Wellington On A Plate – Gastrofantastique!

August 19, 2022

Winter in Wellington is a testing time for PAT PILCHER’s gastronomic juices and it’s all because of the delights on offer at WOAP.

As a proud Wellingtonian, I can talk for hours about my city’s good and bad points. One of the real highlights of living in Wellington is its crazily tasty food, booze and coffee scene. Wellington has more restaurants and cafes per capita than Manhattan. This brag has been hotly debated for years. Still, tourism Wellington settled the argument finally when they ran the numbers and found that they did indeed stack up.

Adding to this is the compact size of central Wellington – you can walk from one side of Wellington CBD to the other in just 15 minutes. This means that many of Wellington’s eateries are concentrated in a small area and easy to find. Mix in the many amazing craft beer bars, gin and coffee joints, and there’s plenty to like.


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From a marketing perspective, highlighting the Wellington culinary paradise is a complete no-brainer. For years Wellington has run its Wellington On A Plate promotion along with Burger On A Plate, which locals affectionately call WOAP or BOAP.

For WOAP, it starts with each eatery designing a dining experience and crafting special dishes to showcase their culinary expertise. A small, free guidebook or the WOAP website lists what’s on offer. This has proved so popular that many events are sold out on the same day the booklet is made available and the website goes live.

With BOAP, a crazy array of burgers is also showcased. These vary from the sublime to the ridiculous (this year, there’s even a burger with 24 Karat gold leaf). Some combinations work better than others. While I’ve dined on many a fine BOAP burger, last year’s mac’ n’ cheeseburgers were, in this writer’s humble opinion, a complete failure.

As much as I love WOAP and BOAP, there are a few things I’d like to see changed. Firstly, why hold it in the middle of winter? Summer in Wellington is truly something to behold. The harbour sparkles, Pohutukawa’s flower and the weather is fine for weeks on end. Winter, however, is a different story. For months, the grey overcast sky makes Wellingtonians feel like they’re living inside a Tupperware container. It rains for weeks on end, and being winter, it’s always cold, which, when combined with a Welly southerly, makes for a miserable three or four months.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that this isn’t the best time to showcase Wellington, so why hold an event designed to boost tourism and domestic spending in winter? Surely Wellington’s balmy summer evenings would be a far better fit!

While many would argue that there’s already a tonne of events happening in summer, and there isn’t room for WOAP, surely events can be held in parallel.  They might even complement each other.

Another issue that bugs me is the emphasis on using specific locally sourced ingredients. Low food miles sound great, but it excludes a lot of ethnic eateries. This is a shame as Wellington is home to some incredibly good Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Italian and Mexican food. Disadvantaged ethnic eateries aside, requiring all WOAP participants to use specific ingredients limits their creativity, resulting in samey-samey food options. I’d argue this defeats the whole point of showcasing Wellington’s eclectic food scene.

My biggest bugbear with BOAP is the number of what can only be called silly burgers on offer. I’ve previously written about what makes a great burger and have interviewed some of Wellington’s top burger makers. Sadly, a good few burgers I’ve tried have been an exercise in more is less rather than less is more. All too often, there are too many ingredients/sauces. They make for messy eating with far too much going on. To my mind, a good burger should be a Zen-like exercise in simplicity. A good burger should have a balance of acidity, salt, fat and sweetness with some crunch from salad ingredients and a decent toasted bun to top everything off.

These minor grizzles aside, the positives outweigh the negatives of WOAP by a massive margin. Dining aside, food events make WOAP a real must for me. At these, I’ve met the people behind different eateries who craft incredible food. They often showcase how they create dishes and demonstrate cooking techniques, expanding my culinary knowledge. This alone makes WOAP incredibly valuable. WOAP is also a great excuse for trying eateries that I’ve not yet had the chance to sample. Inviting friends and socialising over great WOAP food is also a great excuse.

So, it might be winter. It might be wet and cold, but the food in Welly is freaking awesome! Check out what is on offer and come to Welly for a pig-out!


Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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