Hospitality awards: Outstanding Emerging Restaurant category

By Amy Shanks

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Mahia St Kitchen owner Arnault Vellee offers a taste of France at an affordable price. Photo/Supplied
Mahia St Kitchen owner Arnault Vellee offers a taste of France at an affordable price. Photo/Supplied

They are the next big thing, up-and-coming Hawke's Bay eateries that are well worth the hype.

From delectable Mexican bursting with flavour, to a huge selection of bistro-style food and a seasonally adjusted menu - these four finalists deliver every time.

Emporium Eatery and Bar in Napier is about making delicious plates to be shared - without too many frills.

"The food philosophy is bistro style - we don't want to be fine dining. It's fairly simple but really good quality," food and beverage manager Shayne Bird said.

While the central and historic location appealed to tourists, Emporium also made sure to take good care of its local clientele, he said.

Nestled in a private courtyard next to Vetro Mediterranean Foods in Ahuriri, is Mahia St Kitchen - owned by Frenchman Arnault Vellee. The funky space lends itself to an outdoor lunch or intimate dinner indoors and always aims to keep the menu affordable.

"Flavours are really important, also seasonal and the dishes are Frenchly oriented," Mr Vellee said. "We want people to come in for a casual dinner or lunch rather than leaving it for a special occasion." Location, decor and format all set the restaurant apart from its peers.

Mamacita in Havelock North blends authentic Mexican-inspired food with fresh local produce and daily chef's specials.

Owner Liv Reynolds opened the eatery last October and it has become a popular spot for people to gather and enjoy an array of dishes from pulled-pork soft-shell tacos to pumpkin and oregano quesadillas.

The idea to bring a taste of Mexico to Hawke's Bay came from her travels throughout North and Central America where she rediscovered the "exciting" cuisine.

Ahuriri's Mexi Mama strives for authenticity, hiring an adviser from Auckland to design the dishes and finding a chef from Mexico City who would bring the drive, passion and flair the owners were after.

"Finding Jonathan [Del Tino]was really key for us, because we needed a chef that could step up to that vision which was from restaurants we had visited in Melbourne and from my travels in America and Mexico," co-owner and manager Jamie Buckley said.

Since opening they had attracted people from all walks of life with their laid-back dining style and values.

"It's a family business so it's about sharing - sharing culture which is a little bit less formal - it's more social dining with a bit more fun and a bit more colour."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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