MiNDFOOD's pick of places to eat and taste
Words by Ewan McDonald, for MiNDFOOD
Napier's 1923 fire station is reimagined as a modern bistro: its bell tower is a plant-filled atrium; the arches where fire engines raced to the flames are giant picture windows; the brass fireman's pole is still in place. Plush circular banquettes, chandeliers, floral wallpaper and a turquoise-tiled bar conjure a romantic mood. Former Clooney head chef Sam Clark's food is a French-Italian bistro crossover with occasional molecular surprises. Florencia Menehem's desserts are a delight.
Sarah Watson's all-day eatery has become a Havelock North institution and perennial award-winner since she opened as a small deli in 2007. She calls the every-changing menu of small plates, large plates, sharing platters and drink-side snacks "the love child of seasonal opportunity and the favourites that regulars won't allow to leave". Unlike many bistros in the region, Deliciosa offers local, national and international wine choices - many rare or special - as well as craft beers, boutique ciders and mixologist blends.
The old restaurant warning goes: "The better the view, the worse the food". As at so many of the Bay's excellent winery restaurants, not here. From the table, diners look over vineyards and rolling hills. Naturally, Black Barn wines are recommended for each dish although there are other options.
A world-class experience for newbies and connoisseurs, Smith & Sheth is a stylish wine bar in Havelock North. Next door, the Heretaunga Wine Studio, darkened and chilled to 16˚C, has barrels, leather couches and a widescreen theatre that tells the stories of where the wines come from.
It's in Hastings, but you could be fooled into thinking you're in New York or Barcelona. Kate Galloway and her French husband, David Ramonteu, create sophisticated spirits and liqueurs, using only organic and biodynamic ingredients. Try them at their tasting room, which is as elegant and timeless as the drinks.
Chardonnay uber-star Tony Bish turned Napier's iconic Rothmans building into an inner-city winery, building a barrel hall, cellar door, art gallery and bar-restaurant inside the old Art Deco cigarette factory. Behind a glass wall he crafts premier chardonnays in a huge egg-shaped vat made of French oak.
It was recently named #28 on the World's Most Admired Wine Brands list and its single-vineyard wines are quite outstanding. The team used lockdown to re-engineer its cellar door, corporate dining, tasting and winery tour experiences.