Top restaurants in New Zealand
The beauty of New Zealand is commonly embraced through its majestic mountains and vast landscapes that many of us have soaked in from films like Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings — who can forget how it set the mystical backdrop for the fictional Middle Earth? And while all that is an enticing reason enough to book a ticket down south, its rich dining and bar scene have proven to be an alluring incentive as well. From fresh produce like blue mussels to an abundant selection of red meats, here are the best eats New Zealand has to offer.
1. Pasture, Auckland
Minimalist and modern, Pasture is the most exciting recent arrival to Auckland's restaurant scene. Owners Ed and Laura Verner have taken inspiration from their culinary adventures abroad and channeled all that into this cosy 20-seat restaurant, which abides by a key method of cooking over a smokey fire. They focus on attaining exceptional produce from farmers on the city's edge to drive their menu, and seek seasonal ingredients like heirloom tomatoes from the Waitakere Ranges, as well as free-range lamb from Wairarapa. Don't leave without ordering their signature chewy sourdough loaves, which are milled in-house daily with organic rye and wheat grains.
2. Arbour, Marlborough
Pretty as a picture — that's probably what your average plate at Arbour will look like. Arbour's chef Bradley Hornby believes in turning foods like tiny blue mussels, or undervalued locally caught fish, into stunning dishes. The rural restaurant, located just outside of Blenheim at the top of the South Island, features curated vegetables, oils, fruits and garnishes that are specially picked for Hornby's eclectic menu. To complement the table fare, take your pick from the fine selection of wines sourced from the best vineyards of the region.
3. Roots Restaurant, Christchurch
If you're looking for Roots' chef Giulio Sturla during the day, you're likely to find him in the Cashmere Hills on the edge of Christchurch, picking out the best produce in the fields of his vegetable grower or out on his paddleboard on a mission to harvest wild silverbeet on a small island in the Lyttelton Harbour. His meticulous methods to forage for ingredients around his coastal home only means that the menu is one that is innovative and ever-changing — specialties include local samphire — a sea vegetable, shore celery and sweet kawakawa berries. When it comes to culinary recognition, size definitely doesn't matter. His tiny restaurant won Cuisine magazine's coveted Best Restaurant in New Zealand in 2015, and received three Chef Hats in 2016.
4. Mint Restaurant, Hawke's Bay
In a heritage building overlooking the sea, Mint Restaurant's chef-owner Steve Beere serves up a contemporary menu, one that's deeply rooted in the classic European technique. Inside the historical building, you'll be warmly greeted with an open fire in the dimly-lit dining room, where you can enjoy meals such as a 14-hour cooked lamb shoulder with fennel-infused lamb heart, celariac puree and parsnip sponge. What's neat about the offerings? Beere likes to use locally sourced Hawke's Bay meat as much as possible, so these foods are always hot menu favourites among diners.
5. Mahana Estates, Nelson
A short drive from Nelson at the top of the South Island, Mahana Estates is an organic vineyard and winery with an outstanding on-site restaurant. Nab a seat outdoors on the lush green lawn and there, drink in the view of the surrounding vineyards that leads onto rolling hills and mountain ranges. On the table, you'll find executive chef Alistair Forster's masterful creations like poached and seared lamb loin with sweetcorn, smoked goat's cheese mash and mint gel and Angus beef fillet, adorned with crisp beef cheeks, spinach, onion puree and boulangère potatoes.