Discover the gourmet food and the Art Deco of Hawke's Bay

New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay has picture-postcard looks, a dynamic food and wine scene, and a touch of 1930s glamour, writes Belinda Luksic.

New Zealand hawkes bay winery
  • Belinda Luksic
  • June 2018

Bursting with local produce that fills baskets to overflowing at weekend growers’ markets, Hawke’s Bay is a gourmet paradise. Big, boisterous reds dominate the local wine scene and an exciting and innovative restaurant and bar scene presides. It’s easy to explore, too, with a vast network of off-road cycle trails that wind in and out of pretty vineyards, restaurants and cafés between Napier and Hastings.

Napier

Rebuilt after being razed by a massive earthquake in 1931, Napier’s elegant art deco architecture is world famous, with its own festival every February. The Art Deco Trust holds regular walking tours of the city and from historic Napier Prison, you can still see the path of destruction the earthquake took. It’s a bustling city filled with designer boutiques, galleries, hip restaurants and bars.

Bistronomy, James Beck’s eatery in Hastings Street, is light and airy, with an inventive and sustainable menu of “raw”, “protein” and “mineral” options that fuses bistro food and fine dining. There’s a long, bamboo meal counter where diners can watch the open kitchen in action; two sizes of wine by the glass; and neat touches such as conical flasks for wine decanters and beakers for vases.

Around the corner in a single-storey art deco building with outdoor seating, local favourite Mister D has a modern café-style menu, with bread, pastries and pasta made fresh daily on the premises. On the must-try list is Mister D’s famously decadent injectable doughnut that comes with a syringe filled with custard, jelly or chocolate.

Behind Mister D is Monica Loves, a small bar tucked away down a once-disused lane. It features industrial design and a good selection of craft beers, cocktails and wines with tasty bar eats from the kitchen at Mister D.

For a hit of retail therapy, those in the know head to Aroha and Friends on Ossian Street for edgy New Zealand designers Karen Walker, Zambesi, Miss Crabb and Nom*D. While here, fill up on delicious pastries, sandwiches and coffees at FG Smith Eatery next door. Keen foodies on a budget should head to Pacifica, winner of Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards 2017 for Cuisine Restaurant of the Year, for a set five-course degustation menu that changes daily.

Havelock North, Hastings

“Eat where the locals eat” is a motto worth embracing in Havelock North. Home to a vibrant casual dining scene, “the Village” sits near the base of Te Mata Peak in the city of Hastings.

Pipi Café, in Joll Road, is a must-visit. A local institution, it serves good, crusty pizzas in a 1950s princess-style interior of hot pink shades. It’s licensed, too. Down the road, the local village vibe continues at Deliciosa, a modern tapas and wine bar, and Mamacita, a funky Mexican restaurant decorated with more than a nod to artist Frida Kahlo.

Coffee addicts can get their fix at Wright & Co, with organic coffee from Firsthand, free Wi-Fi and local produce including Ya Bon bread and pastries. Wright & Co also owns popular Hugo Chang, a dimly lit bar with an extensive wine list, Asian-inspired bar menu and an interior of red Chinese lanterns and burnished-leather club lounges.

Markets

During the weekend, farmers’ markets are in full swing in Napier, Hastings, Taradale and Havelock North, stocking everything from plump, seasonal fruits to freshly baked breads, piquant cheeses, pickles and preserves. The oldest and biggest is at Hastings showgrounds every Sunday morning.

Wineries

With more than 80 wineries in Hawke’s Bay, it’s easy to while away a few days at cellar doors. The region’s cold climate produces full-bodied reds and rich, complex chardonnays.

In the Gimblett Gravels region, Trinity Hill and neighbour, Te Awa Winery hold tastings of single-estate wines such as syrah, chardonnay and merlot-cabernet-sauvignon blends. At Te Awa, visitors can dine on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-inspired share plates in the laidback restaurant overlooking the vines.

Further south, on the Te Awanga coast, breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and Kidnapper Cliffs are reason enough to visit Elephant Hill Winery. Another is the restaurant, with modern white décor and contemporary menu, voted runner-up winery restaurant of the year at the 2015 Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards. Share a plate of oysters and the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc or stay the course for the full fine-dining experience.

Next door, at Clearview Estate, al fresco dining prevails, with platters shared at long tables set up among the vines. Be sure to sample Clearview’s Reserve Chardonnay, consistently voted one of New Zealand’s best.

Premium artisan winemaker, Black Barn Vineyards, is transforming the winery experience in Havelock North. As well as limited-release boutique wines and a bistro serving seasonal cuisine in the heart of the vineyard, there’s a growers’ market every Saturday morning in summer with locally roasted coffee and organic and local produce.

Over at Craggy Range winery, summer brings an outdoor pop-up bar, with latest-release single-vineyard wines, tasting plates, provincial platters and freshly shucked oysters. At the fine-dining restaurant, Terroir, you can enjoy a seasonal menu on the terrace with views to Te Mata Peak.