The Visionaries with Cuisine Bites

The people behind what we cook, eat and drink are the true drivers of the New Zealand food & drink story. The movers and shakers that have led their communities, inspiring and motivating the good people of their towns to step up, collaborate and get involved. So much work from so many passionate and dedicated visionaries has gone into making Hawke’s Bay into the amazing playground for foodies that it is today. Was there a secret ingredient in the mix for building New Zealand’s Food & Wine Country?

Meet six of the visionaries that have been nominated in our search for the 2021 Hawke’s Bay Legend and listen to their unique stories…

Jeremy Rameka – Chef and co-owner Pacifica Restaurant
Sam and Mary Orton – Founders of Orton’s Tailored Events & Cuisine
Sir Graeme Avery – Founder of Sileni Wines and the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market
Kate Radburnd – Owner and winemaker Radburnd Cellars
Kim Thorp – Communications, marketing and branding consultant & co-owner of Black Barn Vineyards

The winner will be announced at the opening night of the 10th Summer F.A.W.C! series this November.

Our food news for this episode is BIG! THE HATS ARE BACK! We announce American Express as our presenting partner for The Cuisine Good Food Awards 2021 and Rob Bourne, Country Manager New Zealand explains how important these awards are for the New Zealand hospitality industry.

Thank you to American Express and our very special supporting partners all of whom are equally invested in the promotion of New Zealand as a premium dining destination… Many MANY thanks to Antipodes, DeLonghi, ORA KING and PEAD… all eyes are on New Zealand and there is no better time to be telling the world about our deliciousness!


WHO IS YOUR HAWKE’S BAY LEGEND?

As I’ve travelled around this magnificent country over the past five years in an effort to learn about New Zealand’s food and drink culture, one thing has become abundantly clear: it’s the people behind this flourishing culture who are the true story. In every region it has been impossible to miss the movers and shakers that have led their communities by building innovative businesses, networking and striving to create jobs and improve infrastructure. They seem to be on a never-ending mission to inspire and motivate the good people of their towns to step up, collaborate and get involved.

Earlier this year, Hawke’s Bay Tourism announced their search for a Food Legend – a visionary who has helped shape New Zealand’s Food and Wine Country into the amazing playground for foodies that it is today. Team Cuisine has been so proud to assist with this outstanding initiative. The talent recognised within the nomination process has run the gamut of artisan producers, chefs, restaurateurs, winemakers, farmers and growers – and included event specialists, innovators and entrepreneurs within the food and drink category.

Together with a panel that comprised Sarah Meikle, Chief Executive of Wellington Culinary Events Trust, and George Hickton, Chairman of Hawke’s Bay Tourism, and with research conducted by Rachel Campbell, Food and Wine Project Lead at Hawke’s Bay Tourism, we have chosen our top five nominees from a spectacular group, all of whom have contributed greatly to the reputation that Hawke’s Bay has earned as a must-visit destination for food and drink lovers.


Jeremy Rameka – Chef and co-owner, Pacifica Restaurant

“In creating Pacifica all those years ago, Jeremy also reminded –us of our special place in the world, and his food always reflects that.”

Words from one of the nomination forms strike right at the heart of the popularity and success of chef and restaurateur Jeremy Rameka. He has been quietly leading the charge to identify Hawke’s Bay cuisine for more than 14 years by using his exceptional skills to showcase some of the best kaimoana this country has to offer. Don’t be fooled by the laid-back blue beach villa on Marine Parade in Napier – it houses a restaurant that has earned 3 hats in the Cuisine Good Food Guide, an accolade currently awarded to only four other restaurants in New Zealand. The focus at Pacifica is on delivering a genuine, considered dining experience in an intimate setting, and it is this intense focus that has encouraged local and international foodies alike to plan a visit to Food and Wine Country. Alongside his partner, expert maître d’ and skilled sommelier Natalie Bulman, Jeremy has put Hawke’s Bay firmly on the map as a destination for anyone interested in a taste of the very best of New Zealand.

Sam and Mary Orton – Founders of Orton’s Tailored Events & Cuisine

“Where we are heading now - celebrating Hawke’s Bay’s growers and producers outdoors under some sort of shade with a glass of wine in one hand and a delicious bite-sized something in the other – all started with Orton.”

This is an honest observation from one of their nomination forms but, although Sam Orton credits the success of their enterprise to his having stayed well away from the kitchen, it’s his talent for logistics combined with wife Mary Orton’s exceptional culinary skills that has resulted in a catering business which has enabled many of the large-scale events Hawke’s Bay has become synonymous with. Growing their business from a small deli in Havelock North called Hampers, to their current operation within the stunning landmark of The Old Church in Meeanee Napier, this inspiring couple has also been the talent behind the menu at Black Barn Bistro and catered to everything from weddings and special occasions to gourmet dinners, charity auctions, sports matches and large- scale festivals and events. Together, the Ortons have been instrumental in feeding and entertaining Hawke’s Bay locals and visitors, with great flair, for more than 30 years.

Sir Graeme Avery – Founder of Sileni Wines and the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market

“He has carved and led the way that not only Hawke’s Bay but the whole of New Zealand thinks about wine and food tourism.”

Sir Graeme not only co-founded iconic winery Sileni Wines and its food and wine cellar door, but he also founded the acclaimed Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market, which was instrumental in creating the national farmers’ market movement. Along the way he founded the Hawke’s Bay Food Group, led the formation of the original Hawke’s Bay Wine Country Tourism Association and worked closely with Ngāti Kahungunu to further a local Māori experience. A celebrated New Zealand businessman and philanthropist, he has many strings to his bow. His latest passion – the EIT Institute of Sport & Health (EIT ISH) in Hastings – is integral to a transformational journey for the region, one that will encourage individuals and communities to choose healthier lifestyles.

Kate Radburnd - Owner and winemaker Radburnd Cellars

“Kate works hard every day to lead, inspire and advocate for Hawke’s Bay and the wine industry. I can think of no better person to be acknowledged as a Hawke’s Bay Legend.”

Kate Radburnd has been at the forefront of establishing Hawke’s Bay as one of New Zealand’s premium wine regions and was integral to the formation of this country’s wine industry. During seven years at Vidal, her wines won numerous accolades; she then moved to CJ Pask as Head Winemaker and became part- owner and Managing Director. She represented Hawke’s Bay on the Board of NZ Wine for 14 years and was instrumental in the formation of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand programme. Kate has been a pioneer of food and wine innovation in Hawke’s Bay for 38 years and has a huge focus on encouraging women within the wine industry. She was one of the instigators of the phenomenal Hawke’s Bay Charity Wine Auction, which she chairs to this day. At Radburnd Cellars she continues to produce awardwinning ultra-premium wines and to enhance the reputation of the region as a destination for serious food and wine lovers.

Kim Thorp – Communications, marketing and branding consultant & co-owner of Black Barn Vineyards

“A true pioneer with the establishment of Black Barn and its wine, food and accommodation offerings that are of supreme quality.”

Extremely passionate about the Hawke’s Bay brand, Kim Thorp is most recognised in the region for his work with business partner Andy Coltart on the establishment of ‘Black Barn’ a name now recognised as the absolute ‘essence’ of Hawke’s Bay. Along with its vineyard, winery, bistro and superb accommodation, the property boasts an amphitheatre, described by international performers as the best outdoor venue in New Zealand. There’s also an art gallery and a growers’ market to showcase the tastes of the region. Kim has been instrumental in the branding of Food and Wine Country, a creative genius shaping many of the events that have become the trademarks of an excellent time in Hawke’s Bay. He has made a huge contribution to the region's reputation as a stylish tourist destination.

Congratulations to all those who have played a role in the development of the region’s food and drink story, and thank you to those who took the time to nominate their Hawke’s Bay Legend. The winner will be announced at the opening night of the 10th Summer F.A.W.C! series this November.


TARANAKI...LIKE NO OTHER

For those of us with an overdeveloped interest in breakfast, lunch and dinner, the opportunity to travel brings with it a chance to explore the tastes and textures of a tourist hotspot by putting you right at the heart of the eating and drinking action. This is by no means a definitive list of the best bites of New Plymouth, but I can guarantee that if you are from out of town and not sure where to spend your dollars, these establishments are some very good places to start...

Once you’ve landed in town, I suggest you head to the food trucks on Liardet Street. Here, you’ll find a selection of global tastes and some really great options for a quick, casual lunch. If it feels like a pho kind of day, the ladies at Viet Nom Nom are serving up some of the best, but you’ll need to be early to nab one of their delicious crispy pork baguettes. Or stroll over to Kahakai Poke Bowl for a fresh Kiwi slant on the traditional Hawaiian dish that allows you to pick your own poke and fill a bowl with your choice of fresh local goodness.

You can enjoy a small selection of Asian favourites at The Tuck Shop, or perhaps a taste of Latin America at Chiwi. Or you could just throw caution to the wind and get down and dirty with one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve had in a very long time at Gamma Ray’s. The fact that owner Jonny Marinovich has swapped heading up the kitchens of some of New Plymouth’s most popular restaurants for flipping patties could be a clue as to why these outstanding burgers go way beyond the norm. You can’t miss his food truck – look out for flying saucers and a strictly sci-fi menu, where the ‘Take Moo to Your Leader’ is the real deal: house-made burger patty, cheese, sour pickles and a secret GR sauce. 21 Liardet St, New Plymouth

Shamefully, I didn’t know much about Nice Hotel before I checked in. But what a delight it was to find this lovingly restored heritage building and its bounty of treasures, including tropical garden deck, swanky little bar and comfy library nook. Owner Terry Parkes has been a mover and shaker within the industry for many years. You just know that he has full appreciation for the finer things in life, and I’d hazard a guess that he’s just as colourful as his eclectic art collection peppered throughout the property. Table Restaurant lives up to its surroundings in elegant style, with its chandelier and stunning flower displays. Breakfast here is deliciously relaxed, while dinner promises to be a special affair. You will need to book, but why not take full advantage of the superb hospitality of Terry and his team? You will feel pampered and fabulous. nicehotel.co.nz

Social Kitchen is an informal, warm and welcoming space and a visual feast for the eyes, with taxidermy animal heads that point to a largely meaty offering. Chef Blair Clement is the brilliant mind behind food that is meant to be shared and a menu centred around a Mibrasa charcoal oven, with all of the smoky goodness that entails. If, like me, you are a lover of great chicken liver paté, then Blair’s is one you will fondly remember. It seems almost mandatory to share the Spanish sausages with beer mustard and house pickles, and the lamb shoulder in chilli, garlic, lemon, rosemary and balsamic is gutsy and robust. Premium produce from Roebuck Farm is showcased in a variety of crowd-pleasers, such as roasted baby carrots in sun-dried tomato yoghurt, and chargrilled broccoli with chilli, manchego, garlic, macadamia and lemon. The house-made gnocchi with blue cheese and black pepper is sure to be on, because the good people of New Plymouth demand it. Co-owner Karen Prichard enables a team that takes caring and sharing to the next level. social-kitchen.co.nz

For breakfast, brunch or lunch, a popular spot is Monica’s Eatery, inspired by the life and spirit of Monica Brewster, the founding benefactor of the spectacular Govett-Brewster Art Gallery right next door. Monica was progressive for her time and highly respected, as is this bustling café with its fresh and generous menu. I particularly love their concept of one egg on rye, where you can choose from a side of garlic mushrooms, herbed mascarpone and peppadew salsa; hummus, caponata, spiced chickpeas and sprouts; or halloumi, house semi-dried tomato and salsa verde. For something more substantial, there are the fluffiest of omelettes, brilliant Benedicts, smoky kedgeree or spicy shakshuka. I eyed the tiramisu french toast with coffee mascarpone, orange compote, crispy bacon and maple, but the stretchy pants said no. monicaseatery.co.nz

Great breweries need great food, and Shining Peak Brewing is no exception. The brewery – which picked up three gold, four silver and four bronze awards at the 2021 Australian International Beer Awards – has connected its incredible array of small-batch beers, crafted by director of beer Jesse Sigurdsson, with the impressive talents of head chef Freddie Ponder to produce results that are well worth investigating. Freddie suggests a cherry-red Free Radical Berliner Weisse to go with my salmon sashimi. The dish carries the gentle bite of a wasabi snow, with pickled beetroot, puffed rice and lemon, and the beer pairing is unexpected but it works. The menu will tick all of your casual comfort boxes, with pork belly, risotto, fish of the day and burgers, but Freddie’s clever touch also sees some interesting additions, such as boil- up croquettes, smoked snapper and fennel sliders, and crispy squid with a cheeky salsa and a lemon and almond dressing. This is a brewery that takes its food and beer seriously, and yet the customer doesn’t have to think hard. Pull up a stool or settle in at a comfy table and get ready for a really great meal. shiningpeakbrewing.com

Take a little drive out to Highlands Park and you will find Pikopiko Eatery, a café with the local community at its heart. Here, co-owners and chefs VJ Srinivasan and Aaron Birch are serving up comfort and goodness with some little surprises along the way. Their exceptional organic coffee comes from home garage roasters Proof and Stock, the eggs Bene is served on grilled rēwana bread with a house-cured salmon, the open pork belly sandwich is topped with a tangy apple and watercress salad, secret Pikopiko relish and popcorn crackle, and the mountainous harvest salads look fresh and vibrant. Don’t miss the huge pillowy pancakes. You’ll find it disturbingly hard to put down your fork. pikopikoeatery.co.nz

About 20 minutes from downtown New Plymouth and fairly new to the Taranaki coast is Toret Cucina Italiana, located in Ōakura. Co-owner Nicolò Vogliotti and head chef Victor Lussier Choquette are serving pared-back Italian dishes that rely on the superb produce the region has to offer. The menu is small and thoughtful, with a minimum of fuss and an indication of technical know-how, including a nod to ingredients that form long-lasting and successful relationships. Duck liver paté ties the knot with Marsala poached pears, while smoky octopus nestles alongside baby potatoes, black olives, celery, parsley and mayonnaise. Beautifully braised beef cheek is partnered with mushrooms, truffles and silken ribbons of pappardelle, and Nicolò’s semifreddo tart of dark chocolate, macadamia praline and vanilla crème fraîche forms a blissful threesome that demands to be eaten with great gusto. The pizza is also exceptional. toretcucinaitaliana.co.nz

Carl Maunder and Jade Lucas have recently opened State Bistro and are helping make New Plymouth a culinary hotspot with their refreshing approach to delivering experiences that are intensely focused on the delicious. Perhaps start at the bar and let Lindsey Rigby make you a wicked little cocktail, and tease your appetite with a selection of Carl’s banging bar bites. Then move in for the kill in the main room, with its dedicated steak section cooked on charcoal. Head chef Kei Suzaki works alongside Carl, bringing even more weight to an elegant menu that covers all of the best bistro bases. The queen scallop raviolo with chive butter sauce is sensational, as is the Ruakaka kingfish ceviche in sherry vinegar and paté negra lardo. But honestly? Grab one of the fire-pit steaks and order the sinfully good miso hollandaise. You know you can’t do this every night, but if ever there was a night, this is the one... statebistro.co.nz

Consider The King and Queen Hotel Suites if you’re looking for cool comfort smack bang in the centre of the New Plymouth shopping and eating action. It’s just five minutes to the shops, seven minutes to the beach, and the magnificent Govett- Brewster Art Gallery is next door.

Located in the hotel courtyard is Ozone Coffee Roasters, where they roast and grind on site and brew to perfection.

And around the corner are three very good reasons for staying close to the hotel, all within the cleverly converted White Hart building. Lara Toyne oversees this slick operation and Itch Wine Bar is the perfect spot to start your evening with a little bit of a show. Pop in and have a sassy cocktail perfectly constructed by Netahn Tuuta at the bar, or choose from a diverse wine list handpicked to shine a light on some of the most exciting wines from New Zealand and around the world. You might choose to stay and graze on a selection of cheese and cured meats, or you can snap up a seat at Snug Lounge. Here, you’ll find more cocktails and a Japanese-inspired menu that has everything from steamed buns to wontons and tempura. My grilled snapper with smoked wasabi butter and grilled broad beans was an umami-soaked dream. At the other end of the courtyard, you’ll find wood-fired pizzas and more than 40 craft beers to choose from at Ms White. It has a reputation for making some of the best pizzas in New Plymouth, so grab a perch at the bar and a beer from the tap, and you’ll be all set for pizza with heart at the Hart. kingandqueen.co.nz / ozonecoffee.co.nz / itchwinebar.co.nz / snuglounge.co.nz / mswhite.co.nz

For cocktail enthusiasts, The Hour Glass is the place where many of New Plymouth’s grown-up players congregate. Killer cocktails, serious tapas and a good selection of craft beers make this Liardet St venue a top spot for early-evening or late-night schmoozing. Owners Mark Louis and Ajinkya Jagdale are seasoned hospo professionals and terrific hosts. Their classic Martini will make you feel just a little bit swish. facebook.com/TheHourGlass49

Sunny climate, outstanding art galleries, spectacular surf and beautiful parks aside, Taranaki seems to be transplanting its reputation as a key dairy region with its ability to showcase a huge diversity of premium local flavours. As I fly out, I’m straining to catch one last glimpse of that glorious Mount Taranaki peak. I’ll be back for more than just one bite...

* Kelli Brett visited Taranaki courtesy of Venture Taranaki taranaki.co.nz


FOR THE LOVE OF MEAT

We all have our own approach to how and when we consider an issue and whether we will do something about it. The debate at the plate between meat eaters and non-meat eaters is not a recent phenomenon, with the earliest reliable evidence of practising vegetarians dating from sixth-century bc Greece, where the vegetarian diet was called ‘abstinence from beings with a soul’. Whether you are for, against, on the fence or indifferent, the conversation has now reached such intensity that it must surely be time for the position of indifference to be made redundant?

I remember my great horror when, just as I took up my dream position as editor of Cuisine, the husband decided to give up meat. His decision (for ethical and health reasons) forced me to think about what that meant for me personally and how it would affect our family dinner table, not to mention our restaurant reservations. His decision to eat only animals he has killed himself has been a great advantage with regards to our seafood intake, and I am forever grateful for the privilege of receiving fish that comes straight from the ocean, via the husband’s kayak and chilly bin, to our dinner plate. However, he is sadly underperforming on the meat front, and I don’t see any cows turning up in our backyard looking to become dinner anytime soon.

So, as the prospect of eating only meat that has been killed by my husband is not an option for me, and the prospect of killing my own meat is still not one I am ready to consider (and you should hear the arguments around our dinner table on that one), I have landed in a place where I think very hard about what meat my son and I will consume and the consequences of this for the future of our planet. That process empowers me to make better decisions about how I shop, cook and eat, and I know I am not alone here. We all have to make food choices that will depend on our culture, our finances, our skills in the kitchen and our own personal ethics, and an important ingredient in that mix is where we live.

New Zealand, thankfully, is not the United States, where Condé Naste food site Epicurious announced in April that it would stop publishing beef recipes in an effort to encourage more sustainable cooking. In May, Daniel Humm, chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park, the New York restaurant that has been called the best in the world, announced that after its enforced closure during the pandemic he will reopen with a plant-based menu. Cow’s milk will still be an option for customers during the meal’s coffee and tea service, and his London restaurant, Davies and Brook at Claridge’s Hotel, will still offer plenty of red meat options.

Of course, EMP is not the first restaurant in the world to switch to a plant-based menu, but the decision has caused great speculation around whether their customers will be willing to shell out the same price for an elaborate plant-based meal as they would for one that includes premium meat or seafood. Which brings us to the question of perceived value. An interesting vegetarian menu without the traditional proteins can be much more labour-intensive and expensive to produce, and yet the pricing at most vegan/vegetarian restaurants – or even at our vegetable counter, for that matter – does not reflect this. Are we ready to pay more for our vegetables?

As for the question of meat, the world still has an appetite for it, especially when it is cheap, and for this, beef in particular takes a bashing. We cannot shop our way out of all the issues, but we can put our dollars where they will have impact by choosing to eat the best we can afford and selecting meat that has been produced using sustainable and ethical farming and processing practices. Let’s not eat meat at every meal, and when we do, let’s eat a little less, leaving room for those amazing vegetables – which by now should be receiving equal billing on our plates. Let’s work a little wild meat into our menus, and let’s also remember that it’s how we humans manage things that really matters. We already know this; the question is, will we do it?

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BAY WATCH

It seemed fitting to start my Hawke’s Bay getaway with lunch at Mission Estate. Established in 1851 and the birthplace of New Zealand wine, the beautifully restored seminary building set within this historic winery houses a restaurant where the food and wine offer considerable competition to the stunning views of Napier city. It is clear that chef Ricky Littleton has a firm eye on premium New Zealand ingredients, and the braised Wagyu brisket with miso custard in an egg drop broth is a definite crowd-pleaser. If his creamily rich and comforting bowl of pāua chowder is on the menu, I highly recommend you go for it. And as for the lamb rack and short rib with sweet and sour spring onions and a Paloise sauce (a variation on the classic Béarnaise sauce that substitutes mint for tarragon), it is impossible not to sense an undeniable link to previous generations of satisfied customers. At Mission Estate you will find a heritage like no other. missionestate.co.nz

If you head towards Havelock North, located at the foot of the magnificent Te Mata Peak, you will find a bustling town centre that is bursting with endless eateries. The Porters Boutique Hotel is right in the thick of it all, providing you with an opportunity to rest and relax in between stepping out to explore. You won’t have to step far to reach Malo (right next door), where you’ll find honest food and a fresh approach with European and Dutch influences from head chef Bert van de Steeg. If you pop in just for a bite and a drink, do not miss the profiteroles, although it is hard to choose between the duck liver parfait with plum gel and pistachio or the goat cheese with Arataki honeycomb and thyme salt. portershotel.co.nz malo.co.nz

In Havelock North village you will also find Mary’s, where the traditional diner format has been transformed into edgy fare and good times for local and visiting food and drink lovers. Chef Casey McDonald’s latest baby is headed up at the pass by chef Josh Christie, along with an enthusiastic and sassy team guided effortlessly by restaurant manager Brooke Roylance. Much of the fabulous cooking centres around a prized Josper oven, while Casey’s take on techniques brings out the punch in the flavours. The snack game is high, with the ‘KFQ’ tonkatsu (Kentucky fried quail) already well on its way to becoming legendary. And who wouldn’t want whipped cod roe with their fries? It’s addictive little morsels like these that are causing many a customer to linger over their drinks. With a menu that changes often, the local fish fillets and braised octopus with olive tapenade and lemon and burnt butter sauce is a current standout. If the organic scotch with smoky broccolini is on the menu, it should be topped with the Cafe de Mary’s butter, which is fast becoming the butter that legends are made of. It’s all so good! Be sure to go with an appetite. marys.co.nz

Located just a stone’s throw away from both Havelock North and Hastings, St Georges Restaurant is not to be missed. It’s a family affair, where Kathryn Godinho runs the show behind the scenes and the kitchen team includes the talents of chefs Kieran Elwood and Nilesh Patel. Meanwhile, when he is not on the pans, head chef Francky Godhino concentrates on the constant upkeep of his huge organic garden to feed his ever-evolving menu. A Nieuwenhuis Farmstead goat cheese parfait served with compote and roasted home-grown figs is almost too pretty to eat, while the eye fillet (courtesy of Francky’s own Hereford cattle) resting on silky celeriac purée and accompanied by potato rosti and onion and grenadine confit is surrounded with vegetables that will make your heart seriously want to karaoke. An edible sugar-glass apple filled with homemade Heilala vanilla ice cream and apple jam, serve with oat and apple crumble and velvety custard sauce, demonstrates that this is a chef who takes delicious inspiration from his surrounding landscape. Make sure you ask Aby Pathedan to whip you up one of his sensationally seasonal cocktails. stgeorgesrestaurant.co.nz

Havelock North’s Craggy Range Restaurant earned two hats at the most recent Cuisine Good Food Awards, and chef Casey McDonald has played a huge role in earning the prestigious honour. With an extensive kitchen garden to play in and a globally celebrated winery as his backdrop, Casey works closely with an ever-expanding network of local growers and producers to create some of the most exciting food in Hawke’s Bay. His constant toil is evident in the Craggy kitchen shelves, which bulge with pickles, ferments and preserves, and the reward is a menu that remains vibrant and diverse all year round. The snacks are a must – complex simplicity and sophistication with an element of surprise, providing a glimpse inside the mind of a chef who has worked within the highexpectation environment that comes with a Michelin star. The cured fish on crème fraîche with lemon verbena and pickled celery is just stunning, while the perfectly seared duck breast, roasted endive and confit duck is rock and rolled with the addition of pickled plums and blood custard. Bring it all home to an elegant finish with poached meringue, roasted plum, brown sugar cream and sorrel granita. Restaurant manager and sommelier Majda Falan runs the well-dressed room with a fine-tuned front of house, and the whole Craggy experience seems to nail that perfect combination of comfort and luxury, steeped in the kind of family tradition that almost compels us to rise to an excellent occasion. craggyrange.com

At Black Barn Bistro in Havelock North, its spectacular wine is, of course, front of mind, but you will also have the opportunity to indulge in a drinks list that reflects some of the best of New Zealand and beyond. Chef Regnar Christensen’s menu tells an authentic story of place and season. Dishes are pared back to let the Hawke’s Bay ingredients shine and will take you on a diversely delicious journey. On a bluesky day there will never be anything more perfect than Regnar’s raw fish with preserved mandarin, verjuice and horseradish, while the roasted lamb shoulder for two with nduja and almond cream is pure comfort. Pāua, pork cheek, celeriac cream and XO sauce come together to surprise and delight, and the roasted quince, sheep milk yoghurt, amaretti and pink pepper present a unique combination that is at the core of Black Barn – a little bit comfy, a little bit edgy and a whole lot of yum. blackbarn.com

How about a farm stay at one of New Zealand’s oldest homesteads? Wallingford Homestead in Pōrangahau is the perfect place to unwind, and this sprawling boutique retreat set within gentle hills and the prettiest of cottage gardens is like no other. Despite the wonderfully comfortable country feel of this glorious old girl, it’s the combined talents of ex-Sydney restaurateurs Chris Stockdale (originally a Lower Hutt boy) and Jeanette Woerner that will make your stay here unforgettable. Throw into the mix 1,700 oak trees that are currently cultivating Périgord truffles, and you are all set to enter gourmet heaven. The intimate multiple-course degustation dinners in their magical dining room will make you want to move in forever. Chris works the menu hard to give a sense of this gorgeous property on each plate. His creative, confident cooking showcases locally caught snapper with avocado and makrut lime served on wafer-thin, crispy taewa (Māori potatoes), a riff on salt cod soup sees red gurnard become the filling inside a plump tortellini pillow, showered with finely shaved early-harvest truffles, and toasted wheat adds the perfect crunch to creamy, earthy kūmara and kawakawa semifreddo. I left with an overwhelming desire to return. wallingford.co.nz

There is more than meets the eye behind The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. Hailed as one of New Zealand’s most beautiful luxury lodges and one of the world’s top golf courses, this stunning venue is perched above rolling hills, rugged cliffs and spectacular sea views, and is also home to some of New Zealand’s most precious flora and fauna. Extensive vegetable, fruit and herb gardens on the fully functional farm give head chef James Honore the opportunity to present an elegant menu with full confidence that flavour and seasonality will shine. There could be seared locally caught tuna and pāua with slow-baked kūmara in a smoky seaweed broth, or heritage pork with a silken parsnip purée, wild blackberries and apple. With a captive audience that is used to nothing but the best, the pressure is on and the team slickly delivers across breakfast, lunch and dinner, whatever the tastes on offer. This is a sophisticated operation overseen by manager James McMenamin, who has an impressive eye for detail. Luxurious suites, a gymnasium, a pool and a blissful spa make it impossible to do anything but be pampered. Elegant and cosy spill-out spaces throughout the lodge provide ample opportunity to sneak a stylish cocktail or comforting snack while you curl up with a book from the substantial library or admire the breathtaking artwork, but really, you should be outdoors taking in the magnificent scenery and searching for those elusive kiwi. Be proud, New Zealand, Cape Kidnappers is truly world class. robertsonlodges.com

Central Fire Station Bistro in Napier will whisk you along a Hawke’s Bay tasting trail that is driven by solid relationships built with local suppliers. The wine list is 100 per cent Hawke’s Bay, and with 90 per cent of the produce being organic, chef Sam Clark and pastry chef Florencia Menehem have set the bar high with regards to telling a sustainable local food story. I could happily have settled in for the afternoon with the duck and pistachio terrine with fig relish and pickles, but then a perfectly caramelised and textured halloumi salad arrived, peppered with beetroot, fig, hazelnut and tabbouleh, followed by a Te Mana lamb rack with nduja dressing, ajo blanco basil and excruciatingly well-roasted carrots. The feijoa toffee pudding with pear and feijoa compote and brown butter ice cream is a dessert that I would travel many miles for. In fact, I would move my whole family to Napier for a regular helping of the bistro’s sourdough with brown butter. Sam was once head chef at revered Auckland fine diner Clooney, and that should give you an inkling of his calibre. Although these days his creations are perhaps less complex, you will recognise his ability to elevate ingredients in a way that makes them the very best version of themselves. It’s a Hawke’s Bay love affair played out at your table, and an approach that gives CFSB a sure recipe for continued success. centralfirestation.co.nz

A visit to Elephant Hill estate vineyard must be on your itinerary. Chef Jason Brown has taken the reins within the stylish restaurant, and this monumental building presents a vibrant vista that should not be missed. The menu explores the local food bowl, tempting you with the likes of white fish ceviche with chilli and citrus or a Matangi beef braise inside the softest of ravioli. Or you might just want to take advantage of the cellar door, with its special ‘Flight & Bite’ wine and food experience, pairing artisan-style morsels with the perfect Elephant Hill wines. Either way, there is no denying that the unique weather and terrain in Food and Wine Country produce some pretty spectacular wines, and the Elephant Hill range is no exception. elephanthill.co.nz

If Napier is known as the art deco capital of the world, then it stands to reason that you must stay at the iconic Art Deco Masonic Hotel. The first Masonic Hotel opened on the current site in 1861, and the current incarnation boasts 43 stylish hotel rooms and suites accommodating up to 88 guests. Located directly opposite the beautiful Marine Parade promenade, the hotel is a heritage-flavoured smorgasbord of rich leathers, marble and warm wood, with just the right amount of art deco to make you feel glamorous. Eating and drinking within the Masonic is made outrageously easy and comfortable, with their Emporium Eatery open from breakfast and offering a fun menu that covers all the bases and includes quite an extensive cocktail list. The Rose Irish Pub is a local institution, with all the beers and wines you will need and a casual menu. Step outside and you are smack bang in the heart of Napier city. What’s not to love? masonic.co.nz

It was local Napier food lover and communications guru Kim Thorp who pointed me in the direction of this little gem, and I’m so grateful he did. At Sai you are eating the Thai food that the Sai team grew up with. Their signature meang kana is a must, with hits of ginger, cashew nut, crushed coconut, pork crackling and lime, all wrapped Thai street-food style in a Chinese broccoli leaf – the chilli vinegar is mandatory. Crispy momen tofu with five spice and soy caramelised sauce, sprinkled with crispy garlic and chilli, is really, REALLY good, and a traditional stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts and sun-dried chilli is deliciously familiar and yet not quite as you might remember cashew chicken. The panang beef short rib curry that has been slow cooked for seven hours is worthy of an Instagram page all of its own. Owner Sasi Limapibal and her sister, head chef Siriya, are recreating their food memories right in the centre of the city’s shopping promenade. Lucky Napier! saieatery.com

The award-winning team at Bistronomy brings you fresh, fun comfort food right in the heart of Napier’s dining district. I have always loved the room and the slick design, with its fabulous long bar stretching down one side. It would fit comfortably in a big city location, but it is the food from chef/owner James Beck that makes it memorable. James infuses the best of an inspiring Hawke’s Bay food bowl with global ideas, and the result is often not what you would expect but always bang on the money. For instance, the kūmara ‘surprise’ blew me away with its umami-filled miso rice, pickled ginger mousse and cashew butter, nestled inside a crispy fried kūmara shell. Patangata Station lamb shoulder is slow braised and served with a swede and mixed-grain risotto and a coffee-bean hollandaise, while the ‘good fish’, pan-fried and served in an onion broth with roast pumpkin and kale smash and a bacon emulsion, ticks so many comfort boxes you might never leave! Do not miss the fried Māori potatoes with just a hint of hāngī and watercress salsa verde, or the purple kūmara focaccia with whipped chicken butter. WHIPPED CHICKEN BUTTER. Do yourself a favour and just get in there. bistronomy.co.nz

How to describe the two special humans that are the lifeblood of the vibrant blue beach bungalow in Napier that is Pacifica? Chef Jeremy Rameka is a master and has been quietly telling a uniquely New Zealand food story here for years. Natalie Bulman runs the restaurant and is phenomenal to watch as she guides her guests through what will be one of the most thoughtfully delicious meals they have ever had. Together, the pair have created a restaurant that not only holds three coveted hats in the Cuisine Good Food Guide, but has also held the title of New Zealand’s Best Restaurant. During this visit, I was held spellbound by crispyskinned gurnard and calamari, floating in a magical ‘Rameka’ mussel broth – until the flounder in a delicately spiced coconut creamed pāua made me want to jump the pass and hug the chef. Of course I didn’t, as Jeremy is infuriatingly modest. To finish, a superb vanilla pastry cream is cut with an irresistible lime coulis and served with a peppery ginger tuile. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, every single ingredient on Jeremy Rameka’s plates has a reason for being there, and the end result delivers flavours that are pure and honest. Only the most skilled and confident chefs can achieve this. pacificarestaurant.co.nz

I’m excited to see that the evolution of this regional food story is being driven by the talents of those who grow, produce and cook it. Over and over again, I was tasting the work and dedication of so many outstanding farmers, growers and artisanal food producers, in collaboration with some of the country’s finest chefs. Make Hawke’s Bay your next gastronomic adventure. It truly is New Zealand’s Food and Wine Country.

Kelli travelled to Hawke’s Bay courtesy of hawkesbaynz.com


CHIPPING AWAY

It would be remiss of us to do a ‘best of New Zealand seafood’ issue without a nod to our favourite fish and chip shops, right? Despite the millions of dollars poured into marketing and advertising by giant fast-food chains, fish ‘n’ chips continue to be the nation’s favourite takeaway. According to Nielsen, in just one month more than 1.7 million Kiwis enjoyed fish and chips of some sort.

I am just as fond of a crunchy fillet and a scoop of chips as the rest of this glorious country, but the announcement in January by the New Zealand Herald of the best fish and chip shops in Aotearoa left me with a few crispy questions. They had us licking our lips at all kinds of battered and flaky golden deliciousness with tales of 100 grammes of fish or more in every fillet, generous servings, gluten-intolerant options, all extremely fresh, thick, light and OMG yum, and we were celebrating them all for having the freshest fish in town. But not once did this article mention anything about where these establishments purchased their fish.

Oh wait. One did say at the fish market.

What fish market? Where was it caught? How was it caught? Who caught it? Do they know? Do we care?

Possibly not.

I’m not saying that the businesses in that article were not buying from a sustainable source, but I am wondering why the questions are not being asked. If we are going to have a serious conversation about New Zealand seafood and ensuring sustainable livelihoods for those in the seafood industry, access to sustainable fresh fish for all New Zealanders and continued development for the positive future of New Zealand seafood, is it OK for our fish and chip shops to get a free pass?

Do we only need to ask these questions when we are sitting in a high-end restaurant and paying $35 or more for a piece of line-caught or speared fish? If we ask that question at a local spot where we can get two golden, crunchy fillets of fish plus chips for as little as $9 what will their answer be? How does $4.50 per fillet work? A quick Google of a couple of fish and chip shops around my region and the only fish source information is ‘Kiwi As’ and ‘Fished from the pristine waters of New Zealand’. We assume we are eating New Zealand fish and maybe we are. But what if it’s basa or tilapia? If the fillet is long and grey, it probably is. Do we care?

Price point raises another set of challenges for the takeaway fish and chippy. Line-caught fish are more expensive, often sold whole, filleting is time-consuming, skilled knife hands are expensive and hard to get. Will we pay more for sustainably sourced fish?

There has been a wave of new fish and chip shops that offer a variety of fish species cooked to order and yet their websites or social pages rarely state where their fish comes from or how it was caught. I’m betting many of them are supplied by a reputable and sustainable source but consumers are left in the dark. Why not make stating the source as normal as the fact that it is the freshest in town? Tom Searle of Lee Fish states that good news in the fishing industry doesn’t sell, so let’s start a good news story right here and next time you buy, ask the questions, “What’s the fish tonight, where did it come from and how was it caught?”

We’re starting a list of places that serve up sustainable as well as delicious fish and chips. As you can see we are starting small but with your help, it will grow. For now, we give you our Top 10 (well, actually it’s our only 10...)

Batter and Salt 989 Matakana Road, Matakana, supplied by Lee Fish

Best Café 30 Stuart Street, Dunedin, supplied by Gravity Fishing & Harbour Fish

Fush 104 The Runway, Wigram Skies, Christchurch, supplied by Chatham Island Food Co & West Fleet

Leigh Eats 18 Cumberland Street, Leigh, supplied by Lee Fish

Mangonui Fish Shop 137 Waterfront Road, Mangonui, supplied by local fishing boats

Point Wells Store 14 Point Wells Road, Point Wells, supplied by Lee Fish

Port Albert General Store Port Albert Road, Wellsford, supplied by Yellow Brick Road

The Fishwife 145 Haven Street, Moeraki, supplied by their own fishing boat

The Chippery 5 Majoribanks Mt Victoria & 10 Murphy Street, Thorndon Wellington, supplied by their own boat and Fish Factory Wellington

Waikane Crab 6 Manchester Street, Paraparaumu, supplied by their own boat

If you own and operate a fish and chip shop and can tell us where you purchase your sustainable fish we’d be happy to add you to this list at cuisine.co.nz. We hope that it will keep evolving. Contact editorial@cuisine.co.nz


Dunners, you're on...

With its Gothic architecture and stunning coastal landscapes, Dunedin has always had a quirky urban charm, but there is a sense of change in the air for the local restaurant industry with professional kitchens sizzling and a new wave of chefs stepping up to the pass.

Tītī at St Clair is a relatively new kid on the ocean-front block with chef Hannes Bareiter having already forged a rep as the creative force behind some impressive dégustation menus at Glenfalloch Garden & Restaurant on Otago Peninsula. There is no doubt that Hannes is a great talent. However, Tītī is not for you if you need to have a lot of choice with regards to the menu. Hannes aims to offer fresh food picked and gathered locally each morning and presented on the plate for customers that same day. You can go protein-based or plant-based and be confident that with either you will be on a winner. My advice is to trust Hannes and partner Melanie Hartman who is superbly across front of house and just let them get on with it. It’s a smart way of doing things and the only way if you don’t want to see beautiful ingredients going to waste.

Lunch is two or three courses (there are also à la carte Belgian waffle options that are very special) and dinner can be three or five courses. My daily catch was crispy-skinned and floating in a delicate yellow curry and I could smell and taste the ocean and local surrounds. The menus are elegant and the carefully curated selection of wines to match is as outstanding as the view. titi.co.nz

A walk through the Octagon precinct at around 6.30pm on a Friday gives you a bit of a crash course in the local art of understatement. Pre-dinner, pre-theatre, pre-partying will be in full swing and it will be hard to miss the effortlessly chic crowd spilling out onto the high tables and stools outside the Prohibition Smokehouse. Andre Shi is the owner and can be found every evening buzzing between his three (soon to be four) super-cool hospo babies – PSH, Vault 21 and Catacombs Nightclub. He’s a smart cookie with an understanding of comfort meets style so it stands to reason that he would jump at the chance to hire ex-SkyCity executive chef Chris Will. My visit coincided with Chris’s first week so I’m still waiting to see just where he will take this shiny group of feel-good fun-time establishments, but one thing is for sure: Chris knows good flavour and bang for buck. Watching him working up ideas for the superb contents of some dry-ageing meat lockers has me feeling this will result in some extraordinary dishes at PSH. As for Vault 21 and Catacombs Nightclub... I haven’t had that much fun since the 90s. prohibitionsmokehouse.co.nz

Chef Kane Bambery has moved into Nova in the heart of Dunedin’s Octagon and is having a magical effect on their approach to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Owners Mark and Nick Fraser have jumped on board with his plans to achieve zero waste by establishing worm farms and composting to work towards a full-circle system from waste to soil to produce. Kane has worked alongside some of New Zealand’s best including Giulio Sturla at Roots in Lyttelton and Vaughan Mabee at Amisfield in Arrowtown and at the time of my visit was working with super-slick GM Nicole MacPherson on developing ingredient-driven menus that will take Nova out of its former comfort zone and into a whole new world of sustainable local flavour. Go check out team Nova; if my delicious whitebait crumpet with its zingy pesto and perfect egg is anything to go by, Kane is definitely one to watch. novadunedin.co.nz

Greg Piner is no stranger to Dunedin diners having headed up Pier 24 on The Esplanade (now Tītī) and also produced impressive work as group executive chef at Vault 21. He’s also no stranger to premium brands, working as a consultant to Silver Fern farms and earning an ambassador title for Ōra King Salmon.

Greg has taken the reins in 2021 at long-term player No. 7 Balmac on Maori Hill where owner Katrina Toovey runs a space that feels like a beautiful extension of your own luxurious living room (I wish). Substantial kitchen gardens out back and an exclusive private kitchen/dining room give Greg all the new perks he needs to deliver a playful and flavour- forward menu at this neighbourhood  favourite where humble ingredients are showcased with great flair. Go for the lightly spice-rubbed beef, almond tahini hummus-smeared sourdough pancake with crispy onions and toasted cauliflower herb tabouli. It’s a winner. no7balmac.co.nz

I love Moiety. It’s edgy and intimate and a spot at the bar by the pass is the best seat in the house. You will be in awe of chef and co-owner Sam Gasson as he fields a million questions and carries on conversations while keeping one eye on his brilliant team, another on his own plating and another... well it feels like he has more than two eyes; let’s just say he doesn’t miss a beat.

Neither does partner and co-owner Kimberly Underwood who runs the busy floor with great skills, noticing what is happening, listening, anticipating what is needed, and providing the all-important binding for the clever menu being rolled out from behind the bar. I didn’t felt like they really wanted to share a little bit of their hearts and their community with me.

I tasted the glorious duck paté, tamarillo, plum and sourdough from the snack menu and I realized that even if Sam and Kim gave me every element on the plate to take home in a doggy bag, it would never taste as good as it did sitting at the bar. Nothing beats the whole restaurant experience. And that was just the snack! What followed was a carefully curated set menu that I think is one of Dunedin’s finest. If you are curious about good food and drink I guarantee you will learn something at Moiety. And I hear they now serve that paté to go, so you can have the best of both worlds. moiety.co.nz

For a little bit pub, a little bit diner, a little bit cocktail lounge and a big bit of fabulous, head over to Moray Place (corner of Lower Stuart Street) and say hi to Josh Thomas and the team at Woof! The colourful cocktails are wickedly evolving although they can just as easily whip you up a cool classic if that’s what takes your fancy, and all of your beer and wine bases will be well covered. Food from Chef Stef can be a little or a lot, ranging from mezze and snacks to something more. It’s a place designed for grown-ups who want to dissolve into a pool of exotic liquid relaxation. @woof_dunedin

And for a touch of nostalgia don’t miss historic Best Café (established in 1932). I rode an unexpected wave of emotions while watching locals come in and order their long-time favourites and seeing loyal supporters lining up for lunch from the takeaway fish and chips section. Soft slices of bread and butter (both brown and white) were placed on the table as I sat down, really good blue cod and hand-cut chips, Bluff oysters, the simplest of whitebait patties (egg white only) and a shrimp cocktail in its creamy, delicious house cocktail sauce – I hadn’t had one of those for years. So many memories... and throughout it all an overwhelming sense of care. Founder Patrick Collins would be super-proud of his great-granddaughter Jessica Marks who has stepped up to continue his vision in this iconic Dunedin seafood institution. Don’t visit Dunedin without experiencing a taste of the best. bestcafe.co.nz

New to the inner-city accommodation stakes is the Fable Dunedin. Formerly the historic Wains Hotel this grand, eighteenth-century building has been respectfully stripped, buffed and polished by New Zealand-owned CPG Hotels, and their decision to include award-winning chef Jinu Abraham as group executive chef for their boutique hotel collection is a good one. Jinu’s focus on whole foods and local ingredients can be felt across all of the menus on offer at their in-house bar and restaurant The Press Club. The breakfasts are exceptional with all of the usual continental suspects overshadowed by a stunning brown rice porridge laced with strawberry and rhubarb compote and caramelised pear or the eggs bene on kūmara rosti with smoked salmon and poached eggs. The Fable is a perfect spot to base yourself and for a little rest and relaxation between meals. fablehotelsandresorts.com

Long known and loved for its grungy university vibe, I reckon Dunedin is moving into a dining class all of its own. What does that mean for you? Well, it means that Dunedin should now be on your list of must- do New Zealand foodie trips.

ADDITIONAL BITES...

Legendary pies at Princes St Butcher. princesstreetbutcher.co.nz
Pop in to The Tart Tin for a sweet treat and a coffee to take away (Wednesday and Friday only). thetarttin.co.nz
Delicious small-batch ice cream and American-style burgers at Patti’s & Cream (Shop Wednesday-Friday (ice cream only), Truck Friday-Sunday). pattisandcream.co
Try Side-on for unforgettable baked goods and the best baguettes and coffee. side-on.co.nz
For plant-based and botanical cocktails head to Kind Company. shop.kindgrocer.nz
Adjo has Scandinavian cuisine along with great coffee. adjo.co.nz
The Swan Café & Bar for local flavours, tap beers, live gigs and fresh coffee. theswan.nz
Stylish cocktails with great jazz and blues at Pequeño Lounge Bar. @pequenoLoungeBar
Do the high tea at Larnach Castle (New Zealands’s only castle) and take the tour. It’s magical. larnachcastle.co.nz


IS LO-FI THE NEW HI-FI?

 

A little lump is lodged permanently in my throat, even more so after Level-3 (round three) in Auckland. Some of us are having to swallow hard and push any fear and anxiety deep down inside so that we can remain optimistic and get on with running our businesses and our lives. It’s a similar feeling that many in our hospitality industry grapple with as they bear the weight of business closures, drastic resource and budget cuts, job losses or, for the luckier in a no-win situation, forced redundancies. Marisa Bidois, Restaurant Association NZ CEO, tells me that the association had seen 78 closures by mid-September and that the period post-COVID-19 is going to be a rollercoaster. Lockdown and the inability to open for business forced our hospitality industry to take a much-needed break. Some have returned with a new or perhaps more thoughtful approach, some have returned to business as usual and some have not returned at all. New kids on the block have opened at a most extraordinary time where all of the old rules can (and should) be challenged. Back at the end of April as New Zealand moved from complete lockdown to Level 3, some hospitality teams began returning to work with an approach to their menus that was not just about food that travelled well in takeaway containers. Was this a seminal moment?

THE FISH SUPPER...

Alex Davies launched his takeaway option at Gatherings in Christchurch with a totally pared-back concept. Alex turned to artisanal fisher Nate Smith at Gravity fishing to offer his customers the ‘fish supper’ – a whole line-caught fish, roasted or grilled, served with a selection of salads, sides and sauces. When Gatherings re-opened on 20 May, Alex announced that it would not return to its original menu. “Over lockdown we rediscovered the joys of cooking big, family-style meals, using food as a means to comfort and come together in a beautiful ritual and celebration at a time of such uncertainty. This is something we want to share with you.” Alex told me the lockdown experience at home with his family had given him the opportunity to re-evaluate what and how he likes to eat. Sharing his takeaway fish suppers brought it home that the social element is key, and this is what builds an all-important community presence and connection.

THE APPLE CRUMBLE...

In the lead up to the pandemic, Lucas Parkinson and his team at Ode Wanaka had fought unthinkable odds having survived a restaurant fire, insurance battles, huge legal costs and the immense pressure that rebuilding and re-opening threw at them, only to have COVID-19 close their doors just as they were glimpsing a light at the end of the tunnel. Team Ode entered Level-3 (round two) with one item only on offer – an apple crumble. It was $10, it fed 2-3 adults and it came with free delivery. It was hoped that this heat-and-eat crumble made with local organic ingredients would raise some much-needed finance to get them back into the game. In week 1 their rendition of New Zealand’s favourite dessert sold out. The next week Ode paid it forward by donating 100 crumbles to frontline workers and locals in need. For Lucas, his humble crumble became an exercise in community spirit. “It was our pack of bandits hustling to save their jobs with almost 3000kg of donated backyard fruit. It was every local media outlet pushing the crumble message, being stopped every 30 seconds on the street to hear kind words of support and hundreds of online messages urging us to keep going. It was Toyotas rolling by with young hooligans yelling out ‘go the crumble!’”

Elsewhere, chef Vaughan Mabee began rolling out some of the best pies on the planet from his fine-dining kitchen at Amisfield in Arrowtown, and while Laura Greenfield and Raechal Ferguson of Field & Green fired up their Kedgeree Tuk Tuk to deliver their much-loved comfort dish to Wellingtonians, renowned Auckland restaurateur Micheal Dearth hit the road in his Baduzzi meatball truck, and Cibo’s Jeremy Turner and Kate Faye sold out of their takeaway pavs for breakfast. Food from the heart was becoming a familiar story around the country. One thing is very clear: enforced takeaways have made us crave the real experience even more. Experiential dining will not go away; my money is on places that are driven by a love of food, prepare it well and serve it honestly with very few layers between the diner and the chef. Will they survive? Well, that will depend on how much we are willing to spend. And for those of you who laughed at Ed Verner’s six-seater concept at Pasture, I bet you are not laughing now...

Editor's note.
Since publishing this article we have been advised that Ode Wanaka will deliver their last service on Sunday 8 November unless additional support from an investor or a buyer can be obtained.

"With incredible support from the community and 2 tonnes of apple crumble later, we reopened and things were going well. When the second lockdown hit we lost a majority of our bookings and since then we've been trying to claw our way back, but shoulder season in Wanaka has proven too much to withstand. Our last service will be 8 November but in true Ode fashion, we are not going down without a fight. If we can find adequate investors or a buyer then Ode can live on."
Lucas Parkinson Chef/Owner Ode Wanaka.

Contact eat@odewanaka.com

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Give it up for the Coromandel

We were making good time on the drive to The Villa in Paeroa until that damn giant Lemon & Paeroa bottle jumped out at us on SH2. It’s ‘World Famous in New Zealand’ so we had to stop for the obligatory photos. A few more steps to the left and we were into the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway which follows the old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi. The Windows Walk is only a short one, but we had two teenagers with us and the rusty old tracks, pitch-black tunnels and majestic views of the Karangahake mountain demanded a decent wander. We arrived at The Villa with just enough time for a quick scout around before heading out for dinner, and what a delight it was to stay at this 130-year-old, lovingly restored B&B that is steeped in history and has been owned by locals Wayne and Margarete Ford for over 20 years. Set on an acre of land it’s also home to an eclectic collection of animals including a pig called George, Ninja the goat, Sir Ponsonby the donkey and Gus the British bulldog. Look it up. The boys loved the little library and to my amazement put away their phones to rediscover the joy of playing board games!
The Villa, 5 Poland Street, Paeroa, thevillapaeroa.co.nz

Emma Walters and Brad King of Falls Retreat have an off-the-trail bistro nestled within the Karangahake Gorge. After a hairy drive up a steep, winding road there was no denying that it is destination dining, but even on the chilliest of winter evenings it was heartening to see the bistro filled with a mix of visitors and locals tucking in to what was some very good-looking food coming out of the open kitchen. We started with a small pizza straight out of the wood-fired oven, loaded with white anchovies, capers and parsley gremolata. I added a splash of the house-made chilli sambal and the fight was on for the last slice. The fish of the day with its orange and pickled-ginger confit baby vegetables – plucked from the garden and topped with anchovy, preserved lemon and herb butter – was beautifully cooked and that veg seriously sparkled. Pasta is housemade and served with sauces that are, again, inspired by homegrown ingredients. In fact, the entire menu showcases seasonal produce and supports a number of premium local producers. The food is honest and reflects Brad, bursting with energy and flavour, although I bet he and Emma will laugh when they read this, as it is obvious that the hours put in to sustain this magical place are exhausting. Killer desserts, housemade sodas, and a banging wine and drinks list brought it all home. My only regret is that it was dark when I arrived and I didn’t get to see what I hear is a remarkable kitchen garden and some very cute cottage accommodation options set within a spectacular natural bush setting. I suggest you go early.
25 Waitawheta Road, Karangahake Gorge fallsretreat.co.nz

For breakfast, we headed to Waihi and found the ‘World Famous in NZ’ Ti Tree Café located in an old miner’s cottage dating back to 1888. Do seek out this little gem as it is worth a look-in. The walls are covered with eye-catching local artworks (you can buy them if you like what you see) and the quirky retro interior circles around a bustling kitchen counter that is heaving with food to spoil yourself with. Slices deliver much more than the average roadside café with an impressive array of trays filled with caramel, mixed berry, pecan brownie and rocky road plus a ‘naughty but nice’ and a Nana slice that look like the bakers have gone far beyond the pages of the Edmonds cookbook for inspiration. NOT that I’m suggesting that there is anything wrong with an Edmonds classic. There were frittatas and lasagnas and huge bowls of zingylooking salads plus a basket of the most epic cheese scones, and that’s just the cabinet! The menu board promises steak samis, chilli-smoked pork tostadas, tandoori chicken burgers and their ‘world-famous’ Ti Tree chowder. There’s Fair Trade organic coffees, a terrific kids menu with waffles and toasties plus iced chocolate, hot chocolate, smoothies and fluffies… I forgot to ask what a fluffy is and now it is haunting me. I hear they have live music on occasion. I think that would be the makings of a very special Sunday afternoon if you are lucky enough to be in the area.
Ti Tree Cafe, 14 Haszard St, Waihi

Hauraki Rail Trail through the Karangahake Gorge


Breakfast done and deliciously dusted we loaded the boys into the car and headed north on SH25 towards Hot Water Beach. The boys (husband included) LOVED Hot Water Beach. So much so that I left them there spades at the ready and anxiously staking out their digging sites to await low-tide, while I took one for the team and headed over to Hot Waves Café for lunch. Yes, that’s right, I didn’t have enough to eat at breakfast. And yes, I walked to the café so lunch was justified. Hot Waves is a captivating spot, filled with natural light, comfy little nooks and a menu that covers everything that any self-respecting café would offer, but with an extra dollop of flavour just where you least expect it. For instance, there are burgers, of course, but all served with kūmara rostis: the beef is dressed in gherkins, aioli and a punchy relish; the chicken topped with brie, cranberries and slaw; the lamb nestled in with minted yoghurt alongside a feta dip. Nothing beats a fluffy omelette served on toast, even better when it is gently folded around chorizo, onion jam and feta and do not miss out on the pillowy towers of kūmara hash cakes with crispy bacon, sour cream and fresh vibrant salsa. The kind of place you might take a good magazine to and settle in… Give me a yell if you need one.
8 Pye Place, Hot Water Beach facebook.com/hotwavescafe

From Hot Water Beach it’s just a 10-minute drive to Hahei and the Hahei Holiday Resort. What a top spot! From campsites to sea-view villas, beachfront baches to coastal cabins if you can’t find something that suits your lot here then you don’t know how to have fun. It was 52 steps with my short legs from our villa straight across the grass and down onto the gorgeous pink and white sands. I counted. It was only 20 steps to the hot tub overlooking the ocean. The kids hit the beach, I hit the hot tub, the husband unpacked the car and all was right with the world. Oh alright, I let him in once he opened the wine. If you stay at HHR you will have plenty to explore. You can dive in Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve, take a scenic walk through Te Pare Reserve, you can even have a go at catching dinner with a little fishing on Hahei Beach. An absolute highlight was an early morning stroll down to that beach where we jumped on to the Hahei Explorer and spent a most magnificent hour skimming across the sparkling clear waters of the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve. So many stunning photo opportunities I gave up in the end and surrendered – better to just absorb. This spectacular boat ride with its personalised approach, superknowledgeable guide and breathtaking scenery will stay with us all forever.
41 Harsant Avenue, Hahei haheiholidays.co.nz haheiexplorer.co.nz

From Hot Water Beach it’s just a 10-minute drive to Hahei and the Hahei Holiday Resort. What a top spot! From campsites to sea-view villas, beachfront baches to coastal cabins if you can’t find something that suits your lot here then you don’t know how to have fun. It was 52 steps with my short legs from our villa straight across the grass and down onto the gorgeous pink and white sands. I counted. It was only 20 steps to the hot tub overlooking the ocean. The kids hit the beach, I hit the hot tub, the husband unpacked the car and all was right with the world. Oh alright, I let him in once he opened the wine. If you stay at HHR you will have plenty to explore. You can dive in Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve, take a scenic walk through Te Pare Reserve, you can even have a go at catching dinner with a little fishing on Hahei Beach. An absolute highlight was an early morning stroll down to that beach where we jumped on to the Hahei Explorer and spent a most magnificent hour skimming across the sparkling clear waters of the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve. So many stunning photo opportunities I gave up in the end and surrendered – better to just absorb. This spectacular boat ride with its personalised approach, superknowledgeable guide and breathtaking scenery will stay with us all forever.
41 Harsant Avenue, Hahei haheiholidays.co.nz haheiexplorer.co.nz

For a great spot to kick back after a hard day on the beach, head down the road to The Pour House. You’ve got to love a small independent business like this that grew from a knack for home-brewing into a great little place for casual, no fuss, generous food and drink. The menu is simple, pub-style and perfectly matched with a cold one from the terrific range of housebrews on tap. You can’t go wrong with an organic chicken katsu burger with slaw although the macadamia and kelp-crumbed fish and chips is also a winner. The St Louis pork ribs were messy work and perfect for sharing.
7 Grange Road, Hahei thepourhouse.co.nz

If you’ve come this far you might want to catch the five-minute ferry ride from Ferry Landing to Whitianga, and once you land swing by The French Fig. Here you will find all-day breakfasts (until 3pm) and a delightful café menu. Deliciously rustic sandwiches, very pretty cakes and, if you are hungry, the French grill looks stellar.
The French Fig Shop, 4/41 Albert Street, Whitianga frenchfig.co.nz


Why New Zealand’s great restaurants deserve your support.

Earlier this year, I caught up with Sid and Chand Sahrawat for a very frank and honest conversation about their journey down the road to becoming the couple behind three highly respected and loved Auckland restaurants: Cassia, Sid at The French Café and SIDART, winner of Restaurant of the Year in the Cuisine Good Food Awards 2019. Little did we know at that time that we were heading towards a global pandemic, and all of the challenges (frustration? heartbreak? anxiety?) that would bring.

We talked about their separate arrivals in Auckland; their chance meeting at a friend's flat; Sid’s progression from chef de partie at Non Solo Pizza in the heart of Parnell to him taking over from acclaimed chef Micheal Meredith at award-winning restaurant The Grove; Chand taking on a full-time gig at Rangitoto College while they both toiled away on the transformation of a little Nepalese restaurant in Ponsonby, turning it into what we all now know as one of New Zealand’s finest restaurant experiences, SIDART. Their need to continue evolving and a yearning to reproduce their extraordinary home-comfort dishes in a smart and contemporary environment led to the birth of Cassia in central Auckland, where Sid now marries traditional Indian dishes with modern techniques and New Zealand ingredients. Having those two rather large balls in the air, you’d think they might have stopped there, but along came the opportunity to purchase renowned restaurant The French Café from industry stalwarts Simon Wright and Creghan Molloy-Wright, and in they jumped with an enthusiasm that was formidable.

As we talked our way through all of these incredible restaurant projects it became clear that Sid and Chand’s commitment to perfection is paramount, and that the many layers of their business are all carefully considered, driven and executed by a sense of absolute joy (there is no other way to describe it) for creating unforgettable dining in extraordinary venues. We talked about the creation of Tuesday Test Kitchen where they turned their quietest night at SIDART into a weekly event that was fully booked 3–4 weeks in advance and is now proudly continued at Sid at The French Café where they highlight experimental dishes from all three of their restaurants. The Sahrawats generously shared their hopes and dreams (and determination) for the future and I left secure in the knowledge that our chat would showcase and justify this couple’s inspiring journey with their team toward their magnificent achievement late last year in winning Cuisine’s coveted Restaurant Of The Year award.

And then came COVID-19...

… and level 2 social distancing forced an abrupt scramble towards providing takeaway meals and home deliveries. All of the unfamiliar logistics that creating transportable food involves were just getting underway when level 3 brought with it the news of a 48-hour prep period before total lockdown. That was it. Sid and Chand were forced to shut up not one, but three shops and go home to be with their kids.

So, this episode of Cuisine Bites became, by default, a conversation that all of our restaurateurs, chefs, front-of-house teams, café owners, baristas, sommeliers – in fact any person working in the hospitality industry – will understand only too well. As much as I know that they will love it, it’s not the industry that needs to hear it. It’s all of us who have taken eating out for granted in the past that need to hear this conversation, and hopefully start to realise what it takes to sustain the dining experiences that we can be proud to support in our new normal.

Have a listen to the full conversation below...

Thank you to the Sahrawats for sharing their story. It’s still early days as our hospitality industry starts down the road to recovery and it needs your support now more than ever. So please, if you want your favourite restaurant or bar or café to still be there for the long haul, get out when you can and support your local.

Here is a taste of Sid preparing and cooking three stunning dishes as he talks about his passion for foodand how he keeps the dining experience special for guests at his Auckland restaurants including the Gaggenau Tuesday Test Kitchen...

Register here for the Gaggenau newsletter and you will immediately receive a PDF with these three magnificent recipes created by Sid Sahrawat for Gaggenau.

*The Cuisine Good Food awards 2020 have been postponed to allow our hospitality industry to recover from the effects of COVID-19. We look forward to presenting New Zealand's best dining experiences to you in 2021.