Father Winter seems to have settled in, giving us a taste of his lower temperatures and rainy days.
Chimneys are huffing and puffing once again, spas and hot pools are getting more use, and we’re craving those warm, wintery comfort foods, so here’s a go-to guide for warm, gooey, gorgeous and gorge-worthy dishes in Rotorua.
Here for the brekky
Scope’s motto is “wild about flavour” and they’re not kidding! On the all-day breakfast and lunch menu you’ll find Fearless Huntress French toast, Bush Tukka mince on toasted focaccia, Hungry Hunter Big Breaky, Mai Mai Duck open sandwich, Butcher’s Best venison burger (pictured at top) and many more delicious dishes – including vegetarian and keto – all made in house.
Goodness, so many options here, and not just the sweet kinds, as the moniker implies. Tucked away in the suburb of Lynmore, locals from everywhere know the Mistress for her tasty tarts with bacon, caramelised onion and spinach, super-cheesy scones, and massive, award-winning sausage rolls. You’d be remiss if you didn’t add one of her brownies chocka-full of caramel, raspberry and white chocolate, or one of her sell-out cinnamon scrolls. Get in early!
Poco Tapas and Wine is a light, bright, second-floor venue that’s not too big, not too little. The winter menu, offers shareable dishes like spiced cauliflower with picked raisins and tahini drizzle, kawakawa prawns with chilli oil and cornbread, spiced lamb ribs with manuka mint reduction, and their famous crispy fried chicken tenders with saffron lime aoli.
A must-try is their special dish invented for the first-ever Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge and Food Trail*,available from now until 17 July, called Moana me Whenua (pictured above). It features Lux Organics beetroot cured warehou, Tikitere Farm kumara brandade, with kina butter, Lux Organics micro-greens, red kelp in a fragrant Pink & White Gin broth – all ingredients grown or made right here in Rotorua.
This is your go-to for gourmet pizzas by the foot (they’ve got seven on the menu) and the premium beers or ciders on tap. If your group is on the larger size, the Goat also has snackilicious bar snacks and amazing sharing boards to pass around the table.
The Fainting Goat is also part of the Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge and Food Trail, presenting Land & Sea Gourmet Pizza/Pita Kaimoana Whenua me te Moana (pictured above). This dish heroes New Zealand green-lipped mussels in a creamy garlic base, Katikati Fisheries smoked kahawai, sous vide bacon hock with a tomato and Kinaki Wild Herb karengo sauce base, and finished with watercress aioli and tips.
With big TVs and a fully sheltered patio in the back, it’s a great spot for catching up on the weekend’s sport.
Hearty roasty things
ANI’s is an incredible recent addition to Rotorua’s vast selection of eateries. Seasonal, fresh and indigenous ingredients are combined in bewitching ways.
With their menu changing regularly and based on available local products, rather than suggest our favourite dishes, it makes more sense for us to suggest going in with an empty tummy and a few friends so you can try an assortment of small and large tapas dishes, plus have room for dessert.
Another Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge and Food Trail participant, ANI’s has created Ngā Taonga o te Whenua (pictured above) featuring puha pasta sheets filled with foraged mushrooms, harakeke and ricotta to make raviolo, tossed in a venison shank and horopito ragu and served with pickled pumpkin, parsnip puree and finished with crisp garnishes.
Located at the lake end of the famous Rotorua Eat Streat, Ambrosia is one of the go-to pubs for cheeky 5pm bevvies with mates, and there’s always a solid group of chatty locals around too.
While Ambrosia was the first licensed restaurant in Rotorua in 1954, they haven’t let time pass them by. The classic warm interior is complemented by a large casual patio, allowing plenty of space for gathering with friends new and old. Ambrosia also has a great wine and beer selection, delicious menu, and, depending on when you’re there, live sport on the big screens, or live musical entertainment.
For their Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge and Food Trail, Ambrosia has created Mai te Pāmu ki te Pereti (pictured above): Mamaku venison, kākano harekeke and foraged Mamaku kawakawa pesto, celeriac puree, hāngī purple potato, Lux Organics, micro greens.
This award-winning buffet with a killer view over Lake Rotorua and our city will satisfy any and all comfort-food cravings and more.
If you’re after a seriously hearty, home-style, meat-and-three-vege feast, head to Pātaka Kai at Te Puia for their amazing hāngī buffet for Sunday brunch and all-day breakfast, hāngī buffet and a la carte lunch Wednesday to Saturday, and hāngī buffet dinner on Friday evenings.
We know some think it’s rude to have your phones at the dinner table, but you’ll want to keep yours handy to capture your views overlooking the geothermal valley, including the spectacular eruptions of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest active geyser, Pōhutu.
Of course Hennessey’s serves up an Irish coffee, but first, start with their Sunday roasts or Beef & Guinness Pie filled with prime New Zealand beef braised in Guinness, plus vegetables and onions, brought together with a rich gravy and topped with mash and cheese. Sláinte!
*This is just a small sample of the 11 eateries taking part in the inaugural Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge and Food Trail. Check out the whole list of participants, read about their dishes, try each one and then vote for your favourite. But hurry, they’re only on offer now until Sunday, 17 July.