Wellington is a beautiful city, surrounded by a bustling harbour and green hills dotted with weatherboard houses. Visitors can spend their time catching the old-timey cable car to the Botanic Gardens, gawking at the national museum's colossal squid or hiring a bike for a shoreline cycle.
This kind of activity requires sustenance and the New Zealand capital can deliver. In fact, you could just bypass the sightseeing altogether and spend 24 hours taking in Wellington's best food and drink experiences.
You've just checked into your hotel after a long flight and what's come before (and what lies ahead) calls for a stiff drink. Your first port of call should be The Hideaway bar (2 Plimmers Steps) for a textbook Manhattan from cocktail champion Vince Lombino. The place buzzes with inner-city office workers around knock-off time and you can play a game of pool, or slide into one of the blood-red booths. The kitchen fries a quality chicken; however, you can find better chook 15 minutes walk away at Ancestral (31-33 Courtenay Place). Located in the centre of Wellington's bar and pub hub, the smartly decked-out restaurant and bar has excellent yakitori and a tightly curated drinks list, focused on organic and hand-tended wines.
After chicken on a stick and Beaujolais, a beer seems to be in order and Wellington is a craft-brew heaven (if you're properly into your saisons and session lagers, you will want to spend a full day exploring all 10 or so craft-brew bars). Hashigo Zake (25 Taranaki Street) is hard to pronounce and harder to find (underground, down a laneway), but it also has a range of local and imported craft brews that will have the geekiest of beer boffins champing at the bits. It's not the most ambient place for a drink, though, and the Malthouse (48 Courtenay Place) is a swankier joint for a streetside pint of New Zealand lager.
If you're in Wellington for a good time, not a long time, a multi-course degustation featuring slow-cook merino rib and wild Fiordland venison at the restaurant in town, Logan Brown (192 Cuba Street), might not fit on your dance card. Good thing the joint has a pre-theatre, three-course option then. Yes, you have to be out by 7.30pm but at $NZ45, it's ridiculously good value.
If Brown's big flavours and game meat aren't your thing, Ortega Fish Shack and Bar (16 Majoribanks Street) has you covered for local seafood, smiling service and sherry.
Welly is chock-a-block full of must-visit boozers. How many you can get to is up to you, your liver and next-day plans, but for a post-prandial quaffer, Motel Bar (Forresters Lane) should be your first port of call. The down-a-back-alley tiki bar is overflowing with good vibes and fruity, rummy, flaming cocktails. Good times will be had. The Library (1/53 Courtenay Place) is on the same block as Motel, and worth a look for its prohibition vibes, duck-fat-washed sazerac and live jazz. However, if you're only keen for one more, then bypass the the Library and head straight to Hawthorn Lounge (2/82 Tory Street).
If you have mates meeting you later at Hawthorn, best let them know where you're going before heading up this speakeasy's stairs. Not because you will never leave (although that's possible given this is home to the best cocktails in the North Island), but because legend owner Peter Lowry really doesn't like mobile phones in his bar and will give you a right telling off if you spend the whole time Snapchatting rather than real-life chatting. Instead, sink into a Chesterfield, sip on a negroni and toast to a night well spent.
OK, sheesh, you're still going? Wellington can provide. Havana Bar (32a-34 Wigan Street) has DJs after 10pm, gin-heavy cocktails, lots of rum and a colour scheme turned up to 11. If you're partial to a cigar with your Old Fashioned, the bar can accommodate with a tight selection of Cuban cough sticks. Meanwhile, Matterhorn (106 Cuba Street) has been stoking log fires and pouring schnapps since 1963. The intimate spot is more chic than chalet these days and terrific for dinner (try the beef flank) or a late-night local cheese plate and warm whisky cocktail like the butter-washed Blue Blazer.
For the last drink of a long night, look for the venetian blinds of Crumpet (109 Manners Street), a two-minute walk from Matterhorn and open until 3am Friday and Saturday. With black-and-white checkered floors, floral tablecloths and mid-century signage, it might be the most attractive bar in Wellington. Or at least the kind of place where you can picture Marty McFly's parents canoodling on a date in Back to the Future. Pull up a stool and put yourself in the hands of bartender Tim McCall who will know what you want better than you do, whether it's a glass of water or shot of Fernet.
Late, late night
Did you know McDonald's in New Zealand sells pies? Do with this information what you will.
If you're in need of caffeine, but lacking the ability to walk very far, slip on a shirt and take yourself to a Mojo store (there are more than 20 locations in the city). The boutique roasters have been in the bean business since 2003 and are a local success story that make consistently good coffee. The smaller-scale, fun-loving Memphis Belle (71-81 Cuba Street) also knows how to brew the black stuff with aplomb and does a mean apple crumble on the side.
After a coffee to kick-start your engine, mosey over to the light and airy Floriditas (161 Cuba Street) for, as the menu heralds, "eggs, eggs and more eggs". Get 'em soft fried with bacon, poached with ham off the bone, or scrambled with hot-smoked salmon. Beware the triple-shot Bloody Mary.
All you need to know about lunch is Sweet Mother's Kitchen (5 Courtenay Place). And all you need to know about Sweet Mother's Kitchen is jerk chicken. The all-day cafe wouldn't look an inch out of place in the American south, and neither would its menu, full of po' boys, gumbo, Cajun blackened fish, hush puppies, corn bread and jerk chicken – marinated in an 18-spice marinade with a splash of rum. Order a no-nonsense sazerac to wash it down and don't leave without hitting the next-level pie cabinet, full of ginger slice and all things nice.
Callan Boys travelled on behalf of Destination New Zealand and Princess Cruises. All meals were paid for independently.