November 28th, 2019 JoAnne Carr

Wellington cleans up at Cuisine Good Food Awards

There’s no other way to put it, so we’ll just say it outright with a not-so-subtle lack of humility and big side helping of civic pride - Wellington cleaned up at the Cuisine Good Food Awards

The capital’s restaurants nabbed six out of the 13 Award categories - more than any other New Zealand city - and 14 Wellington restaurants earned one or two of Cuisine’s coveted hats, bestowed to those at the very top of their game and on par with a premium global dining standard. 

We chatted to the Culinary Capital’s category winners and hatted restaurants - we’re proud to say, all festival participants in Visa Wellington On a Plate - about their accolades, which restaurants they want to visit, and why Wellington keeps on cleaning up. 

Logan Brown - Cardrona Distillery Best Metropolitan Restaurant and two hats

Shaun Clouston, Executive Chef, Co-owner & Chief Bottle-Washer

There were six Wellington category winners out of the 13 categories - more than any other city centre. What do you think these wins say about the Wellington culinary scene and what do you think makes the capital’s industry so successful?

People don’t realise how lucky we are here in Wellington. Everyone in the hospo industry works together and supports each other because we believe in the Wellington’s culinary scene, and want it to be successful. 

You just don’t easily find that in other cities. When these Awards were being announced last Monday there was a whole bunch of us [from the industry], hanging out at Drunken Octopus, waiting on results and congratulating each other as they came in. I bet you Wellington was the only city where that happened! 

What Cuisine Good Food Award-winning Wellington restaurant are you keen to go to?

We always end up going where our mates are. My wife and I are big fans of Shepherd, and we go there often. And we also love going to Boulcott Street Bistro, they’re good mates too. Their restaurants are absolutely great, but we also go there because we love the people too. 

 

Rita - Two hats

Paul Schrader, Co-Owner

How did it feel to go from one to two hats? What do you think Rita has done well in the last year to earn that second hat? 

A new restaurant is never a fully resolved entity when it first opens the door. Having just entered our third year, every service deepens our understanding of what Rita is, and this recognition gives us courage to keep investing in our particular approach to food and hospitality.  We are really happy that traditional criteria that have previously determined the quality of a restaurant are being examined and would love for that process to continue. Proud to be part of the Wellington food community, it feels really strong and vital at the moment. 

What Good Food Award-winning Wellington restaurant are you keen to go to?

We are fans of a long lunch at Capitol on our day off!

 


Hiakai - San Pellegrino Best Specialist Restaurant and two hats

Monique Fiso, Chef Patron 

You've had an extraordinary year of awards and accolades from all over the world, and now Hiakai has two hats from the Cuisine Good Food Awards, and took out the Best Specialist Restaurant title. With all these wonderful acknowledgments, what does the Cuisine Good Food Awards win mean for yourself and Hiakai? 

Achieving two hats in our first year is an amazing achievement and a testament to the hard work and determination of every single team member at Hiakai. Winning Best Specialist Restaurant is a big win for the team, but for me, it is an even bigger win for Maori and Polynesian cuisine that, up until this point, hasn't had a restaurant purely devoted to this style of cuisine ever gain a hat. 

It's also the first time a woman of color has ever achieved two-hats as the Executive Chef & Owner of a restaurant, hopefully that will inspire other young Maori and Polynesian women to aim for the same and higher.

There were six Wellington category winners out of the 13 categories - more than any other city centre. What do you think these wins says about the Wellington culinary scene?   

It shows that Wellington's food scene is as strong as ever. The Wellington hospitality community is very collaborative. We're much more about working together to help each other succeed rather than against each other. The fact that almost half of the category winners were from Wellington just shows that you can achieve much more when you support each other than when you compete against each other.

What Cuisine Good Food Award-winning Wellington restaurant are you keen to go to?  

I haven't been to Rita since it first opened so I feel like I'm overdue for another meal there. I have a lot of respect for Paul and Kelda. They're brilliant operators and have given so much to the Wellington food scene for over two decades.

 


Charley Noble - Best Drinks Experience 

Renée DuMonthier, Bar Manager

Charley Noble has won back-to-back category titles - what is the secret to retaining that title in a city that has such a strong cocktail offering?   

Thankfully, Charley Noble has a strong bar team who work and collaborate well together in an environment that encourages creativity and is blessed with room to experiment. Combine that with amazing support from the kitchen team, incredible suppliers and loyal guests, the bar/drinks list has a sturdy foundation to build on. Utilising all of these assets and aspiring to recognise what is working and what is not in an ever-changing environment is important. Leaning on support and working collaboratively is crucial.

What Cuisine Good Food Award-winning Wellington restaurant are you keen to go to?

We’re spoiled for choice in Wellington! We do love and support Capitol - brilliant people and such an enjoyable dining experience!

 


Shepherd - Epicure Trading Best Casual Dining Restaurant and two hats

Shepherd Elliot, Executive Chef and Co-owner

Shepherd has gone from one hat last year to two hats and a category win. What was your reaction to winning your category, and what does this win mean to you, and for the restaurant? 

I was completely stunned by the news. It was a surprise to get Best Casual Restaurant and even more of a surprise to get two hats. With the change in judging I thought it would be great to keep our one hat, let alone get another one!

The win is recognition of all the hard work the whole team at Shepherd have put in this year. It's always good to be able to step back and look at where you have come to over a year. The awards are a good time to do that.

What do you think Shepherd has done well in the last year to earn that second hat and category win?   

I think we have been very consistent this year. We’ve put good systems in place that have given us the confidence to work together as a team, both front of house and kitchen. We also have an amazing group of talented people working here, who put everything into giving everyone who comes to Shepherd a wonderful experience. We also have a lot of small local producers who supply us with incredibly good ingredients. This makes our job a lot easier.

What Cuisine Good Food Award-winning Wellington restaurant are you keen to go to? 

Rita and Hiakai

 


Noble Rot - Best Wine Experience and one hat 

Josh Pointon, Owner

Noble Rot has won back-to-back category titles for Cuisine’s Best Wine Experience, as well as for the Felix Wellington Hospitality Awards for Outstanding Wine Experience for three years in a row - what is the secret to retaining that title in a city and country that has such a strong wine offering?

The key that both Maciej [Zimny, Noble Rot Head Sommelier] and I feel is consistency, staff training and dedication to your vision. Build relationships and be humble, and success will find you 

What Cuisine Good Food Award-winning Wellington restaurant are you keen to go to?  Wellington hospo did so well! For myself, I am really keen to get to Rita and Hiakai. Maciej is keen to get back to Shepherd and check it out.

 


Hippopotamus - Two hats 

Jiwon Do, Executive Chef

How did it feel to gain Hippopotamus two hats within your first year at the restaurant?

Bursting with pride! What a fabulous achievement for all the chefs and for the front of house team.

What do you think earned the restaurant those two hats? 

Hippopotamus is a theatre where we deliver the programme, or the story, if you like, to the guest. The script is built and created on the plate by our talented chefs and myself and the performance is given by the most talented front of house members. The win was made possible through the hard work of our team. This is a phenomenal accolade and recognition.

What Good Food Award-winning Wellington restaurant are you keen to go to? 

Hiakai - there are many amazing restaurants in Wellington that I can truly speak highly of and willing to dine in, and Hiakai is the top of my list.

 


Boulcott Street Bistro - Pead PR Food Legend/Long-term Player and one hat

Rex Morgan, Executive Chef and Partner

Boulcott Street Bistro won the category for Food Legend/Long-term Player - what does it take to have longevity and ongoing appeal in an industry where trends and tastes can change readily?

Having the right team is essential. But it’s about everything in hospo - not just the one thing: it’s about wine, service, the food, the people. It’s never about one thing. 

What Cuisine Good Food Award-winning Wellington restaurant are you keen to go to?

I’ve been to all of them! Our [hospitality] scene is quite tight. We like to support each other and share our experiences. We’re all on the same page. 

 

Congratulations to all the Cuisine Good Food Award-winning and nominated restaurants around the country! Check out the full list of winners on the Cuisine website.