I love living in The Hutt. As a small-town boy with bogan blood running through his veins, there is nothing as soothing to the soul as the sound of burnouts and police sirens in the distance on a Saturday night, or the ‘Road Closed’ and ‘Flooding’ signs out around the river after every decent rain.
But seriously folks … I really do love it here. Everything is close, everyone is friendly, there is always something to do with the kids, and as much as Wellington City is the coffee capital of the country, in the Hutt we have some amazing places to get great food and a hearty, barista-made beverage.
With that in mind, here are my top 5 places to get a …
There was a time, before Antonio and Luisa Cacace's son grew into one of the finest football talents New Zealand has produced for years, when they were best known as the owners of La bella Italia in Petone. Liberato Cacace became a star at the Phoenix, then went to Sint-Tuiden in Belgium and became a bigger star, and now he’s playing Serie A football in Italy. So these days a lot of the conversation in La Bella is about Lib and how well he’s doing and what he’s up to and whether he’s been home lately and how proud they are. The most beautiful thing about that conversation is that you can have it over one of their award winning pizzas. The authentic wood fired Italian pizza at La Bella actually won a prize for being the best in the world*. Even Liberato can’t claim that title. Yet.
4. Date Scone
Buzz Cafe was always famous for its pancakes, before several relocations and a rebirth in its current spot next to Toyworld. But it’s their scones that draw the crowds now. Not just for taste - but the sheer size of the things is magnificent to behold. Over the first lockdown the scones were missed so much by locals that Michael (the owner) put videos up on facebook so we’d be able to make them at home. The cheese scones are very good, but make a date with a date scone and you’ll not be disappointed.
3. Fish Tacos
Isn’t it a very 2020’s sort of a dish - the taco made with fish. It seems like everywhere you go now there is a fish taco on the menu. And, while no one wants to point fishy fingers at those who need to be schooled in the way to make them, not all fish tacos are created equal. The Seashore Cabaret on Petone’s foreshore makes a taco packed with punch and slaw and battered delight. They are the best there in town - it’s o-fish-al.
You’ll go nuts for the doughnuts at Fix Federation. You’ll see lines of parents with the kids in muddy Petone soccer kits, or shivering in their netball skirts, fresh from the Taita courts, all wanting a bag of their small, ball doughnuts. And yeah, they’re good. But the real star of the show is the cream-filled dream behind the glass of the counter. Oh. My. God. Big, doughy buns overflowing with fresh cream and jam, or nutella, or caramel, or whatever else. They are a meal in themselves and even if the kids lost the game -
1. Oat milk flat white.
Yes, this one is oddly specific. As of about a year ago I have had to be dairy free. This is not by choice, it’s a health thing. I have given up ice cream and cheese (and cheese sauce) and the best chocolate, and those Fix Federation cream doughnuts and a lot more besides. One thing I didn’t have to quit was coffee. Because an oat milk flat white is actually delicious if it’s done right. The oat milk version of this very Wellington drink is a lot more fickle than it’s cow crafted alternative. One place stands head and shoulders above the rest for brewing the best. The Coffee Box in High Street, Lower Hutt. Even if I’m allowed back on to the dairy, I don’t think I could give up what they’ve introduced me to. Obviously I’ll be straight back into the cheese.
* La Bella was the only restaurant in New Zealand to be named as one of the 70 Best Restaurants with a Pizzeria in the World in 2018.