Four months and hundreds of meals later the Metro short-list of Auckland's best restaurants in 2017 is finally being unveiled.
This year the Metro Peugeot Restaurant of The Year top 50 features new names like the recently opened Pasture in Parnell, as well as old stalwarts like Baduzzi and Clooney.
The fact that both old and very new venues made the cut this year was testament to the rich diversity of Auckland's dining scene, said Metro editor Susannah Walker.
As Auckland ramped up its number of quality eateries, it was good to see old names were showing they could adapt with changing trends and customer expectations, she said.
"Auckland's most established restaurants, some of them are really demonstrating their ability to adapt to this new climate.
"It's a fast paced dining culture we have in Auckland now and established restaurants have survived because they're good at what they do. It's a matter of staying true to what they are [while] adapting."
The judges started with a long list of more than 100 restaurants in December last year and have been eating their way through the city ever since.
To earn a place in the top 50, restaurants must excel not only in terms of food, but also service, drink quality, atmosphere, design and character.
The judges visit restaurants anonymously and pay for their meals.
It's a hard job but someone's got to do it - and for the eight Metro judges who do, the top 50 is a culmination of weeks of hard work.
Not that they particularly mind.
"For our judges it's what they do, it's what they're mad about," said Walker.
"It is work but it's also an honour and it's a pleasure for us because we're privileged to eat at Auckland's best restaurants."
The judges were searching for excellence and debate among the group about whether a particular venue had earned their place on Metro's coveted list meant second and sometimes third rounds of judging were necessary.
Aucklanders' understanding of the hallmarks of quality dining was evolving and restaurants understood and were catering to that, Walker said.
"They might be things like provenance - where the things on your plate come from, sustainability, authenticity.
"Using fire, foraging, preserving and bottling, those kinds of things which in previous years may have been seen as fringe are now much more mainstream and they're coming through in terms of trends we're seeing on Auckland's dining scene now."
The last five years had seen a boom in the city's restaurant industry and with greater competition came greater quality, Walker said.
"Auckland's dining scene is a fickle beast. We can pick and choose.
"I think there's restaurants in Auckland which can confidently claim a place amongst the best restaurants in the world."
The winning restaurant will be announced at Motat in Western Springs on May 1.
Awards include Supreme Winner, Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year and Peugeot Restaurant Personality of the Year
Last year Sid and Chand Sahrawat's modern Indian establishment Cassia took out the top spot, and they're back on the long list twice again this year, with both Cassia and fine dining restaurant Sidart.
The Top 50 Auckland restaurants, and the finalists in the Metro Peugeot Restaurant Of The Year 2017, are (in alphabetical order):
Book online with Restaurant Hub
Gusto at the Grand
O'Connell St Bistro
Pasta & Cuore
Ponsonby Road Bistro
Soul Bar & Bistro
The Blue Breeze Inn
The Engine Room
The French Café
The Grill by Sean Connolly
The Oyster Inn
The Shed, Te Motu
The Tasting Shed