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New Zealand's Pacific Rim cuisine draws inspiration from Europe, Asia and Polynesia.
New Zealand's Pacific Rim cuisine draws inspiration from Europe, Asia and the Pacific islands of Polynesia - a blend of influences that has created a unique range of flavours and food styles.
The best Kiwi cuisine is based on local ingredients that are harvested from the surrounding ocean, rivers, and rich pastoral and agricultural landscape.
Flavours are fresh, subtle or spicy - as varied as the food sources, and cafés and restaurants that serve the dishes.
For food that has a distinctly New Zealand flavour, the foodie’s choice includes lamb, cervena / venison, salmon, crayfish / lobster, many species of fish and shellfish such as Bluff oysters, paua / abalone, mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (New Zealand shellfish), kumara / sweet potato, kiwifruit, tamarillo, feijoa, and manuka honey.
New Zealand chefs are renowned for their innovative style, and many have returned to their homeland after honing their craft in top international restaurants.
The Kiwi wine industry also has a growing reputation for its new world wines - notably sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and syrah - that have conquered awards at some of the world’s best wine shows.
Auckland - New Zealand's biggest city - has more than 900 restaurants spread throughout its sprawling coastal environs.
The ‘city of sails’ - a colourful multi-cultural city on a magnificent harbour - is home to the world’s largest Polynesian population, along with significant groups of European, Māori and Asian residents, and this is reflected in the range of cuisine available.
From haute cuisine at chic restaurants to trendy suburban brasseries, inner-city cafés and bars, visitors to Auckland will have no problem finding food to suit their fancy.
Capital city Wellington is renowned for its sophisticated food scene including more than 300 cafés, bars and restaurants, and claims more places to eat and drink per capita than New York.
Wellington’s top restaurants - and some of New Zealand’s finest dining establishments - include Matterhorn and Logan Brown where the focus is on freshness, seasonality and local sourcing of produce.
For a sample of Wellington’s many flavours, guided food tours such as Zest Food Tours introduce visitors to gourmet food stores, coffee roasters, cafés and restaurants and hard-to-find destinations.
Dine with the vine
New Zealand vineyards often have in-house restaurants that are popular destinations for tourists and locals wanting to sample local food matched with award-winning wines from the same terroir.
Many vineyards employ world-class chefs with extensive international experience. Others are staffed by passionate locals and offer a more casual dining experience.
Restaurants attached to vineyards include Brancott Estate in Marlborough, Amisfield near Queenstown, Black Barn and Elephant Hill in Hawke's Bay, and Marsden Estate near Kerikeri, Northland.
In the last couple of decades, New Zealand has undergone a coffee revolution as many Kiwis have become connoisseurs of their favoured black beverage.
The increased popularity of coffee has prompted a growth industry with new cafés and coffee roasting outlets springing up all over the country. Coffee-making is also very competitive, with baristas vying to make the perfect cup.
New Zealand cafés can be anything from a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ or mobile outlet just big enough to accommodate a good coffee machine and a barista to stylish venues serving gourmet meals and treats like muffins, scones, pastries, cakes and sweet slices.
Casual Kiwi cuisine
New Zealand’s long summer days provide a great opportunity for outdoor dining - casual barbecues, picnics, and fish and chips on the beach, or al fresco in restaurants and at street-side cafés.
Kiwi barbecues - featuring New Zealand beef, lamb and seafood - are a big part of the culture, and typify the laid-back nature of New Zealanders.
Fish and chips (fries) may not be high on the healthy eating scale, but no New Zealand cuisine experience is complete without enjoying this traditional New Zealand takeaway meal, served wrapped in paper.
Traditional Māori hangi
A traditional Māori hangi is a year-round outdoor culinary experience that’s often prepared for large gatherings. Cooked in an underground pit filled with hot stones, a hangi feast typically includes kumara / sweet potato, pumpkin, chicken, pork, lamb, and seafood.
The hangi’s smoky flavour is an essential New Zealand culinary experience, and many Māori tourist destinations - such as Te Puia and Mitai, in Rotorua - offer a hangi meal for groups of visitors.
Several Māori tourism operators offer a more exclusive food activity. Kai Waho at Lake Taupo, Charles Royal in Rotorua and Waimarama Māori Tours, in Hawkes Bay, host small groups on their ancient marae / village sites for cultural food experiences showcasing traditional food sources, gathering and preparation.
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