A few days in Wellington with orcs, artisanal charcuteries + tamarillo cupcakes.

After a day hiking the volcanoes, we trudged back to the campervan and drove four hours down to Wellington. We finally got in late in the evening, and drove the windy, hilly streets to find what could possibly be the coolest hostel I have seen in a while. We parked our little van on the corner, loaded our stuff into our rooms, and hit the streets to look for food.

We walked the entire city, where everyone was out and about, drinking, eating, partying. I’d heard of a New Orleans themed diner at the other end of the city, so we head over to Sweet Mothers Kitchen and got ourselves a booth. We grabbed some po’boys and hush puppies and sat around chatting.

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The next morning, Namita and Peter wanted to go for a drive to visit one of the parks from the Lord of the Rings, but Eric and I were keen to just wander the town.

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So we split ways early in the morning. Eric and I head out to explore leisurely, stopping for brunch at Floriditas, which I hear, is a Wellington institution.

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Situated on Cuba st, there’s nothing particularly Cuban about it apart from the name. In fact, the cafe has a distinctly French/New Orleanian vibe, with an abundance of panelled wood and tiling. Known locally for their in house artisan baking, we hit them up for a late brunch as that seemed the best time to sample their restaurant menu as well as their cake display.

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They were off to an excellent start with a crispy, buttery potato hash, mixed with fresh dill and parsley and chunks of soft smoked mackerel, topped with eggs and drizzled with oil (NZ$19).

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Next up came the ubiquitous eggs benedict, but the creamy hollandaise was drizzled over tender melt-in-your-mouth chunks of ham off the bone (NZ$17.50) – no processed slices here.

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Finishing up with sweets we opted for the most obscure option – the white chocolate and tamarillo cupcake. While the sweetness of the white chocolate and icing sometimes overpowered the subtle tang of the tamarillo, the combination was a definite winner.

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We then wandered around down near the waterfront until we had to jump on the bus to head out to the swanky town of Miramar in Wellington, where we were meeting Peter and Namita for a tour of the WETA workshop (the special effects studio for the Lord of the Rings).

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As soon as we got there we ran into these big guys from the movies.

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After a delicious lunch of lamb meatballs on housemade papardelle at The Larder, just next door, we head in for a tour of the workshop.

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We saw heaps of props from the movies (and other movies such as Avatar and District 9). No photos inside unfortunately.

On the way back, we dropped into Wellington’s first artisanal charcuterie, Big Bad Wolf. A mere glance inside speaks volumes about the culinary renaissance the city is experiencing. World class restaurants and cafes join downtown coffee roasting houses and dedicated organic farm fresh grocers. Big Bad Wolf steps up the game in the meat department, specialising in free range pork products, a wide variety of bacon, cured meats, terrines, and a huge range of sausages. Filler-free and made in house, taking influence from well known dishes around the world. Duck l’orange? In a sausage. Thai green curry? You guessed it – sausage.

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Here you can get sausages filled with NZ’s wild game: rabbit, parsley and lemon; paua (known elsewhere as abalone), pork and fennel; or spicy tahr, which is a Himalayan mountain goat introduced into New Zealand in the early 1900’s. Meats are sliced to order, and they usually have a whole pig on a spit in the back corner.

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We bought some interesting flavours of sausages for a fry up in the back of our camper one morning in the not so distant future.

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Big Bad Wolf specialises in head to toe, making sure no part of the animal goes to waste. They are butchers and chefs – the animal comes in to the store and they process everything on site, ensuring quality every stage of the process. For those who are used to buying supermarket sausages, expect the prices to be higher, but you are paying for handmade meats made with real ingredients, that are gluten/pre-mix flavouring/filler/chemical free, and flavours you would never expect from the humble sausage. You are also paying for small batch processing, healthy and happy lives for the free range and wild animals, and healthy, pure meat products.

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Later on we head up to the Te Papa museum on the waterfront and went inside a Māori Marai, a sacred building that had been donated to the museum so that people could learn about Māori culture.

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The boys filled out a kids quiz to give themselves a tribal name or something. They were pretty serious about it.

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Afterwards, we head up to the top floor where there was a huge map of New Zealand. We weren’t 100% sure where we were heading to next after we went to the South Island the following day, so we thought this was the best (and most humorous) way to plan it out. Also, we could see which routes had the most snow here.. Using our camera case as a representation of our campervan, we plotted out our route around the south island.

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To finish up the evening, back to a Mac’s brewbar for my favourite ginger beer and a game of chess.

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