The Waihi Beach Hotel and beach pub is a local treasure that has been a landmark of the beach town for years, but has become a real foodie destination since it underwent extensive refurbishment three years ago.
It now features a new Hip Group bistro which offers all day dining with a standard that will please city dwellers, and a layout that is perfect for holiday makers, with a large deck with tables and lounge seats, as well as an expansive garden area that includes a children's play area and seating around a large oak tree.
The playground is bordered by raised vegetable and herb beds ringed by a wide range of fruit trees, and motel units surround it.
The jewel in the garden is the gelato bar, which churns out beautiful, creamy gelato - and all made from a 'secret recipe' devised by the Hip Group.
On the menu
The Hip Group has a philosophy to use as much local produce as possible and it brings that rule to all its eating establishments.
It sources much of its fruit and vegetables from growers in the nearby areas and changes its menu to make the most of the seasonal produce. Free range eggs, for example, come from Otto's farm just down the road in Katikati, and its beef and lamb also come from Katikati. The menu also mentions Susie from Athenree who supplies feijoas and chestnuts, and Alan's limes and Bill's lemons.
Children are well catered for with options such as chicken nuggets and fish and chips. These are all homemade, generous portions and served with an interesting salad and hand cut chips, so you get the satisfaction that the kids are eating what they like for a good price.
The contemporary European- inspired menu includes salads, pastas and burgers as well as more substantial plates.
To start we shared bruschetta, one topped with avocado, tomato, feta, and another with prosciutto, stracciatella and salsa verde a stretched-curd Italian buffalo cheese which had a robust taste but was popular with all on the table.
For main I had the special fish of the day, grilled and served with brown rice, roasted vegetables, beetroot and a yoghurt and lemon sauce, the fish was a delight of velvety white fleshiness, with the sauce and beets giving a welcome tangy contrast.
Katikati lamb shoulder, eggplant, chickpeas, currants. The lamb was eye wateringly tender, gently falling off the bone. Eggplant is one of my favourite vegetables so I couldn't help pinching some scoops from her plate, with a heavenly texture and Moroccan flavour of the crunchy chickpeas which were in an intriguing vinegrette of sherry.
The children couldn't wait to attack the gelato bar and came back with very enviable scoops of various flavours which we adults demanded to try - the salted caramel was exquisitely creamy. I was torn over the dessert menu as I was really too full, but it beckoned, particularly a honey and thyme brulee or a white chocolate crema fritta, poached apricots, with macadamia. We decided to come back another time to sample.
Excellent and the staff welcoming and friendly. It was a busy night in top season but the kitchen coped well and our waitress was bubbly and knowledgeable. Large groups including children are well catered for, and children are brought colouring books as well as having the run of the garden, which means the adults can linger over the wine list or liqueur coffee treats and handmade chocolates.
The perfect place to enjoy some top notch dining and relax and unwind with friends and family