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The Grange

AUCKLAND. Despite a couple of highlights, there were too many food flaws during our first foray into The Grange-land three months ago for us to leave completely satisfied.

Barberra Restaurant

CHRISTCHURCH. Sitting on the banks of the Avon River, new kid on the block Barberra is a sophisticated addition to the phoenixlike eating scene in the garden city.

Saint Alice

AUCKLAND. Earlier this year I spent more than a few lazy summer afternoons hoofing freshly shucked oysters at new Viaduct darling Saint Alice, but this was my first visit after nightfall, for dinner.

PICO BAR + EATERY

WELLINGTON. Despite fresh jungle-themed wallpaper and new lampshades that look like swollen eel traps, Pico Bar + Eatery is still easily recognisable as the old Zibibbo. But the significant change is that this Wellington institution is no longer so much a restaurant as a bar with good food.

Spring Kitchen

WELLINGTON. Luxuriating in beautiful neo-classical detail yet recently threatened with demolition, Wellington’s 1928 T & G Building has now been fully restored as a bijou boutique hotel, the Doubletree by Hilton.

The Tasting Shed

AUCKLAND. Long the preserve of those in need of lazy, summer-destination dining, The Tasting Shed has been a favourite of large groups for family celebrations, hen’s nights, the odd corporate function and weddings.

Harbour Society

AUCKLAND. If bling is your thing, the foyer of SO/ Auckland, a recently opened hotel in central Auckland, will provide plenty of eye candy to whet the appetite.

The Birdwood

CHRISTCHURCH. The Birdwood is a beacon in the night while all around is sepia, sleepy and quiet. Enter this food nest through the double doors, however, and the surprise is the captivating buzz, warmth, and heady yeast aromas from the pizza oven.

CIBO

AUCKLAND. 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

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

Gemmayze St

AUCKLAND. 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.

Euro

AUCKLAND. 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.

Cotto

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

Harbourside

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

Federal Delicatessen

AUCKLAND. ‘The Fed’ is Al Brown’s take on an old-school New York-Jewish delicatessan. What does that mean?

Hugo’s Bistro

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

Ortolana

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

Orphans Kitchen

AUCKLAND. 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.

Ponsonby Road Bistro

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

Pasta & Coure

AUCKLAND. 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.

Satya Chai Lounge

AUCKLAND. 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

AUCKLAND. 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.

Soul Bar & Bistro

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

The Hunting Lodge

AUCKLAND. 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 Sugar Club

AUCKLAND. 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

HAMILTON. 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

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

Salty Pidgin

WELLINGTON. 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.

Pravda

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

WBC

WELLINGTON. 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.

Tinakori Bistro

WELLINGTON. A typical French-inspired bistro traditional in every respect, but hey, what’s wrong with that?

CLOONEY

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

Amano

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

Azabu

AUCKLAND. 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

AUCKLAND. 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.

Ortega Fish Shack

WELLINGTON. 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

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

Loretta

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

Havana Bar & Restaurant

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

Egmont St Eatery

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

Te Awa Winery Restaurant

HAWKE'S BAY. 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

HAWKE'S BAY. 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.

The Sugar Club

AUCKLAND. 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

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.

5th Street

CHRISTCHURCH. 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

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

Francesca’s Italian Kitchen

CHRISTCHURCH. 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.

Bastardo

WELLINGTON. 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

NAPIER. 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...

Giraffe

AUCKLAND. 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

AUCKLAND. 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

AUCKLAND. 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

AUCKLAND. 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

CHRISTCHURCH. 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

WELLINGTON. 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

HAWKE'S BAY. 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

AUCKLAND. 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.

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