Napier is a sun-drenched city, famous for having an abundance of Hawke’s Bay wineries and its pristine Art Deco architecture. Prevailing since the 1930’s, this bold and optimistic Art Deco culture has come to define the city, extending to its vibrant restaurant scene, as featured below.
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High-end dining is on offer within Pacifica, which provides a refreshingly relaxed and endearing setting. New Zealand’s familial, unpretentious and welcoming spirit fills this restaurant, which is housed inside a weathered beach bungalow. Diners are treated to an ever-changing array of dishes, determined according to the best available local produce. According to their website, the cuisine at Pacifica is ‘based on emotion and bravery rather than convention’, an assertion which could feel contrived in most other cities around the world, but not in Napier. The strong connection that New Zealanders have with their surroundings is captured in a menu celebrating locally sourced seafood.
For an expression of the hip, future-focused side of Napier, Mister D is a cafe and dining establishment whose tables fill up fast almost every evening. Mister D has an abundance of attractions, from its modern, light-filled and vibrant eating area to doughnuts for dessert, injected by the overjoyed diners themselves with custard, chocolate and jam syringes. In fact, the menu here is not just a document advertising the day’s food but a mix-tape of the owners’ quirky and alternative style. Telegraph Hill olives, nuts and salted caramel popcorn are combined in a scene-setting appetizer which could precede the broccoli soup with garlic, chili, Village Press olive oil and crème fraiche.
The Old Church Restaurant and Bar
Perhaps Napier’s most romantic restaurant setting is The Old Church Restaurant and Bar, whose inland location is an exclusive-feeling escape from the city center. The Old Church’s interior harks back to an idyllic era, with soft white woods and a breathtaking glass chandelier. The dishes on offer reflect the indulgent and traditional surroundings, with main courses of eye fillet of beef and braised rib wellington, broccoli cream, beets and crispy potatoes, or oyster mushroom gnocchi, thyme and truffle butter with grana padano. Nothing could round off the evening better than the rhubarb-focused dessert – choose from ginger parkin, rhubarb ripple, rhubarb puree and rhubarb and almond wafer.
Mission Estate Winery Restaurant
Mission Estate is perhaps the most well-known of the Hawkes Bay vineyards, but the restaurant here isn’t one to settle on a centuries-old reputation. The stunning dining room overflowing into the State’s fragrant gardens would be a sufficient attraction for the droves of visitors, even if the food was comparatively uninspiring. Thankfully, this isn’t the case; the pan-fried fresh fish and lemon and parsnip mash, or medium rare beef eye fillet, potato rösti, mushroom duxelles and spinach and parmesan puree make the Mission Estate Winery Restaurant an attraction in its own right.
Provedore, in Napier’s trendy Quay Marina, is a bustling tapas bar and restaurant set in the appealing New Zealand Shipping Company building. With typical Kiwi candor, the restaurant blends great quality food with a nonchalant atmosphere. Whether drinking in the marina views over a languid evening, or being serenaded by live music, Provedore’s patrons are sure to enjoy winning kiwi fare. The salt and pepper squid comes with garlic alioli, a regionally adored sauce, while the orange braised pork belly pairs nicely with locally brewed Monteiths IPA. Among a selection of tempting desserts, it would be hard to overlook the passion fruit pavlova with fresh cream and caramelized pineapple.
Restaurant Indonesia is a beguiling mixture of Asian and Dutch influences which has its origins in late European colonialism. The decor within is distinctly Indonesian and the antithesis to the pastel hues outside. The star attractions here are the Rijsttafel (roughly translated from Dutch as rice tables): innumerable plates of food that resemble tapas. The origins for these Rijsttafel comes from the Dutch colonization of Indonesia when they would want to treat visiting dignitaries to a selection of each of the island’s specialty dishes. Here in Napier diners can choose from a vegetarian, danang (meat), ikan (fish) or supreme version of these feasts.
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