Hamilton, New Zealand’s fourth largest city, boasts a varied and cosmopolitan dining scene that matches the city’s vibrant reputation. From contemporary Kiwi fare and tapas to steaks and cafe snacks, our guide will help you find the best dining spots the city has to offer. These are the 10 must-visit cultural restaurants in Hamilton.
Located in one of Hamilton’s most popular restaurant communities, Hood Street, Gothenburg serves simple but tasty tapas-inspired fare with flavors from across the globe all cooked up by head chef Kylie Petterson and her talented team. Based a few minutes’ walk from the picturesque Ferrybank Park, the restaurant features a stylish interior with a vibrant, buzzing atmosphere. Since opening, Gothenburg has been wowing diners with tasty dishes like the pan-seared yellow fin tuna with mango chili salsa and coconut curry and the lamb noisette with cauliflower puree and a bacon and caper vinaigrette.
Established in 2010 by local expert restaurateur Julia Clarke, Victoria Street Bistro is an award-winning restaurant that has been bestowed with various accolades including New Zealand’s Best Regional Restaurant of 2013 by Cuisine magazine. In 2012 won the Great Waikato Food Challenge – a competition between restaurants to create the best dish from local produce. Diners can relax in Victoria Street Bistro’s elegant and stylish interior, while talented chef Andrew Clarke cooks up creative contemporary fare with international flavors such as the Szechuan pepper quail appetizer with lemon, ginger, white soy, iceberg lettuce and miso mayonnaise.
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Agenda was founded by New Zealand native Logan Hughes and his sister Heidi Jordan and first opened its doors in July of 2009 with the aim of serving New Zealand cuisine based around the rich, seasonal produce the country has to offer. The popular restaurant has been the recipient of several awards since opening seven years ago, including Hamilton’s Best Restaurant of 2012 in the Waikato Times Readers’ Choice Awards and the People’s Choice Award at New Zealand’s 2013 Beef and Lamb Excellence Awards. Agenda’s concise but tempting menu features fare such as fish with polenta, corn salsa, asparagus and prawn with a caper infused herb butter sauce.
Bluestone Steakhouse boasts the privilege of being Hamilton’s premier steakhouse and with its range of steaks, which includes the signature Hereford prime rib-eye steak, aged for 28 days and slow-cooked for 18 hours, the restaurant is certainly a meat lovers’ paradise. With a warm and inviting interior that includes sleek wood floors and wall panels and a large stone fireplace, guests can relax in its intimate atmosphere. Though a steakhouse, vegetarians eating at the restaurant won’t be left out, with dishes like pumpkin and coconut curry also available.
Based just ten minutes north of Hamilton in the small, rural town of Gordonton is the Zealong Tea Estate restaurant – a lovely space set in 40 hectares of rolling fertile land owned by father and son team Tzu and Vincent Chen – on which they grow delicious Zealong tea. The estate’s Camellia Teahouse is the perfect location in which to sample its tea which is available in four flavors – pure, aromatic, dark and black – alongside dishes such as caramelized white onion tartlet with shaved Wagyu beef and Italian parsley.
A hip, popular restaurant, Chim Choo Ree was originally located in a much smaller property, but has since moved to the historic former Waikato Brewery building managing to retain its original bohemian charm and casual, vibrant atmosphere. Boasting an interior of sleek wood floors, white tiled walls and kitsch artwork, Chim Choo Ree offers guests a menu of modern New Zealand-inspired dishes. Options include the smoked eel croquettes with mustard seed mayo and pickled cucumber, and the confit pork belly entrée with toffee apple, quince and boudin noir sausage. Finish your evening with an indulgent dessert like carrot cake ice cream with whiskey currants and violets.
Located in the Te Rapa suburb of northwest central Hamilton, Foundation Bar Kitchen Lounge is the perfect destination for any diners looking to sample genuine, warm Kiwi hospitality and gastro pub fare with a distinctly international outlook. Guests can relax at one of Foundation’s many tables and enjoy appetizers like chicken liver pâté with apple jelly, port syrup and ciabatta, and entrees that include the glazed lamb shank with pumpkin and potato mash, peas, mint powder and a red wine jus.
Since opening its doors in February 2005, Palate has established itself as a firm favorite with discerning diners of the Waikato region and has been bestowed with many awards, including Best Regional Restaurant in New Zealand at Cuisine magazine’s 2012 Restaurant of the Year Awards. Head chef and owner Mat McLean, who was awarded the title of Premier Master of Fine Cuisine at the first-ever Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards in 2013, focuses his menu on seasonal produce. He delivers appetizers such as pea and ham soup with seared scallops and white truffle oil, and entrées like the slow-roasted duck with cumin-roasted carrots, smoked celeriac puree and a mandarin jus.
A Hamilton-based tribute to the traditional steakhouses of New York City, the Smith and McKenzie Chophouse is an award-winning restaurant that received the titles of Best Restaurant and the Supreme Award for Excellence at the 2011 Hospitality New Zealand Awards. Featuring a warm and inviting interior, the restaurant effortlessly blends industrial elements like stainless steel with classic design fixtures like sleek woods. It pays homage to its menu’s meat focus in the use of vintage meat hooks which have been transformed into hanging lights. Dine on dishes that include pork belly confit with sweet potato and maple mash and a mulled wine glaze, and entrées such as the Hereford smoked T-bone steak.
For those who love coffee and cakes, hearty breakfasts and tasty lunch dishes, The River Kitchen on bustling Victoria Street is a must-try. Opened in 2007, the cafe and deli has been recognized with a whole host of awards, including Best Café of 2010 by New Zealand’s Café Magazine, and features a light, airy bistro-style interior with welcoming and knowledgeable staff. The River Kitchen’s menu is driven by quality locally sourced and seasonal fare, and features dishes such as the baked salmon with a fennel and lemon salad, along with key lime tarts and chocolate fudge cupcakes for dessert.