The top restaurants, cafes and places to eat on Waiheke Islandby Kate Richards
Waiheke is an eater’s (and drinker’s) paradise. Here are some of our favourite island haunts.
Fancy new digs
When owners Carrie Mendell and Campbell Aitken bought this site, they only wanted to make beer. The refurbished Tantalus Estate, however, offers a restaurant, vineyard and brewery, and is number one on many people’s wedding venue lists. Winter has seen the interior and kitchen refreshed and some heavy landscaping, including lower wetland planting.
A popular local haunt
Pronounced feh-knee-chee, all-dayer Fenice – Italian for ‘phoenix’ – is popular with locals. A dish of Zany Zeus ricotta, cherry tomatoes and fennel seed dukkah on ciabatta, finished with grassy New Zealand olive oil, is a great start to the day. For lunch, you should try the local mushroom ravioli with truffle oil, or the pappardelle with duck and mushroom ragu. Pizzas are available from 11.30am daily to eat in or take away, and there’s a special kid’s menu if you have the sprogs in tow.
Giant toasties and hot coffee
Slightly off the beaten track is The Annex, a kitschy converted cottage. Sip pour-over or espresso Island Coffee and munch on gigantic cheese toasties that come with a splodge of locally made chutney on the side. The cheese straws are good, too. Loose-leaf tea is served in a glass Chemex to pour into handmade ceramic mugs, and is a special kind of ritual. Poke around the artisan gifts or, if on offer, take an intimate art class – giant knitting, maybe?
The Oyster Inn
Simply excellent food and service
The clue’s in the name. Start with a dozen or so Te Matuku oysters before progressing to main courses (above), and enjoy with a glass of local wine. Could this be any more Waiheke?
A sweet little bistro
Hilariously, and in true French style, the owners here have put together an entirely imported wine list. And that’s the thing about Frenchot – it’s very, well, French, offering hearty bowls of le cassoulet or le canard confit and thick slices of crusty bread, as well as delicious sweets (above).
One of Auckland’s first food trucks
Pizza (above) from this beachside van starts with a classic margherita, then you add toppings like artichokes, capers and free-range ham. There are also pocket breads with braised lamb and tzatziki, and the vegetarian polenta box is great. Pop down to the sand to eat.
Te Motu Vineyard
Fantastic bordeaux blends
While Waiheke weekenders party next door at Stonyridge, a low-key, informed and personal wine tasting can be found here, with a wooden deck shaded by native trees and black umbrellas to protect you from sunburn. A great spot for lunch, if the mood strikes, with plenty of good vegetarian options.
Man O’ War Vineyards
A slice of paradise
While it requires a bit of driving to get here – along a road not that suitable for bikes – you can reward yourself for making it with a glass of the sublime, new vintage rosé. A lush lawn offers bean bags, a place to play petanque, and fronts a small bay for swimming and collecting fresh oysters off the rocks.
Four places to stock up the bach cupboard
A sophisticated tea house
Time slows at this boutique tea shop, where owner Timmy offers tea tastings and blending sessions. Tea for two is served with three cups, and guests are encouraged to pour for absent friends. 143 Oceanview Rd, Oneroa
Fresh produce and artisan goods
Get everything you need for a picnic lunch or evening meal from the Ostend community hall market, which runs every Saturday, rain or shine. There’s the usual fruit and vege stalls as well as Waiheke-made artisan breads, cheese, honey and excellent handmade organic sausages. Friendly stall holders will have you leaving feeling like a local. Saturdays, 7.30am-1pm, 76 Ostend Rd, Ostend
The Island Grocer
Your one-stop shop
This independent, family-operated grocery store has many hard-to-find items as well as convenient pre-made meals, which means you can pull the classic disorganised-parent-trick of heating dinner at the bach and throwing away the wrapper before anyone notices. 110 Oceanview Rd, Oneroa
Waiheke Honey Company
Honey to the bee
Richard, Sheena and sons Leo and Lex Evatt and their “girls” (thousands of bees) make honey in hives dotted around the island. Their Ponui Island bees make slightly salty, creamy white nectar; multiflora roamers take sweet juice from the underside of grape vines, leaving vague cabernet notes in the end product; and coastal sites produce pōhutukawa-laced, ‘champagne’- style honey. 78 Hauraki Rd, Oneroa
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