From signature vineyards to fine cuisine, New Zealand serves up world-class food, wine and coffee sensations
New Zealand is a country of infinite culinary variety, with an abundance of fresh and natural foods, outstanding coffee and some of the world's finest cool-climate wines.
A nation of food lovers, Kiwis simply love to sit back, relax and enjoy each other’s company over a plate of good food and a glass of outstanding wine.
As an island nation, New Zealand's cuisine is driven by local ingredients and seasonal variations.
New Zealand’s lamb and dairy products are world famous, but visitors have the chance to sample exotic local dishes such as paua (abalone), whitebait, kumara (sweet potato) and native Manuka honey straight from the ocean or farm. And they can choose between wining and dining in style at exclusive luxury lodges, or simply enjoying the vibrant bistro and coffee culture all over the country.
New Zealand’s global reputation for quality produce is well established. Its annual seafood exports are worth $1.5 billion and its wine is shipped to 90 countries. Part of this success is based on the country’s environmental credentials. Almost all of its vineyards have been certified as sustainable and its fishing grounds have been ranked as the world’s most sustainably managed.
While New Zealanders are by their nature casual and laid back, they are also extremely hospitable. Country lodges – including pioneering Huka Lodge at Lake Taupo, the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Otahuna Lodge, the Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Matakauri Lodge and The Boatshed – all offer life's luxuries in often dramatic surroundings. Many of them are ideal for hosting corporate events.
Chef Jimmy McIntyre, who is in his 13th year as chef at Otahuna Lodge, has his own potager and herb garden and is among the leaders of the locavore movement, as well as a champion of New Zealand’s growing truffle industry. “It is quite special to have a world-class delicacy so close to home and it gives us a lot of scope for creating exciting menus each winter,” he says.
McIntyre likes to source artisan local produce, including organic duck, goat cheese and venison. “I love to cook whatever is at the peak of freshness, and vegetables from our own garden are often the starting point for our menus,” he says. “We know just how fresh they are.”
At Huka Lodge, English-born chef Paul Froggatt highlights ingredients including Bluff oysters, local beef and Waipara truffles.
Eating well and drinking in style can range from the world-class restaurants in Auckland and Wellington to authentic and quirky dining experiences at the Kaikoura Seafood BBQ shack or the Cray Pot on the West Coast. Here, try a whitebait pattie using fish from a local stream, tossed in egg batter and served with a local Monteith’s beer.
Among the local ingredients all visitors should try to sample are green-lipped mussels, Akaroa salmon, scallops and hoki fish. Not surprisingly with more than 14,000 kilometres of coastline, fresh seafood is a staple.
And if they’re lucky enough to get invited to a hangi (a traditional Maori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven) they’re in for a taste treat. Rotorua, in the North Island, is one of the best places to indulge in this tradition.
With its lush green pastures and tradition of dairy farming, New Zealand is also famous for its cheeses. Kapiti, Whitestone and Puhoi Valley are among the names to look out for, and many local cheese makers offer cheese-tasting experiences.
New Zealand has more coffee roasters per head of population than any other country.
There has long been a misconception that New Zealand doesn’t have a coffee culture. In fact, New Zealand has more coffee roasters per head of population than any country following a boom over the past two decades.
Tour company Zest, which runs gourmet discovery tours in Wellington, Auckland and Martinborough, has a particular focus on quality coffee with visits to local roasters de rigueur. There is even a website, www.coffeesecrets.co.nz, that features the hottest baristas and roasters. These days, many New Zealanders consider themselves coffee connoisseurs and start their day with a short black or a flat white – and there is much competition among baristas to be seen as producing the best shots.
The capital city of Wellington has more than 300 bars, restaurants and cafes in the city centre alone, including some of the country's top eateries in Logan Brown and Ortega Fish Shack. Whitebait was named best new New Zealand eatery for 2015 and The Larder in suburban Miramar is outstanding, while there are also late-night eating and drinking spots on funky Cuba Street, including long-time bar favourite Matterhorn.
The degustation menus at Roots, at Lyttleton, outside Christchurch, earned it restaurant of the year honours for 2015, while Queenstown is home to outstanding dining venues in Rata, Botswana Butchery, True South at The Rees and Sherwood after guests have had their fill of bungy jumping and jet-boating.
Auckland is an outstanding city for dining out. Restaurants awarded three hats in the 2015 Cuisine New Zealand Awards are in Auckland and its suburbs – French Café, Sidart, Kazuya and The Grove. Auckland is also home to long-term favourites such as French silver service restaurant Antoine's, O'Connell Street Bistro and the Jervois Steak House.
On the wine trail
Just a 35-minute passenger ferry ride away from downtown Auckland (everywhere in New Zealand is close to somewhere of interest) is idyllic Waiheke Island. It has a dozen or so wineries, many with top-notch cellar-door restaurants, surrounded by fruit farms, olive groves, cafes, art studios and galleries.
Marlborough, the biggest and most famous wine region, is birthplace of the New Zealand sauvignon blanc boom, while Central Otago is renowned for its world-class pinot noirs and Hawkes Bay notable for its fine syrahs – think brands like Cloudy Bay, Felton Road, Dog Point and Villa Maria at the pinnacle of the industry.
Pegasus Bay, in the Waipara Valley, just north of Christchurch, was named best winery restaurant of the year, edging out Elephant Hill from Hawkes Bay. Other stars of the genre include Terroir at Craggy Range, also in Hawkes Bay, the Herzog winery in Marlborough and Black Estate, also in the Waipara Valley. The Brancott Estate Heritage Centre and Wither Hills are popular venues for long lunches in Marlborough, while Amisfield Estate is hard to beat in Central Otago.
Local ingredients and seasonal variations drive New Zealand’s cuisine. While many of the dishes are European-influenced, there are major Maori, Polynesian and Asian accents that have shaped New Zealand’s food and wine culture into what is widely known as the Pacific Rim flavours.
Tourism New Zealand
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