From craft beers at Parrotdog to a cocktail from the Hawthorn Lounge, members of the acclaimed group from all over the world give their top picks for the most thirst-quenching places in the city.
Surrounded by steep hills and resting on a harbor at the bottom of the North Island, Wellington is the home of New Zealand’s Parliament and serves as the nation’s capital city of culture and arts. The city’s small size is the city’s civic petri dish that is home to the city’s vibrant restaurant, bar, and nightclub scene, complete with live music being played throughout.
From its beginnings as a two-man-turntable-and-mic act in Wellington’s ’90s club scene, Fat Freddy’s Drop slowly formed into the internationally acclaimed seven-piece band famous for its live performances that exhibit those jam-band roots. The band’s musical improvisation expresses the city’s distinctive culture. Wellington made a name for itself to be the world’s capital for craft beer in the early days, and the city’s quirkiness is a prominent feature in the bar scene, ranging from the raunchy to the elegant.
Over the years, they have played and frequented the city’s bars and nightclubs; Scott “Chopper Reedz” Tower and trombonist Joe “Hohepa” Lindsay of Fat Freddy’s Drop remains passionate about the discoveries that can be made and the experiences that can be enjoyed while moving between venues. Here, they offer their top picks for the best places to drink in the city.
The capital city of New Zealand is fueled by creativity (Credit: Sybille Reuter/Getty Images)
The group’s debut live album, the 2001’s “Live at the Matterhorn,” was recorded at the famous venue located on Cuba St. How did that vibrant club and bar scene along Cuba St, and the city in general in the beginning, affect the formation and development of the group?
Joe, The majority of the members of the band, met at jazz school at the beginning of the 1990s. We began as a jam band; the city’s atmosphere allowed for these long-form improvisations and for musicians from various styles of music to come together in this slow manner.
Scott, All of it converged in the nightclub scene. It was influenced by the large crossover of ideas and concepts from music and theatre schools, DJs, producers, dancers from the stage, and many other social groups: students, professionals, homeless people, creatives, and homeless people. Wellington is akin to an open bowl, where everyone and everything flows into the middle and mixes.
The seven-piece group, Fat Freddy’s Drop, is known for live performances (Credit Michael Palmer/Alamy)
You’d attend to see your fellow performers in a show, then a person would put into a sound system, and then there would be an after-hours celebration in the exact location. There was no rule book – Wellington was not a law-abiding city which certainly influenced us, and the band continues to embody the spirit of that time.
Many of the past bars and clubs, like The Matterhorn, are no more. Where do you go to get a taste of that energy and live music fervor?
Joe, The Hashigo Zake, offers a great experience as a dive bar. I visited last week and saw many students performing their thing, which brought me back in time, and there’s a wide selection of microbrewery beers to drink.
Scott Moon in Newtown, situated in the southern part of the city’s inner ring, is an alternative vibe. There could be a massive reggae music system or an energetic punk group. The bar serves inexpensive pizza on Wednesdays, and there are a lot of delicious cheap eateries in Newtown. The town has an incredibly adventurous vibe and brings us back to the early days.
Go to Moon at Newtown with live performances and pizza for a steal. (Credit: Moon)
Rogue & Vagabond has been a reliable source of jams over the last several years. It’s a smaller venue. That’s just a tiny stage that is raised [and] tables and a bar which are moved back later in the evening, and on most nights of a week, you’ll see young local musicians performing jazz soul, funk, and Afrobeat to a raucous crowd. If you’re attending a noisy concert here and want to reenergize your feet and ears, go up the stairs to its bar, Bedlam & Squalor, for a drink.
Wellington has staked a solid claim to be the world-class craft beer capital. What are your top spots to taste the offerings?
Joe A few of the independent beer breweries operate their bars, including my favorite, Parrotdog. It’s located in [the suburb of Lyall Bay, which is still close to town, but on the south coast, directly on the beach, which means you can walk from the ocean to the bar. It’s a great spot to bring the whole family and your dog, which I love, and on Sundays, DJs are performing. You can order a jug of lager or one of their chicken-based burgers or walk across the street towards Fresko, Two shipping containers that serve delicious fish and chips and excellent Oka (raw fish cooked in the Pacific Island style and chips.
Parrotdog’s cozy brewery bar in Lyall Bay is an excellent family location.
Scott, There’s a good chance that you’re required to visit Garage Project Taproom located on Aro Street when visiting Wellington. The guys started at an abandoned petrol station and can manage to be the patrons of local brew culture and to stay on the cutting edge. They are constantly trying new flavor concepts and techniques. So, when you go for an ice-cold tasting paddle, opt for a blend of session brews that are classic and bizarre knock-your-socks-off weirdies.
In the Hannah’s Lane precinct, check out Goldings Free Dive, which is a free place, meaning that the taps change frequently. They also have cans and bottles of all the local good beers. You can also get Pizza Pomodoro delivered direct to the bar.
To reach Puffin, You must go through the main entrance of an elegant Hotel (Credit: The Puffin)
I’ve heard that wine is making a comeback in urban areas.
Scott, a wine bar scene, has been popping up in the last few years. Puffin is a little hidden. There are no signposts, and you have to walk through the front of a boutique hotel to access the bar. It’s as simple as that: a dimly lit area with comfortable seating, a great selection of wines, excellent music, and excellent service. There’s a lot of buzz around This area between Guzhnee St and Cuba St; however, once you get through the front door and make your way toward Puffin, you’ll be amazed that you’re in a very European paradise.
Joe, Puffin is a bit of a Matterhorn style, and they’re deep into natty natural wines with a wide choice. The road that runs across from the Ascot is also a good one is the Ascot. Ascot is a rooftop restaurant serving hot dogs and wines, and the outdoor space is protected from the breeze, but you’ll enjoy a great view of the bustle of Cuba St.