New Zealand’s Food & Drink

New Zealand is a major producer of fresh food and their wines are internationally regarded. New Zealand food and drink is of a high quality and is easily affordable, especially when compared to other nations.

New Zealand Wine and Dine

The clean, unpolluted air and rich soil of New Zealand are ideal growing conditions for a wide variety of wholesome produce.

The cosmopolitan food and wine scene naturally takes advantage of these fresh ingredients, and visitors are encouraged to indulge their taste buds at every given opportunity. New Zealand cuisine is known as Pacific Rim, an eclectic cultural mix of European, Asian and Polynesian influences combined with a modern, laid-back approach to presentation and dining that isn’t dissimilar to Australia.

A snapshot of some ingredients that are of a uniquely high quality in New Zealand include meats such as lamb, pork and venison, fresh and saltwater seafood such as salmon, lobster, Bluff oysters, abalone, mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (New Zealand shellfish) and vegetables such as kumara, kiwifruit and tamarillo.

The larger towns and cities in New Zealand each have their own distinct food scene, with many local and international chefs contributing innovative dishes to local menus. Additionally the café culture in urban centres contributes to New Zealand’s interest in fine coffee, with companies such as Altura Coffee, Havana Coffee and Rocket Coffee preparing and roasting their own beans.

Restaurants and cafes aren’t the only way to appreciate the offerings at hand: with food festivals and farmers markets running regularly throughout the year, there is always a way to enjoy the best produce of each season.

Food and Wine Festivals

The annual Wildfoods Festival at Hokitika is one such event that is worth dropping into, with many bizarre and delightful oddities to taste. Awards are presented to different categories and the day is capped off with live entertainment. Visitors to Auckland can drop into The City Farmer’s Market in the centre of the Britomart precinct, held every weekend with a wide selection of locally grown regional produce.

Food and wine festivals are held throughout the year in the major cities including Auckland, Nelson, Queenstown, Martinborough, Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay, allowing visitors to learn and appreciate the joy of matching good food to the correct wine.

Wine Varieties grown around New Zealand

Wine connoisseurs will be easily satisfied in New Zealand, with many award-winning wine varieties produced here including sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and merlot. Some of the most renowned wine-growing areas on the North Island include West Auckland, Gisborne, Martinborough and Hawke’s Bay, and on the South Island Marlborough, Central Otago and Canterbury. Note that many wineries also own attached restaurants, allowing visitors to appreciate the subtleties of fine wine masterfully matched with each dish.

Food and Wine Experience in New Zealand

A day trip of fine dining and wine-tasting is a popular option, with many operators running different tour packages. For those seeking a longer stay, there is no shortage of accommodation in these regions.

For an authentic New Zealand food experience, a traditional Maori hangi is definitely worth trying. This is an ancient cooking method usually reserved for special occasions, with a deep hole lined with hot stones and covered with damp vegetation and soil acting as an underground steamer for meat and vegetables.

This was traditionally a special way for extended family members to come together and enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed atmosphere, with the smoke-infused meal usually enjoyed under an outdoor marquee. Visitors to New Zealand are often invited to try this way of eating at the traditional villages of the Rotorua region on the North Island.

Drinking in New Zealand

New Zealand’s legal drinking age is 18. Large fines apply for businesses caught selling alcohol to minors, so you will probably be asked for proof of your age, in the form of a driver’s license or passport (your student ID or similar will not be sufficient.) Supermarkets sell alcohol seven days a week.

Drink driving is a serious offense and can lead to fines, lose of license and (in extreme cases) jail time. Students on a non-provisional license can normally have one standard drink each hour and still be allowed to drive. This is dependent on the type of drink, your size, if you’ve eaten anything recently and a host of other factors, and should be used as a guide only. Students on a provisional license cannot drink anything.

New Zealand eateries

New Zealand has a huge range of eateries, running the gauntlet from cheap takeaway fish and chip stores (New Zealand’s unofficial national dish) to gourmet and nationally renowned restaurants. The multi-cultural influence is evident in the wide range of ethnic varieties. If a restaurant has a BYO (bring your own) license, you may bring your own alcohol to enjoy with your meal. Some restaurants charge a corkage fee for this service.

Dining out suits all budgets and preferences

Buying groceries

Supermarkets are the cheapest place to buy groceries. Most supermarkets have a deli or gourmet section and some specialist stores stock only organic produce. This is usually more expensive, but still relatively affordable. New Zealand supermarkets are in the process of phasing out plastic bags and sell reusable canvas bags. Some may offer a discount if you use these bags instead of plastic bags.
Farmers markets are held on weekends in most cities and sell cheap, fresh fruit and vegetables and other local produce, such as nuts, honey and herbs.

Most people do their shopping in large supermarkets. Plastic bags for packing items may be available at some supermarkets in addition to public telephones for taxi pickup services. Some supermarkets also sell organic food brands such as Demeter and Bio Gro.

Typical Meals