The best cafe in New Zealand has been taken out by a Nelson eatery, praised for its spicy food, unique alfresco experience and outstanding service.

Over 650 owners across the country entered their establishments in the annual NZ Cafe of the Year competition. The regional finalists were picked by the public based on more than 45,000 votes. Food industry professionals then visited each spot and named the best today.

The Jester House Cafe in Nelson took out the top gong and the runner-up was Black Cottage Café in Coatesville, north of Auckland.

"Jester House Café really is a little gem in a beautiful part of the country and somewhere we would recommend without hesitation," said head judge Kerry Tyack.


"Black Cottage is more modern, offers a more 'on-trend' menu, is very service oriented and more urban with great coffee."

Entrants were required to feature dishes on the menu used products from the main
sponsors, Heinz Watties and Goodman Fielder.

It was Jester's spicy hot pot that nailed the win in a very close race, the judges said.

Last year's winner was Paper Moon Cafe in Mairangi Bay. Read more about their win here.

Regional winners:
• Auckland: Bambina Ponsonby, Ponsonby
• Lower North Island: Ten O'Clock Cookie Bakery Café, Masterton
•Wellington: Greta Point Café, Evans Bay
• Christchurch: Station One, Papanui