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
Owners Renee and Damaris Coulter describe Coco’s Cantina as a simple neighbourhood restaurant serving home-style Italian food.
This elegant old villa sits serenely in an olive grove on the Simunovich Estate, just 40 minutes south of Auckland in the Bombays.
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).
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 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.
The modernist winery building captures stupendous views, your eyes sweeping down through rows of vines to the cliffs and ocean beyond.
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.
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.
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 has become a great fixture on Federal Street and, judging by the consistent number of diners, its popularity hasn’t waned.
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.
Beautiful bold colours of apple-cured Ōra King salmon with rhubarb kimchi and salmon caviar. Local Kāpiti crab with crispy-skinned line-caught gurnard.
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.
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).
For a fresh pasta hit and some delectable smaller dishes you’ll be hard pressed to find anything better at this price.
A staple of the Auckland waterfront dining scene, glamourous Harbourside occupies a privileged position on the first floor of the historic Auckland Ferry building.
A bar, cafe and hotel-lobby restaurant space all in one, Gusto caters for all occasions and all times of day.
‘The Fed’ is Al Brown’s take on an old-school New York-Jewish delicatessan. What does that mean?
Knowledgeable waitstaff welcome diners to the classy, no-expense-spared dining room at Masu, a sophisticated, Japanese robata restaurant in the SkyCity dining precinct.
It’s a sophisticated setting with luxurious royal-blue booths and gold chairs adding a touch of glamour to the slick concrete walls.
Head Chef Emile Bennington, makes food that is delectably accessible with enough of a twist to keep things interesting.
Ortolana is a restful eddy alongside the frantic flow of commuters and shoppers coursing through the Pavilions at Britomart.
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.
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 ticks a good many boxes. It’s a sophisticated dining experience that manages to retain just the right level of casual.
Most new restaurants start off small, make a name for themselves, then expand to suit their success.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Boasting an enviable location looking out over Viaduct Harbour, Soul Bar & Bistro has been part of Auckland’s entertainment scene for almost two decades.
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.
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 has a reputation for attracting the best to serve the best to those expecting the best.
Dining at The Grill can be a seamless and rewarding experience, from the neat-as-a-pin service to the excellent quality of the food.
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.
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 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 has been a popular Hamilton eatery for a while, with many customers returning time and architecture is complemented by unfussy décor.
‘Not so much an Italian restaurant and bar, but a New Zealand one whose influences spread back to Italy,’ says the menu note.
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.
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.
Flavourful cafe favourites during the day segue into classic steakhouse fare in the evening.
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.
A typical French-inspired bistro traditional in every respect, but hey, what’s wrong with that?
Shepherd performs that neat trick – unprepossessing from the outside, exciting within.
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.
At Baduzzi they serve up rustic Italian New York-inspired food of traditional dishes executed in brilliant modern style.
Clooney has always been an elegant and atmospheric venue, particularly for special occasion dining.
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.
Marble countertops and huge swags of dried flowers bring luxe in spades to this stripped-down warehouse space.
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 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.
Wellington’s premiere seafood restaurant offers the full fine- dining experience in a newly renovated interior filled with subtle coastal references.
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.
With fairy lights sparkling, Greek lettering on the whitewashed wall and a jovial atmosphere, Oikos delivers the ambience for a great casual evening.
Loretta, born from the partnership that brought Floriditas to Wellington, is now fully under the management and creative talent of Chef Marc Weir.
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 has always delivered delicious and thought-provoking dining and from September 2018 the menu will take a new turn, becoming entirely meatless.
Two brightly painted, original workers’ cottages – tucked away around the corner from the roar of Cuba Street – house the well-loved Havana.
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).
You wouldn’t expect a converted carpark hidden down a lane to be sleek and welcoming but, hot damn, they’ve done it.
Chameleon is the perfect place to shake off the aura of dining in a hotel restaurant.
Capitol offers seasonally based, comforting European-inspired food, cooked with skill.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t be fooled by the low-key, laid-back beach villa exterior.
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.
Chef-owner James Beck crafts complex dishes, layering many intricate components into a seamless whole.
As one of Australia’s most famous restaurants, Quay was top of my list but unfortunately was closed for a nip and tuck!
Firedoor was my last stop for lunch before heading for the airport.
Chef Josh Niland has Saint Peter pitching firmly as another one to watch in the Sydney seafood heavyweight stakes.
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.
Oh my lord, if you are a traditionalist LuMi Dining is not for you and, sadly, you’ll be missing out.
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.
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.
The bad news for Sydney is that Sepia will deliver its final service on 15 December.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While everybody has heard of pizzerias, the concept of a dedicated pastaria is fairly novel, to Wellingtonians at least.
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.
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.
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...
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...
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.
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.
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.
There is scrupulous attention to detail at Hayes Common. It shows in the big things, like food, drinks and service.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.