Twenty years ago top Auckland restaurateur Mandy Lusk could not have imagined giving tapas to diners.

"Sharing an entre was totally foreign to them," she said.

But as she prepares for one of the city's top culinary shows next weekend - Taste of Auckland - the owner of popular High St eatery Vivace is in no doubt how far Kiwi tastebuds have changed.

"People are far more adventurous with their flavours," Lusk says. "We could never have put a Moroccan ragu on - they wanted the traditional bolognaise and the like."


To mark Vivace's 20 years in operation, Lusk intended revisiting the original menu as a tribute. But she quickly found she had to upgrade.

The gnocchi was one example. "It was just potato balls, tomato sauce and cheese."

What will instead be on offer when the show opens on Thursday night is imported potatoes, stuffed with tomato and mozzarella, served with chorizo, sundried tomatoes, feta, arbequina olives and parmesan.

Strangely, the quest for more flavours has not made punters more studious when reading the menu.

"People are not so concerned with knowing what all the ingredients are." They were happy to take risks.

Last year, about 23,500 people went through the gates during the four-day event.

Festival director Robert Elliot says some sessions are already sold out, as are most of the VIP and premium tickets.

He says highlights this year include cocktail classes with Frankie Walker from The Mix Live and the Gravity Coffee masterclasses, especially the Coffee After Dark session.