The Best Region For A Foodie Escape: Brook Sabin's Top Picks
If you're a foodie, there is just one region in New Zealand to take your taste buds on holiday: Hawke's Bay.
Here are Brook Sabin's picks for where to get some of the best food.
Pipi Pizza Cafe
This bright pink restaurant, sometimes known as the pink palace, is the beating heart of Havelock North, run by the warm-hearted Alex Tylee and husband, Chris Morris.
The pizzas, with flavoursome local ingredients and delicate bases, are the best I've had in New Zealand. The handmade gingerbread ice cream was also mind-blowingly good.
Make the journey to Hawke's Bay's hinterland for an exceptional feast by an award-winning chef.
Wallingford is an enormous villa steeped in history and is now home to acclaimed chef Chris Stockdale. His eight-course degustation menu (which can be paired with wine) is some of the best food you will try. Make sure to stay the night, so you don't have to worry about driving back to Napier.
This well-known winery has a superb six-glass tasting experience for just $15. You can also match that with some delicious food among the vines. The meals are generous and packed with flavours from local producers.
Black Barn Bistro
One of the most atmospheric vineyards is Black Barn, just a few minutes’ drive from Havelock North.
Embark on a wine tasting at the cellar door for just $10, or head to the popular bistro where you can dine under the vines – it feels like a slice of Tuscany.
If you're a burger and beer lover, a stop at Brave Brewing in Hastings is compulsory.
The Nashville spicy chicken burger is drool-inducing, alongside the hot dogs as well as the organic fried chicken wings.
Central Fire Station Bistro
Napier's old Central Fire Station served the city until 1969. It was then renovated into offices before it eventually became the popular bistro it is today.
While our main meals of market fish and lamb were tasty – nothing beat the dessert. A generous dark chocolate quenelle sat atop caramelised white chocolate mousse with tangy poached fruit. It’s one of those desserts you don’t forget.
The Puketapu is where locals go if they want some exceptional pub food – and it's always packed.
The burgers, pork bites, steamed bao buns, and popcorn chicken are always popular – expect huge serving sizes.
Start the morning with a bike ride around the Puketapu Loop before stopping in for lunch at the pub to refuel.
Mary's restaurant is the new kid on the block in Havelock North and proving exceptionally popular. It's named after Mary Peabody, one of the owners of nearby Craggy Range Winery, who has collaborated with chef Casey McDonald to create a restaurant full of flair and fun.
McDonald has worked in several Michelin star restaurants around the world, and it shows. The dishes are edible masterpieces, like a confit duck toastie with blue cheese and onion jam, alongside "The KFQ" – Kentucky Fried Quail sandwiches.
Te Mata Figs
Havelock North is home to a farm that is a shrine to all things figs. Te Mata Figs serves delicious creations like toasted fig bread, fig walnut and blue cheese pizza and a salted fig chocolate tart – to name just a few. You can't miss the fig almond salami (don't worry, not the meat variety) – if there are testers, give it a try.
Figs are generally picked late summer, and you won't get any fresher than straight from the trees just metres away from the café.
Last, but certainly not least, is the region's iconic vineyard and restaurant, Craggy Range. Even driving into the grounds is a grand affair – it's like arriving at a Mediterranean-style palace of wine.
Most people venture here for the cellar door or to experience the two-hatted restaurant. You can even stay the night in a wine villa. What's certain is that if you've never been – you must. The food and wine are even better than its reputation.
Original story written by Brook Sabin for STUFF as part of STUFF Travel.
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to Napier with connections across the domestic network. Napier is a four-hour drive from Wellington and five hours from Auckland.
Carbon footprint: Flying generates carbon emissions. To reduce your impact, consider other ways of travelling, amalgamate your trips, and when you need to fly, consider offsetting emissions. A return trip for one passenger flying from Auckland to Napier would generate 84.5 kilograms of CO2. To offset your carbon emissions, head to airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-customer-carbon-offset.
More inspiration: For more information, visit hawkesbaynz.com