Simple Kiwi food cooked to perfection has earned "wild chef" Al Brown the title restaurateur of the year.

And Brown's restaurant, Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar in Auckland, won best new restaurant, best casual bistro, as well as the supreme award at the Metro Audi Restaurant of the Year Awards in Auckland last night.

Brown is a well-known face in the food industry, fronting up on TV series Hunger for the Wild as well as being the co-owner of respected Logan Brown Restaurant & Bar in Wellington.

Metro magazine editor Simon Wilson, who was judging, praised Brown's unique ability to turn Kiwi foods which might be seen as casual into fine cuisine.


"Al has taken Kiwi cuisine and shown just how well it can work in a restaurant. The New Zealandness of his menu contrasts sharply with many other restaurants and that's a great thing," Wilson said.

"He's shown us that the food we all love to eat on the bench or around the barbecue can be cooked so well that it's great to eat in a restaurant too."

The Depot website tells of Brown's attitude towards food: "In season, beautifully cooked, to be enjoyed with friends."

It says most of the food served at the restaurant is cooked over charcoal or hard wood, making for more succulent and flavourful dishes.

Wilson said many Kiwi restaurants were starting to take a more "casual" and relaxed approach to fine dining, but Depot was leading the way.

"Lots of chefs say they do this kind of thing. But no one understands it or does it as well as Depot - the simplicity of it is often the best part."

Other winners included The French Cafe (best service and best drinks list), Cocoro (best Asian), Toto (best Italian) and Michael Meredith (best chef).

* Supreme award: Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar
* Restaurateur of the year: Al Brown, of Depot Eatery & Oyster
* Best chef: Michael Meredith, of Meredith's
* Best fine dining: Clooney
* Best smart dining: Cibo
* Restaurant personality of the year: Ganesh Raj, of The Tasting Shed
* Best new restaurant: Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar.