What to do when one’s parents come to town and want to take you out to dinner? We usually quiz our fellow Wellingtonistæ around the office watercooler: there’s always an opinion or three on a subject like this.

Given we had to cope with a not terribly adventurous (in the culinary sense) older bloke, and two small kids, where could we go that was classy yet satisfy our varying requirements? There were many good suggestions:

  • Zibibbo – classy, plus PIZZA for small people;
  • Roxy – quiet, tasty;
  • Joe’s Garage – newly opened chain restaurant in Tory Street;
  • Portofino – another newly opened chain restaurant, in the Meridian building;
  • Le Metropolitaine – French, and known for a good steak;
  • Osteria del Toro – Mediterranean for everyone;
  • Crazy Horse – for a meat frenzy;
  • Gusto Bistro – Petone’s finest;
  • the Lido – an old standby, great food for the price.

The real PortofinoSo in the end we went to Portofino (the real Portofino in Liguria is pictured – thanks Pendolino – not the restaurant, sadly). 

The location is good if you work in the suity part of town – it’s by the waterfront looking out past the north end of the Queen’s Wharf T, and you can watch the ferries and tugs on the water.

We were also pleased with the service (and perhaps when the staff are mostly Italian, bringing two small kids along seems to help). The kitchen was open to view, so we took the kids over to have a look and the head chef came and had a chat to them. Lovely.

However the food was a little disappointing. While we were all reasonably happy with our selections, there seemed to be something missing in the menu. It was good but not great, solid but not inspiring, and was somewhat overpriced for what could have been a menu from any establishment on Lygon Street (and just like Lygon Street, the maître d’ was out snagging just about anyone who happened to wander by).

So in summary: Portofino is nice enough, and is a safe pair of hands for upscale family dining. But in Wellington that’s probably not enough, and we think you can do better for the price.