Wellington is the world capital of café culture. A bold statement, but as soon as you walk down a few streets in this cool little city you'll see just what I mean. With so much variety, it was incredibly difficult to pick only ten! The way I chose was to determine where I would want to go for excellent food and drink.
I'm a sucker for French food prepared well and paired with delicious cider. That's why Café Breton is number one for me - succulent savoury galettes and sinfully sweet crêpes washed down with some imported Val de Rance in the traditional ceramic cups. My favourite choice is 'La Bergère' galette filled with goat cheese, walnuts and honey. There is also a selection of cabinet food and meal options that aren't of the crêpe variety (think that of a French bistro). There aren't many tables, so it's best to book ahead or arrive early, especially if you're in a group.
Where you can find it: 20 Brandon Street
How much it will cost: $14-19 galettes, $6-13 crêpes
Not a traditional café, Six Barrel Soda serves burgers and fries to accompany milkshakes and - surprise! - sodas. Still, it's one of my all time favourite places to grab lunch, a snack or a drink with friends. The lemon salt fries are to die for, and the cherry pomegranate soda is so tasty I find it difficult not to drink it down before the food has arrived! An added bonus is that you can buy bottles of soda syrup to whip up the drinks at home. These also make great gifts.
Where you can find it: on the corner of Eva Street and Dixon Street up a flight of stairs
How much it will cost: $16.50 for the bottles of soda syrup, $12-20 for a meal
What could be better than fresh salads made to order with the ingredients you choose? Kapai serves healthy, fresh and filling meals in your choice of salad, wrap or puku (a large lightly toasted pita pocket). It's a million times better than Subway! I go for spinach leaves topped with grilled capsicum, roast kumara, pumpkin, and pine nuts drizzled with lemon juice. Now I'm drooling. As you can mix and match, it's a great place for those with dietary restrictions.
Where you can find it: check the website for locations, they've expanded and there's probably one near you!
How much it will cost: DIY large salad from $9.20, DIY puku from $8.90, premade pukus $9-12.50
Though the name is clearly not Italian (I imagine Regina George saying "This is in, like, Swedish or something"), this gelateria is as good as and even better than many in Italy. No joke, I have tried a buttload of gelaterias! Some flavours are always available, such as the strawberry sorbet (try it!), but some flavours rotate. When I can find it, I always choose maple walnut or cinnamon. Their hot beverages are also decent, but there isn't much seating in the Courtenay Place Kaffee Eis so you'll likely want to sit under the Tripod or in Aro Park.
Where you can find it: there are now stores on Courtenay Place, Cuba Street, Oriental Parade and Frank Kitt's Lagoon
How much it will cost: ~$4-8
Not much to look at from the outside, Merkato in Miramar serves wonderful Italian fare in a no-frills setting. Just so you can imagine the awesomeness, picture a big slab of baguette and inside are meatballs covered in a rich tomato sauce sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese. Now imagine that alongside it is a cold can of aranciata rossa San Pelegrino and to finish is a delectable tiramisu (in a takeaway container so if you're full after the meatball sub you can take it home for later). Yeah. You need to come here. Soon. Take the bus or walk, I don't care, but get here somehow. Pretty much everything they cook is spectacular. (They make pasta and pizza al taglio too, and really good croissants.)
Where you can find it: 37 Miramar Avenue, though you can also buy their pasta sauces at Moore Wilson's
How much it will cost: $7-18
You've probably heard of this one, as it is super popular. Located in an old surf lifesaving building right next to the sea, Maranui is always busy and because it delivers great food and drinks (except oddly the cabinet food - I've been burned a couple times). I recommend arriving early in the morning for a pre-work brekkie - the pancakes! Get the pancakes I beg you! That way you can also watch the sunrise over Lyall Bay and sneak in a quick beach walk before beginning the daily grind.
Where you can find it: The Parade, Lyall Bay
How much it will cost: $10-25
Newtown will always fill a warm place in my heart, and not least because of all the great eateries here. If I had to pick just one, Pranah would come out guns blazing. Not only is the coffee superb, and the menu filled with an array of tasty options, but the cabinet food is spot on. I don't know where they got their recipes from, but they are doing everything right. They're also really good at preparing vegan and gluten-free fare and always have plenty available. Go for a coffee, go for a weekend brunch or go for a muffin - whatever, just go! (Special thanks to my D&D crew who always patiently wait while I take a million pictures of their food and make them take my picture doing a double thumbs up next to walnut pancakes...hmmm, I guess I like walnuts huh?)
Where you can find it: 120 Riddiford Street, Newtown
How much it will cost: $8-16
Just across from the National Library in Thorndon, WoM is perfect for lunch. It's like it was conceived and planned entirely around lunch! Each day, they have a different soup of the day, panini of the day and hot meal of the day. Then they have six huge bowls of different salads, which you can mix and match as you like. For over a year I worked in dangerously close proximity and ate here at least once a week (more like 2-3!). The 'hot meals' were usually what I went for, and were very varied: one day you'd have chicken tagine, the next mushroom risotto and the next stewed lamb. The cakes and slices are very good, but be aware that the coffee can be hit-or-miss. You can handily see what the daily offerings are on their website.
Where you can find it: 100 Molesworth Street, Thorndon
How much it will cost: between $6-20 depending on how hungry you are - there's plenty of options!
Located right in the heart of Courtenay Place, Enigma is place to go when you're in need of a caffeine fix or a filling meal. This was my go-to when I was downtown with some time to kill, as there's an abundance of space so you can almost always nab a table and they're open late. The food isn't anything special, but the portions are huge and if you're wanting some comfort food you've come to the right place (wedges and nachos and soup - oh my!). There's a cornucopia of cakes on the counter which are lovely when you want something sweet with your coffee. The caramel slice is about ten centimetres tall! So caramel.
Where you can find it: 128 Courtenay Place
How much it will cost: $8-16
Another Newtown pick (forgive me, I'm biased!), Monterey is good at three things: brunch, board games, and hipster vibes. It's seriously so hipster. You have been warned. Come here for French toast (sweet or savoury), doodling on the paper tablecloths, and a game of Guess Who? or ten - it was fun to play as a child and it's still fun now that I've allegedly become a grown up. I've heard their burgers are also nice, but the Cajun skinny fries are so moreish that I eat a whole bowl as a meal! (With the homemade ketchup.)
Where you can find it: 4 Rintoul Street, Newtown
How much it will cost: $10-20