Better known for wine, rugby and hobbits, New Zealand is often overshadowed by its neighbour across the Tasman Sea when it comes to fine dining experiences.
Yet, there are plenty of award-winning restaurants serving up food that deserve a visit by jetsetting foodies.
"Apart from its dramatic landscapes and stunning scenery, New Zealand is also developing a reputation for fine cuisine with its talented chefs, innovative dishes and award-winning wines," says Mischa Mannix-Opie, regional manager for South and South-east Asia for Tourism New Zealand.
She notes that a combination of locally produced ingredients, organic and fresh seafood make for a unique taste of pacific cuisine that is purely New Zealand.
We take a culinary tour across the country's North and South Islands to see what's on the menu.
The Sugar Club
Shining brightly from the 53rd floor of Auckland's iconic Sky Tower, this new star of Auckland's vibrant dining scene is the brainchild of New Zealand-born celebrity chef Peter Gordon.
UK-based Chef Gordon is known as "the father of fusion cuisine" and is best known as co-owner of "The Providores and Tapa Room" in London.
Chef Gordon describes The Sugar Club - styled on 1930s Art Deco Italy - as a blast from the past "harking back to the 80s menus" of his original establishment in downtown Wellington's red light district.
Over the years, his food has evolved to incorporate flavours from around the world. Some menu highlights: Otago Saffron Linguine, Prawn and Panko-encrusted Hapuka (a New Zealand groper) and Merino Silere Alpine Lamb Rack. Finish off with the Chocolate Star Anise Mousse Cake with poached tamarillo (a red local fruit).
Martin Bosley's Restaurant
Martin Bosley is known as one of the country's finest chefs, and his eponymous award-winning restaurant has become an icon along Wellington's waterfront.
Chef Bosley has been credited with developing New Zealand cuisine with a food philosophy inspired by local ingredients that reflect a country of diverse multi-cultural tastes. Having lived and worked most of his life in and around Wellington, Chef Bosley says that he is passionate about the city for its proximity to the sea, wine and produce-growing regions of New Zealand.
The restaurant offers a full a la carte menu along with a degustation menu that changes from day to day according to what's available.
The "coastal cuisine" degustation is a six-course menu of smaller portions matched with premium wines.
Pescatore at The George Hotel
Pescatore is an award-wining fine dining restaurant in Christchurch's five-star The George Hotel. The contemporary eatery - featuring slick styling and pared back furnishings - has featured in the Fodor's Choice (2010), and the comprehensive wine list has been honoured by Wine Spectator magazine as being one of the most outstanding restaurant lists in the world.
The minimalist approach to décor is reflected in the food. The a la carte and degustation menus cover an ever-evolving range of dishes featuring the best of local New Zealand land and sea produce, and an extensive wine list to match. The Evolution degustation menu is highly recommended to get the full Pestacore experience.
Perhaps the most celebrated establishment on this list is Saffron, which was featured in Condé Nast Traveller's "Top 100 Tables" of the world's most exciting restaurants.
Located in the old gold-mining settlement near Queenstown, the restaurant sits in the heart of the Central Otago wine region - New Zealand's highest and the world's southern-most wine region.
The bistro was opened in the late 1990s by Adelaide-born executive chef Pete Gawron and his wife, Melanie Hill, who have since added the quaint Blue Door bar across the alley and Pesto pizza joint next door to their portfolio.
Chef Gawron's dishes are heavily influenced by Asian cuisine, even as he champions local ingredients, many of which he painstakingly hand-harvests in season. The menu is complemented by an extensive wine list showcasing wines from Central Otago as well as selected New Zealand wines and a fine cellar of vintage French wines.
Saffron specialities include Chargrilled Eye Fillet of Southland Hereford Beef with Spinach, and Short Rib of Wagyu Beef with Bok Choy and Egg Noodles.
The menu also features a trio of curries - Red Duck & Pineapple Curry, Jungle Curry of Beef Shin & Cashew Nuts, and Dry Curry of Organic Chicken in Banana.
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