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Celebrity Chef Robert Oliver best places to eat in New Zealand Part1

By Naziah Ali Posted 29 Oct 2014

Renowned New Zealand chef, award-winning author and presenter of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand, Robert Oliver, journeys back to the land of the long white cloud and has compiled his selection of fine Kiwi restaurants that embody the best food in New Zealand.

Craggy Range, Hawkes Bay

Hawkes Bay, known as New Zealand’s fruit basket, is also one of the country’s most awarded wine regions. It is also home to the “Gimblett Gravels”, an area where century-old floods left a heavy bed of river stones that, as it turns out, is the perfect environment for the sunny wines of the region.

My family lives here, so I know the area well and love the weekend gatherings at the Hastings Farmers Market. I had a spectacular lunch at Craggy Range, a gorgeous vineyard-based restaurant that makes fine wine and food in outrageously good even proportion. I had two venison dishes. One a carpaccio with candied walnuts and aioli, and the second a roasted deer loin with potato fennel gratin. The venison comes from local producer FirstLight Foods, which, incidentally, produce the world’s only grass-fed wagyu beef. Aptly named “Terroir”, the restaurant is surrounded by the grapes that made the Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah we enjoyed with our food. Craggy Range embodies the Hawkes Bay experience — a place where fine wine culture begets great food culture, and it’s all in plain view, all from the region itself.


Ortega Fish Shack, Wellington

In Wellington, New Zealand’s San Francisco-esque capital city curled around an impossibly beautiful harbour, we ate at Chef Mark Limacher’s Ortega Fish Shack. First up were fresh-in-season, huge, briny, and creamy bluff oysters — the big and famous ones that come from the bottom-most tip of New Zealand’s South Island. I then had pan-roasted terakihi (a moist white fish, native to New Zealand waters) with ratatouille and crayfish butter, while my niece, Willa, gobbled down twice-baked, three-cheese soufflé doused with butter sauce! Butter on cheese; sinfully, wildly, crazily good! Dessert was lemon posset, a creamy, tangy mousse (New Zealand cream is fabulous) with local Otaki new-season strawberries.

Floriditas, Wellington

The next morning, still reeling with digestion, Willa and I brunched at Floriditas in Wellington’s outdoor Cuba Street Mall. We had rocket-fuel coffee and porridge with rhubarb, brown sugar and Cointreau. This was followed by organic poached eggs with a smoked mackerel and potato hash. Smart, urban, newspaper-scanning Wellingtonians packed the joint, downing equally smart, urban food. The ambience was warm and unhurried. “Floridita” has a terrific cookbook that’s worth picking up.


The Boat Shed Café, Nelson

The Boat Shed Café in Nelson at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island juts out over the water, and here, watching the most spectacular sunset, I dined on seared “sea run” salmon carpaccio. The dish is created using New Zealand’s king salmon, sea-farmed locally and as gaspingly good as the morning views. It is topped with fetta, pine nuts, raisins and tangy local olive oil, all served with delicious whitebait fritters with arugula and soft white bread and butter.


For dessert, I had a rhubarb and raspberry eton mess: crispy crushed meringue, dense whipped cream with tangy rhubarb and summer berries. Lots of Nelson names peppered the menu: Neudorf Olive Oil, Whitestone Highland Blue Cheese, and more; even the wine, which was a Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay 2010. I saw this everywhere I went: New Zealand restaurants supplied by local regional producers giving rise to regional cuisine varietals. Good inspiring stuff. Bravo Chef Dan Monopoli. This is why I travel!

To be continued... 

Getting there and away

Looking to samples some of New Zealand’s mouth-watering dishes? Check out Fiji Airways special offers on flights to Auckland and flights to Wellington

Organise your New Zealand Foodie Holiday

- Flights to Auckland - Fiji Airways operates flights to Auckland regularly from many domestic and international ports including flights from Nadi to Auckland, flights from Suva to Auckland, flights from Apia to Auckland, flights from Los Angeles to Auckland and flights from Hong Kong to Auckland.

Flights to Wellington -  Fiji Airways operates flights to Wellington regularly from many international ports including flights from Nadi to Wellington, flights from Suva to Wellington, flights from Apia to Wellington, flights from Los Angeles to Wellington and flights from Hong Kong to Wellington.

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