New Zealand’s new gourmet trail: our top ten bars, cafes and restaurants
November 6, 2014 | By:

Oliver Bennett recommends ten drinking and dining delights, from where to find the best coffee to fine dining in Auckland. The cuisine is varied and delicious, and the prices are reasonable


New Zealand’s freshwater and open farms produce an abundance of salmon

Try a tasting menu at The Grove, an award-winning Auckland restaurant

Auckland is New Zealand’s main gastro-magnet, and next to historic Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is one of its stars, The Grove.

Michael and Annette Dearth offer a crash course on modern informal NZ fine dining, and Michael is the country’s foremost sommelier. Try, for example, the quail and a crisped potato strip or the legendary tasting menu. thegroverestaurant.co.nz

Enjoy the Parisian-style atmosphere at Two Chefs Bistro in Dunedin

The Cuisine Good Food Guide says this restaurant ‘could have been transplanted from Paris’ and we agree: gilt mirrors, a marble bar and huge display of wine make this an eye-catching not to mention tasty experience.

Grant Cockroft and Helen Mason are the eponymous two chefs of this classic bistro with a modern twist: you can enjoy French onion soup or try the rare tuna and edamame salad with bean and lime dressing. twochefsbistro.com

View Auckland from the 53rd floor of The Sugar Club

Chef Peter Gordon first opened a branch of The Sugar Club in Wellington in 1986, claiming to bring an Asian and Middle Eastern-infused menu to New Zealand for the first time. Opening a branch in Auckland last year, it sits high up the Sky Tower where the interior is Art Deco inspired and the view is particularly good at sunset. 


Sky City’s Sugar Club restaurant. Photo by Manja Wachsmuth

Go wine tasting on Waiheke Island

Forget the stuffy degustation of France – in Waiheke Island, reached by a half-hour boat ride from downtown Auckland, you’ll find sauvignon blancs and gerwurtztraminers in cool wineries with pole position in the spectacular Hauraki Gulf.

It’s a favourite for wedding parties and you’ll find a real sense of joy at the Mudbrick Vineyard, The Goldie Room and the Te Whau Vineyard. Click here for details of Waiheke Island wine tours.  

Enjoy the natural hot pools at Hanmer Springs – and then dine in style

The beautiful village of Hanmer Springs is about 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch and features natural hot pools and a selection of good cafes. After a day of relaxation, head to No. 31 Restaurant and Bar for ‘the best dining experience ever’ according to one TripAdvisor reviewer. There’s no website, but you can book at No31restaurant@yahoo.co.nz.

Try the burgers at the famous Fergburger in Queenstown

The US media giant CNN said that Fergburger could be the ‘best burger joint on the planet’ – and many agree, queuing for an hour for the experience of eating some of Fergs’ food, made from all manner of meat from lamb to venison, and in a branded brown paper bag that is now itself iconic.

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The ‘big Al’ burger at Queenstown’s Fergburger

It’s fun too: the tofu burger is called the ‘Holier than Thou’ and the pork belly ‘Chief Wiggum’. Party-goers note: it’s 24-hours. fergburger.com

Go on a Zest cafe tour in Wellington or Dunedin

The Zest tour is a laid-back four and a half hour guided gourmet stroll around Wellington or Dunedin’s best food places, visiting the hottest grub spots: a coffee roaster, a cafe, a chocolatier and many other providers, culminating in a three course tasting lunch with matched New Zealand wines. zestfoodtours.co.nz

Taste some of the best coffee in the world at The Hangar in Wellington

There are coffee bars, and there’s the Flight Coffee Hangar – Wellington’s acclaimed cafe and cocktail bar.

There’s an ethical coffee menu with lots of speciality coffees made by baristas of great perfectionism, and an open kitchen that offers dishes like banana bread with peanut butter mousse. For a change of pace to caffeine, they’ll make you a cocktail. 

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Get your caffeine hit at the Flight Coffee Hangar in Wellington

Eat New Zealand lamb at Pedro’s House of Lamb in Christchurch

There’s one food that epitomises NZ: lamb. And one of the greatest places to try it on its home turf, so to speak, is Pedro’s, owned by Pedro Carazo.

A Christchurch classic, the Spanish restaurateur tragically lost his son, business and home in the 2011 earthquake, but has opened anew to offer the signature dish: slow-cooked Spanish-style lamb shoulder and scallop potatoes. A testament to the spirit and the stomach. pedros.co.nz

Hidden gem: Dine al fresco at Raupo Café in Blenheim

James Wynen, one of Blenheim’s early settlers called his 19th century shop on the banks of the Opawa River the Raupo Store, after a kind of bulrush. Dutch-born Marcel and Helen Rood named this café after Wynen’s store, and it offers everything from breakfast to High Tea from its riverside location. raupocafe.co.nz 

High50 has partnered with Tourism New Zealand to bring you this guide. To discover more about New Zealand and to book, visit newzealand.com