True brew

Move over Mel­bourne. Welling­ton has it cov­ered when it comes to cafe so­ci­ety

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - The Food Issue - CHRIS­TINE MC­CABE

WELLING­TON has more cafes and restau­rants per capita than New York, says my guide, An­nette Froetschl, as we brave the cold to em­bark on a food tour of New Zealand’s pint-sized cap­i­tal.

And I well be­lieve it. You can’t stroll more than a few me­tres with­out hear­ing the hiss and spit of a cof­fee ma­chine. There are cafes on just about ev­ery cor­ner and tucked into ev­ery nook and cranny of this blus­tery har­bour town. Much of the city’s busi­ness and pol­i­tick­ing seems to be done over an espresso or two and cof­fee is taken as se­ri­ously as rugby.

‘‘Af­ter Mel­bourne, this is the best city in the world to grab a cof­fee,’’ says Steve Gianout­sos, pro­pri­etor of the Mojo cof­fee chain. His aro­matic roast­ing house, Mojo Cof­fee Cen­tral, is one of 16 or 17 such out­fits in town, he says. It oc­cu­pies a soar­ing, her­itage-listed wharf build­ing at Cus­tom­house Quay and is the first stop on our half­day Cap­i­tal Tastes walking tour.

In the dim, mote-flecked air and sur­rounded by hes­sian sacks from Ethiopia, Guatemala, In­dia and Mex­ico, Steve’s dad, Lam­bros, mans the enor­mous roast­ing ma­chine, su­per­vis­ing the tran­sit of myr­iad ex­otic glossy beans into the cups of cof­fee-mad Welling­to­ni­ans. Out come steam­ing lat­tes and a plate of home-baked Greek cakes; just the ticket on this chilly morn when carb load­ing is as cru­cial as a caf­feine fix.

Next stop is Feather­ston Street and Bo­he­mein, a tiny CBD store where Jiri (Ge­orge) Hav­lik, a former pas­try chef from the Czech Repub­lic, fash­ions de­li­cious treats us­ing Bel­gian cou­ver­ture choco­late and fresh ganache made from lo­cal fruit. Hav­lik plays with some in­ter­est­ing flavour com­bi­na­tions — bal­samic vine­gar and honey, pineap­ple and black pep­per — but the stand-outs are the chilli ganache and the award-win­ning sea-salt caramel.

With a large box of the lat­ter tucked un­der one arm, just in case we get peck­ish, we head across town to the old fruit and veg­etable mar­ket build­ings, th­ese days con­verted into gal­leries.

At Kura gallery, we are brows­ing the work of emerg­ing Maori artists and tast­ing honey, all at once. The re­warewa, or New Zealand hon­ey­suckle, is par­tic­u­larly de­li­cious; a short flow­er­ing pe­riod re­sults in an in­tense flavour pop­u­lar with chefs.

Af­ter down­ing an­other cof­fee to cut the sticky sweet­ness, we mo­sey on over to Moore Wil­son’s, on the cor­ner of Tory and Col­lege streets. Opened as a gen­eral whole- sale mer­chant by the Moore fam­ily in 1918, this is where Welling­ton foodies and chefs get their daily bread — and most ev­ery­thing else. A vast gourmet mar­ket, hous­ing a cheese room, fish­mon­ger, char­cu­terie, wine store, fruit, veg­eta­bles and flow­ers, this Aladdin’s cave is like the David Jones food hall, but bet­ter. There are work­shops, and even a drive-through Chook Wagon sell­ing freerange, French-style ro­tis­serie chicken.

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