Any food lover who has travelled with fussy kids will know it's a special kind of agony being in a city with magnificent culinary options but dining somewhere deeply average because your little angels needed chicken nuggets. Don't despair, we've hunted out a few places around the country where everyone's a winner. Parents get fab food, kids get the chance to try something new - and there are "less-adventurous" options as a backup if everything goes to the wall.
The Chilli House, Hamilton
If you're in Hamilton or Cambridge, don't miss The Chilli House. The name might not scream child-friendly but don't let it put you off, because while you're slurping through your bowl of pillow-soft, hand-pulled youpo noodles with perfectly braised spicy beef, or feasting on Sichuan-style dumplings, the kids can order equally plump and juicy spice-free dumplings (made fresh that day) or spring onion pancakes, a hit with everyone, of any age.
State Pasta, New Plymouth
State Pasta has been open less than a year but is already a big local favourite for its wonderful handmade pasta. With a bit of luck you can get your offspring interested in your ragu, mushroom stracci or bucatini but if that doesn't work out, the kitchen team have your back with a kids menu of spaghetti and meatballs; or for really fussy little ones, just macaroni and butter. A night at State Pasta should always end with gelato and even the pickiest of tots, tweens and teens will usually approve of that.
Tamaki Māori Village, Tumunui
At Tamaki Māori Village, just south of Rotorua, kids can get truly hands-on with their meal. Hue e! Kai e! is a food sharing experience, where guests are welcomed into the village with a whakatau ceremony, and then roll up their sleeves to help prepare the meal. Here you'll be making delicious fried bread to turn into a burger infused with Māori flavours - horopito, kawakawa and more. It's interactive and educational - perfect for families.
Mary's, Havelock North
Love the creative flavours of Craggy Range but would rather not take the kids to a beautiful vineyard restaurant only to have them complain bitterly about menu options? You're in luck, Chef Casey from Craggy Range is also behind the menu at more casual sister neighbourhood eatery Mary's (named after Mary Peabody, wife of Craggy Range founder Terry Peabody). So if you pop over to Havelock North you can still experience his culinary genius with plenty of options the children will like too - as well as a dedicated kids menu.
The Rising Tide, Mount Maunganui
More than 30 taps of rotating craft beer from Mount Brewing Company and other great Kiwi breweries - plus housemade dumplings with a cult following. Well, that's a tick for the parents, and hopefully for the kids too. If not, The Rising Tide in Mount Maunganui also does burgers, tacos and other things all children like. Johney's Dumpling House (inside The Rising Tide) has great vegetarian options like "triple shroom", which are as much worth your time as the more standard porky numbers. Washed down with a fabulous IPA, stout, hazy, lager or sour, it's a match made in heaven.
Little Penang, Wellington
As many know, Wellington has always been the city to visit for great Malaysian food, and it would be a crime to go there and not be able to taste any of it. Little Penang has you covered with a kids menu (who doesn't love flaky roti?) but if you ask the staff they will also point you to other regular menu items that have no spice. Hurray!
The Stoaker Room, Cromwell
The Stoaker Room in Cromwell is a great space where food is smoked in French oak pinot noir barrel cookers (right down to the cheese and garlic). The menu is super family-friendly without being dull and while the kids decimate their huge burgers or mac cheese, you can indulge in The Stoaker Banquet - a selection of menu favourites all on one board; think venison with pumpkin and pinot noir glaze, jerked chicken thigh with grilled veg and pineapple salsa plus other super tasty options.
No 7 Balmac, Dunedin
There's a reason this fabulous neighbourhood eatery is a Dunedin favourite and it's so friendly, welcoming and lively that you'll feel totally comfortable taking the kids. Choose from delicious dishes like barbecued free-range chicken infused with citrus, potatoes with labneh and za'atar; or king salmon crudo, pickled ginger and cabbage slaw, toasted sesame with wasabi vinegar and garden herb (their speciality is woodfired cuisine). Kids may find something they fancy on the main menu, but if not, there's a special one just for them.
Family-friendly options in the main centres
You may have noticed main centres Auckland and Christchurch conspicuously absent from this list. This is because the easiest solution in both these cities is to head somewhere where there are so many deliciously diverse options, everyone will be pleased. Fancy food court Harbour Eats at Commercial Bay in Auckland has everything from hot dogs to Indian street food, and in Christchurch, Riverside Market has everyone of any taste covered, day or night with endless choices for the adventurous and the much-less so.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com