New Zealand is a great place for lovers of fine food and wine.
The country’s Pacific Rim cuisine is based on its abundance of wonderful fresh produce. Tender lamb, beef, pork, venison, succulent green-lipped mussels, Bluff oysters, crayfish (lobster), paua (abalone), whitebait, scallops, salmon, deep-sea fish and, of course, kiwifruit.
Kiwi chefs draw on their experience of Pacific Rim, European, Asian and American cuisines to prepare hearty meals with the freshest produce available. A three course meal can vary in price from $30 to over $100. Restaurants are either licensed to sell wine or are BYO (Bring your own) establishments, which charge a corkage fee. Dining is normally a la carte in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Cafes, bistros and brasseries often provide excellent moderately priced meals along with beer, wine and spirits. Tipping is not a normal practice in New Zealand but you may wish to recognise exceptional service.
With over 40 million sheep in a country of 4 million people it is no surprise that lamb is a principal meal ingredient. Canterbury lamb is world-renowned, and is usually served as roast meal with fresh peas, carrots, pumpkin, potatoes and kumara (sweet potato). Lean pork, beef and farm-bred venison (cervena) are also of the highest quality and relatively inexpensive.
There is a wide choice of wines to accompany your meal as New Zealand produces world-class sauvignon blancs, chardonnays, merlots and pinot noirs and many other styles from the country’s 400 vineyards. The maritime climate and long growing season produce ideal conditions for growing grapes.
Succulent seafood is available all year round in this country where no one lives more than two hours drive from the sea. As you travel around the country a local speciality dish of fish, crayfish or shellfish can be a special treat. Popular fish dishes are snapper, terakihi, hoki, orange roughy and John Dory. Trout and salmon can be caught under a personal fishing licence. Some hotels will cook and serve your catch for you, but trout are not sold commercially to safeguard the superb wild stock.
New Zealand dairy products are world-famous for their high quality. The butter, cheese, fresh milk, yoghurt, cream and ice cream are all delicious. Popular fruits include oranges, apples, pears, peaches, apricots and kiwifruit. The classic kiwi desert is pavlova, a melt-in-the-mouth concoction of meringue, whipped cream and kiwifruit.
Fast food outlets are everywhere including kiwi-style ‘takeaways’ offering pies, fish and chips and hamburgers etc. Be sure to try a ‘hangi’ during your stay – this is a Maori-style feast with meat and vegetables, which are steam-cooked in an underground oven. In addition to homegrown foods there is a wide selection of ethnic restaurants to found in New Zealand.