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Wellington has spoken. The vote is in and we have our Best of Wellington winners 2023. Our little city is spoilt for choice in so many ways, making this a tough competition with some extremely close voting.
A big thanks to all our nominees, campaigners, supporters, and to all to all you lovely lot who voted in your thousands to show your favourite businesses a whole lot of love! You all make Wellington the best place to be.
After some dodgy batches and plenty of experimenting, founders Joe and Mike discovered the perfect formula for delicious real fruit syrups that worked in cocktails, mocktails, or a soda. “This is how Six Barrel Soda was born.” Asked about their secret ingredient for success, Amy says, “As well as making wonderful drinks, we love being a force for good in the industry and have strong sustainability goals.”
Known for gooey donuts, and sweet pastries, Belén has also worked its vegan magic on mince and cheese pies, croque monsieur, and meatball marinara croissants. Since opening in April, 2021, Belén has been on the up and up. The secret ingredient to its success? Along with support from friends and family and customers, it’s “blood, sweat, tears, early mornings and late nights! With some solid months of super physical, 100-plus-hour weeks.”
Hawthorn Lounge embodies the vibe of a 1920’s speakeasy – “warm and inviting, a place you want to sit for a while” – and is themed around owner Justin McKenzie’s grandfather’s study. The seventeen-year-old bar focuses heavily on classic and creative cocktail making, using high-quality interesting ingredients. Asked what they’re best known for, Justin said, “longevity and consistency” which is comforting in these times of uncertainty.
With a giant, jointed wooden hand reaching out from the side of the building, Fortune Favours is hard to miss. Founder Shannon Thorpe took the brave leap of starting his own brewpub in 2017 in the “craft beer capital”. Scott de Graf says, “We love Wellington so much we named a beer after it,” referring to their IPA, The Wellingtonian. “Wellington has a creative energy like no other city. Anything goes, and it’s the reason we produce some of the best beer in New Zealand and the world.”
Returning from his travels around the states, owner Dan Haycock thought Wellington was missing a “burger-first” restaurant – a “spot to hang at the bar or around the table with friends.” Burger Liquor became an ode to the burger bars in America, aiming to always make the best burgers in town. According to Dan, they are best known for their World-famous Smokey Burger, which is “So good it was once named one of the top seven burgers in the world by an international writer.”
Amanda Holland opened her retail and interiors store Small Acorns in 1993, and in 2017 floated the idea of a café next door that would offer a nice break from the retail environment, and extend the offerings in the area. In April 2019 Squirrel opened as a joint family venture. Asked about a recent highlight, her daughter Milly Brunel says, “Winning the Wellington Avocado Toast Awards was a special one indeed. We won People’s Choice in 2022, and it was nice to take out the big boy this year.” Try their award winning avo toast on Blair Street.
The best part of Doug Johns’ day “often involves coffee. Sometimes it’s the first one in the morning that I pour into a thermal mug, and with it head out to the dog park. Sometimes it’s the first coffee off the espresso machine when I get to work.” Coffee Supreme, started 30 years ago by founders Chris Dillon and Maggie Wells, roasts really good coffee – “You might even say it’s Supreme.” They pride themselves on the quality, consistency, and flavour of their coffee, all wrapped up in a great brand.
Massimo Tolve founded Pizza Pomodoro in Wellington in 2000 to introduce authentic Neapolitan pizza, a rarity at the time. His wood-fired, handcrafted pizzas boast a soft yet crisp crust, awarded certification by the Italian governing body overseeing global pizza production. “I’ve worked hard to get it as close to the original product as you can outside of Italy.” Wellington’s sense of community and its special qualities captivated Massimo, making it the perfect place to call home.
Duck Island manager Rebekah Bakker said “We call our team ‘ducks’ and they’re the absolute best ducks in town. Every single duck is an ice cream fanatic and they often suggest flavour ideas, which sometimes we even make. Looking at you, Hummus ice cream (yes, it was actually yum).” Get some delicious quality small batch ice cream by the ducks at the recently opened Duck Island in Willis Lane.
Sharing is at the heart of Middle Eastern dining – food, conversation, and good times, which is what Dean White focuses on at Kisa. Dean is no stranger to the hospitality scene, also owning Mr Go’s, Ombra, and LTD. Asked why he likes restaurants, Dean says, “I’d say it’s the food, but I love the energy. When you see an empty restaurant it’s just another room. Fill it with staff and customers from all walks of life, and they bring that energy. So, probably, people.”
“Since human arrival, at least 51 bird species, three frog species, three lizard species, one freshwater fish species, one bat species, four plant species, and a number of invertebrate species have become extinct in New Zealand”, says Marketing and Comms Manager Sam Irwin. Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with a vision to restore the Karori reservoir valley to the way it was before the arrival of humans.
Emma Smith opened Miss Maude in Greytown in 2019 out of a desire to share the joy of creating and to bring garment-making supplies to the region. The store stocks a range of high-quality fabrics, patterns, and sewing supplies. “We want people to focus on the process and to not worry so much about the outcome. I believe it’s not about perfection, but simply giving something a go, using your mind and hands in a way you don’t usually.”
Alan Preston founded and opened Unity Books in 1967 to create a space of relevance, where books connected people and conveyed ideas. “Alan was passionate about books and proudly endeavoured to look after local authors and poets within Wellington’s rich literary culture,” says manager Adrian Hardingham. Asked what he loves most about Wellington, Adrian says, “The city has a strong culture filled with talented artists, creators and writers. It is always great to see the communities that are fostered within these groups and the support that they share.”
Ruben Bryant has always loved selling and connecting with people, and when he came back to Wellington in 2004, aged 26, he decided to create a new shopping experience with Good As Gold. “I wanted to create a friendly place to shop for rad stuff.” It started super small at 140 Victoria Street, and over the years has slowly got better at what it does, following a loose business plan, according to Ruben. Its latest label is CAHU, a Parisian bag brand made from upcycled bouncy castle materials, available at the Bond Street store.
Manuela Lipsham started Flowers Manuela on the first day of Spring in 1998 so she could share her love of nature and her artistic and individual style of floristry. This spring will mark Flowers Manuela’s 25th birthday, and they’ll be celebrating with a whole bunch of daily specials. Manuela says she is lucky to have a team of “greatly supportive and talented people. I couldn’t do it without them.”
At 15 years old, Jason Hurier started hairdressing in France. He met his Kiwi wife Kajal during her OE, and in 2015 they returned to New Zealand. After two years working in a barbershop, Jason ventured out on his own, becoming the owner of The French Barber, where he takes pride in offering his customers “a luxury grooming experience, providing quality cuts and beard services with professional, old-school barbering flair.”
When asked for a recent highlight for Trade Aid Petone, Manager Annabel replied, “Hearing young consumers asking the hard questions, for example, ‘But how much do the producers really get?’” Started in a garage by Christchurch couple Vi and Richard Cottrell, Trade Aid has grown into an international fair trade whānau. Since 1973, Trade Aid has worked with small-scale food and craft producers around the world to improve fairness in trade.
Following in the footsteps of her mother Ava who opened the first I Love Paris store in Dunedin in 1988, Samara Collins opened Wellington’s store in 2004. Since then it has acquired “a wonderful team who are all very passionate about providing great service and who really enjoy fashion. They all have their own individual styles and love helping customers find the right shoes for them, whether it is matching a pair with an outfit for a special occasion, finding a classic ‘do everything’ style or helping move someone out of their comfort zone into a new look.”
Bringing nature indoors, Wellington Apothecary is a botanical factory, herbal dispensary, and natural therapy clinic. With tea always brewing, they make ev-erything at the Cuba Street store, “fresh and by hand. You can see and smell products being made, which makes for a unique immersive shopping experience,” says Jemma Scott. Herbalists, naturopaths and nutritionists are in store to offer advice, or even just sit and chat.
Lyall Bay beach, which stretches for a kilometre and a half, is a popular surfing spot for Wellingtonians. Home to two surf lifesaving clubs, and once the site of the surf lifesaving championships, the water is often speckled with wetsuited hopefuls waiting for a wave. Located right by the airport, it’s fitting that it won the coveted Best Beach award sponsored by Wellington Airport. Fun fact: Lyall Bay was once known as False Bay, because ships would mistake the bay for the entrance to Wellington Harbour.
For people-watching or street photography, this is the place to be. Our best ‘burb, as voted by you the public, is Newtown. Originally a working-class suburb, Newtown has become a hub for artists, students, and immigrants, making it a great neighbourhood. Newtown exudes a rugged yet irresistibly hip vibe with things to do around every corner – including the much-loved annual Newtown Festival, which attracts around 80,000 people.
Revamped in 2016, Motutawa Avalon Park in Lower Hutt is a must-see for Wellingtonians. The six-hectare park has lots of facilities including a playground, climbing walls, a public tennis court, a children’s cycle circuit, mini-golf, and a miniature railway. The playground is designed for preschoolers up to 12-year-olds, with a particular focus on equipment designed for enjoyment by children with disabilities. It has a mix of contemporary and traditional play equipment, with seating, picnic tables, a shade canopy, and a deck area.