The Best Restaurants in New Zealand

Bracingly fresh wines, just-picked organic vegetables, and local cheeses are served alongside Indian curries and Indonesian noodles in New Zealand’s increasingly cosmopolitan cities. While touring vineyards, stop for food and wine paired perfectly with stunning landscapes. Wine lists are, as expected, top notch in every part of the country.

86 clifton Rd Te Awanga, Haumoana 4172, New Zealand
The Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand‘s North Island features many excellent vineyard restaurants, but Elephant Hill certainly enjoys the area’s most spectacular location. Facing the Pacific Ocean on the Te Awanga coast, it boasts stellar views of the nearby Cape Kidnappers to complement its superb bistro menu. Secure a table on the expansive deck of Elephant Hill’s über-modern building, and try its wines made from sustainably grown fruit alongside seasonal plates that regularly include local seafood, venison, duck, and lamb. Some outstanding Elephant Hill wines forging an international reputation include its Reserve blend of merlot, malbec, and cabernet sauvignon grapes, and a superb chardonnay that is an ideal match for fine-dining dishes in the Southern Hemisphere summertime.
1431 State Highway 1
A short drive north of the South Island town of Oamaru, Riverstone Kitchen is often lauded as one of New Zealand’s best regional restaurants. The stylish dining room is anchored by a robust fireplace crafted from local river stones, and much of the seasonal menu is crafted from the restaurant’s own organic orchards and gardens. A more relaxed café ambience for daily breakfast and lunches segues to a more formal mood at dinner from Thursdays to Saturdays, and the savvy drink list includes wines from the nearby Waitaki Valley as well as small-batch beers from around New Zealand. Ask if any of the excellent Belgian-style farmhouse ales from Oamaru’s Craftwork Brewery are available.
Te Nuku, 43 Ballarat St, Queenstown 9348, New Zealand
Combining fine-dining flair with the relaxed ambience of a mountain resort town, Rata in Queenstown is one of the New Zealand eateries operated by well-known Kiwi chef Josh Emett. With a CV that includes cooking stints in the United States and London, Emett has crafted a menu that deftly marries a range of international influences to proudly local produce. Sharing plates include New Zealand octopus with saffron aioli or Marlborough salmon with horseradish and green apple, while local venison and merino lamb are standout main courses. The colors and feel of the forest inform the stylish decor—the eponymous rata is a tree native to New Zealand. Two- and three-course lunch menus are both a good value.
262 Wakefield St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
There’s no shortage of great eateries in the New Zealand capital—reputedly Wellington has more cafés and restaurants per person than New York City—and Field & Green is a popular option for the city’s discerning diners. With a versatile menu bylined European Soul Food, it promises ever-changing weekly dishes that could include house-made pasta with wild mushrooms and blue cheese, or baked eggs with spicy lentils and mint yogurt. These hearty but sophisticated flavors are the ideal sustenance for daytime explorations of the city’s harbor attractions, and the good-value, Wednesdays-to-Saturdays three-course supper menu can be partnered with local Wellington craft beers or New Zealand wines.
609 SH 16, Kumeu 0891, New Zealand
Given the Tasting Shed’s close proximity to some of the best vineyards of the West Auckland wine region, it follows that the restaurant’s menu incorporates flavors, from Asia and across the Mediterranean, that are the perfect foil to its excellent regional varietals. Standout dishes served in the restaurant’s rustic but stylish dining room—the tables were crafted from Indonesian fishing boats—include fiery Assam-style stingray infused with the tropical heat of Malaysia, and New Zealand lamb shoulder served with tahini and walnuts. Visit in summer to enjoy the relaxed ambience of the shared tables in the restaurant’s garden, and you’ll probably meet a few savvy food-loving locals from Auckland. Wines to try include Maté's Vineyard chardonnay, from nearby Kumeu River; craft beers from Riverhead’s Hallertau Brewery are also on tap.

26 Ponsonby Road
Behind a very discreet entrance on Auckland‘s Ponsonby Road eating-and-drinking strip, the slim and stylish interior of Azabu is enlivened only by big-format photos of Tokyo, which rightly leaves the emphasis on the Japanese-Peruvian-fusion dishes coming from the kitchen. It’s known as Nikkei cuisine, and standout examples on Azabu’s eclectic menu include a tuna-sashimi tostada with fiery wasabi and jalapeño, and tiger prawns with an ají amarillo mayonnaise. The Asian influence also extends to the cocktail list (try the Respirado del Fuego caipirinha with chile-infused cachaça, lime, and basil); Wednesdays to Fridays, Azabu offers good-value lunches of donburi rice bowls and Japanese-style tacos.
17 Grantham St, Hamilton 3204, New Zealand
Snag a shady outdoor table overlooking the slow-moving Waikato River and enjoy excellent tapas at one of regional New Zealand‘s best restaurants. Expanding from a smaller, cozier location on nearby Hood Street, Gothenburg is popular for shared plates with a global flavor, and its menu encompasses lots of vegetarian selections. Try the potato gnocchi with Kikorangi blue cheese from New Zealand’s Kapiti Dairy, or challenge your palate with the spicy kimchi-and-pork dumplings. Gothenburg is also a big supporter of the Hamilton craft-brewing fraternity, and the beverage list often includes seasonal small-batch beers from local microbreweries like Brewaucracy and Shunters Yard.
16 Majoribanks Street
Hardly a “shack,” the stylish and cosmopolitan Ortega is a superb place to dine in New Zealand‘s capital city. Of course, seafood is a major focus on the menu, with highlights including lobster-and-prawn ravioli, or sautéed paua (New Zealand abalone) with braised pork cheek in an unctuous Asian-style sauce. Befitting its location in the best craft-beer city in the land, Ortega sports a beer list that’s diverse and well-considered, combining top drops from Wellington makers like Garage Project, Tuatara, and ParrotDog, and other excellent beers from around New Zealand and the world. Booking ahead for one of Wellington’s best restaurants is recommended, especially on weekends.
40 Hastings St, Napier 4110, New Zealand
Rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1931, the relaxed port city of Napier is New Zealand’s capital of art deco design and architecture. Nestled amidst the heritage shopfronts of its compact downtown area is one of the country’s most interesting restaurants, proving there is plenty of culinary excellence outside of New Zealand’s big cities. Bistronomy showcases seasonal ingredients in its compact and stylish dining room—produce is often grown or foraged locally, and creatively harnessed for plates including fish tartare with sorrel and apple, or confit lime with shortbread, orange curd and mint. The drinks list presents excellent varietals from the nearby Hawkes Bay wine region, and Bistronomy’s NZ$75 chef’s choice menu of six courses is great value.
More From AFAR