Amisfield Winery & Bistro
Sitting on the large patio of this acclaimed winery, surrounded by massive lavender patches and the vineyards in the background, it’s easy to while away an afternoon. The menu is local sourced, farm-to-table cuisine, and the wine is plentiful and can be purchased in the adjoining cellar door (tasting room). If you have time for a leisurely lunch, Amisfield is a great option. A nice way to work up an appetite is the 5-mile walk around Lake Hayes.
Besides Rata, this is Queenstown's most stylish restaurant, housed in a historic cottage by the lake. The restaurant features beautiful views and wood-burning fireplaces inside the dining room and outside on the patio. The menu features a lot of local produce and products; it’s focused on meat but also has some nice seafood dishes on the menu. Have a drink in the private bar upstairs before settling in for lunch or dinner.
Boulcott Street Bistro
Housed in a cozy cottage, with airy white interiors, Boulcott is run by New Zealand star chef Rex Morgan (he often serves as a head judge on television in Masterchef). No reservations are accepted, so often the street in front of the bistro is lined with Champagne-swilling diners patiently waiting for a table. Classic bistro fare is served alongside an excellent wine list.
Cable Bay Vineyards
No trip to Waiheke is complete without a visit to Cable Bay Vineyards, one of the island’s best wineries. Perfect for wine tastings, a casual afternoon glass or a full lunch, the vineyard offers flavorful local wine and a lush atmosphere. Be sure to dine at the Verandah for a taste of modern North Island luxury with stunning views of Hauraki Gulf and Waiheke’s rolling hills.
Another one of Wellington's most iconic cafes and coffee roaster, L'Affare has large, eclectic interiors, complete with mismatched tables and chairs and even a coffee equipment showroom.
The neighborhood of Parnell is not on everyone's list – it's about a 10-minute drive from the waterfront – but if you do find yourself exploring here, come for lunch to this whimsical restaurant. It occupies a building that used to house an old chocolate factory and interiors are light and fun (there's a wall hung with pocket mirrors). Cibo is located off-the-tourist-path, so it draws a lot of locals. Book a table in the pretty private courtyard during the warmer months.
Ponsonby’s hip, star-studded Dear Jervois focuses on fresh, organic food in a casual-cool atmosphere. Boasting courtyard, terrace and indoor seating, the café offers a balanced menu of both vegan- and carnivore-friendly fare, from vegan Nutella pancakes to delicious breakfast tacos.
Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar
In walking distance of the Sky Tower, the ever-popular Depot is helmed by star chef Al Brown and makes a great spot for lunch (or dinner) when touring the area. The menu is full of small plates designed to be shared – don't miss oysters when they are in season – and the vibe is congenial.
The revamped Britomart is one of the city's most thriving areas for shopping and dining. Its elegant but gritty-cool Ebisu is a good choice in this trendy neighborhood. The exposed brick walls and dark-wood paneling are a perfect backdrop for the colorful, beautifully prepared plates. The sushi and sashimi is super fresh (there are also Bento Boxes), and the larger plates showcase the chef's innovative take on traditional Japanese izakaya.
The small tapas bar at the bottom of the historic Eichardt’s Hotel has an industrial-chic design scheme, a roaring fireplace and a congenial vibe, making it a wonderful spot for an aperitif or for a light dinner of tapas to share. Located right in front of the busy marina, with its hordes of people, musicians and day trippers returning off the boats, the bar feels subdued and serene. It’s truly a gem of a small place for ordering a platter of oysters, heaping charcuterie and cheese boards or some nice seasonal vegetable tapas and sampling some of the local wines. The bar is open throughout the day (you can also grab a coffee before heading off to one of your excursions), but it’s coziest in the evening.
This is Queenstown’s answer to New York’s Shake Shack, serving burgers that have a similar cult following and the same long lines. There’s limited seating inside the casual burger joint and some more out front. Just be aware that no matter where you sit, you will be surrounded by throngs of people, even early in the morning. The Ferg Burger itself is about twice the size, however, as the delicate Shake Shack version, made with prime New Zealand beef and delicious special sauces. It’s a classic in Queenstown – and one that still delivers.
Down the street from Caffe L'Affare and Havana Coffee Works, this is a great local spot for lunch in the Te Aro neighborhood. The menu is short and well-edited according to season, with a focus on New Zealand fish and game, as well as a good local wine list.
Havana Coffee Works
A local favorite a bit off the beaten path, the mutli-level Havana is a great place to refuel over a flat white and a sweet snack, like homemade scones and pies.
Jervois Steak House
A classic steakhouse, Jervois, on the first floor of the Sofitel Hotel, serves hearty portions of beef, lamb and venison, with a long list of side dishes. Unlike your traditional steakhouse, however, the dining room is light and elegant, and service is lovely.
This local favorite is outside of the city center but it's a good tip for Lord of the Ring fans touring at Weta Workshop, the special effects company that has been working with director Peter Jackson since his early film days. The Larder started out as a casual neighborhood joint run by local chef Jacob Brown (who used to cook at Boulcott Bistro). But word of his innovative menus – more sophisticated than the laid-back ambience belies – got out, and now many locals make the short trip to this suburb (it's about a 15 minute drive) for lunch or dinner.
Logan Brown Restaurant and Bar
One of Wellington's most lauded restaurants, Logan Brown is located inside a restored 1920s bank building, with gorgeous interiors complete with soaring ceilings and polished parquet. It looks like it will be overly formal, but the friendly staff keeps things down to earth. The often-changing menu is full of New Zealand bounty (line-caught hapuku; wild Fjordland venison; Cook Straight octopus) and the wine list is epic. It's a great choice for lunch or dinner.
For a low-key dinner in the heart of Queenstown, head to this Asian street food–inspired hot spot where award-winning restaurateurs have designed a Chinese-Malaysian menu with bold flavors. Dishes include banana prawns with curry leaves and spiced duck with cabbage salad, as well as a variety of shared plates rich with lemongrass, cashews, sesame and soy that mimic classic street food dishes with an upscale twist. The dining room is modern in style and trendy in ambiance (though still family friendly), making Madam Woo a great choice for a group dinner filled with shared plates and Malaysian-inspired cocktail creations to match.
Gaelic for “to crave,” Miann is perhaps the best patisserie in all of New Zealand. The experimental menu changes constantly and items are often themed for holidays or current events, but the craftsmanship of each dish remains the same high quality year-round. Treats on rotation have included such indulgences as whiskey and vanilla cheesecake with caramelized oats, honey and raspberry and the seasonal Chinese lantern bon bons. Located near the fashionable Britomart area, Miann’s dark, wooden interiors make for a romantic atmosphere, and the open kitchen allows for voyeurism as the team of pastry chef’s construct each plate with immaculate detail.
Mudbrick's lofty terrace with sweeping views is one of Waiheke's most romantic spots for a gourmet meal. It's great for lunch, but even more special as the sun starts setting and diners can spot the twinkling lights of Auckland in the far-off distance. The menu is definitely on the pricy side, especially since you're on casual-cool Waiheke, but everything is exceedingly well prepared, the wine lists is local and terrific and the views are unbeatable.
Indagare Tip: Be aware that Mudbrick is a favorite for special occasions – if you're craving a romantic, quiet evening, be sure to ask whether they are hosting a larger function the night you plan on dining here.
Neo Café & Eatery
For breakfast that tastes as good as it looks, head to Neo in downtown Wellington. With a bright and inviting atmosphere filled with natural light, cream-colored interiors and pinewood tables, the health-conscious café offers organic, vegetarian and gluten-free options, in addition to daily chalkboard specials. Try one of the homemade toast spreads or the “veggie brekkie”: a delectable combination of grilled halloumi, beetroot, avocado, fresh sprouts and hash browns, drizzled with a homemade balsamic reduction. Daily house specials, pastries and coffee are also available for takeaway.
The coastal road between Kaikoura and Blenheim is lined with so-called "bins" – New Zealand's version of a New York City food truck. One of the most famous is Nin's Bin, which is located roadside a 20-minute drive north of Kaikoura (it's on the ocean side). In Maori, Kai-koura mean "eat crayfish," and Nin's focuses almost exclusively on this freshwater lobster (also on the menu in season are green-tipped mussels). The seafood is simply prepared and you eat at rustic wooden picnic tables with views of the sea.
Ortega Fish Shack
The name is the only thing misleading about this Wellington institution: it's neither shack nor all-fish. Interiors evoke a Mediterranean seafood taverna, with simple wooden tables, ceramic-tiled floors and old black-and-white pictures lining the walls in mismatched frames. But the menu is all-Kiwi, with Kapiti Coast snapper, Kaikoura crayfish and the excellent Bluff oysters (when in season). There are some non-seafood options, including one of the city's best cheese platters.
Pegasus Winery & Restaurant
About equidistant on the road from Christchurch to Kaikoura – along scenic Highway 1 – Pegasus Winery makes a perfect lunch spot (the on-property helipad also attests to the fact that some diners need not bother with long driving distances). Don’t plan on having anything but a multi-hour, leisurely lunch here. The winery’s garden setting is stunning and the food is some of the South Island’s best. Diners sit at casual wooden tables beneath white canvas umbrellas on a bluff surrounded by colorful flower gardens and with views spilling down a valley and up the mountains in the distance. The food is excellent and pairs well with Pegasus vintages, including a beautifully crisp Riesling.
Helmed by famous New Zealand chef Josh Emmet (he’s starred on Master Chef, the Kiwi version of Top Chef), Rata is one of Queenstown's most elegant restaurants. The dining room is modern and beautiful, with lots of plants, light-wood furniture and contemporary light fixtures. The Scandinavian-inspired setting serves as a modern-cool backdrop for the cuisine, which heavily uses local products. Portions are on the delicate side, which makes the set lunch menu a great deal (though Rata is busier and more fun for dinner). There’s a groovy soundtrack, a young wait staff and an often-changing menu that beautifully showcases seasonal fare.
Indagare Tip: Rata is not easy to find; it’s tucked in a new mixed-use building complex behind another restaurant called 1876.
Smith the Grocer
Located inside the Old Bank Arcade, Wellington's de facto mall in the center of the city, this is a nice spot for a take-away picnic or a quick lunch (salads, sandwiches, traditional pies).