Hawke's Bay wine and food adventures

Wherever you go in Hawke's Bay and Napier, blissful food and wine experiences are waiting to show you what the region does best.

The Hawke's Bay region's remarkable Mediterranean climate provides the foundation for food, wine, cider and brewery experiences that have you searching for new adjectives. 'Amazing', 'stunning', 'fantastic' and 'awesome' just don't seem adequate descriptors for the adventurous consumables that appear in front of you at restaurants, cafés, cellar doors and farmers' markets. Some of them are so special that you'll need to book before you leave home, just to be certain you don't miss out.

If you're looking for a dining adventure to celebrate a big occasion, book a table at Bistronomy and enjoy a degustation that will inspire you to take a picture of every dish.

The best restaurants in Napier

Think Hawke's Bay and you can't help imagining something delicious and creative on a plate, accompanied by something equally delectable in a glass. Whether it's just after sunrise or shortly after sunset, what appears in front of you will be reliably impressive. It means that every meal or refreshment time comes with a big serve of heavenly anticipation.

In Napier there's a concentrated collection of eateries in the central city. Stand outs include Mister D, for unpretentious-but-wonderful dishes (you've got to try their injected doughnuts!); and Hunger Monger fish restaurant, where the no-meat approach means a phenomenal menu of Hawke's Bay seafood dishes.

One of Napier's most iconic Art Deco buildings, the Central Fire Station – which served the city until 1969 – has been reimagined as an upscale dining experience, aptly named Central Fire Station Bistro. Owner-chef Sam Clark creates menus which showcase Hawke's Bay famed local suppliers using the freshest organic and sustainable produce.

Around the corner from the CBD, the seaside suburb of Ahuriri has some of the best breakfasts and top restaurants in Napier. For a lively time with friends, get snared in the Gintrap - an open-til-late gastro pub with a sun-drenched deck. Other favourites around here include Milk & Honey, Three Doors Up and Ahuriri Village Kitchen. Or pull up a stool at The Urban Winery, home of Tony Bish wines and a delectable menu of platters for laid-back lounging. A memorable feature of this cellar door is the egg-shaped concrete and French oak fermenters that are quietly getting on with the business of making wonderful wine. They're great social media material to impress your wine connoisseur friends.

Winery restaurants in Hawke's Bay

Succumb to the call of the country and head inland from Napier to discover the bay's fabled winery trails, which lead to numerous vineyard restaurants and more than 30 cellar doors for wine tasting. You can hire a bike and pedal off your lunch before you eat it, or nominate a sober driver and take a road trip. Here are just some of stops to consider:

  • Mission Estate: Within biking distance from Napier, Mission Estate is New Zealand's oldest winery and one of the best Hawke's Bay vineyards you'll find. The cellar door welcomes you for a tasting session or you can book a table at the award-winning restaurant, which has superb indoor-outdoor areas that work in any weather
  • Church Road: In the same vicinity as Mission Estate, Church Road has a cellar door and restaurant that ooze rustic style. With more than 120 years of winemaking under its belt, this winery always lives up to expectations
  • Craggy Range: You'll need a car to find Craggy Range, because it's 30km south of Napier, but you can escape the responsible-driving issue by staying a night or two in the winery's luxury cottage accommodation. From its extraordinary location next to Te Mata Peak to its 2-hat restaurant and seated tastings, Craggy Range is a class act
  • Oak Estate: A charming example of a small Hawke's Bay winery, Oak Estate combines its cellar door with a kitchen to let you enjoy a tasting accompanied by homemade delicacies

High tea, best fish and chips, farmers' markets and more

Want to experience aristocratic Hawke's Bay country life as it was lived 150 years ago? At Oruawharo Homestead & Gardens they turn on a high tea that would have the fashionable ladies of yesteryear sighing with delight. Begin with tiny sandwiches and bite-sized savouries; continue with a fresh scone, jam and clotted cream; finish with petit fours that are as delicate as they are delectable. And it's all washed down with a brew of tea personalised to your tastes. At around $40 a head, this is an affordable way to live it up.

Another supreme food adventure can be found every Sunday morning at the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market in Hastings. Bring your own basket and roam around the stalls to collect all kinds of artisan goodies for gifts and souvenirs. It's also advisable to bring an appetite, because there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy breakfast or an early lunch. The local bean roasters are always out in force too, so it's easy to find your essential morning coffee fix. Other popular markets in Hawke's Bay include the Black Barn Growers' Market (Saturdays during summer) and the Napier Urban Farmer's Market (every Saturday).

If you want the classic Kiwi alfresco meal of fish and chips at the beach, there's a choice of takeaways in Napier. Check out the reviews on Google maps to find a five-star chippy that's handy to the city's Pacific Ocean waterfront.

Hawke's Bay brewery and cider experiences

Hawke's Bay is certainly a wine-flavoured region, but it's also turning out some exceptional craft beers and ciders. If you love to sip a fine brew, check out these options.

  • Monica Loves is a contemporary speakeasy down a little laneway off Tennyson Street. You'll know you're in the right place when you see a neon sign that says 'who shot the barman?' The food's good, there's often live music and the bar's open late
  • Brave Brewing in Hastings hits the spot with a tasting flight of their own beers (including the legendary Tigermilk IPA) and a menu of beer-friendly bites
  • The Filter Room is a hip Napier brewery and cider house in Meanee, near the CBD. There are various seating areas that invite you to get comfortable with a platter and a tasting tray of brews
  • The Zeffer Cider taproom in Fernhill is open from October to April. Enjoy a flight of Hawke's Bay ciders in the sun, accompanied by a platter of bread, cheese and charcuterie
  • Hastings Distillers Tasting Room is an elegant showcase of their organic, award-winning spirits. Walk into Tasting Room off of Hastings' East Block and be transported to another place and time. Soft furnishings and delicious snacks accompany incredible gin and cocktails.
  • By day, an Italian deli by the name of Harvest Deli, and by night, a stylish speakeasy called Teresa. This hidden cocktail bar can be tricky to find but 100% worth the effort, with cocktails full of theatre and flair made from local Hawke's Bay produce.

Guided food and wine tours

If you want to leave nothing to chance, put yourself in the hands of the experts. It's a strategy that promises to deliver maximum memories and make you feel like something of a celebrity while you explore the Hawke's Bay region in a luxury mini-coach.

The Hawke's Bay Highlights Tour from the vastly experienced Bay Tours, is a progressive tour of three of the region's leading restaurants. Guests enjoy a three-course progressive degustation dinner, each course matched with premium Hawke's Bay wines, as well as a guided drive to the summit of Te Mata Peak for sunset views across the region. Bay Tours also offer a range of other culinary tours, including winery cellar doors, artisan producers, and craft brewers, all hosted by local experts who love nothing more than sharing the highlights of their region with visitors.

Food and wine events

Twice a year, at the start of winter and summer, Hawke's Bay dedicates itself to the pursuit of food and wine enjoyment with F.A.W.C.! (Food and Wine Classic). The programme is extensive - everything from masterclasses and winemaker's lunches to garden parties and progressive dinners. Tickets go on sale from the FAWC website several weeks before each event.

Keep exploring Napier

Vintage cars image courtesy of Art Deco Trust