New Zealand’s oldest city offers a plethora of cultural experiences, examples of outstanding local architecture and spectacular scenery. Located on the Otago Peninsula, the sheer variety of dining options served in Dunedin complement the entire experience. From restaurants offering contemporary New Zealand fare to those catering for authentic European tastes, feast your eyes on our list of the city’s top cultural eateries.
Cafe, Restaurant, European, $$$
Nova | Courtesy of Nova
Established in Dunedin for over a decade and located right in the center of town, Nova prides itself on a seasonally changing menu and a fantastic selection of baked goods and flavorful Allpress coffee. For those in search of a hearty brunch, the delicious breakfasts are sure to set you up for the day. Choose from a selection of warm banana bread, brioche French toast, eggs benedict or the lambs fry – a mouth-watering ginger beer reduction served with grilled bacon on confit onion and rye bread. Those with a sweet tooth will not be disappointed with ginger and plum pudding, perfectly complemented with salted caramel ice cream and hazelnut praline.
Bar, Cafe, Coffee, Tea , Wine, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
Ironic Cafe and Bar
| Courtesy of Ironic Cafe
Ironic Café recently won the title of Cafe of the Year, beating over a thousand other entries from around the country to claim the top spot. Naturally, this comes as no surprise as the eatery is known for the finest flavors, ingredients sourced from neighboring farmers and its unique location boasting a delightful view of Dunedin’s iconic railway station. The menu here is incredibly appealing, comprised of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Offerings of morning and afternoon tea will also not go amiss, especially when served with a slice of the signature Cadbury’s dessert, a delicate chocolate custard cake seated on mandarin vodka fudge sauce, white chocolate panna cotta, dark chocolate ice cream and macadamia nut toffee – a real winner.
Located within the inner city, Two Chefs is an upmarket bistro with a Parisian feel. Within its dark wood interior of antique furniture, dark-stained paneling and leather seating, enjoy the traditional charm of French cuisine and a wide-ranging selection of boutique beers and cocktails. From classic pairings such as French onion soup with croque-monsieur and rib eye steak with Café de Paris butter, to more innovative offerings such as pan-fried Origin rose veal rump and braised cherry belly duck, diners will undoubtedly be impressed by the dishes. Complete your meal with an exquisite bottle of wine of New Zealand or French origin – the selection of Central Otago pinot noir is an excellent choice.
Plato is a relaxed eatery occupying a lovely spot on Dunedin’s harbor front. Since opening in 2002, the restaurant has brought an uncomplicated approach to food to the area, offering fresh produce, traditional tastes and friendly service to its diners. The brunch, lunch and dinner menus are extensive, with a distinct slant towards the fruits of the sea – no surprise considering its location. Pick from homemade fish and chips, crispy squid and seafood chowder or more meaty options such as sautéed lambs kidneys or sirloin served with fried eggs. To accompany the meal, Plato’s old-fashioned sourdough ciabatta bread is fantastic when washed down with first-class Central Otago wines. Desserts are also worth a look, with choices such as the liquorice ice cream and melt-in-the-mouth cappuccino crème brûlée standing out.
Scotia is a casual bar and bistro with a homespun feel. As the name suggests, a distinct Scottish flavor weaves its way through the menu, comprised of old-favorites such as haggis and Cullen skink. For meat eaters, specialties such as smoked beef, game and venison are all prepared in-house alongside the homemade breads and sauces. Wherever possible, the restaurant endeavors to provide locally sourced and ethically farmed produce and this is most definitely reflected in the quality and flavor of the food. Complement your meal with sips of carefully selected New Zealand, Australian and European wines or a choice from the 250 whiskeys.
Nestled in Dunedin’s suburb of Maori Hill, No. 7 Balmac is a fantastic neighborhood restaurant that specializes in modern New Zealand cuisine. Attracting the city’s locals and visitors alike, the restaurant sports its own kitchen garden that supplies the chefs with the freshest herbs and vegetables. Indulge in breakfast options such as the buttermilk pancakes with berries and honey-vanilla syrup or traditional eggs benedict, complete with Ashby’s streaky bacon and warm toasted ciabatta. For lunch, simple fare such as wood-grilled chicken with red quinoa, the No. 7 Balmac burger or the grilled Greek halloumi are all satisfying options. Leave enough room for the warm chewy almond tart, served alongside vanilla bean ice cream and oozing with thick dulce de leche.
Occupying a historical building dating back to the 1880s, Bacchus is well worth a visit, even if it’s just for the architecture – the classic high ceilings and ornate cornicing are spectacular and are beautifully complemented by the wooden flooring and stunning sash windows that look over the city center’s Octagon. For the last 15 years, Dunedin’s longest established restaurant has been awarded the ‘NZ Beef and Lamb Hallmark of Excellence,’ owing to its dedication to maintaining exceptional food standards and offering a premier dining experience. In particular, the grills are worth a try – thanks to the grill variety that burns fruitwood, the steaks, poultry, seafood and vegetables are infused with fantastic flavor.
Pizzaria, Restaurant, Italian, European, Fast Food, Vegetarian, $$$
| Courtesy of Esplanade
Right on Dunedin’s St. Clair beachfront, visitors will be delighted to find an authentic Italian restaurant, serving wood-fired pizza, hearty pasta dishes and small plates. Alongside the stylish interior that boasts large windows looking out onto the surf, the menu at Esplanade is similarly appealing. From cannelloni, lasagne, gnocchi, pappardelle or risotto, pasta fiends will be satisfied with the delectable cooking at this seaside venue. Similarly, the pizzas are also noteworthy – play it safe with traditional options such as the simple margarita and cheesy quattro formaggi, or go all out with the frutti de mare, piled high with calamari, mussels, octopus and clam. Top it off with a vanilla bean panna cotta or a rich chocolate torta for a memorable Italian experience.
In the heart of the Otago Peninsula, the 1908 cafe boasts scenic surroundings just a short 30-minute drive from Dunedin. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the establishment has been catering to locals catching the ferry to Port Chalmers and Dunedin. Over the decades, the building has also offered lodgings and taken care of sick sailors. Today, the cafe offers a different kind of hospitality in the form of delicious contemporary fare and nourishing home cooking. Using the freshest seasonal ingredients, everything is cooked to perfection from scratch in the kitchen. The menu employs distinct New Zealand flavors with dishes such as locally sourced salmon, maple syrup lamb shanks and Denver leg venison providing visitors with a taste of the area.
Etrusco at the Savoy is one of the city’s highly praised Italian restaurants. Operating for over 20 years, the family-run pizzeria and spaghetteria continues to uphold an authentic Italian heritage, welcoming diners with its wide range of dishes, breads, antipasto and salads. As well as providing numerous vegetarian options, Etrusco also offers gluten free pasta and pizza bases without compromising on taste and texture. Ultimately, this is Dunedin fine dining at its best and the well-matched menu of traditional Tuscan wines will not disappoint.