New Zealand's 10 Must-Visit Restaurants

Lunch at Amisfield Winery
Lunch at Amisfield Winery | © Profernity/Flickr
Thalita Alves

North to south, New Zealand is filled with culinary wonders. With so many incredible dishes ready to be plated, the country’s restaurant scene continues to impress local and international foodies. From vineyard bistros to the finest dining establishments, here’s a look at 10 highly regarded venues that everyone must visit.

1. The French Cafe

Cafe, Restaurant, Contemporary, Vegetarian

Cucumber Sorbet & Rasperies from Sidarts Tuesday Test Kitchen
© Soon Lee/Flickr

Having consistently received a number of domestic and international awards every year since 2004, it’s fair to say The French Cafe is New Zealand’s cream of the crop. The restaurant’s holistic approach to food preparation means every dish is an exquisite experience in its own right. Tasting menus, à la carte offerings, and a full vegetarian dining option are among the restaurant’s specialities.

2. Sidart

Restaurant, European

Cucumber Sorbet & Rasperies from Sidarts Tuesday Test Kitchen
© Soon Lee/Flickr

Chef Sid Sahrawat has earned a strong reputation for a trove of gastronomical pursuits. The restaurant that started it all, Sidart, has been winning New Zealand’s top culinary accolades every year since it opened its doors. An ode to all things fine dining is what makes this restaurant special — dishes are meticulously prepared and plated to look, and taste, like a masterpiece.

3. Mudbrick Restaurant and Vineyard

Restaurant, European, Seafood

Mudbrick Winery Oysters
© s.ho/flickr
Waiheke Island is world-famous for its viticulture. So it’s no wonder that one of the best restaurants to come out of this wondrous destination is set among one of the region’s best wineries. Mudbrick Restaurant and Vineyard makes a fantastic first impression with its manicured gardens and elegant mud brick buildings. A diverse, seafood-rich menu takes all taste buds into a wonderful journey. Wine matches are always a given and cheese platters always encourage diners to relish the country’s best boutique producers.

4. Elephant Hill Wine Estate & Restaurant


Elephant Hill Beef Fillet
© Pandora Voon/Flickr

Breathtaking views of Cape Kidnappers, along with the region’s finest wines and world-class European cuisine make this Hawke’s Bay institution an absolute must-visit. Freshly-baked breads and Aquiferra New Zealand olive oil are complimentary additions to every meal, and dishes are constantly updated to reflect whatever produce is in season. Locally caught fish and shellfish feature prominently in their offerings too.

5. Roots Restaurant

Restaurant, Oceanian

Canterbury restaurant Roots has earned top kudos both domestically and globally for its dedicated use of high quality, homegrown produce. In fact, food offerings change on a daily basis to reflect the best that nature has to offer. A cozy, intimate atmosphere, paired with an open kitchen and a lovely private garden, are some of the additional treats to cherish.

6. Rata

Restaurant, European, Oceanian, Contemporary

Rata is one of Queenstown’s highest profile restaurants. A partnership between Michelin starred chef Josh Emmett and esteemed restaurateur Fleur Caulton, Rata is inspired by the South Island’s natural landscapes; in fact, its name is an ode to an endemic native vine. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner and bar grazing, and the wine lists showcase the very best productions of the Otago Region.

7. Pacifica Kaimoana Restaurant

Restaurant, Oceanian

Napier’s Pacifica Kaimoana Restaurant continues to marvel foodies with its intriguing culmination of laid-back touches and elegantly-composed flavours. A weathered, blue beach bungalow beckons the discerning crowds to relish a trove of ever-evolving Pacific staples. Consistency is established with a 5-course fine dining menu, and uniqueness is embraced with a daily rotation of fresh food offerings, ranging from seafood delicacies to game meat.

8. Pegasus Bay Winery & Restaurant


Inside Pegasus Bay
© Nadita Maria/Flickr

North Canterbury’s Pegasus Bay is a winery and restaurant that takes an interesting approach to its menu. This clever establishment pairs its food to complement their wine list, not the other way around. As with many of New Zealand’s greats, emphasis is given to seasonal produce. Dishes are simple and diverse, while the restaurant itself is finely adorned with an ever-changing showcase of contemporary artworks.

9. Riverstone Kitchen

Restaurant, Oceanian

A no-frills seasonal food selection is what this highway gem is renowned for. Located approximately 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) outside of Oamaru, this café by day-turned-restaurant by night draws foodies from all over the country with its classy creations. A shared feasting menu, showcasing ingredients sourced from their own private garden as well as from local growers, is among Riverstone Kitchen’s revered offerings.

10. Amisfield Winery and Bistro

Bistro, Wine Seller, European, Oceanian

Lunch at Amisfield Winery
© Profernity/Flickr

An idyllic setting overlooking Lake Hayes entices food and wine enthusiasts to embrace this Queenstown restaurant and winery. Amisfield’s famous ‘trust the chef‘ tasting menus bring an adventurous flair to your quintessential fine dining experience. Treats that regularly feature among the restaurant’s selections include Wild Bluff Oysters, cured meats from the cellar, seasonal beets, and venison.

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