Top Restaurants in New Zealand
Come for the adventure, but prepare to be surprised by the food. Bracingly fresh wines, just-picked organic vegetables, and local cheeses are served alongside Indian curries and Indonesian noodle sin New Zealand’s increasingly cosmopolitan cities.
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.
Following the 2011 earthquake that destroyed many of Christchurch’s eating and drinking hot spots, local bar owners were forced to come up with innovative new openings amid the city’s slow but steady rebuild. One such debut was Smash Palace, which was constructed in and around a retro school bus and which combines hipster cool with a sunny beer garden full of quirky urban detritus. It’s known regionally as one of the city’s best craft-beer bars—local Canterbury brewers include Three Boys and Harringtons—and Smash Palace’s damn fine burgers are all made by hand on site. Welcome to an unpretentious and energetic testament to the resilience and tenacity of the fine people of Christchurch.
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.
1004 Leigh Rd, Matakana 0985, New Zealand
Surrounded by the rolling pastures of the Matakana region north of Auckland, the rustic ambience of this craft brewery belies the subtle sophistication of the food and drinks on offer. The attached Smoko Room restaurant turns out excellent shared plates with a global spin—try the turmeric-spiced goat hummus with cumin flatbreads—and the canny brewers are forever making interesting seasonal beers to complement Sawmill’s core range. Standout pints include a citrusy pale ale and a crisp lager showcasing zesty New Zealand hops (the tasting tray of five brews is the best option for curious traveling beer fans). Save room for dessert: an ice-cream sandwich fusing New Zealand’s signature ANZAC cookie with salted-caramel gelato.
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.
Auckland, New Zealand
Slyly concealed at the back of the K’Rd Food Workshop—itself an interesting multi-vendor destination for traveling gourmands—Love Bucket is a hip drinking establishment amid the vintage-clothing stores, cheap ethnic restaurants, and late night/early morning nightclubs of Auckland‘s Karangahape Road. Operated by the team at Hallertau Brewery in West Auckland, Love Bucket is a cool showcase for their more challenging sour and barrel-aged beers, as well as tap cocktails, an international wine list, and superior bar snacks including cheese and charcuterie plates. Look forward to eclectic decor—a sort of gentlemen’s-club-in-the-1970s style—and a pleasing mash-up of retro vinyl beats coursing discreetly through the bar.
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.
300a Grey Street
Cross the Waikato River from downtown Hamilton, New Zealand‘s fourth-biggest city, to find some of the country’s best artisanal ice cream at this East Hamilton spot. The rural area surrounding the city is a major center for dairy farming, and Duck Island crams gallons of organic-milky goodness into its ever-changing selection of flavors. Innovative ingredients could include white chocolate, pomegranate, and macadamia nuts, or maple, honeycomb, and smoked almond. Don’t worry if you’re an indecisive ice cream fan—trying a few free samples before you settle on your heart’s desire is encouraged. For a thoroughly local taste sensation, get the pear-and-chocolate hokey-pokey, a much-loved spin on the classic New Zealand vanilla-and-honeycomb-toffee treat.
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.
32A Somerset Street, Frankton, Hamilton 3204, New Zealand
Formerly Hamilton’s Church of St. George, the high-ceilinged space at Good George Brewery and Dining Hall now attracts happy drinkers reading from the gospels of fine craft beer and excellent wood-fired pizza. On weekend afternoons local musicians with a singer/songwriter vibe perform in Good George’s garden bar—delivering tunes you’ll probably know all the words to. The brewery’s ciders and fruit beers are regarded as among New Zealand‘s best. For a similar feel, and the opportunity to drink other beers from around the country, head to Little George on Hood Street, the center of rowdy nightlife in the city. A five-strong tasting flight is the best option for curious drinkers keen to experience New Zealand’s fantastic craft-beer scene.
16 Majoribanks Street, Wellington, New Zealand
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.
70 Anzac Ave, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
Despite a population of less than 5 million, New Zealand has one of the world’s most diverse and interesting craft-beer scenes, and many of the country’s successful brewers were originally inspired by Richard Emerson in the southern city of Dunedin. In 1993, Emerson fashioned the Bookbinder bitter that was one of the country’s original small-batch concoctions, and now the company’s expanded range can be tried at its wonderful tasting room and restaurant near Dunedin’s waterfront. Look forward to innovative seasonal beers as well—sometimes inspired by the Dunedin musicians and bands found on the legendary Flying Nun record label.
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.