New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes and glittering waters are more than just a pretty face – they’re responsible for some of the world’s most flavoursome ingredients and produce.
No wonder more than half of New Zealand’s produce is exported – other countries can’t get enough of its delicious dairy, meat, seafood, fruit and wine. Freshness characterises New Zealand’s produce: just-picked fruit and veg in local farmers’ markets; just-foraged indigenous ingredients – cooked with flair – in the slick city restaurants; just-caught crayfish served from seafood caravans at Kaikoura (‘kai’ means ‘fresh’; ‘koura’ means crayfish). Don’t go home without visiting Nin’s Bin, which serves succulent crayfish and mussels. You’ll be distracted by the butter on your fingers and the garlic on your face, but try to remember to visit the Ohau Stream, a five-minute drive away, where you can spy seal pups gambolling in the waters. If you’d rather pluck your own fish from the waters and barbecue it on a beach for dinner, try a private charter or sign up to a fishing session with Chris Jolly, who offers a range of fishing experiences at Lake Taupo.
There’s a real buzz around New Zealand’s contemporary food and drink scene, as talented, ambitious chefs, producers and winemakers collaboratively carve out a modern hospitality culture that offers visitors multinational menus, hop-heavy beers and notable wines. A stodgy British colonial culinary legacy was passed down from European settlers – doing very little to enhance the naturally brilliant Māori traditions of living off the land and eating seasonal, indigenous ingredients – but that legacy is on the wane.
Affordable air travel in the 1960s allowed Kiwis to travel further afield, bringing back European, American and Pacific influences; a wave of Asian immigrants in the 1980s also added to the flavours in the country’s communal cooking pot. Recent culinary powerhouses – including top-chef Peter Gordon, the man behind Air New Zealand’s tempting menus – have focused on pairing indigenous ingredients with modern, well-travelled techniques.
Wherever you end up, don’t go home before trying the following:
– Zespri SunGold kiwifruit: a juicy, yellow-fleshed kiwi
– Feijoa (also known as ‘pineapple guava’): a vitamin C-packed subtropical fruit
– Green-lipped mussels, paua (sea snails) and orange roughy fish
– Kumara: sweet potato, brought over by Māori settlers
– Hokey pokey ice-cream: vanilla-flavoured with chunks of hokey pokey (honeycomb)
– L&P, a lemon-flavoured sparkling soft drink from Paeroa
– Medicinal manuka honey, which comes from manuka bushes’ white flowers
There are also a few food festivals to add to your diary, including Visa Wellington on A Plate and Food and Wine Classic (F.A.W.C.) in Hawke’s Bay, which is considered to be New Zealand’s fruit bowl.
Singapore Coffee Festival 2016
Food and Wine Classic, Hawke’s Bay
F.A.W.C. is a celebration of Hawke’s Bay’s gourmet bounty, with a series of events and feasts taking place between 3 June and 26 June. Whatever sessions and programmes you dip into, don’t forget to try local lamb matched with Hawke’s Bay reds.
More info: http://www.newzealand.com/uk/event/fawc/
Visa Wellington on a Plate, North Island (August)
This two-week gastronomic blowout champions local food and produce, showcases top chefs and pop-ups and offers a range of different culinary experiences, including tapas-and-cocktail pairings, food foraging, history-inspired dishes, dinners prepared and served in a maximum security prison. One of the most popular events is Burger Wellington, the annual burger battle; GarageProject Brews produces limited-edition brews to match the burgers.
More info: http://www.wellingtononaplate.com/