Back to blogs

The Visa WOAP team - Festival highlights 2021

October 4, 2021

Visa Welly On a Plate is finished for 2021. Thanks to everyone who took part and supported our local hospitality. We hope you created many food memories with friends and whānau and are looking forward to serving you the festival in 2022. 

A lot has happened during this festival seasons…. a speaker food series, chefs collab, Festival dishes with their food stories, burgers to wrap your laughing gear around (over and over), cocktails to sup, events, pop-ups, masterclasses and more! Oh yeah, that too: a lockdown and a couple of home cook challenges!

Here are the Visa Wellington On a Plate and Beervana team’s Festival highlights!

Sarah Meikle, Festival Director   

“I think it’s fair to say that this year’s festival was like no other! Covid has been immensely challenging for the hospitality and restaurant sector and the festival has always strived to help them through a traditionally very quiet time of year, so it’s been a bit of cruel blow to have a lockdown hit when they need it most. That said, it’s been so cool to see the industry make the most of the opportunity. I was lucky enough to attend some outstanding events at the start of the festival…some of my favs were the Chaat Street Pop Up, Flora no Fauna, Le Cercle Noir and the Visa Wellington On a Plate Speaker Series events. I also managed to sneak in a couple of great Dine meals, cocktails and burgers! Time to hit the gym! I’m looking forward to continuing to support those festival events that are yet to run.

Beth Brash, Festival Programme Manager

“It really was a festival of two halves. Pre-lockdown feels a lifetime away, but I feel so fortunate that I was able to experience some mind blowing events. These are always my favourite part of the festival, highlights this year include the wonderful welcome from Flora and Hasan to Damascus for their Syrian Feast and the vibrant taste of Indian street food at Vaibhav Vishen's Chaat Street pop up

But this year I have really enjoyed making new friends both online and in person with fans of the festival. Whether it has been burger missions with burger connoisseurs or meeting the winners of our Burger WellingtIN competitions, or chatting with people in the line to Hot For Chicken. These are my people!” 

Alice McEnaney, Programme Coordinator

“As always, there were some incredibly delicious burgers, cocktails and dine dishes on offer this year that I was fortunate enough to try. What I especially enjoyed about this festival was reading about and experiencing stories of Wellington through the dine dishes. Food truly does taste better when you know the story behind it!

One of my favourite parts of the festival every year is the pop-up events, I loved seeing venues leaning into the 'Out of Place' theme and doing something a bit different to their usual offerings. The Satya Chai Lounge Takeover, Hot for Chicken, Up Inn Smoke and The Month After the Night Before were all especially great. 

While COVID certainly threw a spanner in the works mid-festival, I'm crossing my fingers that we get to see some of the events that had to be postponed rescheduled over the next couple of months, I was especially looking forward to seeing Shepherd, Taste of Home and Romeo's collab for Taste of Homies (the dream).

And lastly, a big personal highlight for me was bringing over the works of I Make Soft Food (Chloe Smith) for our festival exhibition It All Felt Too Hard. This event had been in the works since early 2020 (thanks COVID) so it was incredible to finally see it all come together! ” 

Andrew Castle, Sponsorship Manager

“For the 2021 Visa Wellington On a Plate I was lucky enough to attend a number of events. Each one uniquely different yet all were spectacular. The creativity and uniqueness that each event created is something that I have to commend. Some highlights for me were: Le Cercle Noir by Shepherd. With such a dark setting this really had the taste buds working overtime trying to figure what delicious creation had been created. The other stand out for me was Cicio Cacio, this was incredible! In a small intimate setting in the Newtown restaurant, with welcomed visits to the kitchens and stories from the motherland from the owner Julio.”

Melissa Davey, Head of Marketing and Communications 

“Clocking up to four festivals working for the Culinary Trust and the creativity of the programming continues blows me away. But for me, being part of an iconic event that puts Wellington's culinary scene on the map is my highlight - and the fact we could do this again despite the unpredictable nature of the Covid-19 pandemic is very satisfying. I was super impressed with how the public got behind our Burger WellingtIN and Cocktail WellingtINi challenges which kept spirits high during the grind of lockdown. Building on our unique food stories of Wellington through the Speaker Series has been a great contribution to our region's food and social history, so look out for our new podcast series to hear about the influence of Italian, Chinese, Greek Cypriot and Malaysian flavours on Wellington's dining scene. On a more personal note, launching a new brand and this year's look and feel has been very rewarding, as has been working with such a creative and committed team to celebrate our hospo scene. We're lucky to have this treasure for our city and region. Let's do it all again in 2022!”

Lizi Oldham, Marketing Manager

“This was my first festival experience since returning to Wellington and it did not disappoint. I'm a big burger fan so I made it my personal mission to try as many as I could. Out of the twenty-something burgers I tried, there were some clear standouts for me. The Warren Maxwell at Saint Sebastian was not only beautifully presented but an explosion of wildly unusual flavours that perfectly balanced to create an insanely delicious burger like no other I had tried before. Second up was the A Done Deal at Twenty Eight, the pickle brine chicken was cooked to perfection and I could have had this burger many times over. And finally, the Chilly Pickle Rick at Rosie's Red Hot Cantina, another visually insane burger with flavours that popped, was an experience in itself. 

Talking about popping, I was lucky enough to pop into several festival pop-ups whilst taking a break from my burger eating ways. Favourites included the delicious Chaat Street pop-up at LTD, the food evoked emotive memories of travelling through India with my girlfriends and was stupidly tasty. Field and Green's pop up: Bar Salonika again brought back memories of travel and was insanely delicious. And last up was the month after the night before, at Little Beer Quarter. The hangover themed menu and cocktails were so well thought out, making it the perfect way to spend a windy Wellington Saturday afternoon.

Finally, I was lucky enough to have my birthday fall on the Saturday of Beervana so I attended the evening session with 10 of my girlfriends. It was the perfect place for a birthday, trying weird and wonderful beers, dancing on the light up dance floor and exploring the stadium was certainly a birthday to remember! ” 

Clèm Rebouillat, Content and Digital Coordinator

“I was very conscious we were serving Visa Welly On a Plate for the second time in less than a year (the last one took place in October 2020) but still... this one was much different in so many ways. I was generally amazed by the level of creativity from our participating venues across all the platforms (Dine, Cocktail, Burger and Festival Events). 

Sadly due to the impact of lockdown 2.0, lots of the Festival Events I was planning to take part in have been postponed but very glad that most of them will proceed in the next few months or so. So we'll all get to enjoy more of the festival fun for a little bit longer!

Unsurprisingly, I shifted my hunger towards the Garage Project presents Burger Welly offerings. I am not sure whether I should be ashamed or proud of this achievement but this year, I'm claiming the tour de force of "most burgers eaten" amongst the Visa Welly On a Plate team (tally is up 23). The offering felt like a huge step up compared to the previous year and as the person who looks after the social media channels, I was pleased to see a lot of the venues stepping up their social game this festival season. If I had to pick one burger to eat again, it would be the Dough Bakery one: French Onion Classic. I might bias because it contains french ingredients? Absolutely.

I would have to pick the challenges we launched during Lockdown as my festival highlights: Burger WellingtIN and Cocktail WellingtINi. Seeing how engaged and committed to the task our community was, was just incredible. The level of entries for both burgers and cocktails was out of this world, and it definitely helped me build an appetite before we re-launched the festival."


Ryan McArthur, Beervana Manager

"Can I just say...Beervana not being a superspreader event." Fair enough Ryan, fair enough...

Angela Fisher, Finance Manager

"My highlights were the pop up at the Thistle Inn, the brisket was amazing.  The Culinary Heritage Encounter at Homewood, that was a real treat and a great experience with wonderful food and wine. The burger at Capitol which "tastes like New Zealand" was a hit and finally the burger at Rosie's Red-Hot Cantina, that was something very different."

Brandie Stephens, Office Coordinator

"Long time Visa Wellington On a Plate festival diner, first time festival employee. As always, my favourite thing about the festival is the people it brings me together with. I usually share a burger crawl with friends and an event or two with family. This year I expanded that group to include my hardworking mates who help the producers of Wellington share their food with everyone. It made each bite more meaningful knowing how much work was behind it.

For events, I attended All Taste No Waste with Max Gordy run by Kaibosh with a group of friends and learned so much about using every bit of your veggies all while chatting with Max. The Capitol burger Smoking Mussels was beautifully done and the experience enhanced by the chat we had with owner Kate about human rights. She is such a vibrant person and I wanted to ask her to sit and talk to us all day but knew how busy she was! 

Many of the burgers were shared with my co-workers. My highlights being Lucky’s Kimchi Pop where the chicken was perfectly cooked and the kimchup was a flavour explosion. As for being on point for this year’s theme Out of Place, the Rosie’s Red-Hot Cantina Burger Welly: Pickle Rick burger was an experience I will never forget. The chili maple pickle ice cream on a burger made me feel nostalgic for something I can’t quite put my finger on."