The best of the best in Auckland's foodie scene will gather at the waterfront's Shed 10 tomorrow night for the Metro 2016 Restaurant of the Year - but two of the city's trendiest eateries have not made the cut.
Soul Bar & Bistro and Ostro have not made the Top 50, judged by a team of nine reviewers.
Metro's editor-at-large and head judge Simon Wilson has no qualms about explaining why. Wilson reckons Ostro, run by New Zealand's only Michelin star chef and MasterChef NZ judge Josh Emett hasn't kept up with other Britomart restaurants, Ebisu, Ortolana and Cafe Hanoi.
"Although Ostro has made the Top 50 awards in past years, the quality of the restaurant offering is not as high as previous years and this may have something to do with the emphasis of the restaurant leaning more towards the successful, bustling bar trade."
Emett wouldn't comment on Wilson's remarks, saying only: "The Ostro restaurant has never been busier and our customers happier."
The judgment of Soul Bar & Bistro by Wilson's team is even harsher.
"The eyes on the level of service seems to have dropped," he told Spy.
"When one of the judges came to review, his table and chair were wet, he had to clean them up himself. The waiter did not offer any help and simply pointed to the problem, which was a leaking awning."
Wilson also said that, in the judges' view, the "loss of chef Gareth Stewart has seen the
Soul Bar's loss has been The Nourish Group's gain. MKR judge Stewart took over from former MasterChef NZ judge Simon Gault as executive group chef last year. After a long absence from the list, Euro is a finalist as is the group's other Prince's Wharf restaurant, The Culpeper.
We put Wilson's comments to Soul owner Judith Tabron, who was spotted dining with Gault last week.
"Funnily enough, that was what Simon and I were discussing over lunch," she says. "It is business as usual here. Every city needs a Soul."
No clues as to whether the newly separated Gault is joining Soul.