Lunch at Kinloch Lodge - Regional dining New Zealand

New Zealand’s best regional dining

After a recent jaunt around our beautiful country something that was a most delightful surprise: dining out in regional New Zealand. The folks at MoaTours really know their stuff and they took us to all the best out-of-the-way restaurants – some in the middle of nowhere– and they’re as good (if not better) than your beloved city eateries. On your next trip, make sure you stop at all of these amazing restaurants.


Birdwoods Gallery, Café and Sweet Shop, Hawke’s Bay

Nestled in the most relaxing garden space, we discovered the home of the personal touch. Birdwoods Café, just outside Havelock North in the Hawkes Bay, is just the most delightful little eatery for miles. As well as all the delicious baking and top-notch menu items all made from scratch on site, the Birdwoods team serves their coffee in a plunger on a beautifully presented tray. Speaking of fresh air, you must ask for an outside table when booking; the garden, the birdlife, the Hawkes Bay sunshine are all divine and of course they have an incredible sculpture trail and a gallery featuring amazing pieces from all around the world. Oh, and leave some room for a treat from their ice cream shop or the olde worlde sweet shop.

Location: Havelock North
Awards: 2012 Hawke’s Bay Industry Tourism Award, Favourite Tourism Award at 2019 Havelock North Business Awards
Signature dish: You can’t really go past their scones (lemonade or date) with a tea tray or plunger coffee tray served in the garden – an event in itself!
Unique points: Gardens, sculpture walk, olde worlde sweet shop and real fruit ice cream shop.
Star Rating on TripAdvisor: 4.5

Dine at Birdwoods Café with MoaTours

Our 7 day Bridge to Nowhere & Forgotten World tour includes lunch at Birdwoods and of course a visit to the Sweet Shop.

Birdwoods Gallery, Café and Sweet Shop
Birdwoods Gallery, Café and Sweet Shop

USSCo Bar & Bistro, Gisborne

Well this was a lovely surprise in central Gisborne. We discovered that behind the very contemporary fit-out of USSCo Bar & Bistro lies an old shipping company building (hence USSCo, which stands for Union Steam Ship Company, but that’s a whole other story). Anyway, when you come here expect contemporary New Zealand dining at its finest. USSCo Bar & Bistro is all about the daily-changing seasonal menus with locally sourced ingredients interwoven with international inspiration. The portions are generous, the plating is artful and the local wine and beer selection is plentiful.

Location: Gisborne
Awards: Recommended by Lonely Planet, and head chef Thomas Boyce has a few culinary awards under his belt.
Signature dish: Whatever is fresh and local the day you visit.
Unique points: The contemporary style and menu are a delightful contrast to the history of the building and the area.
Star Rating on TripAdvisor: 4.5

Dine at USSCo Bar & Bistro with MoaTours

Our 6 day East Cape Caper tour includes dinner at USSCo in Gisborne.

Ussco restaurant Gisborne indoor
Ussco restaurant Gisborne indoor

Table Restaurant, New Plymouth

The stunning region of Taranaki on the North Island’s west coast is many things (spectacular, rugged, welcoming, verdant, picturesque…), but the first words that spring to mind are rarely “elegant” or “sumptuous”. That was until we stopped at Table at Nice! This fine dining restaurant is secreted away inside Taranaki’s original boutique hotel (the Nice) and has an appropriately sumptuous style that touches everything from elegant private dining rooms to the European-inspired menu and the exceptional wait staff. The food is considered by many to be the best in town and I agree.

Location: New Plymouth
Awards: The Luxury Travel Guide’s Luxury Hotel & Restaurant of the Year 2016
Signature dish: Everything is fabulous, so opt for the five-course tasting menu for the whole table.
Unique points: The décor is as memorable as the food.
Star Rating on TripAdvisor: 4.5

Dine at Table with MoaTours

Our 5 day Christmas in Taranaki tour includes a special Christmas lunch at Table.

Dining Room at the Nice Hotel
Dining Room at the Nice Hotel

A Couple of Special Mentions

They may be well and truly off the beaten track, but these eateries deserve a mention for their super-fresh ingredients, friendly service and incredible locations.

Karamea Village Hotel

Do you remember that holiday we once took on the West Coast of the South Island? So remote, with native bush one way and wild beaches the other. Remember the friendly locals and the fascinating history? Well, the Karamea Village Hotel ticks all those boxes with the added bonus of a top-class restaurant. The flavourful, home-style meals here are generous, the ambience is lively and the location feels delightfully wild. If you’re going to try whitebait on the West Coast, you need to do it here: they’re famous for it!

Location: Karamea
Signature dish: Whitebait!
Unique points: The hotel building was established in 1876 with many a story since, I’m sure.
Star Rating on TripAdvisor: 4

Visit Karamea Village Hotel with MoaTours

Our 7 day Karamea & Wild West Coast tour includes dinner at the Karamea hotel.

Karamea Village Hotel
Karamea Village Hotel

South Sea Hotel, Stewart Island

Don’t let the weathered exterior or the typical Kiwi pub inside fool you: South Sea Hotel in Oban knows top notch fare and knows how to do it well. Perched near the water’s edge and the fishing boats, there is an obvious seafood emphasis to the menu, but don’t overlook the hearty steaks, fresh vegetables and other surprises alongside.

Location: Oban, Stewart Island
Signature dish: Blue Cod, whichever way you order it.
Unique points: Take some time to appreciate the logistics involved in getting the top quality, fresh ingredients on your plate to one of the southernmost dining destinations in the country!
Star Rating on TripAdvisor: 4

Visit South Sea Hotel with MoaTours

Our 7 day Southern Odyssey – Stewart Island & the Catlins tour includes the dinner at South Sea Hotel.

South Sea Hotel in Oban
South Sea Hotel in Oban

Join MoaTours for a special experience

So there you have our top recommendations for regional dining. But don’t just make your own way there – join MoaTours for a really special experience. We have been visiting these amazing restaurants (and many others on our numerous tours) for many years. You’ll be in your small, friendly group, you’ll get the best seats in the house and lots of inside tips when it comes to choosing from the menus.

Bye for now, and Bon Appetit!

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