A selection of New Zealand's top chefs, food writers and producers share their favourite eateries, ingredients and little-known gastronomic gems to be devoured on your next travels through Aotearoa.
Favourite Kiwi eateries
Sid Sahrawat (Sidart, Cassia, Sid at the French Cafe): Amisfield Bistro in Queenstown. Chef Vaughan Mabee is really going all out showcasing New Zealand ingredients. The setting is incredible, and Vaughan's cooking is complemented by some gorgeous Amisfield wines. Amistead Bistro, 10 Lake Hayes Rd, Queenstown
Peter Gordon (The Sugar Club, Bellota): The best thing I've eaten recently was in Whanganui, at Citadel Cafe in Castlecliff (my family suburb). Breakfast of a delicious Health Bowl including house-made kimchi, spiced nuts, roast kūmara, hummus. And a fantastic vegan dahl coconut curry with flatbread. Great burgers and fries, beer and a decent wine selection. Citadel Cafe, 14 Rangiora St, Castlecliff, Whanganui
Lucy Corry (Be Well food writer): I think it has to be Rita: the so-tiny yet so-wonderful Wellington restaurant owned by Kelda Haines and Paul Schrader. Everything about Rita, from the uber-seasonal set menu that always manages to nail exactly what I want to eat, to the thoughtful wine list and the magic cutlery drawers, is pitch-perfect. Rita, 89 Aro St, Wellington
Nic Watt (MASU, INCA, Akarana Eatery, Stonyridge Vineyard):
My favourite cafe and bar would have to be the Kawau Boating Club. It's run by Robin and Davo, they are absolute champions and have brilliant hospitality. It's always a small pilgrimage to get there but well worth the effort. Kawau Boating Club, Kawau Island
Mark Southon (O'Connell St Bistro):
When I first arrived in New Zealand I worked in Queenstown for a couple of years. While we were there, my wife, Paula, and I discovered a small Italian restaurant called Bella Cucina in Brecon St. It's very simple but with great food so, not surprisingly, we frequented the restaurant a lot. Now when we return to Queenstown on holiday it's still on the list of our "must eat" places, along with a few others: Public, Amisfield and the infamous burger bar - Fergburger. Bella Cucina, Brecon St, Queenstown
Kathy Paterson (Be Well food writer): My first stop in Wellington is always Floriditas Cafe & Restaurant in the heart of Cuba St. Floriditas makes me feel at home and has cleverly mastered the combination of delicious food, a perfect wine list and friendly professional staff. Along the street, Loretta is my favourite breakfast spot, serving fresh, simple and seasonal dishes. Their preserves adorn the counters and last time I was there, hogging the limelight, was a stunning, enormous ceramic bowl filled to the brim with winter pears. Floriditas and Loretta, Cuba St, Wellington
Unexpected foodie delights
Helen Dorresteyn, (Clevedon Buffalo Co. and Clevedon Village Farmers Market):
On a roadie recently we stopped in Waihi at The German Bakery. Their bread and pastries are made from scratch and the cafe is relaxed and comfortable. It's like being welcomed into someone's home for a delicious repast. The German Bakery, 54a Seddon St, Waihi
Kathy Paterson: The Kaipara Harbour: super fresh flounder at Pahi, keen gardeners at Paparoa selling homegrown vegetables from car boots and baking stalls at Maungaturoto.
Nic Watt: Nins Bin on the Kaikoura Coast is brilliant for fresh boiled crayfish. Best I've eaten. Nins Bin, Half Moon Bay 7371, Kaikoura
Sid Sahrawat: We love the wines at Craggy Range in Hawke's Bay, especially their Le Sol and Sophia. So we were blown away when we stayed there last year and dined at the restaurant. Chef Casey McDonald really puts the focus on the region's produce, even growing a lot of the produce onsite. A highlight for us was the Patangata Station grass-fed rib eye with basil chimichurri, pepper sauce and confit garlic potatoes that we shared. Nothing like a good steak matched with amazing red wine. Craggy Range restaurant, 253 Waimarama Rd, Havelock North
Mark Southon: It's not unexpected but a lunch that's blown me away is at Gatherings in Christchurch. Alex Davies is an amazing chef and the crispy skin ceviche salad is out of this world. Gatherings, 5/2 Papanui Rd, Merivale, Christchurch
Lucy Corry: On a recent trip to Hamilton it was brilliant to rediscover the amazing Sichuan Style restaurant. Their dumplings are worth the trip to Hamilton alone, and the spicy stir-fried chicken with chillies and Sichuan peppercorns is every bit as good as I remembered it being 10 years ago. Fabulous friendly service makes this unassuming little place a must-visit when you're in The 'Tron. Sichuan Style, 24 Collingwood St, Hamilton
The best Kiwi ingredients
Mark Southon: It's got to be any type of seafood, fish or Bluff oysters but my favourite are the Cloudy Bay Clams from Marlborough: sweet and tender and so versatile in recipes.
Helen Dorresteyn: Kawakawa leaf. Blanched and shredded finely into a salad gives it some punch. I get it out of the garden but it's prolific in the bush so I imagine it would be easy enough to grow in most New Zealand gardens.
Lucy Corry: If money was no object, I'd say Bluff oysters (not least because my generous neighbour just gave me some, which I've eaten with some thick-cut wholemeal bread and butter). Otherwise, feijoas, picked from the tree in my backyard and eaten on the spot.
Sid Sahrawat: I'm in love with blackfoot pāua that comes from Bluff. It has great texture and flavour. I'm using it in different ways with various ingredients on the menu at Sid at the French Cafe. At the moment we slice it fine and poach it in butter, any small bits are dehydrated and made into crackling, so we don't waste even a tiny bit.
Nic Watt: I'm not huge into foraging, however I am a lover of the ocean and very keen on diving and snorkelling. Kina, fresh from the sea, cracked open and eaten after a wash in fresh water … Kiwi as!
Kathy Paterson: New Zealand grass-fed lamb and New Zealand shellfish including pāua, tuatua, cockles (littleneck clams), Bluff oysters and green-shell mussels. Stuff a boned shoulder of lamb with sourdough breadcrumbs mixed with softened onion and garlic, chopped fresh herbs, lemon zest, sunflower seeds and nuts.
You can't beat gathering your own shellfish. Otherwise, take a trip to your local fish market or fish shop. Use shellfish raw or flashed over heat. I love a fritter or littleneck clams or tuatua added at the last minute into a simple pasta dish.
The best stops along the way
Sid Sahrawat: If we are heading down Coromandel way, Luke's Kitchen for wood-fired pizza. The kids are always happy with a yummy pizza. It's a great start to a Coromandel holiday. Luke's Kitchen, 20 Black Jack Rd, Kuaotunu
Mark Southon: I love stopping in at Pōkeno Village on the way home. Love the icecreams but have not got past four scoops (they can do 12 or more on a single cone). And the bacon and sausages from the Pōkeno butchers are superb. Pōkeno Ice Cream & Coffee Shop and Pōkeno Bacon, Great South Rd, Pokeno
Kiwi road trip nostalgia
Lucy Corry: When I was a child we had an annual caravan holiday at Ōhope Beach, where I have fond memories of eating pipi with vinegar, sun-warmed stonefruit and freshly picked sweetcorn. And, of course, the occasional Choc Bar icecream from the dairy - an exciting treat for a country kid.
Kathy Paterson: Our family road trips were mainly day affairs as for the best part of the year we couldn't leave the farm for long amounts of time. We packed up picnic baskets with picnic food and headed to places like Lake Ferry or Walls Whare. On the way home we stopped in Greytown for fresh berries and real fruit icecreams.
For more New Zealand travel ideas, go to newzealand.com/dosomethingnew