The best companion for cold weather is some seriously comforting nosh. Here's our pick from up and down the land.
Savouring a few Bluff oysters is a delicious way to celebrate the cooler months – they're in full swing till August so get your fill now. Add delicacies such as Stewart Island salmon and blue cod and you have yourself a Southland seafood getaway.
A delightfully Danish porridge menu at Dunedin's Adjo boasts gluten-free and vegan options – and doesn't "gooseberry compote" just reach out and hug you right off the page? Esplanade on St Clair, with its hearty pasta and woodfired pizzas, is the perfect spot to snuggle up after a wild beach wander, and Emerson's nails big bold flavours, topped off with a heavenly line-up of beer.
If hearty portions of succulent meats are your greatest comfort, don't miss Flame Bar & Grill on Lake Wakatipu in the heart of Queenstown. While away a blustery afternoon in the serene surrounds of Sherwood, nibbling on wood-fired breads with deliciously seasonal toppings – stay on for dinner and share the Te Mana lamb shoulder with someone special.
The ultra-fresh seafood gracing the menu of Fleur's Place in Moeraki needs not much done to it; it might be fried in butter then doused in Fleur Sullivan's fennel-spiked lemon hollandaise, stirred into a thick chowder, or smoked and potted to scoop up on to homemade bread with pickles. Ōamaru's Cucina keeps the Argentinian fire burning with offerings like a 55-day aged rib-eye certain to satisfy … and save room for churros.
Top of the South
A plant-based or seafood-focused tasting menu at Christchurch's cosy Gatherings is a sure-fire winter elixir. Soak up Kaikōura's famously rugged coastline then head to Slam Club for slow-cooked and hot-smoked free-range and wild game meats and "gourmet club sandwiches". Motueka's The Smoking Barrel presents a dream marriage of doughnuts and smoked meats, while over the hill in Golden Bay, a bowl of fresh steaming-hot mussels, a roaring fire, and a spot of live music awaits you in the rustic old woolshed that is Mussel Inn.
Wellington is adept at sheltering from the elements, so we can trust the city's claim that Scopa's hot chocolate – made with melted chocolate and cream – is the best. This Aucklander has city pho envy eyeing the deeply flavoursome bowls turned out at Fisherman's Plate.
The national dish of Austria is what you want to order at Upside Down Cafe Hāwera – the winter-friendly schnitzel of the owners' homeland, served with spaetzle. In New Plymouth's West End Precinct, a roaring fire, cosy velvet seating and a Japanese-inspired menu help Snug Lounge live up to its name.
Potato bake, steamed pud ... comfort food comes naturally at Te Puia's restaurant, Pātaka Kai. Also in Rotorua, don't miss the tasty pub grub at Pig & Whistle, where the steak, ale and mushroom pot pie is a winner. Chef B's smoked brisket, jambalaya, fried chicken and plenty more New Orleans-style soul food is on offer at the buffet at Wairakei Resort near Taupō this June and August.
Apres-ski eclairs – it's a thing and you do it at Ohakune's The Eclair Shop, where the Nation family have been turning out mountain-sized eclairs for generations. There's comfort in the nostalgic-feeling $2.50 price tag, too. On the savoury side, a mānuka wood-fired grill adds a little something special to the burgers at The Blind Finch.
Perhaps you've visited Matamata's Hobbiton, but have you enjoyed Second Breakfast there, or how about the Evening Banquet Tour – a feast fit for hairy feet, in The Green Dragon Inn? Dinnertime vibes don't get much warmer than at Ulo's Kitchen in Raglan, with a DJ spinning mellow tunes to accompany Japanese-inspired dishes served in a quirky, upbeat setting. La La Land's waffles and flavoured hot chocolates are guaranteed perker-upperers, too.
A Coromandel winter weekend is a wonderful web-sweeper – after a hike up Paku Hill to get an eyeful of the coastline, retreat to Tairua Beach Club where the food is made with whatever local produce is at its peak – think tuatua linguine or beef short ribs with watercress. Make a pitstop in stunning Karangahake Gorge for a hearty roast dinner by the fire at historic Waikino Hotel.
Chinese hot pot is plentiful in Auckland – you pick your broth (from delicately savoury to seriously spicy) and all the tidbits you want to cook in it at your own table – a gloriously social way of dining. Try Hot & Spicy Pot in Balmoral or on the North Shore, Little Sheep. The moody, subterranean setting and bold Xi'an and Chengdu flavours is set to make Britomart's newbie Ghost Street a favourite this winter. If you're craving an old-school British pub vibe, ex-library turned brewery Galbraith's is your spot – the burgers are grand, but what's unmissable is the Cumberland pork sausages with mash and onion gravy.
Waipū's The Pizza Barn does what the label says very well, but equally good after a winter surf session are their lamb shanks. Paparoa Hotel offers comfort not just in the menu but in the natty retro fit-out – don't miss a round of Kaipara oysters, nor the baked whole flounder. With outposts in both Whāngārei and Paihia, Jimmy Jacks calls itself a "rib shack" – enough said. Waitangi Treaty Grounds offers an excellent wet winter's day education, and the flaky pies and seafood chowder at its Whare Waka cafe provide spot-on nourishment.
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