Dining Down Under

As was written in one of the guidebooks, the food isn’t great, but at least it is expensive. I think this is a bit of an overstatement and generalization (on the quality side, not the cost side) but the many, many “pub food” meals definitely started to wear on us by the end of the trip.

We had a couple of the better meals of the trip in Auckland. We based our choices in part on the Metro magazine’s restaurants of the year list, so we were pretty much working with a good collection to start with. Christmas lunch at Hammerheads was quite good, and I can see why they are considered one of the best seafood restaurants in town. And the view didn’t suck either:

Once we left Auckland, however, the options slimmed down quite a bit. Te Anau had a pretty good Italian place called Cafe La Dolce Vita where we had a nice dinner one night. We also found a great winery called Amisfield just outside Queenstown on the recommendation of a friend and it was delicious. The west coast was where things really fell apart. There was pub food, “upscale” pub food, and a pizza place where the toppings were more random than Leonardo’s 706 (which is a restaurant in Gainesville, Florida, which means probably none of you have heard of it, but I assure you that the pizza toppings were strange – pumpkin and blue cheese, anyone??). We found a pretty good Indian place in Hokitika called Priya, and a reasonably good Japanese restaurant, Sala Sala, in Christchurch. We also ate well in Sydney, at a restaurant called Aria right on Sydney Harbor. The wait staff seemed to lose interest in us once they realized that we weren’t going to be having the $250/person tasting menu and wine pairings (which was all just options off the regular menu – a terrible choice if you happen to be there), but we were able to linger and watch sunset over the harbor and enjoy ourselves quite a bit there.

The Hilton in Auckland gave us free breakfast based on my Diamond status, which was a great treat. Officially it was only supposed to be a continental breakfast, but it was Christmas day, where the breakfast in the restaurant was a special event, so we were allowed to take the credit for the continental breakfast for two and apply it to any room service breakfast order we wanted. That was a great deal. We had breakfast on our waterfront balcony and thanks to the Hilton HHonors credit and a possible clerical error didn’t have to pay a dime for it. Just about every other breakfast we had on the trip was overpriced and not particularly great. Fortunately we had a refrigerator in almost every hotel room, so we were able to find our way to a local supermarket and stock our own breakfasts for most of the trip. Fresh local apples and PB&J sandwiches were a frequent occurrence.

So, with a few exceptions, the dining wasn’t all that great, but that’s no reason to skip the trip. The rest of New Zealand more than makes up for it.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.