Yu Mei Designer Jessie Wong’s Stylish Guide to Wellington
Yu Mei founder and designer Jessie Wong, known for her chic accessories and personal style, shares her guide to the capital.
Jessie Wong launched her eponymous luxury leather goods brand, Yu Mei (her middle name), in 2015 after being unable to find a bag that could “carry it all”.
Wong and his partner Jack made their home in the suburb of Roseneath for two years, but his connection to the Windy City is strong, having grown up in the capital and having lived there most of his life.
“Wellington has great hiking trails, native birds, cafes, restaurants and culture, and I love living in a compact city where nothing is more than 10 minutes away,” she says.
The Yu Mei team recently launched a new collection for Spring / Summer, featuring a dynamic digital presentation filmed at Breaker Bay (you can watch and shop it at yumeibrand.com), and featuring models designed exclusively in second-hand finds, sourced from Wong and stylist Seb Hunt of SaveMart.
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Favorite place for a drink?
Puffin (60 Ghuznee St) is a wine bar that always marks the first stop of an evening. It offers a rotation of natural wines by the glass and a small but perfectly formed selection of cocktails. My favorite is his Amaretto Sour.
Best place for breakfast?
Poached eggs on toast at Floriditas (161 Cuba St), with a side of vine tomatoes when they are in season.
Where do you get your morning coffee – and what’s your coffee order?
The Lamason Brew Bar (corner of Lombard and Bond streets) is my go-to. I get a matte white oat milk, and it’s still excellent.
The restaurant you’ve been going to for years?
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that Loretta (181 Cuba St) is my favorite. My standing order is the farro salad, crème fraîche and dill flatbread, some sides and, if we have dessert, the freeform pie.
Favorite restaurant to visit with friends?
Amok Restaurant (18 rue Majoribanks). I had my birthday dinner there this year. The food was amazing and the hospitality was fantastic.
For something extraordinary?
Rita (89 rue Aro) always. A three-course menu that changes daily (we love surprises), with optional additions and an impeccable wine list.
The best “cheap”?
Artisan bakery (10 Bond St). My whole team eats there almost every day. You can’t beat a humble egg sandwich.
Where would we meet you for brunch on a Sunday?
Probably comfortable in our freshly landscaped garden. If we’re lucky Jack makes sourdough and I’ll add one of Fix & Fogg’s delicious nut butters.
Your local bar or pub?
Waitoa (32 Waitoa Rd, Hataitai). It’s partly owned by my friends Brooke and Leighton Roberts, and they let you bring your own dinner from one of the local take out.
Favorite place for a date?
During the pandemic, it’s home, with a bottle of Black Estate wine and a great playlist. It’s embarrassing to admit, but home dance parties have become a thing.
Your usual supermarket?
Moore Wilson’s, corner of Tory and College streets, if I’m shopping. Otherwise it is Common sense organics for delivery.
Where do you go for a special non-supermarket food or drink?
WineSeeker (86-96 Victoria St) for unbeatable recommendations and the convenience of world-class wines on our doorstep.
Favorite place for live music?
There hasn’t been a lot of live music in the last few months of lockdown, but I saw Molly Payton in San Fran (171 Cuba St) earlier this year, and she was amazing.
Favorite gallery or museum?
Too many choices. Jhana Millers Gallery (level 1, 85, rue Victoria); Hamish McKay Gallery (16 Jessie Street); Wellington City Gallery, Civic Square; and Te Papa (55 Cable Street). The Yu Mei team is looking forward to the Hilma exhibition at the City Gallery in December.
Where do you go for relaxation or beauty treatment?
Spring Spa (108 Tory St) – Shereshta for the eyebrows or Garyin for the nails. Hana-Akari (278 Cuba St) for a massage.
The best kept buying secret?
Yu Mei (85 Victoria Street). I’m probably biased, but even after two years the layout still works for me. The beverage refrigerator is my favorite hidden feature. Stop by and we’ll serve you something cold.
Favorite clothing store that never lets you down?
Hunters & Collectors (134 Cuba St) for something unique, or Wellington City Mission (180 Taranaki St). I always find used gems at both.
Where are you going for a workout?
Yoga Studio Space (8 Look Rd, Roseneath). The views of the harbor during the stillness of the sunrise are the best way to start a day.
Where do you go when looking for local art or design?
Jhana Millers has a great selection of local artists; and Vessel (87 Victoria St), stores ceramics by Paul Melser. This is my favorite potter from “Wellington” (Wairarapa).
If someone was visiting your neighborhood for the first time, what is the one place you would recommend that they visit?
They should come to my house for a barbecue and marshmallows around the fire. We have a great view of the city and harbor, and this is the perfect place to soak up Wellington on a good day. If the weather was bad I would recommend a trip to Embassy Theater (10 Kent Tce) for its historic architecture and luxurious viewing experience.