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Pride of place

epicure 2 September 2011

New Zealand may be getting ready to shine on the world stage as it hosts the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but with a slew of food and wine experiences in Wellington and Hawke’s Bay, it already has the makings of a glorious gourmet retreat.

The last time New Zealand played host to the Rugby World Cup was in 1987, and even then it had to share honours with neighbouring country, Australia. Almost a quarter of a century later, it is now gearing up to receive tourists once again from 9 September to 23 October. Capital city, Wellington, located on the North Island’s southernmost tip, now bursts at the seams with more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than New York City. Once the fruit bowl of New Zealand, Hawke’s Bay on the east coast, with its 70 wineries, has since remarketed itself as wine country.

While eating your way through the city, it becomes apparent that although New Zealand isn’t tied to a rich cuisine history, it has one big advantage over other gastronomic capitals: unbeatable ingredients. Pride and quality of produce ranks above cutting edge cooking techniques. Free range meat is a given; cows and lambs outnumber the populace in a ratio of 10 to one, and thanks to rollicking pastures and a favourable climate, an abundance of fresh green grass provides ample hillspace for cattle to roam.

The seafood is just as stellar. At Martin Bosley’s, a fine dining restaurant with a fabulous view of Wellington Harbour, the blue nose cod on your plate was likely still swimming in the cold waters of Leigh—a coastal town an hour and a half north of Auckland—just hours before it was served. Commendably, Leigh Fisheries is the only group of fishermen in the country that has been certified by the NGO organisation, Friend of the Sea, for its sustainable aquaculture practices. The best way to experience the immaculately fresh catch is with an order of Trio of Tartars: kingfish with mandarin peel purée, freeze dried mandarins and mandarin oil; salmon with cauliflower, capers, lemon and parsley; and tuna with umeboshi plum, spanner crab chawanmushi and cucumber.

Excerpt from the September issue of epicure.

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