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Jan 2, 2011 09:10 PM

Must-eats in NZ

Hi everyone,
I am about to start my travels around New Zealand for the next month. First 10 days I will have a car and will be travelling around the North Island, and for the next 20 I will be travelling the second with a friend - we still aren't sure if we're going to rent a car or do a combination of bus & hitch hiking so I'm not 100% sure what we're going to hit aside from the major ones (i.e. Queenstown, Christchurch, Wellington, Abel Tasman, Franz Josef, etc.)
I was wondering if there are certain eats that I should keep my eye out for? Not necessarily specific restaurants (although you're welcome to throw some suggestions in of course!) but special things that I should try that are specific to NZ? For instance, I made a point to try Moreton Bay crabs while in Australia as well as yabbies, meat pie, and bugs. Besides lamb, what should I sample? :-)


25 year old Canadian, loving your end of the world =)

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  1. From 2 Canucks about to leave NZ after 4 weeks:
    Invercargill: The Kiln
    Queenstown: Fishbone for a special meal, or try the brew pub in nearby Arrowtown for great value and superb bar eats
    Oamaru: Portside
    Christchurch: Nobanno for food, Twisted Hop for microbrew
    Gisborne: Soho
    Waiheke: Sizzling Chorizo food truck or Viola (Italian)

    Have a great time!

    1. kohu rd ice cream and hopwired beer

      1. You miss oyster season, but in terms of seafood in NZ I would recommend:

        - Mussels - you can get live ones all over the show, trucks on the side of the road in coastal areas, even supermarkets - or pick up a pot of marinated ones.
        - Flounder is a great flat fish, caught in low-tide estuaries and lagoon areas - delicious simply pan fried with some lemon, butter and capers. It too can be purchased anywhere - I'd recommend west-coast of the North Island (because I'm biased about the beaches there lending themselves to better flounder fishing).
        - Scallops, kina and paua - kina is sea urchin and paua is abalone and both are what I'd call an acquired taste, but worth trying just once!- you can go diving/collecting for these but please take note of size and number limits if you do (same for any fishing you do)
        - Kawhai is a great large white fish which is like a giant herring - it can be served fresh, but is lovely smoked and eaten simply with salad or made into fish cakes

        I could go on forever about all the great fish. I think Australia beats NZ on crustaceans because of their coastal temps, so prawns, crab and moreton bay bugs are a must in Aus. Do try crayfish in either country if you're a fan of lobster - it's simply a rock lobster.

        For meat:
        - Lamb you've already mentioned - it's a given!
        - Beef - try a rural butcher to find organic, small herd specialty breeds
        - Pork - if you can get your hands on any, try some bush-hunted wild pig - I recoomend the Corromandel peninsula
        - Venison - deer is widely available in NZ - in restaurants it's likely to be farmed meat, but you can get wild meat if you know locals in hunting areas or track down a specialty store online

        In terms of game birds, it's not the best time of year and in NZ duck is one of the few birds that is actually hobby- hunted. Pheasant and the like are out in the wild for hunting in some areas, but is shot in Autumn/Winter and (anyone with more experience please point out my errors!) would usually be shot for commercial ventures.

        Vegetables and fruit:
        -Try Kumara, which is the NZ sweet potato.
        - If you can get your hands on some fejoas, you'll have tasted a true NZ love/hate fruit.
        - Stone fruits and summer berries - try peaches and nectarines from the South Island or the east coast of the North.


        - Gourmet cheesemaking is very popular thanks to the quality of our dairy - I can't recommend just one. If you only get to a supermarket one of the most available brands is Kapiti.
        - Ice cream - from my limited exposure it's some of the best in the world, espcially melting down a cone while you're sitting on the beach

        - NZ Sauvignon Blanc is delicious. Enough said.
        - Pinot grigio is rising in popularity and quality - referred to in NZ as Pinot Gris
        - Pinot Noir is the most widely available red - like the savs, some of our bests are also from Marlborough

        - Vodka is 42 Below and the same company make the brand called South Gin


        - Like Aus, lager is the most popular type. For genuine NZ beer I would try Mac's or Monteith's.

        Now I'm both hungry and homesick. Enjoy your trip!

        1. ekim256:

          I'm from the US and have visited NZ 6 times and lived there for a year. I cannot match ultimatepotato's comprehensive list. I will second some things from that list:

          Green-lipped mussels are a great deal in NZ and most supermarkets will have a live tank.
          Kumara are also very interesting and there are different types to try.
          I have found the venison to be uniformly excellent in the restaurants and venison sausage is very nice from the stores.
          My favorite fish dishes in NZ have often involved hapuka (grouper).
          The best lamb dish I have ever had (and I order it a lot wherever I go) was a lamb shoulder for two at Botswana Butchery in Queenstown. Otherwise, lamb is usually a good bet in most restaurants.
          You should try hokey pokey ice cream at least once; the gelato place in the Ferry Building in Auckland has great flavors.
          The Sauvignon Blancs are wonderful. You should realize that many restaurants are BYO and have very minimal corkage fees (you probably noticed this in Australia).
          A few restaurants to try: Soul Bar and Food Alley and Kermadec in Auckland; Grand Central Fry in Turangi (a good place to go after hiking the Tongariro Crossing); Cook n With Gas in Christchurch; Botswana Butchery and Fergburgers in Queenstown; Hell Pizza in a number of cities.
          I strongly encourage you to rent a car on the South Island since you'll have a lot more freedom. I always enjoy stopping and walking on random trailheads.

          1. Narrowing down the kapiti cheese- if you like blue, kikorangi is the best cheese not only in this world but in any world, ever. When I get off the plane back in Welly in September, its going to be top of my list of things to do. Also Hohepa gouda with cumin. If you go to Napier, get that from Hohepa, which is a little village/community where people with learning difficulties live and work. they make candles and rugs too.

            I don't know where you can buy it apart from Moore Wilsons in wellington (which also stocks the above, plus smoked garlic and all sorts of good things including an impressive range of chillies, plus fresh grated horseradish which is incredible mixed with creme fraiche and served with roast beef or mackeral)) but there's a 'crumb' made by cathedral cove which is made of macadamia nuts and kelp and lemon, and i like to fry up some prawns in olive oil and butter and garlic and a splash of wine, and add the crumb. makes a gorgeous sauce. add crusty bread (and wine of course) and its just perfect. I can still see the blue checked tablecloth i always seemed to want to use whenever i cooked this. I'm a big fan of broad beans myself (peeled) and so i sometimes add them and i think it makes it whole meal (even though generally we eat it from a big flattish dish in the middle of the table)- but i know not everyone loves them or can be bothered to peel them (essential for this dish in my opinion)

            Again, if you're in Napier, instead of (or as well as) heading for the big wineries, stop at crab farm in bay view. its a happy friendly place to be and it has a huge open fire in the middle of the conservatory/atrium thingy, AND a tree house. whats not to love? if you're there in summer, down the road you can have a quick kayak on the estuary. cheap motels and a camp site are in walking distance of the kayaking area and plenty of local farms sell fruit of course, especially stone fruit. Theres a campsite on a beach near a winery not far from there- trying to remember the name... i'll look at a map and let you know if it comes back to me- maybe waimarama?- great chardonnay and a petanque area.

            Since I don't go so much for sav in winter, my favourite chardonnays are tuki tuki and te kairanga. Treats rather than budget, but nice anyway.

            If you drive down through the wairarapa, theres a campsite at the waohine gorge. you can have open fires there, you can park your camper (its a doc site), theres a swing bridge across the gorge and opportunities for some day or overnight walks. And you can walk down to the river bed, swim in the river etc. the local town (cant recall if its greytown?) has deli's but you'll have been past a lot of farms so you should be kitted up and if you've driven down from napier you'll still have your wine and cheese hauls anyway. A weird place to stop (little known) is the blueberry place in upper hutt. rather randomly, it has a mexican food.... not cafe- shack...?