Taste your way around New Zealand
Updated: Nov 21, 2018
Will it be the succulent lamb or the fish of the day?
Some say, "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach". Perhaps the modern equivalent would be "the way to a person's heart is through their stomach". But, political correctness aside, if you're struggling to get your loved ones enthused about making the long journey to New Zealand with you, it might be time to appeal to their appetite. I'm confident you'll see their enthusiasm lift with the promise of delicious New Zealand food highlighted in each day of your trip itinerary.
We can't promise amazing weather during your trip, but we can promise at some point you'll be hungry. I've been in a foreign place plenty of times and wondered where on earth is best to dine given the huge number of options available - wishing that I knew a local that could steer me in the right direction, no matter what I was craving - where's the best pizza place? or where's the best coffee? Well, fortunately for you, you've found us!
We love our food and sharing our ideas with you on the best places to eat all over New Zealand. We've followed our noses to restaurants all over the place, and found some pretty amazing food. We cater to you, no matter what your palate - maybe at some point you'll be craving an Indian curry in the form of a creamy tikka masala; or perhaps you want to see a Kiwi-take on a cheeky Mexican in the form of a tasty quesadilla - whatever your favourite foods are, I'm sure New Zealand will deliver a fresh, locally sourced option for your tastebuds. And if you have a dietary requirement, let us know and we'll be sure to feature some ideas to help you out. Gluten-free is easily catered to nationwide, but if you are needing something more specific, say allergen-friendly, we'll do our best to assist too.
I'm a self-confessed foodie. I exercise regularly - not to build or tone muscle - but more so I can eat what I like without the fuss of counting calories. 😆 I regularly invite friends to dine vicariously through social media feeds, and I have to confess that I've got a few too many Jamie Oliver cookbooks, that feature on the bookshelf more for their imagery than to ever attempt the mouth-watering recipes. For this post I'll just focus on a few of my favourite foods that come to mind, but this list is by no means exhaustive (have you got all day?!). My advice to you while visiting New Zealand is to 'dare to delight' in something new. No matter what you think of the food, it'll always make for a good story back home!
With all this in mind, and given my background in creating awesome trips all over the place, I've attempted on numerous occasions to design a foodie itinerary traversing throughout New Zealand blending together the best experiences that appeal to your personal interests, with an underlying focus on food. The result culminated in an extremely enviable but ultimately unrealistic 150+ day trip 😅 So instead of narrowing down options and whatever your tastes are, every corner of New Zealand has great options for foodies, we'll share our Kiwi perspective, personal insight and local advice on the best places to dine, and what not to miss, no matter where you venture.
Urban centres and tourist hotspots in New Zealand offer a diverse array of dining options, sure to delight any palate. Smaller centres, and even tiny settlements often have a surprising number of rave-worthy options to tempt the tastebuds too. I'm confident that whoever you are, and whatever your tastes, you'll be treated to some absolutely delicious meals during your time in New Zealand, wherever your itinerary takes you.
What culinary delights can I look forward to when I travel through New Zealand?
So, when you consider New York City to be synonymous with delicious hot dog vendors; and your memories of Paris feature the time your teeth 'bounced' through escargot; when you agree that pineapple's taste better while barefoot on a tropical island paradise; and Scotland reminds you of the time you held your nose while you tried a piece of haggis; or when you think back to the time you unforgettably, adventurously (perhaps regrettably?!) picked your way through that guinea pig because it was placed in front of you and billed as a Peruvian delicacy! Okay, so maybe my personal experiences started to creep in there, but it's only natural to wonder.
When you taste your way around New Zealand, you'll discover food and wine that's original, world-class and fresh from the source. New Zealand food goes way beyond fish and chips and barbecues – our chefs have developed a distinct Pacific Rim cuisine.
Expect to indulge in plenty of seafood (like greenlipped mussels, crayfish (lobster), Bluff oysters and fresh fish), award winning cheeses and of course our famous lamb.
You should also expect a laidback, friendly atmosphere wherever you eat; we Kiwis love to keep things casual.
New Zealand lamb is simply divine. With so many sheep in New Zealand you can be sure we've perfected the execution of any lamb dish you've seen on any of those TV show competitions. Popular cooking methods for lamb include slow cook, stir fry, pan fry, poach/simmer and local favourite, a delectable roast. At least a dozen restaurants spring to mind across the country when I think of where best to try lamb, but perhaps a favourite foodie experience was while in Queenstown - cruising across Lake Wakatipu by vintage steam ship to arrive into Walter Peak Station for a Gourmet Barbecue. You'll get the chance to try lamb and other great food in a buffet style way. The experience combines beautiful scenery, a little history, farming and cuisine into a brilliant way to spend a few hours.
Being surrounded by the sea, New Zealand is home to a variety of seafood delights. But when faced with a menu of fish that you may have never heard of before, which one suits your personal preference? Here's a brief run down to help.
Hoki is a fish that's marketed toward the cheap'n'cheerful end of the market. It has delicate white flesh and is very common in fish and chips.
Snapper is a favourite for many in the North Island, with its sweet, mild flavour and tender white-to-pinkish flesh.
Blue Cod is a favourite in the South Island, mild in flavour and with a low oil content, with delicate and flaky textured white flesh.
other popular fish options include Bluenose, Tarakihi, Groper/Hapuku which makes wonderful fish steaks, Kahawai popular as a smoked fish, and Red Gurnard which has firm fillets that hold their shape when cooked
Kina is part of the spiky sea-urchin family, and only found in New Zealand - prized for its delicate, smooth, buttery roe
Paua and Whitebait are classic ingredients for a - my advice is to always sample a Paua fritter or Whitebait fritter if you stumble across it on the menu
Fresh Water Salmon has a full flavour with a soft, delicate "melt in the mouth" texture, and is highly regarded for its taste and texture - many inland farms allow you to catch your own salmon, and then cook it.
Crayfish / Koura / Red Lobster is generally eaten with fingers, and picked or sucked out of its shell. It's menacing look makes for great photo opportunities, and can come with a hefty price tag, but it's worth it. It has a subtle, delicate, slightly sweet flavour, and a meaty, succulent texture similar to tiger prawns.
Fish and Chips
Aussie's might say that Kiwi's pronounce it 'Fush un Chups', but however we say it, you can't beat a shared meal of fish and chips, preferably by the beach. The fish is typically freshly-caught, then battered and deep-fried. Scallops and squid rings are also optionally included. Fish and chips are available pretty much everywhere in New Zealand, and a great way to wind down after a busy day.
Now saved mainly for special occasions, the hāngī was the most widely used cooking method by Māori for more than two thousand years. Today, foods cooked in a hangi typically include chicken, pork, lamb as well as a variety of vegetables including kumara (sweet potato), pumpkin, cabbage and stuffing. The result of this long process of cooking is tender, off-the-bone meat and delicious vegetables, all infused with a smoky, earthy fragrance. If you're lucky, you might also get to savour a delicious hāngī-steamed pudding for dessert.
Some of my clients from the USA have said to me they found their hāngī meal similar to a typical Thanksgiving Dinner spread. The jury is out on that one, as I haven't yet experienced Thanksgiving in the USA, so I'll let you be the judge when you get here.
If you'd like to taste a hāngī during your visit to New Zealand, there are several places around New Zealand I can recommend. Many are in the North Island, but I do know a few in the South Island too. Our online survey will ask you along the way, so let us know there and we'll be sure to make this happen for you.
DINE AROUND THE WORLD IN JACKSON STREET
I tell myself that I live in Petone, because of its ideal central geographical location to all-things-New-Zealand, but underlying that reason is the fact that within a few steps from my apartment, I can easily dine out on cuisine from around the world. So if you like the idea of a progressive dinner that takes in different cuisines in one street, or perhaps you just miss a slice of home, make sure you feature a night or two here during your visit to New Zealand.
Jackson Street and Petone dining options currently include:
authentic Asian dishes from Vietnam 🇻🇳Malaysia 🇲🇾 Singapore 🇸🇬 Thailand 🇹🇭 China 🇨🇳and Japan 🇯🇵
plenty of Indian 🇮🇳 restaurants for that curry fix 🍛
representing Italy we're lucky to have one of the 70 Best Restaurants with a Pizzeria in the World - the only restaurant in New Zealand to be given the accolade 🍕🇮🇹
sip on a coffee ☕surrounded by kitty cats 🐈 in the local cat café Neko Ngeru 🐈
there's several cafés including one that is French themed 🥐🇫🇷
indulge in the art of making hand made French Chocolate at The Chocolate Story
an American themed ranch style restaurant 🇺🇸
a British Sweet Shop and specialty food store 🇬🇧+ a Dutch specialty food store 🇳🇱
a few different bakeries, including a German bakery 🇩🇪and one specialising in donuts 🍩
a Spanish tapas restaurant 🇪🇸 + a couple of Turkish restaurants 🇹🇷
even the taste of Armenia for the more adventurous 🇦🇲
authentic Mexican options are well represented too 🇲🇽
a couple of fish 'n' chip shops, pubs, and a couple of fine dining options focusing on local, fresh ingredients are here to remind you that you are still in New Zealand 🇳🇿
fast food favourites like McDonald's, Subway and Domino's compete with local favourites like Hells Pizza 🍕and Jackson Street Burger 🍔
there's even two large supermarkets for those choosing to self-cater 🛒
and to wash it all down with the sparkling pure artesian water at Te Puna Wai Ora, the spring of life, where you can collect and drink your own unique spring water from the source underneath a sculpture free-flowing fountain.
One thing is for sure - you can't go hungry on Jackson Street!
GOT A SWEET TOOTH?
It's probably best I don't get too carried away here - I am blessed to take after my Nanna and her genetically pre-dispositioned sweet tooth for sure - but you'll have plenty of chances to taste my favourite foods on road trip journeys throughout New Zealand.
Don't be surprised when it's a warm summers day, and I know that your day includes a bit of a road trip, that you get a text from me telling you to keep an eye out for a Fruju the next time you fill the car up.
If you get a text from me asking if you like peanut butter, chances are when you respond favourably you'll be given instructions to get to a very unique laneway that features a delightful window under a set of stairs selling peanut butter treats - places like this you might never find on your own.
"I would come for the chocolate alone, but the beautiful landscape doesn't hurt either!" - Nigella Lawson +
Many Kiwi's have a major sweet tooth - we create some of the finest chocolate in the world and with Nigella Lawson endorsing Whittaker's Chocolate you really need to try some during your trip at some point. But just as Whittaker's have blended flavours from around the world into their range of locally made chocolate, you'll find we've combined and infused elements from around the globe and placed our own Kiwi spin on them.
NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY IT'S COVER
And never judge what a New Zealand restaurant is like by its shop front. While in New Zealand, you'll need to realise that restaurants aren't always obvious. Sometimes the best places to dine are located in the most unassuming of places - you need to be in the know, to know where to go, and we always have fun sharing these quirky local insights with you - people often think we've gone mad, but let me reassure you, there's always method in our madness!
For example, the Seashore Cabaret was recently rated as the best café in the Wellington region, yet even many locals I know can't find it! In the slider below, look at the outside of Seashore Cabaret and see if you can spot the entry. Then check out the amazing atmosphere inside.
Here's another example - the award-winning Fleur's Place in the South Island has amazing fresh seafood, but where's the entry to the restaurant...?
IT'S ALL A MATTER OF TASTEBy now you should know, that food in New Zealand is awesome. It's fresh, flavourful and interesting - chefs often take on influences from around the globe, and infuse delightful Kiwi twists to traditional ethnic dishes. But it is difficult to define just one quintessential dish that you just have to try while visiting New Zealand.
We constantly have friends, family, our own personal experiences and of course our customers, providing us with local feedback, offering insight on their own taste-testing experience at establishments all over New Zealand. Even if you're spending part of your day on the road between places, we'll highlight ideas of places to stop for refreshments, or even just to break up your journey. Why bother with boring service station convenience, when you can have an atmospheric café break with quality snacks instead?
Everyone has a different palate, and some have specific dietary requirements for health or religious reasons. With this in mind, we cater to your personal tastes, by asking in our online survey what kind of experiences you might wish to include during your trip, and use this to get ideas for you.
To avoid anyone getting 'hangry' during your trip, we like to make food a focus during your visit to New Zealand, rather than just an afterthought. We always provide dining suggestions throughout your itinerary, wherever you go. Even in the most isolated places you'll be surprised and delighted by the dining options on offer when you know where to look - and we do.
So with all this in mind our Kiwi Travel Consultants will tailor your trip to suit not only your travelling style, but also cater to your personal interests, travelling style and budget, as well as provide you on-trip support while you travel around our Kiwi paradise.
Simply complete our online survey, book your international flights, and you'll soon be saying New Zealand - it's Time 2 Go!