Jessie Wong launched her eponymous luxury leather goods label Yu Mei (‘Yu Mei’ being her middle name) in 2015 after being unable to find a bag that could “carry everything”.
Wong and her partner Jack have called the Wellington suburb of Roseneath home for the past two years; her ties to the windy city are strong, having grown up in the Capital and lived there most of her life.
“Wellington has great walking tracks, native birdlife, cafes, restaurants and culture and I love living in a compact city where nothing is more than 10 minutes away,” she says.
Her and her Yu Mei team recently launched a new collection for spring/summer, with a dynamic digital runway presentation filmed in Wellington’s Breaker Bay (you can watch and shop it at yumeibrand.com), and featuring models styled exclusively in secondhand finds - sourced by Wong and stylist Seb Hunt from a local Wellington SaveMart.
Favourite place for a drink?
Puffin is a wine bar that always marks the first stop of an evening. They have a rotation of different natural wines by the glass, and a small but perfectly formed selection of cocktails. My favourite is their Amaretto Sour.
Best place for breakfast?
Poached eggs on toast at Floriditas with a side of vine tomatoes when they are in season.
Where do you get your morning coffee - and what’s your coffee order?
Lamason Brew Bar on Lombard Lane is my go-to. I get an oat milk flat white and it’s always excellent.
The restaurant you’ve been going to for years?
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that Loretta will forever be my favourite. My standing order is the farro salad, the crème fraîche and dill flatbread, some sides and if we’re getting dessert, the freeform pie.
Favourite restaurant to visit with friends?
Restaurant Amok - I had my birthday dinner there this year. The food was amazing and the hospitality was fantastic.
For something fancy?
Rita, always. A three course menu that changes daily (we love a surprise) with optional add-ons and an impeccable wine list.
Best ‘cheap eat’?
Artcraft bakery on Bond St. My whole team gets lunch there most days - you just can’t beat a humble egg sammy.
Brunch on a Sunday: where would we find you?
Probably at home in our freshly landscaped garden. If we’re lucky, Jack is baking some sourdough and I’ll be adding any one of Fix & Fogg delicious nut butters.
Your local bar or pub?
The Waitoa in Hataitai - part owned by my friends Brooke and Leighton and bonus that they let you bring your own dinner from any of the local takeaways.
Favourite place for date night?
During the pandemic - it’s at home, with a bottle of Black Estate and a great playlist. Is it embarrassing to admit at home dance parties have become a thing?
Your regular supermarket?
Where do you go for ‘special’, non-supermarket food or drink?
Wine Seeker on Victoria St for unbeatable recommendations and the convenience of world-class wines on our doorstep.
Favourite place for live music?
I have to admit there hasn’t been a whole heap of live music over the last few lockdown months, but I did see Molly Payton at San Fran earlier this year and she was incredible.
Favourite gallery or museum?
Too many to choose! Jhana Millers Gallery, Hamish McKay Gallery, City Gallery Wellington & Te Papa. Team Yu Mei are very much looking forward to the Hilma exhibition coming to the City Gallery in December - what a woman and what a life!
Where do you go for some relaxation or a beauty treatment?
Best kept shopping secret?
Yu Mei Wellington. I’m probably biased but even after two years the fit-out still gets me. The drinks fridge hidden in the point of sale is my favourite hidden feature. Stop by and we’ll pour you something cold.
Favourite clothing store that never lets you down?
Hunters & Collectors on Cuba St for something unique, or the Wellington City Mission store on Taranaki St - I always find secondhand gems at both!
Where do you go for a workout?
Space Yoga in Roseneath - views across the harbour in the stillness of sunrise are the best way to start a day.
Where do you go when you’re after local art or design?
Jhana Millers has a great curation of local artists; and Vessel stocks Paul Melser ceramics - my favourite ‘Wellington’ (Wairarapa) potter.
If someone was visiting your neighbourhood/city for the first time, what’s the one place you would recommend they visit?
I would recommend they come over to mine for a BBQ and marshmallows around the fire, we have a lovely view over the city and harbour and it’s the perfect place to soak up Welly on a good day. If the weather didn’t permit, I'd recommend a trip to the Embassy Theatre for its historic architecture and luxurious viewing experience.