76. Dine at New Zealand's top restaurants
In New Zealand’s indigenous language of te reo Māori, tiaki means ‘to care for people and place’, and the country’s invitation for travellers to take the ‘Tiaki Promise’ inspires visitors to ‘care for the land, sea and nature, treading lightly and leaving no trace’: here is No. 76 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
The Tiaki value of guardianship and protection of Aotearoa’s natural diversity is inspiring chefs at the country’s top restaurants.
After a three-year break, Michael Meredith returned to open Mr Morris in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau’s Britomart precinct in late 2020. Local and seasonal produce is harnessed for dishes infused with Pacific and Asian flavours, and there’s also a subtle Latin American influence courtesy of head chef Fabio Bernadini. Secure a spot at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, and enjoy grilled octopus with a Mexican-style chipotle sauce.
Ahi’s impressive dining room is the standout space amid Auckland’s new Commercial Bay development. Harbour views are the background for a savvy menu from award-winning chef Ben Bayly, including innovative dishes cooked over fire and harnessing traditional Māori cooking techniques. Try the pāua (a New Zealand shellfish), slowly cooked hāngi-style.
Located in Auckland’s new Hotel Britomart, Kingi restaurant showcases the best of New Zealand kai moana (seafood). Begin the day with smoked kahawai on quinoa toast for breakfast, or return for dinner of Waiheke Island oysters from the raw bar and pan-roasted snapper with basil and lime. The menu details the independent and sustainably focused fishermen and women contracted by Kingi around New Zealand. Served in an unpretentious cottage along Napier/Ahuriri’s Marine Parade, Māori chef Jeremy Rameka imbues his good-value five- course degustation menus with an authentic New Zealand sense of place. The freshest of kai moana at Pacifica could include scallops and crayfish, while ethically sourced venison and lamb are both regularly featured.
Wellington/Te Whanganui-a-Tara’s Hiakai is New Zealand’s standout fine-dining experience, with chef Monique Fiso drawing on her Samoan-Māori heritage and harnessing native forest herbs like kakakawa and horopito for seven-course dining experiences inspired by Māori myths and legends. Indigenous New Zealand ingredients could include tītī (muttonbird) or kina (sea urchin). Subscribe at hiakai.co.nz to be advised when in-demand bookings open.
Divided into Earth, Land and Sea, Inati’s menu of shared plates partners with Christchurch/Ōtautahi’s best wine list, including on-trend pét-nat sparkling wine from the nearby Waipara Valley sub-region. Playful dishes inspired by New Zealand food memories include smoked mutton tartare, or yoghurt, feijoa and burnt honey popcorn.
Hali Bar & Bistro
From the same owners, the menu at Christchurch’s Hali Bar & Bistro presents superb seafood. The closest vineyard to Queenstown also offers Central Otago’s best dining. Sit outside with views of Lake Hayes and enjoy Amisfield’s relaxed menu of shared plates or a five- or seven-course degustation experience. Ingredients are often foraged locally, and Amisfield’s estate-harvested wines are all organic. Try the kingfish tostada or playfully reworked Kiwi classics like ‘Fish & Chips’ with delicate slivers of kūmara (sweet potato).
In a Queenstown laneway, Rātā is chef Josh Emmet’s relaxed ode to classic New Zealand flavours and ingredients. Inventive dishes include cured Fiordland venison with locally grown wasabi, or delicate Southern Ocean blue cod with clams from Marlborough’s Cloudy Bay. Served with beer-infused mustard, Rātā’s Southland cheese rolls are an upscale spin on a South Island/Te Waipounamu cafe staple.