Restaurant Association NZ Outstanding Restaurant

The Bay's top restaurants are vying for a place in the hearts of diners.

A meal out holds great expectation and you can't go wrong with the finalists in this year's Restaurant Association NZ Outstanding Restaurant category - all of whom offer something special.

Emporium Eatery & Bar caters for those looking for a casual dinner with drinks as well as a more formal at-the-table set up.

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Their offering is a reflection of their ethos - friendly, and unpretentious - but always tasty. "We are consistent from a food perspective, we have the overall package," food and beverage manager Shaye Bird says. "Our style is not so much art on a plate, it's very flavour driven."

Pacifica Restaurant is a favourite on the Hawke's Bay hospitality scene, and for good reason, their degustation menu is not only affordable - $50 for five courses - it's a great way to sample many different dishes at once. "It's something a bit different, it's as much about the experience as it is the meal," manager Natalie Bulman says.

Pacifica offers an accessible and different degustation menu allowing people to try a selection of everything.
Pacifica offers an accessible and different degustation menu allowing people to try a selection of everything.

They have two menus - one is all seafood, the other a mix, and produce is local where possible, but their biggest drawcard is staff who think about the customer.

"We actually really care if people are having a good time, we really care" she says.

Ambience, style and food-to-die-for are a combination which were pulled together in a matter of months when The Old Church was taken over by Moira Irving and Garry Walker in July last year. "We are always looking to do something different, we did the platters menu and outdoor bar, now we have moved into the villa for winter where you can book an intimate dining room - it's about doing something fresh, having people come back to see what you're doing next."

Mister D has a winning combination of experience, food, wine and a beautiful space to enjoy it all in.
Mister D has a winning combination of experience, food, wine and a beautiful space to enjoy it all in.

Mister D is a strong contender for the title, having been nominated in seven Hospitality Award categories for the past two years and going home with three both times.

The menu is inspired by chef and co-owner David Griffiths' travels - as well as the places he has worked and eaten. Staff are experienced and giving customers a meal to remember is the focus. A beautiful, light interior space just pulls it all together.

"Everyone is trained in food and wine, it's something we really put a lot of emphasis on," co-owner Prue Barton says. "Hospitality means looking after people and we enjoy doing that it's the thing we like doing - that's the success of it."