Rotorua’s bar and restaurant scene aptly caters to all kinds of tastes and budgets. From sophisticated fine dining establishments, to mid-range must-visits and budget-friendly bites, here are 10 great restaurants you won’t want to miss during your visit.
Ambrosia Restaurant & Bar
Restaurant, Bar, Contemporary, European, Oceanian, Mediterranean, $$$
Ambrosia was Rotorua’s very first licensed restaurant. The restaurant is located within a short stroll from Lake Rotorua and has a large outdoor seating area that enables its patrons to relish the picturesque vistas on show. On the menu, there’s a seasonal selection of shared tapas and Mediterranean-inspired mains. Visit between 5–7 p.m. on a Friday to get the most of Ambrosia’s happy hour drink specials; in winter, drop by between 5–6:30 p.m. to sink your teeth into the ‘early bird’ dinner discounts.
Atticus Finch is a popular jaunt that’s known to please the lunch and dining crowds with its contemporary New Zealand flavours. The restaurant is accommodating when it comes to various dietary needs; both the lunch and dinner menus have options for dairy- and gluten-free patrons as well as vegetarians and vegans. The food is an ode to your standard cafe classics during the day, while dinnertime emphasizes shared meals.
Cafe, Bar, Restaurant, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Contemporary, $$$
Abracadabra operates around the notion of ‘good food, good vibes’. The latter is evident as soon as you reach its premises; the venue is set in a rustic 1940s building that has been nicely decorated to suit its bohemian vibes. Meals are primarily inspired by Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisines and include plenty of options for kids, vegetarians and vegans. The house cocktails are popular if you want to wet your whistle, and Wednesday’s regular dessert nights are sure to please the sweet-toothed diners among us.
Rotorua’s Stratosfare Restaurant is perched on top of Mount Ngongotaha, making it the perfect pit-stop for travellers wanting a buffet meal with plenty of scenic views. If you’re not keen on the buffet experience, there’s plenty in store when it comes to cook-to-order meals. Both the lunch and dinner menus feature an extensive selection of seasonal garden salads and soups, as well as seafood, meat and chicken dishes, inspired by European, Mediterranean, South East Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Restaurant, Boutique Hotel Restaurant, Contemporary, Vegetarian, $$$
For those seeking a glamorous dining experience, the Regent Room is an absolute treat. The restaurant’s menu is as sophisticated as its white-linen tables and lush leather chairs. You can choose between the à la carte degustation or simply opt for the everyday mains. Contemporary New Zealand cuisine is always at the forefront, and the restaurant also has a full selection of meal offerings (à la carte included) for vegetarian diners.
Mokoia Restaurant is where Pacific Rim cuisine meets fine dining. Its innovative contemporary menu is known across the nation for its unique incorporation of indigenous herbs and spices; in fact, the restaurant has won the prestigious New Zealand Beef and Lamb Excellence Awards seven consecutive times (from 2010 until 2016) because of its exquisite flavours. At dinnertime, you have a choice between the standard set menu, a fully vegetarian option or a shared romantic dinner experience for two. Bookings for this restaurant are essential.
Sabroso Restaurant has been adding an authentic Latin American flavour to the local dining scene since 2007. If you like seafood, this is the place to savour some calamari with chipotle cream, spicy prawn stew or the chef’s daily seafood selection. Those who want to chill out over a light meal and drinks should check out the signature margaritas and cocktails, as well as the small selection of New Zealand, Argentinian and Chilean wines on offer.
Burgers, fries, pork belly bites, fish and chips and a humble selection of desserts — it’s fair to say The Factory Smokehouse and Grill has managed to cover all the classics. The venue is also loved by locals because of its casual, family-friendly feel and all-round inclusive service; many of the meals can be made gluten-free upon request and the famous burger menu also includes a ‘Token Vege’ option.
Pizzeria Imperfetto offers some of the most authentic Italian pizzas in town. Everything is made from scratch and cooked to precision in a brick oven. Traditional recipes aside, this pizzeria also has its own creations on offer, including a fully vegan pizza (the Vegano), three vegetarian varieties and the Pizza Inferno e Paradiso for those who have a taste for all things spicy.
The Indian Star Tandoori Restaurant is respected in the local hospitality industry. Since opening its doors more than a decade and a half ago, the venue has amassed a number of local awards for its food and service. An extensive offering of dishes for all customers — vegetarians, kids, seafood lovers, meat eaters, you name it — is one of its strongest draw cards. If you’re dining in with a group of friends, the set banquet menus will enable you to taste the restaurant’s best dishes, from the vegetable samosas, to various curries, among other Indian cuisine classics.