Travel is wonderful, because unlike looking at photographs or hearing someone’s travel tales, actually being there engages all of your senses. You’re able to stand atop a mountain, feeling the breeze across your cheek; you can delight in hearing small village children laughing; you can taste the lusciousness of handcrafted local cuisine.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable things about any trip to somewhere exotic is the eating. Whether or not every single meal is enjoyable, one thing is for sure: every meal will be memorable with all of your senses heightened.
Our recent trip to New Zealand was a foray into exotic cuisine.
Normally, I rely on Yelp in Hawaii to help me find the best places to dine. Unfortunately, Yelp is not reliable or utilized fully in New Zealand.
So how did we get by? Just like any traveler, by asking the locals! We relied on our Airbnb hosts’ recommendations, asked the barefoot hippie bookstore proprietor, and yes, took some chances on some side of the road establishments.
Here’s some of the best things we ate:
Turkish Eggs at Queenies
The first day in New Zealand, waking up hungry, we walked to a local cafe recommended by our Airbnb host. A funky, artist-type retreat played host to a very memorable and tasty meal.
The Turkish Eggs are Queenies were a trip around the world in its own right: 2 poached eggs atop baba ganoush, yogurt, hot chili butter, and toasted pide. I enjoyed slathering all of the rich flavors over my bread, pausing only momentarily to enjoy my perfectly brewed hot black – an espresso type coffee.
Fish and Chips at Piha PHA
Piha PHA is a no-frills VFW Hall or Moose Lodge-type restaurant serving up delicious pub food. We both had the fish and chips which were battered and fried to perfection. My boyfriend added on the fried squid which was light and tasty. I washed mine down with a local red ale which was a great complement to the tartar sauce.
Seafood Chowder at Corelli’s
By far the best meal we had while in New Zealand was at Corelli’s in the Devonport, a suburb of Auckland. We came here on the recommendation of the barefoot, hippie bookstore proprietor down the street.
Their standout was the rich and creamy Seafood Chowder, which admittedly, was a meal in itself. The chowder was loaded with goodies like shrimp, scallops, squid, clams, and mussels. The New Zealand Cabernet was a great addition to my lamb bangers and mash with onion gravy, as well. We also indulged in their raspberry cheesecake served with a side of cream for dessert.
Blue Cheese at Kai Mai Cheese Company
If there’s one thing New Zealand does well, it’s dairy. On our way from Auckland to Rotoura, we stopped on the side of the road at Kaimai Cheese Company for lunch. The interior of Kaimai Cheese Company had a production factory inside, a small restaurant, and a retail area for customers.
We ordered lunch from the counter and waited for it to be delivered, but in the meantime, I purchased a block of Blue Cheese and some crackers to snack on. The cheese was salty, pungent, and hit the spot as far as Blue Cheese goes. I slathered it all over my bacon and tomato omelet, as well. I loved it so much, I packaged it up and took it with me to eat during meals on the remainder of my trip!
Lamb Shanks at Fat Dog
On our Airbnb host’s recommendation, we ventured to the casual, funky Fat Dog in downtown Rotoura. My boyfriend ordered the lamb shanks, which were huge and delicious. Served over a bed of hot mashed potatoes and gravy and fresh veggies, the lamb was so tender, it fell off the bone. The icing on top was enjoying the succulent bone marrow from the shanks afterwards.
Wine flight at John Hill Estate
You can’t visit New Zealand without sampling some of its world class wines. The north island is brimming with vineyards and tasting rooms, and John Hill Estate was no exception. While many tasting rooms are very commercial in nature, John Hill Estate is tucked in the mountains just southeast of Auckland. This family-run estate was empty when we arrived, giving us prime seating to enjoy unobstructed views of the vineyard and rolling hills.
They offer wine flights for a very reasonable price tag. We ordered their Pinot Gris, Rose, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet. The standout? The Merlot! This was the perfect ending to a wonderful, and unexpected, culinary journey in New Zealand.