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Whitebait, Wellington, New Zealand

Whitebait owner and Executive Chef Paul Hoather was wizard of our favourite Wellington restaurant, The White House Restaurant until it closed.  We long anticipated dining in his venture at Clyde Quay Wharf, Whitebait, and on Saturday we finally did!

Paua shell light installation

Paua shell light installation

The modern interior is entirely different to the traditional The Whitehouse Restaurant, with natural hues of wood and natures soft shades on chairs, all below the stunning paua shell light installation above. Although warm, particularly on a winter’s night, there is something of a corporate look to the room.

The Start

Here, seafood is the star.  With that in mind, we ordered accordingly.  The Kiwi ordered the Leigh snapper and cloudy bay clam ceviche, with fresh coconut cream, lime, chilli and crispy fried plantain ($23).  He loved it, so fresh with a nudge of spice. It made him search for a recipe for ceviche, a sure sign of a well appreciated dish if it in inspires!

Garfish and burn toast

Garfish and burn toast

I chose the Paremata garfish “Boquerone” with parsley, shallot, lemon, garlic with hand-made sourdough josper grilled bread ($24).  I asked what “Boquerone” meant and was told this refers to the spanish inspired manner in which the fish is pickled and marinated, and this was beautifully delicate, providing a sweetness and slight sharpness at the same time.  Unfortunately, the beautiful, hand-made sourdough bread was cremated – oh, the humanity!  What chef lets, what is effectively toast, so cremated even cross the pass?!  Rather irritating, and not what I expected from this esteemed kitchen. By the time I finally managed to get wait staff’s attention I was nearly finished the fish, but she ‘could see’ that the bread was burnt and I managed to get a fresh piece of sourdough, unfired, to accompany my last bites of garfish.  Begs the question, if the wait staff could see it was burnt why didn’t they question the kitchen before presenting it to me?


Main plates 

The Kiwi and I both honed in on two dishes so he ordered the Salmon and I chose the Tuna.  The Blackened Ora King salmon with Moroccan spiced lentils, pumpkin and spring onion salsa ($36) was simply delicious, a perfect winter dish.  Nothing could be faulted and the Kiwi loved every bite.

Smoked tuna

Smoked tuna

My Josper grilled smoked tuna with camarillo, winter citrus and broccoli rabe pesto ($38) was a revelation.  My first bite of the tuna was so overwhelmingly smoky I thought I’d chosen poorly, however a bite with the tamarillo and the whole experience was transformed, the smoky taste more subtle!  Never before had I eaten tamarillo in a savoury dish and I am not sure how the tamarillo was prepared, but it was fabulous. Despite that, I would say the salmon won best dish out of the two.

Of course my pet hate occurs again, when it comes to side dishes, but having had starters we felt no need to add to the dishes ordered.  As always, my view is ‘why isn’t the dish complete already?!’ when you are charging $38!

We washed our dinner down with a Mountford Liaison Chardonnay 2011.  The bottle doesn’t get to clutter your table, however your glass never goes empty – a sign of great service, when you can’t recall your glass being filled as service is so unobtrusive.  The service was for the most part good, however staff appear to have ‘their own tables’ to look after and if your waitron isn’t around you are left floundering (pun intended!), such as with my starter.


We shared the Valrona Manjari chocolate with cocoa spiced quince and toasted coconut ($18) dessert, which turned out to be a rich chocolate mousse with the quince providing a lovely contrast to the richness of the dark chocolate.

Wrap up

At Whitebait “The seafood is treated with the reverence it deserves”, all while working with their suppliers – a role call of whom feature at the back of the menu – to minimise carbon footprint, harvested sustainably and respecting natural resources, which may make things taste all the sweeter.

When we settled the bill we were asked if everything was ok so my husband said that ‘aside from the burnt toast, everything was good, thanks’ and this was met with a slow, understated ‘sorry about …that’, thus an opportunity to excel in customer service was lost – give us a sourdough loaf to take home by way of apology, or at least look us in the eye and apologise, even better remove the dish from our bill!  It was the kink in what would have been an excellent meal.  It won’t stop me from recommending Whitebait, and from how busy it was it doesn’t matter whether I do or not, however having had such wonderful experiences at The White House Restaurant, it does leave me sad for those ‘good, old days’.

Whitebait, Clyde Quay Wharf, Wellington – +64 (0)4 385 8555

Posted in Restaurant Review, Travel.

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