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20 of the best eateries in New Zealand for passionate foodies

New Zealand food is fresh, inventive and sophisticated with many of our finest fine-dining establishments becoming known around the globe.

Every year, August brings the (highly anticipated) release of the Cuisine ‘Good Food Guide’ detailing the top restaurants in the country. Each is ranked using a system of one, two or three hats — similar to the European Michelin guide.

At Fine Tours New Zealand, food is our thing. Read on for a short-cut to gastronome heaven. We take you through some our favorite restaurants from North to South, as seen in the 2016 Good Food Guide:

  1. The French Cafe, Ponsonby, Auckland. Hats: Three... Mains $46. Named number one restaurant in New Zealand, and fifth in the world, The French Cafe is the epitome of elegant kiwi dining. Run by husband and wife team Simon Wright and Creghan Molloy-Wright the food is creative, seasonal and world class.
  2. Cassia, Fort Lane, Auckland. Hats: Two... Mains: $28-50. A secluded basement bistro, Cassia puts an eclectic spin on contemporary indian cuisine.
  3. Depot, Federal Street, Auckland. Hats: One... Mains: $25-36. For a quintessentially kiwi meal with a touch of class you can't go past depot. Echoing the fun and flavors of kiwi bach (holiday home) the food is rustic, the atmosphere is lively, and there is a line out the door every day of the week.
  4. Palate, Hamilton, Waikato. Hats: One... Mains: $34-39. A Sophisticated riverside restaurant, Palate heros local ingredients, namely the protein Waikato is known for.
  5. Mister D, Napier, Hawkes Bay. Hats: One... Mains: $25-35. For an eating experience that is fun as well as well as delicious, Mister D is worth a visit. Think injectable donuts, cognac custard and bone marrow ravioli.
  6. Te Awa Winery and Restaurant, Hastings, Hawkes Bay. Hats: One... Mains: $33-50. Although thou a casual lunchtime-only affair, the food at Te Awa is anything but. Exquisitely presented, you’ll be privy to a Mediterranean menu with offerings such as crispy skinned grouper and eel parfait.
  7. Pacifica, Marine Parade, Napier. Hats: Two... Mains: Degustation menu: $50. An unassuming beach bungalow decorated in traditional Maori and Pacific style, this restaurant is so comfortable and low-key, you’ll be blown away by the sheer sophistication and brilliance of the food.
  8. The Larder, Miramar, Wellington. Hats: Two... Mains: $37-38. The Larder’s innovative food, remarkable wine and attentive service make for a memorable dining experience. Food from this kitchen is world class and head chef Stephen Brown makes a point of using interesting cuts of meat such as offal and sweetbreads.
  9. Logan Brown, Te Aro, Wellington. Hats: One... Mains: $37-42. A stalwart of history, Logan Brown is housed in a magnificent bank building, setting which truly enhances its atmosphere of grandeur. Food is classic, polished and features seasonal meat and produce.
  10. Ortega Fish Shack, Mt Victoria, Wellington. Hats: One... Mains: $34-39. A beach-themed seafood joint, this laid back local diner offers the freshest of New Zealand’s seafood.
  11. Urban Oyster Bar and Eatery, Hardy St, Nelson. Hats: One... Mains: $16-27. A lively dining spot in the heart of Nelson, the Urban Oyster Bar serves much more than its namesake suggests. Try the pulled pork knuckle with crispy shallots or the deconstructed ceviche with chilli coconut whip.
  12. Black Estate, Waipara, Canterbury. Hats: One... Mains: $29-39. A wonderful winery experience in the heart of Canterbury's vineyard region. Simple but elegant, the menu features wild rabbit, black boy beaches and a delectable goats cheese tart.
  13. Pegasus Bay, Waipara, Canterbury. Hats: Two... Mains: $36-44. With the feel of an grand country estate, Pegasus is the perfect day's outing from Christchurch. Unfussy food is combined with exquisite technique, rendering even the humblest of cuts exemplary.
  14. Roots, Lyttelton, Christchurch. Hats: Three... Mains: Degustation menus: $90-100. Formerly restaurant of the year in 2015, dishes at roots are complex, refined and highly creative. Seemingly disparate ingredients are paired for an explosion of texture and flavor.
  15. Pescatore, The George Hotel, Christchurch. Hats: Two... Mains: $44. A contemporary dining experience showcasing the best of Canterbury meat and produce. Dine on crispy duck, freshwater eel and caramelized cauliflower.
  16. Amisfield, Lake Hayes, Queenstown. Hats: Two... Mains: $35-50. Winner of the Best Winery Restaurant of the year, Amisfield consistently wows. Chef Vaughan Mabee produces delights such as paua espuma or crunchy tapioca and squid ink crisps with caviar gel and squid ink cream.
  17. Bistro Gentil, Golf Course Road, Wanaka. Hats: One... Mains: $35-44. Nestled behind Wanaka’s pristine golf course, Bistro Gentil has beautiful views, a delightful interior and world-class food. Beautiful plates of Central Otago fare are created by head chef Mario Rodrigues and include the likes of beef tartare with crumbed egg yolk and soy jelly or goats cheese mousse with plum puree and beetroot.
  18. Botswana Butchery, Archers Cottage, Queenstown. Hats: One... Mains: $36-54. A firm favorite in this lakeside town, Botswana is situated in a quaint miners cottage. Specializing in game meats, there is an impressive steak menu - choose your cut, your sauce and your sides. Also worth mentioning is the perfectly balanced prawn laksa.
  19. Fishbone Bar and Grill, Beech St, Queenstown. Hats: One... Mains: $36-54. A quirky restaurant in the heart of Queenstown, Fishbone, as the name suggests, highlights the best of New Zealand’s seafood. From whole flounder oven roasted with capers and lemon to Spanish style octopus with and chorizo and potato hash, you won't leave disappointed when you dine here.
  20. Rata, Te Nuku, Queenstown. Hats: One... Mains: $36-45. Celebrity Chef, Josh Emmett's, first dining establishment, Rata puts an elegant twist on South Island favorites such as cheese rolls and fisherman's stew.