Webstock - 16-20 February 2009, Wellington, New Zealand

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Beginners guide to Wellington

Wellington is a gloriously compact city, and the Town Hall is right in the centre of it. Webstock is an awesome indoors experience, but make sure you get outside and explore! Here are a few places you might like to check out. It's not a list of everything, but all the places on the list come with the Wellingtonista seal of approval (unless otherwise stated).

Before we get started, we must urge you to make sure that your visit to Wellington lasts long enough to experience the Cuba Street Carnival, Wellington's biggest party. Sure, you'll be in recovery mode from the Webstock After-Party, but believe us, it'll be well worth it.

Eating

Vegetarians, Vegans, Gluten-free and others who are dietarily challenged

Almost every restaurant & cafe in Wellington will offer you a vegetarian option, but finding vegan is harder to do. Some suggestions:

  • Deluxe Cafe 10 Kent Terrace: This tiny cafe has a big range of food, offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free salads, sandwiches, pizza, filos and baked goodness. Everything is clearly labeled too, so youíll know what youíre getting into.
  • Victoria Street Cafe 98 Victoria Street: close to the Town Hall, this cafe has at least six salads on offer and a selection of well-marked cabinet food as well.
  • Midnight Espresso, 178 Cuba Street: Open until 3amish, this cafe is the perfect destination not just for vegans but also for anyone wanting coffee, cake, hot food or the perfect place to watch people in one of Wellingtonís most interesting streets.
  • Aunty Mena's Vegetarian Cafe, 167 Cuba Street: It may look rundown, but you don't go to Aunty Mena's for the decor, luckily, you go for a wide range of Asiany food with fake meats.
  • Duke Carvell's, Swan Lane: a little fancier than the others, but with a great tapas-style menu that lets you mix and match, including plenty of inventive vege options that even carnivores drool over. Plus, the menu has a handy cross-reference matrix at the back to help with all sorts of dietary requirements.

Late-night eating

If you've been out and get hungry, you have more options than MacDonalds and Burger King in Manners Mall and on Courtenay Place. All bars are obliged to offer some kind of food which often takes the form of toasted cheese sandwiches, but if you step out onto the streets, you'll find other places to eat.

  • The Watusi, Edward Street: this Rock'n Roll tiki bar offers an extensive diner-type menu that runs as long as they're open.
  • J&M's, 21a Courtenay Place: The bright lights and hordes of drunks can be a little bit disconcerting, but if you want greasy Chinesy- takeaways, J&M's will provide.
  • Kebabs: there are kebab shops all over the place that stay open until around 4am to provide the traditional food of regret. Our favourite is Sahara at 39 Courtenay Place.

Takeaways

If long days of geeking has taken it out of you and you want to just chill out at home, perhaps you're after food to take home or have it delivered to you?

  • Fish'n Chips: Wellington Trawling Company at 220 Cuba Street come highly recommended, and although it's not cheap, the Port Cafe on Herd Street by Waitangi Park will give you a wide choice of fishes to eat, grilled or battered or crumbed.
  • Pizza: if you're after thin-crust wood-fired pizza, Scopa (141 Cuba Street) and Caffe Italiano (229 Cuba Street) are where you wanna get takeaways from.

Delivery

  • Hell Pizza is the Geek Standard in Wellington. Sure, their site's all designed in Flash circa 2002, but they have a huge selection of sides, salads and toppings.
  • Curry in a Hurry will deliver you Indian food with a minimum of fuss.

BYO restaurants

Looking for something cheap to eat that you can take your own wine to? Here are some recommendations by eating style:

  • Malaysian: Istana Malaysia (1 Allan Street): there are seemingly hundreds of Malaysian places in Wellington, but Istana is getting our nod because it's big, friendly and tasty.
  • Indian: Balti House (78 Victoria Street) offers fresh-tasting food which stands out from the 'same slop, different colours' that other Indian restaurants are known to dish up. Plus, it's right across the road from Webstock, which will save you valuable time.
  • Thai: Ban Mai Tai (111 Vivian Street) is smallish, but has a really extensive menu, and corkage is only $1.95. Hurray!
  • Italian: Honestly, if you want Italian food you'd be much better-off going somewhere licensed and paying a little bit more for a whole lot better quality. But for European-y food, Hazel on Roxburgh Street is classy and not hugely expensive.
  • Japanese: Hede Restaurant (43 Lower Cuba Street) upstairs is crazy busy and bustling, but they're very good at fitting people in. The menu covers a broad range of Japanese food, and their set menus are really great value.
  • Chinese: There are many many Chinese restaurants on Courtenay Place but for big plates of food suited to our western tastes and lovely service we head to Lonxiang at 98 Dixon Street.

Drinking

Places to buy booze in the city

If you want to buy wine or beer, you'll be able to find it at most dairies in the Cuba Street area, New World Metro at 68 Willis Street and the Railway Station, and New World Proper at 227 Wakefield Street. There is also a very nice wine shop called Wine Seeker conveniently located right across the road from Webstock. If spirits are your thing, there's Glengarry on Courtenay Place, Liquor King at 29 Kent Terrace, or the studenty The Mill at 233 Victoria Street.

Bars with room for 20+ people to invade

So you've got yourself a big group, and you're moving venues, or you've made plans to meet up with people and you've spread the word over Twitter. These venues are the most likely to have room for you and all your new friends:

  • The Southern Cross, 35 Abel Smith Street: This sprawling bar has a whole variety of different settings, from high stools, to comfy couches and the biggest garden bar in Wellington (we think) which is perfect for smokers. Their menu runs all day long, there's coffee and great beer on tap.
  • Hope Bros, 31 Dixon Street: While Hope Bros is a brewery-run bar and a little generic, it's big space with an interesting menu, and lots of different spaces for your large groups to place themselves into. Plus, it's nice and close to the Town Hall so you don't need to waste any valuable drinking time walking there.

Bars in which you can hear yourself talk

Conversations are generally the best if you can actually hear the person you're talking to, right? So if you're going for drink and a conversation, here are some places you might want to check out.

  • Superfino: this little cafe/bar at 76 Ghuznee Street offers coffee and counter food by day, and an assortment of interesting cocktails by night, including candy martinis.
  • The Hawthorn Lounge: Upstairs at 86 Tory Street is possibly the most classy bar in Wellington, but that doesn't mean you'll have to put on airs to fit in. With an air of a Gentleman's Club in the 1920s , the service and drink selection here is second to none.

Bars to shake your groove thang in

Maybe you don't want to talk. Maybe you just wanna dance. These places were our nominations for "Best Place to Shake Your Thang" in our Wellingtonista awards, so you should be able to dance here!

  • San Francisco Bathhouse (171 Cuba St) First, thereís the wide variety of gigs that they have Ė from Iron and Wine, to Peaches, to the regular new-wave Atomic nights, to drum and bass. Then thereís the fact that thereís a clear, unobstructespace for dancing right in front of the stage. Add in a super-late license, a big balcony for free air, and a handy Cuba Street location, and youíve got the recipe for one big party going on.
  • Mighty Mighty (Cuba St) When the disco ball is spinning, who knows what madness will take place on the crowded floor at Mighty Mighty? It might be Wellingtonista parents rocking out to Wayne Mason, it may be minimal disco, or it might be one big mash-up of everything thatís random. And thatís what we love about the place - you never know who will be there or what will be going on, even if you do keep abreast of things in a gig guide.
  • Havana (32 Wigan St) The dance floor at Havana is as tiny as any of the other areas in the cute little house, but somehow bongos and funk are still a regular feature. The intimacy of the venue may enhance the intimacy of your night as well, especially given that weíre pretty sure itís not always just cigarette smoke out back.
  • The Watusi (6 Edward St) We are full of glee about the existence of this 1950s rock Ďní roll and leopardskin bar. The Watusiís soundtrack is a breath of fresh air in this city, and their rum liqueurs provide the perfect inspiration to shake it till you make it, especially when thereís a live rockabilly act to get messy to.
  • Sandwiches (Corner of Kent Tce and Majoribanks St) If you like your music in the oonst-oonst, boom-boom, bass-bass parts of your body, Sandwiches may very well be your second home. It plays host to most international DJs when they come to town, as well as an assortment of live bands, and itís consistently winning 'best night club' awards from other people, so there must be something good going on there.

Everything else

Getting around the city

You can walk everywhere in Wellington, but if you choose not to, buses in the inner city (from the Railway Station to Courtenay Place) will cost you just $1 (ask for a city fare). You can find out more information about the buses on the GoWellington website.

If you're after a taxi, the Wellingtonista like Green Cabs because it's a hybrid fleet. Their free-call number is 0508 4 Green. If Green Cabs aren't available, the biggest company in Wellington is Combined Taxis, on 0800 THE CAB.

Places that offer wifi

We hear rumours that large foreign generic "coffee shops" have their own kinds of wifi available in store, but we can neither confirm nor deny. Instead, we will point you to cafenet.co.nz for lists of places that you can buy prepaid wifi and receive signals, and also put in special recommendations for the following spots:

  • The Film Archive, Taranaki Street: Home to a huge collection of films, videos, television shows, commercials and an exhibition space, the Film Archive also has a 1960s Futuristic feel, with good coffee and booze available.
  • Southern Cross, Abel Smith Street: This sprawling bar has a whole variety of different settings, from high stools, to comfy couches and the biggest garden bar in Wellington (we think). Their menu runs all day long, there's coffee and great beer on tap.

Tech supplies

Dick Smith Electronics in Manners Mall is the closest electrical shop. Their staff may seem a little aloof, but they tend to know their stuff, and best of all, their website will list availability of all their products.

Wellington doesn't have its own Apple Store, but there's a lookalike in The Bay on Lambton Quay. Meanwhile the two big telecommunications companies Telecom and Vodafone have shops all over the place for your mobile needs.

Shopping

You can walk around Wellington so easily that no doubt you'll be browsing freely, but here are the Wellingtonista's nominees for the best shops in town:

  • Eyeball Kicks (225 Cuba St) Reach up and touch your hair. Is it slicked back with grease, or nicely formed into a bouffant? Do you own a switchblade? Are the front wheels of your hotrod smaller than the back wheels? Do you like to drink from mugs that look like carved heads? Yeah, you need to get to Eyeball Kicks. Itís the essential store for tiki-freaks, greasers, loungeheads, Rat Finks and hot-rodders. Also we love their support of local artists.
  • Unity Books (57 Willis St) Back by popular demand. Unity Books has won this award for the last two years running (see picture) and people still ask for it, so Unity must be doing something right. Letís see - itís a bookshop that is a pleasure to browse, and with knowledgeable staff who are more than happy to guide you in the direction of a book youíll love. Hmm, it might be something to do with that.
  • The Fromagerie at Kirkcaldie and Stains (Harbour City Shopping Centre on the corner of Lambton Quay and Brandon Street) In these days of soaring cheese prices, it makes sense to choose quality over quantity. For some of us, this is the best thing about the Kirkís empire, and there are samples and knowledgeable cheesemeisters to help you choose your daintily wrapped selections of exquisite stinkiness.
  • Slow Boat Records (183 Cuba St In this modern digital age, where the local record shop is a dying breed, Slow Boat is still around and still thriving with their bins full of lovely lovely vinyl. Whether youíre after something specific or just wanting to browse for inspiration, Slow Boat is a jewel of Cuba Street.
  • Wineseeker (86 Victoria St) Wellington is blessed with several independent boozeries run by fantastically dedicated people, but Wineseeker is a definite favourite. The convenient location helps, as itís between the CBD and the entertainment district, making it great for BYO. Daily tastings, discounts, a quirky selection and super-friendly staff make all the differenceÖ and did I mention the singlesí nights?
  • Mandatory (108 Cuba St) We all know that they sell fantastic clothes for men whoíd rather look like neither a corporate drone nor a street kid on acid (Iím looking at you, Good as Gold). But itís their service that sets them apart, and the fact that they can tailor or tweak a garment either to suit your eccentric tastes (ďCan you make the collar a little more 1960s, please?Ē) or just to make your arse look the best it can possibly be.
  • Ziggurat (144 Cuba St) Ziggurat doesnít make their own clothes, but, hey, neither do many other clothing stores. What sets Ziggurat apart is that it is a second-hand clothing store with some fantastic vintage clothes. In fact, the difference between first- and second-hand can be over 80 years. Need a 1940s suit for a chapsí night? Or maybe a prom dress? You know Ziggurat will have something to suit. And if you donít want it later, sell it back to them.
  • Duncan, & Prudence, (141 Ridiford St, Newtown) Newtown may be a bit shit but these guys have been pumping out homegrown, suburb-loviní T-shirts for a while now and have recently expanded into jeans and shirts. Youíll come out looking like a well-tailored slacker.
  • Madame Fancy Pants (217 Cuba St) Madame Fancy Pants have carved their tiny store in Cuba St into more than a niche market. Cute shoes, cute jewellery, cute clothes; itís like they built the store out of bunny rabbits and kittens. Also their service is beyond nice, youíll come out feeling youíve made new friends.
  • Swonderful (95 Victoria St) Swonderful is a sweet liíl boutique, showcasing emerging Wellington design, art and craft. Originally in Brooklyn, Swonderful made the move to Victoria Street in October this year. Swonderful's house label, Papercup, is designed and handmade by owner Ginny McMullen and her mum. Papercup jewellery is cute and quirky, its clothing a bit like classy-vintage-Paris-cupcakes, and other bits and bobs are just gorgeous and beautiful and we want! We want! We want! They're so Wellington, they even make Swellington tees and totes.