I would never have contemplated eating at The Thistle Inn in a million years and was so grateful for an opportunity to do a mystery shop here. Simultaneously I got a history lesson.
Wellingtonians we house New Zealand’s oldest public tavern! Built in 1840 and rebuilt post a fire in 1866, the Thistle Inn still operates from its original site. No sign of wild plants or Scottish kilts here. This beautiful old building steeped in history still looks great today. Regular punter Maori Chief Te Rauparaha used to park up his waka and drink whiskey here for free, as well as poet Katherine Mansfield drank her favourite tipple here.
We were pleasantly surprised with the lovely, warm ambience that greeted us. The place was flooded in natural light with such a nice buzz.. There are are many places to house yourself, either in the main dining room, outside in the covered verandah, the private dining room or you can scale the stairs to three other private areas.
This is not your average pub grub. This is awesome tucker. The wine list was extensive and affordable and we ordered a lovely Otago Pinot. Both hungry, we dove into our entree of monkfish and prawn brochettes with a cress and lemon dressing. The fish was so fresh and just melted in your mouth and combined beautifully with the prawns and citrus flavours. It was also really attractively presented. We were tempted by the paua fritters or scallops but passed as not wanted to spoil our mains.
Both of our waitresses were friendly and knowledgeable. I was torn between the lamb rump and venison loin but opted for the recommended latter and so was not disappointed. It came with all my faves; roasted beetroot, vine tomatoes, artichokes, rocket and feta and each mouthful had the right sweet, and salty flavours and was just sensational. I didn’t want this meal to end. Hubby chose lambs fry, bacon, potato, jus topped with onion rings. He really enjoyed it but he did say mine was better. We were going to order a side of truffle fries but then forgot, darn it. Not that we needed them but I am wooed by anything truffle-related.
Each main had a beer or wine match even with the burger or fish and chips. Believe me, these are not your stock standard pub mains. The desserts that whisked past us looked amazing and brought great smiles to the clientele, especially the affogato and cheesecake. We just couldn’t do it, so lived vicariously through their bites.
This is a convenient local for politicians and govt workers for lunch or dinner. They also cater for special events and boutique conferences. We were advised the menu was changing for Autumn, so we certainly would not hesitate to swiftly return. It’s classy and elegant with food, wine and service to match. It helped me immediately get over my pub snobness. I left whistling a happy Thistle tune!