EATS! New Zealand

The food amazed us in New Zealand.  I did go to this country with expectations of nothing but lamb, pies, fish & chips and the thought that most towns would have better curry shops, thai food and Indian places than local grub could provide.  The curries and Thai we had were great but the local, regional cuisine we mainly ate simply blew us away.

Part of the reason is the people of New Zealand like to know where their food comes from and fresh, local food seems pretty standard.  From the vegetables to meats, local was key and this was a proud fact on most menus.  As we learned in Queenstown, the people are quick to set expectations and note when expectations for restaurants are not met.  Like most places sub par doesn’t last long but it appears sub par does not seem to happen much in this country.

There were no real quirky notes on dining in Kiwi Country.  One aspect I did love – being in the restaurant business – was that if you wanted bread, it was an option for purchase.  Bread wasn’t just given to the table and potentially wasted, the expectation was that for 5 dollars, you will get delicious bread and spreads.  I love that but do think it is something we could easily pull off in the States.

The only other note is that there is a wonderful cafe culture in New Zealand.  My guess is that there are more highly trained barista’s in this country making art with your latte than in the whole of the USA.  I’m not much of a coffee drinker but I’ve not seen milk art coming out of Starbucks.  The cafes in New Zealand also offer food which is vastly superior to cafe food as known in the USA.  Each day we breakfasted at a cafe and each day were pleasantly surprised with the value, variety and quality we received.

I do nto see New Zealand as a food lovers mecca like a Paris or Tokyo – but the food here was a wonderful surprise and surpassed what were notably low expectations.  I guess its hard to go wrong when an entire country believes in Farm to Table dining, and that made for a real treat.

Notable favorites from New Zealand*

Tim Tams – 

  • Original – Delicious and a must buy
  • Sweet Wishes Honey Comb – Milk chocolate covered graham crackers with honey cream in the center…These are my personal favorite.
  • Dark Chocolate – WOW.  This is good with a nice Syrah.
  • White Chocolate – Like a white wedding cake from the best bakery you have ever found.  Yes, that good.
  • Dark Chocolate Mint – Its a large girl scout thin mint.  No joke.
  • Carmel – DAMN…did you say there is a Tim Tam with carmel in the middle…I got to get me some of that!

Waiheke Island/Auckalnd

Casa Mira – Our first meal in New Zealand and our favorite overall.  Broccoli Gratin, house baked foccicia with white bean puree and roman style pesto and finished with a tasting of New Zealand Manchego with Tamarind chutney.  WOW.  Perfect meal.  this is a must do lunch spot on the island of Waiheke.

Queenstown

Fergburger – Every book or website you read about Queenstown tells you to eat at Fergburger.  I really wanted it to suck so I could call it Turdburger…but it didn’t suck.  They bake their own bread, make everything in house and like all good burger places, the salad condiments are super fresh.  They do more than burgers too and the price is right, so this really is a must do lunch in Queenstown.

La Voglia – Italian.  Yes, I’m pickey when it comes to Italian especially at a place that sells Arancini, Gnocchi and a Ragu – some of the most popular items we serve at Pandolfi’s.  It was good, not great, just a good restaurant and they deserve a note.

The Pig & Whistle – Ended up being our go to pub in Queenstown.  Great pub atmosphere, location and the food we saw looked way above par for most pub grub around the rest of town.  Choked full of Kiwi’s too which made for interesting people watching as the nights wore on.

Nelson

Overall we were underwhlemed by Nelson and also by the food.  There were two good meals however because, they did serve us two of our “bests” 

Beach House – Best Breakfast.  A view of the sea and Hoevous Rancherous was better than most I have ever had anywhere.

The Vic – Home to the best fish a chips and worst one man guitar player cover man.  Entertainment gets 0 points but the fish and chips won it that night.  What makes a good fish and chips?  Well, light batter that is super crispy and stays super crispy.  So long as the batter doesn’t sit on the stomach like a loaf of bread, you are on your way to good fish and chips.  After that, if your fish is perfect and super fresh, you have a winner.

Blenhime

Rock Ferry – Just a perfect example of a winery cafe.  Great wines with sweet personal and kind service in abundance.  Not to mention our meals of grilled salmon with french lentils and monk fish served with lemon risotto were perfectly cooked.  The Lemon tart for dessert was also incredible and an example I may need to borrow for pandolifs if I can figure it out.

Chi Chi’s – Fantastic Thai food in Blenhime that made the list because its good but also for the name.  I haven’t seen a restaurant called Chi Chi’s since I was in Abu Dhabi in 2006 and yes, it was a Mexican Chi Chi’s.

Kaikoura

Hislops – Our best meal in Kaikoura and our second favorite overall.  We had a Fish Sandwich and Lentil burger – fish sandwich pictured above.  Both were simply amazing.

The Peir Hotel – Ordered the weirdest thing ever here, Whitebait.  We heard people talk about it being whitebait season and it needs to be eaten while here.  Lets just say this is an acquired taste.  (Feels, looks and tastes like you are eating bait, FYI.)

Black Rabbit Pizza – This would not make a best of or top pizza list.  The menu is creative which was fun but the service is bar none.  With no car in Kaikoura and advertising they delivered, we called and learned there was one person manning the restaurant for the evening.  5 minutes later a delivery driver had been located, they would take credit over the phone and we had fresh hot pizza 20 minutes later.  Wonderful, kind service which deserves to be rewarded.

Christchurch

Hummingbird Central – This was our go to breakfast place in the Re-Start City Mall.  Packed, free wifi and the best bread we had in New Zealand.

The George – We went here for our last official nice meal in New Zealand.  It was fantastic.  It is also a fancy hotel that goes for about 500 or more a night and the bistro lives up to that expectation.  Very nice way to “end” the trip.

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3 Responses to “EATS! New Zealand”

  1. Charlotte
    September 29, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I really want a Tim Tam! The food sounds delicious! Not so sure about the whitebait!

  2. Mom
    September 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    The food looks fabulous and you did an awesome job describing the tastes and everything! Thank you for sharing…love mom

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