New Zealand’s best restaurants were announced at the 2016 Cuisine Good Food Awards which took place a few days ago at the Auckland Museum, with many of New Zealand’s most prominent chefs, restaurateurs and critics in attendance. There were new categories, new winners, a decent range of trendsetting contestants and from that, a now long reservation wait-list for anyone trying to get a table.

Over 40 culinary experts on the panel were involved in the judging – these individuals make anonymous reservations, evaluate the meal and the overall experience, pay for the meal and record their findings in what can be described as a national food census. 

This was the 12th year these awards have been running and as expected, the event showcased cuisine of an international calibre. Cuisine’s new Editor, Kelli Brett, was excited to be involved in such a prestigious event for New Zealand’s culinary scene that is still the only nationwide restaurant assessment process to guide food enthusiasts throughout the country. Kerry Tyack, the head judge puts it best when he says the awards are to:

“provide a simple, transparent, honest and valued service to our audience. I love the discovery – of new ideas, talent, skill, creativity, innovation and progression. We have true leaders who are making the most of our resources using local, regional and seasonal ingredients. I see a willingness within the industry to be innovative, especially among those who travel a lot and seek out alternatives.”


I’ve broken it down to the winners, regions and all the website links are attached for easy access. It’s going to be my ‘special occasions’ guide for the next little while so you know it’s going to be easy to navigate!

Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards 2016 Winners

Restaurant of the Year: The French Cafe (Auckland)

Best Metropolitan Restaurant: The French Cafe (Auckland)
Runner-up: Pescatore (Canterbury)

Best Regional Restaurant: Pacifica (Napier)
Runner-up: Victoria Street Bistro (Waikato)

Chef of the Year: Sid Sahrawat, Sidart (Auckland), Cassia (Auckland)
Runner-up: Michael Meredith, Merediths (Auckland)

Best New Metropolitan RestaurantPhil’s Kitchen (Auckland)

Best New Regional Restaurant: Bistronomy (Napier)

Best Winery Restaurant: Pegasus Bay (Northern Canterbury)
Runner-up: Amisfield (Queenstown)

Best Specialist Restaurant: Cocoro (Auckland)
Runner-up: Cassia (Auckland)

Restaurant Personality of the Year: Sarah Bullock, The Larder (Wellington)

Innovation Award: Tom Hishon, Orphans Kitchen (Auckland)

Best Wine Experience: Apero (Auckland – check out our Speakeasy review here)

Best Drinks List (new category): Charley Noble (Wellington)

The Hat System

The Hat System (instead of stars like previous years) is a international guide for all diners to understand the level of dining experience they can expect. It is known as the benchmark of culinary quality in both the New Zealand and Australian hospitality industry.The total score is out of 20 which is the ‘Overall Restaurant Experience’.  This is scored according to:

Food (flavour, techinque, produce, balance): 9 points

Service (knowledge, care, professionalism): 4 points

Wine/wine service (wine menu, staff knowledge, pricing): 4 points

Ambience (decor, lighting, buzz): 3 points

Any score 15 or more will result in a ‘Hat’, 16-17 gets ‘Two Hats’, 18 and above gets ‘Three Hats’.

2016 Three Hat Recipients




Merediths (Runner-up Vittoria Coffee Chef Of The Year (Michael Meredith)


The French Cafe

The Grove


Roots (2015’s Restaurant of the Year)

2016 Two Hat Recipients



Cassia (runner-up Monteith’s Best Specialist Restaurant)


Orphans Kitchen

The Grill by Sean Connolly


Victoria Street Bistro (Runner-up Best Regional Restaurant)




The Larder


Pegasus Bay

Pescatore (runner-up Sanpellegrino Best Metropolitan Restaurant)


Amisfield (runner-up Whitestone Cheese Best Winery Restaurant)

2016  One Hat Recipients



Elephant Hill

Mister D

Te Awa


Charley Noble (Best Drinks List Winner)

Field & Green (runner-up Neat Meat Best New Metropolitan Restaurant)


Jano Bistro

Logan Brown

Ortega Fish Shack

WBC (Wholesale Boot Company)



Black Estate


Bistro Gentil (Wanaka)

Botswana Butchery (Queenstown but there’s one in Auckland too!)

Fishbone (Queenstown)

Rata (Queenstown)



More Information

The full story about the event can be found in the latest Cuisine magazine which will be out August 15th. A total of 83 restaurants were announced to have made their way into Cuisine’s 2016 Good Food Guide so keep an eye out for that little addition which comes free with the magazine!

For more information on the event click here.

Just on a side note, it seems like you don’t have to be part of the culinary elite to be a part of the experience. Tickets were sold to this year’s awards for a cool $195 which included a sit down four course dinner, champagne and a selection of New Zealand wines!

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