderful opportunity to get out and try new restaurants you may have never experienced before, as well as pop back to your tried and true venues for lunch, dinner and maybe even a spot of dessert. 

So have a read of the fascinating and eye-opening Wellington stories revealed by this year’s Dine Wellington dishes! We guarantee you’ll learn something new and work up an appetite. We’ve picked out a few for you to peak your interest…

(Hot Festival tip: Remember to check availability and see whether the dishes are available at lunch, dinner or both - and remember to book to avoid potentially missing out!)


Thistle Inn - Mrs. Couper’s Famous Game Pie

The Thistle Inn has stood on Town Acre 515 since 1840, when William Couper served his first round of drinks. Back then, it was a single-storey, gabled building with attics above. Until the 1876 reclamation, it faced the beach and people walked, rowed or paddled here to slake their thirst and sate their appetite, a real favourite of the locals was Mrs. Couper's game pie. Sadly, the recipe was lost in the fire of 1866, however, Thistle Inn has done its best to replicate and refine this dish using locally sourced venison from Awatoru and smoked pork belly from Scottie's meat in the Wairarapa.

Dish Description: Awatoru wild venison with smoked pork belly, wild rabbit, tahr, fallow deer, wild goat and wild pork in a rich Palliser Estate Pinot Noir gravy with flaky puff pastry top with a pacific oyster and parsnip purée.


Bebemos - Under the Sea but Not What it Seems

Newtown’s Latin-inspired craft beer bar and restaurant took its Dine Welly inspiration from the Nga Kina sculpture on the Wellington Waterfront. Bebemos’ Head Chef lives on Mt. Victoria with sea views; she watches the pods of orcas and dolphins from her balcony when they visit, and wanders the waterfront path on her daily walks. She was struck with inspiration on one such walk, when she saw the Nga Kina and decided to take this Kiwi kaimoana, and twist it into something new, a wild venison shoulder kina!

Dish Description: Slow-braised pulled wild venison 'kina' with chilli, Shoots NZ micro-coriander, red wine gravy and cheese with Parkvale funghi 'scallops' seared in garlic butter, crispy kale, potato, spring onion ‘wakame’ and ‘caviar’ pearls.


Arashi - Winter Cray-vin’

Arashi means "storm" in Japanese and was named after Wellington’s notorious climate: prone to be windy, wet and cold!

With Arashi’s Head Chef having studied in Japan under Japanese ramen masters on how to make traditional and authentic ramen,the inspiration behind this dish was the ultimate comfort food for a stormy Wellington winter’s night. The answer: a steaming hot bowl of ramen with a Kiwi twist, New Zealand crayfish, further enriching the pork bone broth with the rich umami of crayfish shell to warm the soul.

Dish Description: 48-hour slow-cooked crayfish shell, chicken and pork bone broth with Moana Pacific crayfish, Wairarapa pork, housemade noodles, free range half-cooked egg, Parkvale mushrooms, beansprouts, seaweed, chives and spring onion.


Ortega Fish Shack - Drunken Deer In the Cabbage Patch

Ortega Fish Shack’s Festival dish, Drunken Deer In the Cabbage Patch, pays homage to a Mt. Vic neighbourhood identity, World War II veteran, Smiley Sullivan. After an honourable discharge, Martinborough local, Smiley, bought a property in Mt. Victoria's Majoribanks Street to enable himself and his widowed mother, Kathleen, to be closer to her daughter and his sister, Eleanor (a housekeeper at St. Gerard's Catholic Church & Monastery in Roseneath) and Eleanor’s husband, Rawiri (a butcher at Jas Farley's shop at 12 Majoribanks Street).

Smiley, however, struggled to settle into the city life, and as a result, became a conservator with the then New Zealand Forest Service, keeping wild deer populations in check around the greater Wellington Region. Ortega’s red deer dish honours his service and serendipitous life.

Dish Description: Awatoru Wildfood red deer with braised red cabbage, caramelised celeriac and Paddy Borthwick Winery Pinot Noir gravy.


Mockingbird - Kupe on Mars

After reflecting on a year of being isolated from the rest of the world in 2020, Mockingbird observed how many of us ended up exploring our own Wellington backyard. Red Rocks on Wellington’s South Coast is one of those places where the Mockingbird team have created many memories, and enjoyed roaming on a nice day. The legend goes that Kupe - the famous Polynesian explorer - was gathering paua on the South Coast when one clamped his hand. He bled and stained the rocks red, and this gave its name to Red Rocks - and is the inspiration behind Mockingbird’s Festival dish. 

Dish Description: Parkvale mushrooms and Shoots NZ oregano 'mince' and cheese flying saucer pastry with crispy shallot, rice soil, roasted red pepper, tamarillo chutney and red pepper foam rocks.

Community & diversity 

Master Kong - Kamayan Boodle Fight  

Kamayan banquets are Filipino banquets, coined as "Boodle Fights" by the American military because diners frequently fought over the best elements of the dish (the name “boodle” possibly derived from the American colloquialism, "kit and caboodle", meaning “everything”). 

When creating this dish, and with the "Boodle Fights" in mind, Head Chef, Rupert Palaroan wanted to pay homage to his teams' culinary journey from all over the globe to Wellington while incorporating his Filipino legacy. Each member of the Master Kong team has offered a tasty morsel that represents their culinary heritage which will compete on the Kamayan banana leaf plate. This is a style of food that encourages communal eating and is considered the ultimate shared plate where everyone grazes the same feast. Made by the Master Kong team for your team to fight over.

Dish Description: Pandan steamed rice, Preston' beef nilaga, salted egg yolk prawn, English coronation chicken, Sarawak pork, and lamb yakhni on banana leaves and Asian dipping sauces.

Local ingredients 

Jardin Grill - Ki te Ngahere

Jardin Grill's commitment to using local Wellington suppliers and ingredients as much as possible led them to Longbush Free Range Pork, who ethically and sustainably raise pigs on a farm in the Longbush valley of the Wairarapa. Pairing their pork belly with the nearby apple orchards of Mela Ltd, in Greytown, who pride themselves on their commitment to being a genuinely local, ethical, business. Finished off on the Jardin Grill NZ mānuka wood-fired grill, to create something that is infused with their passion for local flavours and celebrating great Wellington producers.

Dish Description: Longbush pork belly, slow-cooked on a wood-fired rotisserie with Mela apple cider purée, sprouting broccoli, and toasted almonds.

Politics and a bit of drama (they go hand-in-hand) 

The White Swan - Shipwrecked and Landed

Inspired by the legendary tale of the SS White Swan, dating back to 1862, when the ship was racing from Auckland to open the first parliament in Wellington. One stormy morning the politicians aboard were awoken from their slumbers by a fearful noise, as the vessel struck a reef. Amidst rising swells and with water gushing into the damaged hull, the Captain quickly made the desperate call to abandon the ship. Clutching only a few scant belongings, the crew clambered into lifeboats and headed for the nearest shore, watching the poor Swan roll violently from side to side before meeting a watery end. 

The place of landing was Uriti beach, east of Greytown, and four miles from the station of the most hospitable John and Mary Moore. Fortuitously, they retrieved some of the travellers’ luggage and a 12-month store of grog. Not so lucky were the government cases, holding important papers and last seen floating towards the Chathams. Shelter and accommodation were offered in the Moores’ woolshed, along with a scrumptious spread, hunted and gathered from the land and sea right there in their backyard. 

This dish sets out to recreate the meals provided to the politicians by Mr. and Mrs. Moore - the humble and generous Wairarapa farmers who filled their bellies with an abundance of local produce - before they made it to Wellington safely and claimed it the new Capital of New Zealand.

Dish Description: Beef eye fillet with Parkvale mushroom, Wairarapa paua and Kingsmeade sheep cheese risotto, Urban Fresh Farms oyster mushrooms and Wairarapa seaweed Café de Paris butter.

Dine Wellington Festival dishes and set menus are available as part of Visa Wellington On a Plate from 1-15 August - check out the more than 70 offerings around the Wellington region. 

Remember to check availability and see whether the Dine Wellington dish is available at lunch, dinner or both - and book to avoid missing out!