Vidal top of table in Bay, say diners

Hastings' Vidal Estate Winery restaurant has been dubbed by diners as the Bay's best venue for a spot of fine beef or lamb.

Last month Beef and Lamb New Zealand ran a taste competition involving all the region's restaurants that hold a Beef and Lamb Excellence Award, and surveyed about 500 diners who were invited to score their meals.

After the entries were collated, Vidal Estate got the nod for its preparation and presentation of beef and lamb dishes.

The news delighted the restaurant team - none more than its new front-of-house hospitality manager, David Hodgson, who has been in the role only six weeks.

A Kiwi, he spent the last 18 years working in the hospitality industry in the UK.

"We're so proud of it," he said. "It's really great news - and more so because it has been voted for by the diners themselves.

"We're just over the moon."

Mr Hodgson said a major part of the success was down to the restaurant's philosophy of listening to customers, ensuring they were enjoying their dining experience, and constantly seeking and sourcing ingredients and dish ideas.

He paid special tribute to head chef Jillene Slui, whose skills he said had underpinned the restaurant's success.

"It is just such a good team here."

For the last six of his 18 years in England, he and his English-born wife had been operating boutique hotels.

They had long thought about heading Down Under to live with their daughters, aged 4 and 7.

"It was my wife who finally said 'let's do it'," he said.

Originally from Auckland, Mr Hodgson said securing the role at Vidal's and living in Hawke's Bay had reinforced the decision to move here.

"It is great here - it's like being in Spain during their winter - the blue skies."

Jeannie Dean, from Beef and Lamb New Zealand, said diners had enjoyed the opportunity to have their say.

"Not only were they eager to score their favourite beef or lamb dish very highly, some of the comments received were outstanding," she said.

One participant described the meal received at Vidal's as "excellent - could not fault the meal or the service".

The "people's choice" competitions are running in 16 regions across the country.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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