Wednesday, May 22, 2024

It’s Burger Wellington Time! Our Top Picks for the Capital’s Best Foodie Weekend

Calling all Wellingtonians and any pending visitors: it’s Burger Wellington time! This year, for the first time, the Visa Wellington On A Plate festival has moved its main courses to May, and is holding Burger Wellington in August (11th-27th) which totally makes sense as otherwise there’s SO much to choose from. Paralysis of choice is a thing!

There are also a lot of choices within Burger Wellington, with establishments in wider Wellington (including the Kapiti Coast) offering more than 200 burgers – and using, wherever possible, ingredients from local producers.

Burger Wellington’s official name is ‘Burger Wellington Presented By Garage Project’, so many of the burgers have an optional beer match from this Wellington craft brewery. If any month is the time to have a beer with lunch, this is it. Also, Beervana is on today and tomorrow (August 18 and 19), with 50-plus local and international breweries offering samples of 340 brews. The day sessions have sold out but there are still tickets to the evening sessions.

But back to food. As a vegetarian since age 11, I’ve scanned many menus with only one vegetarian offering – or had to ask for non-meat dishes, feeling like a bit of a bother. But things have been a-changing over the years.

Happily, Burger Wellington has 12 vegetarian (10 savoury, two dessert) burgers to choose from. Also, some establishments whose offerings are meat-based have a *V on the WOAP website, meaning they’ll make a vege switcheroo for you. Also, meat-eaters might like to see how vege burgers stack up. So here are my top picks (it’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it!).

Chaat Street, a popular pop-up turned restaurant, beat 200 contenders to win best burger last year – for a vegetarian burger no less. They’re keeping it simple this year with ‘Halkatraz’, which has spiced green jackfruit, with saunth chutney and onion-and-carrot pickle in a Brezelmania sesame milk bun. Yum. Jackfruit has a sort of meatiness that means it can be the hero of a burger. Halkatraz pairs perfectly with a Garage Project Liquid Refreshment beer featuring yuzu (a tart Japanese citrus). Will Halkatraz be voted best burger this year?

Chaat St’s ‘Halkatraz’

At Nolita, New Zealand’s first plant-based pizza & pastaria, everything is vegan. I’ll forgive its burger ‘I’m Spudacus’ for ‘slouching’ (sliding sideways) because I LOVED it. It has vegan mortadella and a smoked-cheese potato-rosti patty, with vegan mozzarella fonduta, pickled zucchini, Kōkihi herbed iceberg, beetroot crisps, salsa verde and smoked-tomato ketchup, in a La Linda red and green ciabatta bun, with tomato-salted fries and pickle mayonnaise.

Nolita’s ‘I’m Spudacus’

At The Jaya’s Wine Bar, which doubles as a family-friendly restaurant, they’re making the ‘Chat-pata’. The Brezelmania potato milk bun is green, to evoke the containers made of plants that Indian street food is sometimes served in. There’s a crumbed patty made of potato, coriander, ginger, green chilli and Jaya’s home-ground aromatic spice, with Indian-spiced Zany Zeus yoghurt, tamarind-and-date chutney, spiced smashed chickpeas, spicy potato noodles, radish, carrot, beetroot, ginger, green chilli salad and coriander-and-mint chutney. Yes that’s a LOT to get into a bun, but they managed it – and, dang, it tastes good.

The Jaya’s Wine Bar’s ‘Chat-pata’

Malaysian restaurant Kanama Kopi Kadai has produced ‘Oo la la’. This is Burger’s Wellington only offering that’s both gluten-free and vegan – and it’s also healthy and delicious. There’s a sourdough bun, a crunchy sago-and-spiced-potato patty, with iceberg lettuce, red onion, sauteed capsicum, Spicy Smoked Barbeque Apostle Hot Sauce, and coconut sambal, with a tempeh cracker atop. It’s served with baby corn on the side – a healthy alternative to fries – that you dip in chili aioli. The beer match of Garage Project’s ‘T Sauce’ tastes like, well, tomato sauce, so it may or may not be your thing.

Kanama Kopi Kadai’s ‘Oo la la’

If you’re really dedicated to the cause, have yourself a savoury burger then visit The Library Bar for its dessert burger ‘Chocolate E’Clairy’: star of its ‘Hairy MacLary’ theme for Burger Wellington. There’s a Toffee Pop brûléed Schnitzel Von Krummed chocolate patty, with blueberry Muffin McLay ketchup, lemon Zany Zeus crème fraîche mayonnaise, Candy Cutique freeze-dried chocolate candy floss, and Bluebird salted potato chips in a salted-butter Dough Bakery brioche bun, covered in spots (like Bottomley Potts). It’s petite and, somehow, not too sweet. It’s also lip-smackingly good; the chips somehow work here. There are also Hairy MacLary-themed cocktails!

The Library Bar’s Chocolate E’Clairy

You could also go to ‘Food of the Future’ (22 August) at wine bar/bistro Cinderella. Renowned chef Shepherd Elliot will talk about cutting-edge farm-to-plate ideas he’s testing at The Development Kitchen. Also, local company plan*t, which makes fake-meat products with plant-based proteins, will showcase the ‘meat-alternatives’ of the future. You’ll get a vegetarian slider cooked on local company The Gas Hub’s fast, efficient hydrogen-gas BBQ – and get a mystery goody bag.

Salads can wait til September.

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