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CIBO

There is much to like at Cibo. The dining areas, both inside and out, are elegant, the seating is comfortable and it’s a relaxing place to be

COCO’S CANTINA

Owners Renee and Damaris Coulter describe Coco’s Cantina as a simple neighbourhood restaurant serving home-style Italian food.

BRACU

This elegant old villa sits serenely in an olive grove on the Simunovich Estate, just 40 minutes south of Auckland in the Bombays.

CAZADOR

Meat lovers rejoice. At Cazador game is a speciality so expect to see a menu bursting with the likes of hare, venison, quail and goat (though there’s usually a fish and vegetarian option, too). 

Kazuya

It’s a rare thing to dine out and come away feeling utterly content. Yet put yourself in the hands of chef-owner Kazuya Yamauchi and you’re in for a degustation, every mouthful of which is utterly delicious.

Palate

Palate is a restaurant that consistently produces well-thought-out and executed dishes matched perfectly with thoughtful, knowledgeable service, a fabulous wine list and a beautiful riverside setting.

Elephant Hill

The modernist winery building captures stupendous views, your eyes sweeping down through rows of vines to the cliffs and ocean beyond.

Charley Noble

This classy bistro is doing what it does very well. And what it does is hearty fare prepared in a trad, uncomplicated manner, using quality ingredients.

Noble Rot

The wine list, overseen by sommelier Maciej Zimny, is Noble Rot’s pièce de résistance ... it has no peer, and rightly wins a lot of plaudits.

Cocoro

The Cocoro experience verges on faultless. From the moment you arrive at their door you are enveloped in a calmness and a serenity that extends from the charming welcome from co-owner Ricky Lee, and continues with understated service throughout the meal.

Depot

Depot has become a great fixture on Federal Street and, judging by the consistent number of diners, its popularity hasn’t waned.

Gemmayze St

Something exciting happens at the back of K’ Road’s atmospheric St Kevin’s Arcade of an evening, with a street-dining-meets-palm-court ambience and superb Lebanese home cooking.

Logan Brown

Beautiful bold colours of apple-cured Ōra King salmon with rhubarb kimchi and salmon caviar. Local Kāpiti crab with crispy-skinned line-caught gurnard.

Euro

Many a summer afternoon has been lazed away on the terrace at Euro, its absolute waterfront location – just a step back from the bustle of Princes Wharf – offering the ideal spot to watch the parade go by.

Culprit

A commitment to less-loved cuts and a strong emphasis on Kiwi produce are the principles guiding chef-owners Jordan MacDonald and Kyle Street (pictured).

Cotto

For a fresh pasta hit and some delectable smaller dishes you’ll be hard pressed to find anything better at this price.

Harbourside

A staple of the Auckland waterfront dining scene, glamourous Harbourside occupies a privileged position on the first floor of the historic Auckland Ferry building.

Masu by Nic Watt

Knowledgeable waitstaff welcome diners to the classy, no-expense-spared dining room at Masu, a sophisticated, Japanese robata restaurant in the SkyCity dining precinct.

Lillius

It’s a sophisticated setting with luxurious royal-blue booths and gold chairs adding a touch of glamour to the slick concrete walls.

Hugo’s Bistro

Head Chef Emile Bennington, makes food that is delectably accessible with enough of a twist to keep things interesting.

Ortolana

Ortolana is a restful eddy alongside the frantic flow of commuters and shoppers coursing through the Pavilions at Britomart.

Orphans Kitchen

Many restaurants talk the talk about ethical food production and sustainable practices but Tom Hishon (pictured) and Josh Helm deliver in spades, offering simplicity, fresh fare and delightfully unexpected flavours that change daily.

O’Connell St Bistro

After more than 20 years service O’Connell St Bistro truly deserves the kudos of an Auckland icon – a favourite that consistently serves up just what you want with a gentle surprise to keep your interest.

Ponsonby Road Bistro

Ponsonby Road Bistro ticks a good many boxes. It’s a sophisticated dining experience that manages to retain just the right level of casual.

Pasture

Most new restaurants start off small, make a name for themselves, then expand to suit their success.

Pasta & Coure

You won’t get fresher pasta than this, made right in front of you while you check out the menu and consider a glass of wine.

Sid at the French Cafe

For almost 20 years The French Cafe, guided by owners Simon Wright and and Creghan Molloy-Wright, has set the gold standard for Auckland’s fine-dining scene.

Satya Chai Lounge

Sister of the famous Satya restaurant, this bigger, bolder Satya Chai Lounge on K’ Road is hard to find, with no street signage (just look for the coffee sacks), an easy, stylish charm, exceptional beer and wonderful South Indian food.

Prego

Where’s your top spot at Prego – at the bar, by the roaring fire, in the courtyard? At this Auckland stalwart, customers have been coming back for years claiming their favourite table, ordering their favourite dish, greeting familiar staff.

The Engine Room

Since 2006, Natalia Schamroth and Carl Koppenhagen have been giving us a quintessential neighbourhood bistro – classic dishes done well in a warm and welcoming environment.

Soul Bar & Bistro

Boasting an enviable location looking out over Viaduct Harbour, Soul Bar & Bistro has been part of Auckland’s entertainment scene for almost two decades.

Sidart

Each year the status of Sid Sahrawat (pictured) increases exponentially. His creativity flourishes, his menus continue to draw high praise, his mastery of innovative cooking is undeniable and his propensity for delivering stunningly beautiful and thoughtful food shows no sign of abating.

The Hunting Lodge

Des Harris is one of those chefs who has the uncommon knack of being able to combine creativity with substance and satisfaction, creating a menu offering the likes of smoky and piquant duck liver parfait with spiced feijoa chutney.

The Grove

The Grove has a reputation for attracting the best to serve the best to those expecting the best.

White & Wong’s

Asian-styled lanterns sway above White & Wong’s, illuminating diners and drinkers who are mixing and matching east-meets-west cuisine with complementary cocktails and wines.

The Sugar Club

Restaurants at top-of-the-tower tourist sights rarely excite, but thankfully The Sugar Club wows for so much more than the view.

Hayes Common

Hayes Common displays all the best attributes of an owner-operated restaurant, with superb attention to detail and staff that are on song throughout.

Chim Choo Ree

Chim Choo Ree has been a popular Hamilton eatery for a while, with many customers returning time and architecture is complemented by unfussy décor.

Monte Cervino

‘Not so much an Italian restaurant and bar, but a New Zealand one whose influences spread back to Italy,’ says the menu note.

Salty Pidgin

Occupying a beautiful spot on a north-facing slope in Brooklyn, Salty Pidgin straddles the line between neighbourhood drinking hole (albeit a rather stylish one) and chic eatery.

Rita

At Rita they have thrown away the menu, leaving diners with little to debate – all you decide is whether to plump for vegetarian or not, if you want to add a side or two and what you’d like to drink.

Pravda

Flavourful cafe favourites during the day segue into classic steakhouse fare in the evening.

WBC

The industrial bones of this former boot factory show through in the high stud and floor-to-ceiling windows of the vibrant, hip room, now enhanced by banquette seating, large blackboards and an open kitchen.

Shepherd

Shepherd performs that neat trick – unprepossessing from the outside, exciting within.

APÉRO

Walk into the welcoming brick-walled, wooden-floored space of Apéro and let the trials of the day slip away – you feel like you are getting a big warming hug as co-owner Mo Koski looks after you.

BADUZZI

At Baduzzi they serve up rustic Italian New York-inspired food of traditional dishes executed in brilliant modern style.

CLOONEY

Clooney has always been an elegant and atmospheric venue, particularly for special occasion dining.

CASSIA

Cassia continues to win accolades for bringing casual and contemporary Indian cooking to the table, for its exemplary service and delivering satisfaction with flair but without gimmicks or artifice. It’s a quirky space, with low ceilings and a mod-industrial vibe.

Amano

Marble countertops and huge swags of dried flowers bring luxe in spades to this stripped-down warehouse space.

Azabu

At buzzy, sophisticated Azabu the Japanese-Peruvian (Nikkei) food is inspired and beautifully executed, with chef Yukio Ozeki delivering a fun and interesting menu.

Antoines

Antoines represents the very best of a distant era where formality is the norm, waiters wear ties and aprons and serve, with silver-service flourishes, classically prepared dishes at tables with starched white cloths and napkins.

Whitebait

Wellington’s premiere seafood restaurant offers the full fine- dining experience in a newly renovated interior filled with subtle coastal references.

Ortega Fish Shack

It’s no wonder that Ortega is busy most nights; the food is excellent without being too fancy, the drinks list is worthy of serious exploration and you know you will be well looked after.

Oikos Hellenic Cuisine

With fairy lights sparkling, Greek lettering on the whitewashed wall and a jovial atmosphere, Oikos delivers the ambience for a great casual evening.

Loretta

Loretta, born from the partnership that brought Floriditas to Wellington, is now fully under the management and creative talent of Chef Marc Weir.

Hippopotamus

An opulent cocktail bar, tables stiffly dressed in white, the dining theatre of crepes Suzette expertly prepared tableside – all this indicates a serious restaurant worth dressing up for.

Hillside Kitchen & Cellar

Hillside has always delivered delicious and thought-provoking dining and from September 2018 the menu will take a new turn, becoming entirely meatless.

Havana Bar & Restaurant

Two brightly painted, original workers’ cottages – tucked away around the corner from the roar of Cuba Street – house the well-loved Havana.

Field & Green

Step into this gallery-like space in Wellington’s self-styled ‘arts precinct’ and you’ll appreciate the skill of Raechal Ferguson and Laura Greenfield (pictured left to right).

Egmont St Eatery

You wouldn’t expect a converted carpark hidden down a lane to be sleek and welcoming but, hot damn, they’ve done it.

Chameleon

Chameleon is the perfect place to shake off the aura of dining in a hotel restaurant.

Capitol

Capitol offers seasonally based, comforting European-inspired food, cooked with skill.

Boulcott Street Bistro

Opened in 1991 to rising competition from upscale French bistros like Francois and Le Metropolitain, the Boulcott has outlasted the lot and is doing well.

Craggy Range Restaurant

Under the helm of Casey McDonald, the kitchen turns out well-presented dishes loaded with home-grown vegetables, salad ingredients, herbs and other locally sourced Hawke’s Bay produce.

Te Awa Winery Restaurant

So many chefs chant the fresh, locally sourced produce mantra, but Stephen Tindall (pictured) and Leyton Ashley genuinely serve up the goods, with a hefty dollop of originality and innovation.

Black Barn Bistro

An avenue of fig trees leads to the charming Black Barn Bistro, a picturesque venue gazing out over the vineyards and slopes of Hawke’s Bay.

Bistronomy

Chef-owner James Beck crafts complex dishes, layering many intricate components into a seamless whole.

Saint Peter

Chef Josh Niland has Saint Peter pitching firmly as another one to watch in the Sydney seafood heavyweight stakes.

Rockpool Bar & Grill

I knew I was off to a good start with the arrival of the off-menu Rockpool wagyu slider (usually reserved for regulars) and glad to be back at one of the most decadent dining rooms in Sydney.

Lumi Dining

Oh my lord, if you are a traditionalist LuMi Dining is not for you and, sadly, you’ll be missing out.

Cirrus

Sydney will tell you it does Aussie seafood better than anywhere else. I’m not entirely sure about that, but if it’s a Sydney seafood restaurant you are after, Cirrus is one of the best.

Bennelong

Peter Gilmore (of Quay fame) took the reins at Bennelong in 2014 and along with chef, Robert Cockerill, presents a definitively Australian menu in an undeniably iconic venue.

Sepia

The bad news for Sydney is that Sepia will deliver its final service on 15 December.

QT Sydney

Fabulously central, surrounded by the very best of Sydney culture, fashion, theatre and art and full of edgy intrigue and city swing, QT Sydney was the perfect base for my extreme eating tour.

The Sugar Club

There's something really pleasant happening high above Auckland. The Sugar Club, Skycity’s showcase for Kiwi cuisine, is benefitting from a prolonged and determined journey to find just the right combo of leadership, head chef and service style to make the dining experience as memorable as the long lift ride to the best view in Auckland.

Hugo’s Bistro

It's just a well that Hugo’s Bistro is open for all-day dining as the chairs here are so soft to sink into that it’s hard to muster up the will to leave. And why would you want to when the house-blend coffee is excellent, the food is good and the service is so warm.

5th Street

Already seduced during a few visits to the bar at 5th Street for drinks before dinner elsewhere, I was greatly anticipating the full food experience at the recently opened restaurant, an offshoot of Hello Sunday cafe across the road.

1154 Pastaria

While everybody has heard of pizzerias, the concept of a dedicated pastaria is fairly novel, to Wellingtonians at least.

Francesca’s Italian Kitchen

Warmth and generosity of spirit, Nonna-inspired cooking and cosiness are always my hope for Italian fare but, sadly, not always my experience. So, on venturing into Francesca’s Italian Kitchen my expectations were uncertain, although the buzz of a nearly full restaurant was promising.

Monte Cervino

There was great despair expressed in Wellington last year when news broke that Matterhorn, the Cuba Quarter stalwart famed as much for its bar as its restaurant, was closing its doors for good.

Bastardo

After Bastardo opened in Tory Street in June last year, its first few menus took inspiration from the cooking of Italian migrants struggling to establish a new identity in New York. By offering old American-italian faves like Rigatoni Vodka. Fettucine Scampi, Octopus...

Hunger Monger

There’s an eclectic mix of wooden, laminate and plastic furniture; some tables are covered with plastic tablecloths and some chairs with sheepskin covers. The white expanse of roof and exposed trusses is broken by lots of hanging plants...

Lillius

There is much to like at Lillius. The setting is exquisitely sophisticated, a mix of hard and soft surfaces, elegant in its spareness and simplicity. The gorgeous royal blue booths and banquettes with contrasting mustard chairs are both comfortable and striking.

Giraffe

The viaduct on a sultry Friday evening is booming with baby boomers. Most restaurants and bars are packed. Giraffe, the latest venture by everyone’s favourite Masterchef judge Simon Gault, is no exception.

Rothko

Three gorgeous but completely unexpected golden chandeliers hang in the vestibule of Rothko’s kitchen. Diners seated on the outside deck can spy them; it’s a testament to the eccentricity of this relative newcomer in the rural countryside that nothing is quite as it seems. Rothko is in Matakana, one of Auckland’s newest day-out destinations.

The Hunting Lodge

It’s good to have The Hunting Lodge open again. Those of us living in the north west of Auckland have been feeling the need for somewhere decent to dine for some time. There is of course the very popular Tasting Shed and a plethora of curry joints nearby but having another local option is welcome.

Cotto

K Road has been home to many a pop-up venture and one of the more recent ones, Cotto, which started up as a three-month fxture in the old 69 premises, has now become a permanent restaurant.

The Grey Robin

Dinky New Regent St shops tend to do the Dr Who Tardis thing, seeming much larger than they should be once you get inside.
The Grey Robin goes the other way. The tiny dining area upstairs is even smaller than you expect, with the darkish, plush decor drawing everything in close.

Pomelo Kitchen & Bar

A few days before I dine at Pomelo Kitchen & Bar, I bump into a Singaporean friend who lives near Oriental Bay. I mention my planned visit to the latest addition to her neighbourhood and she shakes her head.

Terrôir

To understand why Craggy Range winery is so named, you only need to sit out on its restaurant terrace and soak in the sculptural drama of Te Mata peak looming directly above.

Nanam

Filipino food has never been a regular on my eating pathway but as it happens, I have visited Nanam before. It lived in Royal Oak then and I recall it being packed, a casual place with an upbeat, family-friendly vibe.

Inti

Inti opened in August in the space formerly held by the short-lived Meat Fish Wine after a quick-fire turnaround. The worst of the opulence has been removed (yes, that dusty wine teardrop has gone) and space has been lightened.

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