Top 20 Dining Experiences in New Zealand

As an island nation with a primarily agricultural economy, New Zealand yields produce from the land as well as the sea, treating it with precision, care, craft and a whole lot of Kiwi love. Gourmands, wine sommeliers and food experts will discover a whole new world in New Zealand’s restaurants, the hallmark of sensational fare. And it’s not just the food, it’s the overarching dining experience that’s so instrumental in this foodie culture. They say you’ve got to taste a culture to truly understand it. We couldn’t agree more. What better way to taste this culture than by frequenting its most glorious restaurants? This year, explore New Zealand’s finest eateries and invest in looser pants, of course.

Here’s a summary of what you can expect from each:

• The French Café, Auckland – NZ/French Accents

• Cassia, Auckland – NZ/Indian Accents

• Antoine’s, Auckland - NZ/French Accents

• Clooney, Auckland – NZ Cuisine 

• Palate, Hamilton – NZ Cuisine 

• Mister D, Hawkes Bay - NZ/Italian Accents

• Te Awa Winery and Restaurant, Hawke’s Bay

• Pacifica, Napier NZ/Mediterranean Accents

• The Larder, Wellington – NZ Cuisine 

• Logan Brown, Wellington – NZ Cuisine 

• Ortega Fish Shack, Wellington – NZ Cuisine 

• Urban Oyster Bar and Eatery, Nelson – NZ Cuisine 

• Black Estate, Canterbury – NZ Cuisine/Organic Accents

• Pegasus, Canterbury – NZ Cuisine 

• Pescatore, Christchurch NZ/Italian Accents

• Amisfield, Queenstown – NZ Cuisine 

• Botswana Butchery, Queenstown – NZ Cuisine 

• Fishbone Bar & Grill, Queenstown – NZ Cuisine 

• Rata, Queenstown – NZ Cuisine 

• Bistro Gentil, Wanaka - NZ/French Accents


1. The French Cafe, Auckland:

Hauraki Rail

A 20-year-old legacy of French cooking continues to chassé forward. The French Café serves up an elegant menu of delectable dishes, true to France’s gastronomical genius. Diners have the luxury of selecting from items that are raw and cured, fresh from the garden, farmed as well as foraged. Call for the aged duck with carrot, macadamia and radicchio. It’s simply exquis! The salted hazelnut, accompanied with lovage and macerated berries is equally sinful and romantic.

2. Cassia, Auckland:

Old-world recipes from India meet local ingredients from New Zealand to form a melange of traditionality and culinary skills. Cassia is known for its innovative take on classic spice, but also for an eclectic cocktail menu that includes the likes of Tropical Storm and Black Rose, a concoction of Saffron gin, elderflower, charcoal, lemon and egg whites. Opt for the diverse tasting menu and eat your way through tender tandoori fish, Goan lamb chops and Kerala style beef. 


3. Antoine’s, Auckland:

Antoine’s looks more like an enchanting woodland cottage than a restaurant. Luckily, its nostalgia menu fits right in with the lovely theme. The establishment has been whipping up gorgeous plates of food for over 40 years now. Delicate flavours and smooth textures complement the regional produce perfectly. Try the deliciously flaky onion tart, on a salad of tomato and mozzarella. We’d also vouch for the carpaccio of beef and steak tartare with a kumara and wasabi jelly. 


4. Clooney, Auckland:

Welcome to a world of knowledge and storytelling through the medium of food that has journeyed from the rainforests of the North to the expansive coastal wilderness of Fiordland. Clooney fashions innovative dishes through techniques and influences from the world over, with an ethos of purpose and progression. The alpine salmon with green apple and grapefruit will change the way you look at food, while the classic crispy fish and chips will embrace you warmly.


5. Palate, Hamilton:

Lake Taupo

There’s nothing like great food coupled with even better wine over delightful company, the epitome of a dining experience.  Palate provides just this. Over the last decade, it has transformed into a multi-dimensional restaurant, crafting seasonal menus and drawing inspiration from quality ingredients grown in the region. You ought to try some scrumptious cheeses like waikato aged gouda, little river brie and Mount Eliza blue monkey. The local pork belly with creamed savoy cabbage and pancetta is also one of our favourites!


6. Mister D, Hawkes Bay:

Hawkes

Now this is an experience like no other. Mister D combines a little bit of country with a little bit of rock n roll to create an atmosphere of zero fuss and oodles of fun. You will be ecstatic to hear that the breads, pastries and pasta are made daily. So, break bread literally, with their famous Parmesan short bread. And don’t forget to lose yourself to a bowl of Bone marrow ravioli with beef juices and salsa verde!


7. Te Awa Winery and Restaurant, Hawkes Bay:

Hawkes Bay

Set amidst a lush vineyard backdrop, nestled fondly in the Gimblett Gravels wine growing region, awaits a must-visit dining destination. Te Awa’s executive chef is famed for creating dishes with that wow factor, right from the ingredients to the condiments and the artistic presentation. Here’s something to swoon over… Rewena potato honey bread with rosemary butter! Or perhaps, the pan-fried market fish with radishes, sea foliage and lemon. Which one will you choose?

8. Pacifica, Napier:

Set in a distressed blue beach bungalow is a pacific style restaurant that plates up Michelin worthy food. Chef, Jeremey Rameka, focuses on freshness, excitement and passion, so much so that his menu changes on a daily basis. How thrilling to know that you could be served something that no one else has tried before. But some things will always remain multi-sensorial and divine, like the white wine braised rabbit with creamy oyster mousse! 


9. The Larder, Wellington:

An honest to good eatery that treats its produce with the utmost admiration and love, The Larder follows the philosophy of ‘nose to tail’ eating. A trip to this homely joint will be incomplete without a generous helping of the spiced calamari with chorizo, witlof, baby beetroot, pea tendrils and parsley sauce. End on a supremely sweet note with the wondrous buttermilk crepes with poached peach, citrus yogurt and rhubarb. 


10. Logan Brown, Wellington:

For a quintessential experience into the proud culture of New Zealand, head over to Logan Brown. Welcoming, inspiring and ever-so refined, the restaurant is a charming place to indulge you taste buds in. There’s a menu for every occasion and we can’t help but gush over this fact! Let your senses celebrate with a plate of honey roasted duck Breast with parsnip, grilled leek, mandarin dust, pear and sour cherry gel. 


11. Ortega Fish Shack, Wellington:

Ortega Fish Shack is rooted in a simple philosophy, a life-long love of all things good – good food, good wine and especially good times! And boy does it live up to this wonderful mission. When in Wellington, you must give this eatery a chance. Feast on the yellowtail kingfish ceviche with avocado, Vietnamese mint, lemongrass and crayfish oil. Give in to the temptation of the smoked brisket with cheesy cauliflower and pickled walnut dressing!

12. Urban Oyster Bar and Eatery, Nelson:

Hauraki Rail Trail

This haven of sumptuous bites only asks of one thing, for diners to enter with a curious spirit and a hearty appetite. Urban Eatery cultivates a relaxed atmosphere, one that encourages freedom and fun along with the plates of food. So, rest your elbows on the table and dig into a plate of vinegary good oysters that have been freshly shucked for you. What contributes to the authentic experience is the chilled, quenching craft beer sourced from a local brewery.


13. Black Estate, Canterbury:

Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned, organic family run vineyard? Black Estate aims to use simple wine making techniques to produce premium bottles of vino that run smooth of the tongue. With a strong love for nature and all that it holds, the eating house produces exquisite dishes with floral flavours and earthy aromas. Indulge in the barbeque lamb with confit garlic and anchovy marinade. The lemon verbena with créme caramel and rhubarb will not disappoint either.


14. Pegasus Bay, Canterbury:

Touted as the finest winery in the Waipara region, Pegasus Bay is pure magic just like its name suggests. Home to a marvellous restaurant that aims to provide diners with a holistic food and wine experience, is it any wonder that we’ve placed this on our list? True to New Zealand’s food story, the dishes reflect simplicity and locally grown ingredients. Treat your belly to the grilled organic shitake with duck eggs, spring herbs, walnut and winter truffle butter, it’s a real game changer.


15. Pescatore, Christchurch:

Christchurch

Pescatore, translates to ‘fisherman’ and is a poised and contemporary space with sprawling views over Hagley Park and the River Avon. In recognition of the establishment’s name and legacy, the menu is predominately seafood. Choose from godly oysters, lobsters, crabs and scallops for a mystical journey under the sea. You will be treated to a creative degustation along with some exciting wines. Currently, the restaurant is developing a new concept which will be unveiled in 2020. 


16. Amisfield, Queenstown:

We are in absolute awe of Amisfield’s philosophy of “we don’t just live on the land; we live from it.” This ethereal restaurant has built a kitchen for all seasons, surprising and delighting customers with something fresh and innovative. A dedicated forager and expert charcutier help carry out this vision. For a rendezvous with paradise, try the smoked eel, paua salami and harakeke chocolate!

17. Botswana Butchery, Queenstown:

White bait wellington

Take a deep breath, and savour the culinary setting of Botswana Butchery. You’re in for a gastronomical roller coaster ride, amidst the finest flavours, textures and aromas. So, be prepared for happy, hearty eating. Sink into the dreamy French onion soup, relish every sip of the thick, hot broth. When you’re done, the South Island whitebait fritter, nelson scallops and tempura soft shell crab awaits. 

18. Fishbone Bar and Grill, Queenstown:

Walk into an eternal summer at Fishbone Bar and Grill, where the décor blooms and one can even sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. The food is a representation of this airy, fairy freshness. The fish comes sailing, fresh off the boats, while the vegetables fly right out of the restaurant’s kitchen garden, lovingly known as Fishborne Farm. Make merry with Southland fisherman’s stew, a decadent curry that is well worth the dripping chin!

19. Rata, Queenstown:

An urban chic eatery tucked away in the heart of a bustling city; Rata welcomes food connoisseurs by the galore. Enshrouded by an emerald forest and charming heritage buildings, the restaurant serves up equal amounts of adventure and art. A team of experts go about preserving, fermenting and dehydrating, in an attempt to pack as much flavour into the dishes as possible. Make sure you have your fill of the goat cheese profiteroles and seaweed butter clams.

20. Bistro Gentil, Wanaka:

Voila, we’re back to French cuisine! It’s a rather perfect ending to an extensive list, don’t you think? Bistro Gentil carries the delights of French gastronomy to the stunning shores of Lake Wanaka, throwing in some amazing Gallic wines to the mix as well. Bon appetite, a plate of Wagyu hanger steak with parsnips, confit shallots, pine nuts and brown butter is calling out to you!

Whether you visit these restaurants for their food, wine, presentation, atmosphere or views, we hope they become a special part of your life.

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