Foodies, New Zealand is your culinary oyster. The country is renowned for the quality of its fresh produce and punches well above its weight in terms of internationally recognised dining experiences. Book your stay at ChoiceHotels.com.
Wherever you choose to head on either island, you are going to have a delicious time, but for something really special you can’t go past Hamilton, Napier and Blenheim. The first is a city that continues to set the country’s culinary agenda. The second and third are two of New Zealand’s finest wine regions, which also encompass a wide variety of dining experiences. Together, these are three perfect foodie holiday ‘hot spots’. Here are just some of the highlights of each.
1. Must-try restaurants and cafes in Napier
Econo Lodge Napier
Experiencing the character of Hawkes Bay’s oldest operating pub is reason enough to pay a visit to the Econo Lodge Napier, but this quirky venue is also home to two popular dining experiences and a boutique brewhouse. Steak, ribs, fish and chips and eight different burger options (including the renowned ‘Big Guy’!) await diners at Bistro Napier, while PAK (Philippine Asian Kitchen) combines the zesty flavours of Asia with the freshest New Zealand produce and seafood. Wash it all down with a hand-crafted brew from the Napier Brewing Company. The golden Ahuriri Pale Ale is a real crowd pleaser.
Emporium Bar and Eatery
Best known for its stunning collection of Art Deco architecture, Napier is situated on the pristine coast of Hawkes Bay. As you walk through the door of Emporium Eatery and Bar, you get an instant appreciation for the architectural style that defines the city. The interior is a feast for the senses with lots of interesting touches that draw the eye. Open for all-day dining from 7am, the menu is driven by seasonal offerings, and accompanied by an extensive wine selection from the local region and further afield. For an intimate alternative to the main bar and eatery, head for the elegant Lounge.
The beauty of the ocean melds with fine cuisine inside the weathered beach bungalow in Napier Central that houses Pacifica Restaurant. Pacifica prides itself on using only the freshest local produce and seafood, and combines the two into daily set tasting menus that champion whatever happens to be in season. The five course seafood menu is a must-try, and great value for a dining experience of this level.
Art Deco Valley Cafe
Surrounded by a shaded garden, Art Deco Valley Cafe is worth the 20-minute drive from Napier along the main highway towards Taupō. Open from 9am to 4pm, this is the perfect brunch or lunch stop and the hospitable staff always go out of their way to ensure a pleasant dining experience. The menu is deliciously uncomplicated and everyone will find something to enjoy. If it’s a sunny day, eat outside and enjoy a ride on the giant swing! Don’t forget to book your stay at one of these accommodation options in Napier.
Six Sisters Coffee House
Back in the heart of Napier on Marine Parade, Six Sisters Coffee House combines a cottage atmosphere with an ocean view and some of the best coffee in town. This is a great spot to relax and watch the world go by, as you enjoy the perfect flat white and a tasty bagel. The menu isn’t extensive, but it’s well executed.
2. Must-try restaurants and cafes in Hamilton
Chim Choo Ree
Chim Choo Ree continues to push boundaries as one of Hamilton’s best fine dining experiences. This award-winning restaurant, located in an old brewery building, offers a stylish yet warm and inviting setting. The menu is equally impressive. Don’t go past the duck breast confit ballotine for main and the sweet rice pudding mousse with strawberry ice cream, lime mascarpone and sherbet for pudding. They are both sensational!
Mr. Pickles Bar and Eatery
You’re in for something a little different at Mr. Pickles Bar and Eatery. The menu here is designed for sharing (or not – whatever works for you!). Mix and match a variety of ingredients or go straight for the plates menu (the ‘sticky chicken’ is a super popular option). Located right in the heart of the city’s dining precinct, this restaurant incorporates a stylish industrial-chic interior and a spacious outdoor setting that overlooks the Waikato River.
Just a stone’s throw from the river, Hayes Common is tucked away in Hamilton East. This quiet retreat is perfect for a relaxed coffee, brunch or dinner. The cafe caters for all dietary requirements and offers a dedicated vegan menu. This is a great choice of venue to kick back and relax in at any time of the day.
The locals love Cinnamon – a neighbourhood café with an upcycled interior that’s a great find for anyone visiting Hamilton. The service is superb and you’ll feel right at home as you enjoy your meal (check out the awesome taco menu!). Open until 5pm each day, this licensed café is one of Hamilton’s hidden gems.
3. Must-try restaurants and cafes in Blenheim
Situated in the stunning Marlborough region, Blenheim is a one-stop shop for amazing food, wine and fabulous vistas. Gramados Restaurant fuses the best local produce with Brazilian flavours and flare. Inspired by the cuisine of the city of Gramado in the south of Brazil, the menu will tantalise the taste buds. Try the traditional feijoada black bean stew or the spicy cassava cakes. All of the well-priced entrees, mains, and desserts can be easily matched with local wines. Don’t be surprised if you’re welcomed by the head chef Saulo, who often takes time out from the kitchen to personally greet his guests and take them through the menu. Book your stay at the Quality Hotel Marlborough located in Blenheim.
Scotch Wine Bar and Wine Shop
The rustic Scotch Wine Bar and Wine Shop offers close to 500 wines in their walk-through cellar, but the liquid offering is only part of the story here. There’s also a superb weekly dinner menu that changes with the season. Alternatively, opt for the chef’s tasting menu and let each dish be a complete surprise! The atmosphere changes from intimate to buzzy, depending on what time of the evening you choose to visit.
Rock Ferry Winery Cafe
With one of the sunniest and driest climates in New Zealand, it’s no wonder the Blenheim region produces world-renowned, award-winning wines. Rock Ferry Winery Café gives you the best of both worlds – the opportunity to enjoy some fine local drops and indulge in an innovative lunch menu. Rock Ferry Wines was certified organic in the mid 2000s. Sample their range of wines at the cellar door, before settling in for a meal of seasonal specialties. Although this venue is labeled a ‘café’, you will find it much more akin to a day-time fine dining experience.
About the writer
Hailing from Aotearoa New Zealand, Karllie Clifton is an avid midlife traveller and blogger who loves an adventure. In the past few years alone, Karllie has visited over twenty countries and ticked off over more than 50 cities across three continents. She loves the great outdoors – especially hiking and anything to do with the ocean.