It's difficult to define New Zealand cuisine, as it combines British, other European, Maori, Polynesian, and Asian influences with the produce available here. Restaurants around the country create delicious and memorable menus that are heavy on fresh seafood, seasonal vegetables, and local creativity. and of course, great restaurants aren't just about the food: heritage buildings and stunning views often round off the dining experience. Whatever your budget, tastes, and travel itinerary, here are 13 well-loved restaurants that you can't miss while traveling in New Zealand.
Mangonui Fish Shop
Cantilevered out over the water in the tiny Northland town of Mangonui, the Mangonui Fish Shop is not your average Kiwi fish and chips shop. The institution has been selling fresh fish for over 70 years, and Northlanders go out of their way to eat here, or take fish home to cook later. The kind of fish and seafood they sell depends on the weather and the season, but you can usually find New Zealand favorites like snapper, hoki, mussels, kina (sea urchin), and crayfish, as well as sides of kumara (sweet potato) chips. It's a convenient place to stop for an affordable and memorable lunch or dinner when traveling between the Bay of Islands and Kaitaia/Cape Reinga.
Duke of Marlborough Hotel and Restaurant
Russell, a beautiful town in the Bay of Islands, was the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand, and is full of history. The Duke of Marlborough Hotel is part of that history, as it's been operating since 1827. Visitors can stay in one of the 38 rooms in the old building on the waterfront, or just stop by for lunch or dinner. The moderately-priced menu is heavy on fish, seafood, and meat, and there's a great local wine list. In the summer there's often live music out the front. It's a good idea to book ahead, especially if your party's large, as the Duke of Marlborough is a popular place.
Sid at the French Café
Sid at the French Café is one of the best restaurants in Auckland, a city full of recommendation-worthy restaurants. Each dish is a work of art, from the amuse-bouches that are served between each course to main acts. The four- or seven-course tasting menus are a good option if you want to try a sample of Sid's best. This place isn't cheap, but it's worth the price tag. The meal might just be the best dining experience of your life.
Penang is known as the culinary capital of Malaysia, but if you can't make it to Malaysia, Little Penang in Wellington is the next best thing. When out and about sightseeing in central Wellington, Little Penang is a perfect place to stop and refuel. It's super busy at lunchtime, especially with local office workers. There are daily specials, perfect for those in a hurry. The roti canai, nasi lemak, and other simple Malaysian favorites are truly authentic, and nicely priced too, though alcohol is not served.
Waipu's Pizza Barn has been serving up tasty pizzas for more than 20 years. The small Northland town of Waipu has a strong Scottish heritage, which is evident in the decor of the Pizza Barn, which can best be described as Scottish farmer chic (expect tartan plaids, rustic old farming equipment, natural kauri wood tables). The on-site microbrewery produces an award-winning beer, McLeod's, which you can pick up around the country if your travel plans don't include Waipu. The Barn is always busy, but you can't make reservations, so you'll just have to try your luck. The pizzas are worth the wait.
Even before Prince Harry and Megan, Duchess of Sussex ate here during their 2018 tour of New Zealand, Maranui Cafe was a popular place with Wellingtonians. Located along the waterfront at Lyall Bay, the unpretentious cafe serves delicious sandwiches, salads, burgers, and breakfasts, as well as vegan options, and great coffee. Drop in pre- or post-surf at Lyall Bay and find a seat with a view.
Miles Better Pies
The appeal of a favorite Kiwi snack—meat pies—is lost on many international visitors, but to fully appreciate how good meat pie can be, head to Miles Better Pies in Te Anau. A bit pricier than the average pie (NZ$5-6, as opposed to the $2-3 you may find elsewhere), Miles Better Pies does serve a superior quality pie. If you can't figure out which pie to choose, try the especially popular venison pies. Grab one to take away and find a scenic spot overlooking Lake Te Anau to enjoy it.
East St Cafe
East St Cafe is Nelson's only vegan restaurant, but that doesn't mean only vegans will enjoy it. Omnivores will love the hearty Buddha bowls, grilled veggie stacks, and creamy mushrooms that somehow manage to be perfectly creamy without a hint of real cream. The hanging plants are a nice touch, as is the giant wooden dinosaur out the back. They're open late, and there's often live music in the evenings.
Toad Hall, Motueka
If you can't find a smoothie, cake, ice cream, burger, breakfast, tasting platter, or craft brew to please you at Toad Hall, it probably doesn't exist. Conveniently located on the way in to Motueka (if coming from Nelson), it's a handy place to stop if you're heading over the Takaka Hill to Golden Bay, or if you want to fuel up before hitting the Abel Tasman National Park. It's not a vegetarian cafe, but they have plenty of options for non-meat eaters.
There isn't an abundance of dining options in sparsely populated Golden Bay, but Mussel Inn is the kind of place that'd be just as popular even if it was surrounded by competitors. The rustic, family-run cafe, bar, and music venue has a cozy fireplace inside, plenty of garden seating outside, and has an atmosphere about as close to a British pub as you'll find in New Zealand. The local green-lipped mussels, served with garlic bread and lemon wedges, are satisfyingly generous.
Located in the must-visit Christchurch Botanical Gardens, the faux-Tudor Curator's House (perhaps surprisingly) serves Spanish cuisine. The head chef hails from Barcelona, so this is a rare place in New Zealand to try authentic Spanish cuisine like tapas, jamon, and paella. The 1920s building is also an attraction in its own right, as the former home of the curator of the Botanical Gardens.
Etrusco at the Savoy
Etrusco at the Savoy can be recommended for both its food and its surroundings. The delightful, family-run Italian restaurant serves authentic Italian food, including antipasto platters, pizza, pasta, and tiramisu so good that it defines what tiramisu should be. It's located on an upper floor of Moray Place's Savoy building, dating to 1910, and the original wooden floored and colorful stained-glass windows give the restaurant a classic elegance.
The Central Otago region is known for its vineyards, especially the fine pinot noirs produced there, and Amisfield Bistro is an ideal place to combine top-quality food and wine. The "Trust the Chef" degustation menu is an event in and of itself, and comes in three-, five-, or seven-course options. Each is paired with the perfect Amisfield wine. The head chef has experience in some of the finest restaurants in San Sebastian, Spain and Copenhagen, Denmark, and now works with an expert forager and charcutier to prepare menus that highlight the best of New Zealand produce.