Hippopotamus, Wellington, New Zealand

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It's a city with a reputation for hard-hitting rugby, trendy cafés and windy weather, but New Zealand's sleepy capital also has a vibrant dining scene. And if you can only choose one fine dining experience, make it the glamorous Hippopotamus.

  • Location: At the QT Museum Hotel, Wellington.
  • The menu: If you love classic French food with a few twists and plenty of pizzazz, this restaurant will not disappoint. The broad menu has a delicious lineup of comfort food and fine-dining dishes designed to satisfy any appetite.
  • What else is there: The hotel has another venue, Hot Sauce, and a Lobby Bar, but you won’t want to tear yourself away from Hippopotamus. 
  • Why go: It’s one of Wellington’s top restaurants, coupled with great cocktails and a romantic setting. And it’s in a top notch hotel worth staying at too.

The Space

This oddly-named icon of the Wellington dining scene was retained after the 2017 QT takeover and makeover, and is still a fine dining experience and a hip and happening place to see and be seen. From its exquisite decor to its French-inspired cuisine, it's a gem of a spot which fits any romantic getaway in Wellington. Level three of the arty QT Museum Hotel on Cable Street is where you'll find it, along with stunning views across Lambton Harbour, and like the rest of the hotel, Hippopotamus has an over-the-top decor embracing its artistic heart, with lashings of French chic. Dark walls offset the bright chrysanthemum-patterned carpet, and the mirrored bar serves as a perfect backdrop to the vividly upholstered antique French armchairs. 

The Experience

There are many ways to experience Hippopotamus, including Early Evening Dining with two or three courses from a dedicated menu (you have to vacate your table by 7pm). In keeping with current culinary trends, there’s also a modest menu dedicated to vegetarian and vegan cuisine, and another with food to enjoy at the bar. For most gourmands, however, you should plan on a long evening which starts with cocktails at the bar (the mixologists are terrific), and ends with a nightcap gazing over the harbour. In between there’s a fine dining experience to savour. If you are really hungry, you can dine from a Discovery Menu of five to eight dishes with the option of wine pairing. Or as we did, just order a la carte. We started with fresh New Zealand oysters and salmon sashimi, the latter a recommended signature dish which didn’t disappoint. From the selection of mains we opted for a roast Belmont Hill lamb rump, served with black lentils, aubergine caviar, yoghurt, kumara hummus and rosemary jus, and hubby couldn’t go past the Ora king salmon with sorel beurre blanc and caramelised leek. Sides included a traditional potato gratin with Gruyere cheese, and a simple garden salad. There was no room for dessert after such a feast, but the offerings, including the creme brûlée, were tempting, and the wine list was what you’d expect; a decent selection of offerings with a focus on local grapes.

UltimateTravelMagazine.com Loves 

  • The elaborate decor.
  • The cocktails, especially the gin based Oops I Dropped The Gunpowder. 
  • The sushi was exquisite. 

Insider Tips  

  • Bookings are essential, especially on weekends, as it is always busy.
  • Go early to enjoy the sunset, and relax with a cocktail before dinner.

The Details

Hippopotamus is located at QT Museum Hotel, 90 Cable Street, Wellington, New Zealand, www.qthotelsandresorts.com.


Joanna Hall