New Zealand has always been a bit of a mystery to many, coupling it as they do with its much larger neighbor Australia. However, New Zealand has great geographic diversity (as evidenced by the immense appeal of the scenery in the Lord of the Rings films). It also has a lot of variety in terms of its culture, particularly its food. As one travel expert noted, “North to south, New Zealand is filled with culinary wonders. With so many incredible dishes ready to be plated, the country’s restaurant scene continues to impress local and international foodies. From vineyard bistros to the finest dining establishments,” it is entirely unique and worthy of exploration.
A Sharing Restaurant
Love it or not, the idea of “sharing restaurants” has taken hold in many parts of the world. If unfamiliar with the concept, it is a restaurant with menu options specifically designed for groups to order and share. As a New York Times article about the concept noted, “Small plates, large plates, starter or main — they’re all meant to be sampled table-wide… Sharing…is more communal, lets diners taste more dishes and is more in tune with the way large swaths of the world eat.”
That is why Kika, located in the Wanaka area of New Zealand has dedicated large portions of its menus to sharing options. The “sister restaurant to Francesca’s Italian Kitchen,” another Wanaka establishment, it “offers a variety of contemporary sharing options. As well as tapas inspired piccolos, grande dishes, an array of seasonal sides and creative desserts there is a Just Feed Me menu for those who just can’t decide.”
The head chef and owner, James Stapley says that it takes “take inspiration from global flavours to deliver innovative sharing style plates in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
A carefully curated wine list with a mix of local and international varietals complements our eclectic style. Our menu changes with the seasons and we’re always searching out new and interesting produce.”
Menu selections include such choices as a shareable salumi with pickled pumpkin, quince and Tuscan bread. There are Cloudy Bay clams with salsa macha, lime and grilled sourdough bread. Main course shareables include Roman gnocchi, market fish and a roasted pork belly dish served with puy lentils, celeriac, and maple bacon.
Desserts are unique and there is the Tom Selleck gelato stick with yerba mate, alfajores and dulce de leche, or the yoghurt creme, poached pear, white chocolate, saffron honey, liquorice.
Pacific and Asian Style
Blue Kanu is a popular Queenstown option that blends, as the website explains, “healthy, fresh and exotic, encompassing Pacific influence, along with ancient spices, helping to create the new cultural soul food not seen in this region before.” Interestingly enough, it also has sharing options and “Koru” tables designed for groups of six to eight.
Set in the heart of the city and along the shore of Lake Wakatipu, it features bright and unique décor that includes carved masks, graffiti, neon blue lighting, and unique music. Even the wait staff has been known to serenade diners. There are both cocktails and “mocktails” to choose from and an enormous range of snacks, sharing options, traditional stir fry, and lush deserts that include a Tahitian Vanilla Sponge, kumara jam, hokey pokey ice cream, and ginger syrup treat.
Laid back and casual and yet dedicated to premium dishes and tasty fare, a meal at Blue Kanu is an obvious must whenever in the Wanaka area.
The Word on the Street
Of course, many people who travel to New Zealand like to visit more than a single town or region, and that means that street foods and backpacker bars or pubs are where some great foods can and will be found. For example, here are ten foods that must be tried whenever in New Zealand and an area where street foods are available:
· Hangi – This is a Maori specialty that sees meats and veggies cooked in an underground oven for a lengthy period and then served up with side dishes. Some of the top locations making it include Ko Tane in Christchurch, Kohutapu Lodge in Murupara, Te Puia in Rotorua, the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua, and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Paihia.
· Kiwi burgers are just a basic burger but dressed up with a fried egg and beet root, and though it sounds odd, is noted for its tastiness.
· Savoury pies are an iconic option for dining in New Zealand and they are a definite whenever available. They are usually filed with steak and cheese, fish, or mince and cheese. F
· Fish and chips are a common street food meal and are available in almost every coastal town, but many say that Raglan is the top destination for this dish. You will also want to try the green lipped mussels of the Havelock area, the Whitebait (ideal as fritters) along the west coast.
· Pavlova is considered a national dessert, and some of the best places to enjoy it include Floriditas in Wellington, Cibo in Auckland, and Yesteryears Café in Tuatapere
· Hokey Pokey ice cream is also iconic street food and features honeycomb inside. The top spots to enjoy it include Pokeno Takeaways in Pokeno, Giapo in Aukland, Patagonia Ice Cream in Queenstown, Black Peak in Wanaka, and Copenhagen Cones in Tauranga.
And if you are eager to enjoy some of the other “must visit” dining spots in New Zealand, the most frequently recommended include The French Café in Auckland, Sidart in Auckland, Mudbrick Restaurant and Vineyard in Auckland, Elephant Hill Wine Estate & Restaurant in Hawkel’s Bay, Roots in Canterbury, Rata in Queenstown, Pegasus Bay Winery & Restaurant in North Canterbury, Riverstone Kitchen in Oamaru, Amisfield Winery and Bistro in Queenstown, and the Pacifica Kaimoana Restaurant in Hawke’s Bay.