The first dust of winter speckling the hills near Ōamaru is a cue to cosy-up the menu at Cucina, the Tees St restaurant of Pablo and Yanina Tacchini. “When the mountains are all snowy, we need to put soup back on the menu,” says Yanina. “It’s crazy; suddenly all the tourists are here and everyone wants soup.”
Several years ago, I was in Tokyo demonstrating to a number of chefs the glory and beauty of New Zealand grass-fed beef. The chefs were comparing it unfavourably to Wagyu, the grain-fed cattle they were used to. Behind me was a large, cinematic poster of Mount Taranaki, its towering volcanic slopes surrounded by lush green pastures with the byline “our backyard”.
Often, in search of a fresh adventure, you come full circle. When Dariush Lolaiy and Rebecca Smidt decided to open a deli to bring products they love and use at wild-game restaurant Cazador to their customers, they ended up back in the same place. “We looked for ages for a new location, but it was right there in front of us,” says Rebecca.
You need to look where the next hungry crowd is, says chef Hayden McMillan, and he has no doubt that vegan food is the next step forward.
The joy of regional dining is that it celebrates the land in a way that is respectful, fun and delicious. There are few better examples of this than in the Bay of Plenty.
Plabita Florence has made it her business to elevate vegetables, especially the friendless ones and those peelings, leaves and pits that we often throw away without a second thought.
As we went to print, Carlos Noel Buenaventura, Craig Thompson and Matthew Venables were hard at work on Bar Magda, a downstairs bar and bistro focused on Aotearoa’s seasonal produce through a Filipino lens. Details are scant, but look it up on Instagram – it promises to be a winner.
GUEST CHEF RECIPES
Wellington. Recently opened by Yu Group in the building that formerly housed The Bresolin, Cinderella offers elaborately conceived snacks in its covered courtyard bar and modern European cuisine in its upstairs bistro.
Napier. P&S creates classical French dishes in a humble cottage setting, in one of the so-called Six Sisters along Napier’s Marine Parade. While both service and setting may feel sufficiently homely and familial for certain men to rock up in shorts, the dining is distinctly hoity-toity.
Auckland. The kitchen serves well-conceived dishes that range from some spectacular snacks through to an impressive offering of dry-aged steaks, accompanied by a drinks list that includes original cocktails and some seriously good wines.
Auckland. This elegant city oasis literally sparkles, its stunning chandelier shimmering like the scales of the mighty kingfish. You will be just as comfortable here with kina on toast or a smoked hempseed s’more and a glass or two from the excellent wine list, as you will diving into the full menu to discover flavours of New Zealand’s oceans, dunes, river mouths and reefs.
Auckland. This is a dining experience no serious gourmand should miss. Mr Morris more than meets expectations: it reinvents them.
Christchurch. Remarkable wine bar and tasting room boasting an impressively extensive wine list, located in the magnificent Arts Centre.