After a weekend in Hawkes Bay, Penny Lewis wonders why she didn't go earlier.
I feel like I am the last to know. Although I have travelled to a few places in my lifetime, I had not set foot in Hawkes Bay since I was a preschooler. Now I feel like a bit of a fool. All these years I have missed out on a fantastic region.
Luckily, my reign of ignorance has come to an end, thanks to my trip to the region for the opening weekend of the Summer Series Food and Wine Classic a couple of weeks ago.
Part of what made my trip so special was that it began and ended with visits to Napier dining establishment, Mister D, which is owned by Dan Tosswill and his wife Joanna, along with chef David Griffiths and Prue Barton, who sold their Jervois Rd, Auckland, restaurant Vinnie's to Geoff Scott in 2002.
After landing at Napier Airport on an uncharacteristically rainy Friday afternoon, my three travelling companions and I headed straight to Tennyson St, where we went to Mister D for coffee and afternoon tea.
Mister D is more than a cafe - it's open seven days a week from 7.30am and caters for everything from breakfast to a late supper. You can enjoy anything from a glass of home-made lemonade to a multi-course meal. What's more, there's table service - no queuing up to place your coffee order here.
Mister D is known for its doughnuts and I am glad I know about them now. These sugary lumps of deliciousness can be eaten cinnamon-sugar plain or you can inject them with a syringe filled with chocolate, custard or quince jelly.
Sitting in the airy, stylish restaurant on that Friday afternoon, I had no idea of the pedigree of the people behind the place.
The following morning we got to meet David at the Food and Wine Classic's Electrolux Masterclass series held at Craggy Range and on the Sunday he prepared to-die-for Mexican food on a barbecue at the Locavore's lunch at the Hastings Farmers' Market. It was there I asked David about his background and learned what heavy-duty credentials Mister D has. It's where fine-dining meets fun.
On Sunday afternoon it was time to head back to the airport to fly to Auckland, but on the way we stopped for a drink at Mister D. We swooped on the unsuspecting Dan, volleying questions and general chatter at him.
This light and bright dining establishment in an Art Deco building, with a fit-out designed by Gary Stewart and Charlie Nott of The Gas Project, is one I can't wait to return to.
I am already investigating my next trip to Hawkes Bay and hope to enjoy doughnuts and perhaps some of Mister D's more healthy fare.
• Mister D is at 47 Tennyson St, Napier. Phone: (06) 835 5022.