October 25th, 2019 JoAnne

Visa WOAP's Rugby World Cup Semi-Final Food Picks

The Rugby World Cup 2019 and rugby fans around the globe are gearing up for a weekend of semi-finals. You’ve drawn the office sweepstakes, placed your bets, argued about the veracity of allocated yellow/red cards - but do you know what you’re going to eat? 

Rep your semi-finals team by popping out and enjoying some of its local cuisine! Take your pick from some of the capital’s best Welsh, English, South African and Kiwi kai - and why not some Japanese? (Since they’ve been such awesome hosts, and the Japanese rugby team has been nothing but an absolute joy to watch.)

The Visa Wellington On a Plate crew makes its semi-final picks for Rugby World Cup food spots this weekend...

Wales - The Welsh Dragon

The global commentary stated the Welsh were lucky to scrape past the quarterfinals against a French side, which continuously baffles with a style of rugby that walks the line between brilliant and bumbling. But did you know Wellington is lucky to call itself the home of the first Welsh Bar in the Southern Hemisphere? 

The Welsh Dragon Bar is the only Welsh pub in Wellington, and home to all things Cymru, including music and cuisine. It serves up Welsh Rarebit Soldiers, a delightfully monikered dish, which presents a squadron of granary toast slices smothered with rarebit mature cheddar, as well as the Team Cymru Cheeseburger, a Welsh take on the classic cheeseburger, with rarebit cheddar, smokey leek relish and ale sauce. 

The pub also has crunchy pieces of pork crackling, made with pork rind sourced from the local butcher, alongside lashings of homemade apple cider sauce. Pork crackling isn’t really confined to this particular cuisine, but it goes with the whole rustic, hairs-on-your-chest, Welshy vibe, doesn’t it? 

And if you’re a fan of the rugby team, this is the bar where you'll find your tribe. The Welsh Dragon shows all Welsh sporting fixtures on its big screens, and you better believe it’s showing the rugby semi-final. Polish up your singing pipes and lock yourself in for several choruses of Bread of Heaven

England - The Churchill

Some may argue that England isn’t known for its ground-breaking cuisine. If you’re being arch, some might say the same applies to their style of rugby. 

But you can’t argue with an English rugby team in the semi-finals, making Kiwis all over the world more than a little unnerved at the prospect of a loss against a team backed by the most vainglorious rugby media in existence. An English win with an Australian coach at the helm? We’d never hear the end of it. 

Ahem. Back to the food… You also can’t argue with the good, nurturing English pubby fare at The Churchill, with the likes of Mini Yorkies, slow-cooked brisket stuffed Yorkshire puddings, horseradish cream and herb smashed potatoes, Fish Finger Butties with creme fraiche tartare sauce, and Pigs In a Blanket, chorizo sausage wrapped in bacon with English mustard mayo. Wash it down with a pint of beer! 

Fine. We’ll eat their food. But we won’t cheer for the team. (You know they’re just going to sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot throughout the haka, anyway.) 

South Africa - Scheckter’s Deli

The Springboks - old friends and foes of the New Zealand rugby fraternity. Pundits are predicting the tournament will end as it started, with these two teams which clashed in the first weekend of pool matches, going head to head in the final. 

So if you’re in this camp and already have the English and Welsh teams relegated to third place play-offs, start stocking up on the boerewors and biltong for your Rugby World Cup final party at Scheckter’s Deli

It’s situated within Petone’s international mini-market, Ontray’s, which also stocks South African culinary goodies, such as Mrs Ball’s Chutney, Rooibos Tea and Ouma Rusks. 

Our personal favourite is Scheckter’s massive, meaty range of biltong. Take your pick from a variety made with different rubs, varying degrees of dryness and cuts. One VisaWOAP team member says his family barely hit the motorway back to Wellington, before they find their bag of biltong completely depleted. 

Also, we hope this somewhat preemptive entry mentioning an All Blacks versus Springboks final doesn’t come back to haunt us. 

Karaka Café - New Zealand

Nothing says “New Zealand” like the All Blacks. Or a nation on edge during a Rugby World Cup. Or a hāngi. 

Karaka Café, situated by the lagoon on Wellington’s waterfront dishes up the best ‘mean-Maori-mean’ cuisine in the capital. Its specialty is a takeaway hāngi, a take on the traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven (or an ‘umu’). 

Karaka reckons the flavour is just as good as a traditional underground hāngi; heated by steam and flavoured by smoke in oven smokers, your mini hāngi feast includes pork, chicken, pumpkin, carrot, cabbage, potato, kumara and stuffing (there's a vegetarian option too). 

So get the whānau together, grab your hāngi to go and watch our mean as our rugby team go for three in a row. Ka rawe!! (‘Awesome!’)

Honorable mention: Tatsushi - Japan

We can’t write up a food-related Rugby World Cup blog without acknowledging the host nation and tournament darlings, Japan. 

Their rugby team, the Brave Blossoms, have surprised and dazzled the globe with their bullet train-fast, attacking style of rugby, especially against some of the big gun teams, and it’s been awesome to see Japanese fans get behind them, as well as supporting other international teams in a show of positive sportsmanship rarely seen from homeside fans in previous World Cups. 

We think that kind of exciting rugby and good hosting deserves a culinary shout out to Tatsushi, which has some of the best Japanese food in the capital. 

You can choose from some complementary beer-drinking food such as chicken or soft shell crab karaage and tempura. Or if you’re setting your sights on making the All Blacks team selection next tournament, grab a platter of some of the freshest slices of sashimi you will find in town. Tsugoi!! 

At the end of the day, rugby - and in this case, semi-final-related food - is the winner. Best of luck to all the semi-final teams in the Rugby World Cup 2019!