New Zealand doesn’t have the centuries of culinary development that you’ll find in France, nor the regional varieties on a common theme that Italy offers. To visitors from the UK, the USA and Australia, New Zealand food may, at first glance, seem a little boring, or perhaps comfortingly familiar. But there’s more to New Zealand food than meets the eye.
1. Fish and chips
This Friday-night staple is a part of most Kiwis’ diet, though certainly not the healthy part. Pick up a pack wrapped in newspaper from your local chippie (fish and chip shop – there’s one in almost every neighbourhood) and eat it on the beach. Don’t forget the tomato sauce. $10-$15 should feed two people.
We certainly don’t claim to be the inventors of the barbecue, but Kiwis do have it down to a fine art. Many households have a BBQ on the deck or in the backyard, which sees liberal use throughout the summer – both for parties and regular dining; even breakfast can be cooked outside if you’re eating bacon and eggs. Get yourself invited over for a barbie or use one of the free machines you’ll find in some parks. From $5 for just sausages to whatever you want to spend.
2. Meat pies
If you’re wondering what to do for lunch, stop into a bakery and get a savoury pie. You’ll have several options to choose from, such as steak and cheese or chicken and mushroom; there’s usually a vegetarian option too. Some bakeries have more exotic choices, like lamb and mint or chicken tikka masala. Best eaten outdoors with tomato sauce. $3-$5 per pie.
New Zealand is famous for its clean green image, and there is a lot of grass around – most of it currently being eaten by sheep or cows. Our animals have a good life and it comes through in the flavour of the meat. If you’re in a restaurant and see roast lamb or lamb shanks on the menu, look no further and order it. You could also try cooking for yourself, just don’t forget the mint sauce and gravy. $20-$40 for a restaurant meal, Hell Pizza does a nice shank with mash for $16.
This sweet, light dessert was invented in New Zealand and named after ballerina Anna Pavlova for its similarity to her lightness and grace. The Aussies try to claim it for their own but we know the truth. Make it yourself or buy from a cakeshop; the supermarket ones aren’t as good but will give you an idea of the flavour. Decorate with whipped cream, strawberries and kiwifruit. $8-$20 depending on where you get it.
New Zealand’s iconic softdrink is named after the town where it was first brewed: L&P stands for Lemon and Paeroa. If you visit Paeroa (in the central North Island) you’ll notice the town’s pride at its namesake – yellow banners are everywhere and there’s a giant L&P bottle in the centre of town. As for the flavour, it’s lemonade but with a twist. About $2-$5 a bottle.
New Zealand’s many wine regions produce an incredible quantity and variety of wine, you’re sure to find something to your taste. Wine-tasting at the cellar door is often free, or there might be a small charge that’s refundable on purchase – you might as well make the most of that! Don’t miss the varieties NZ is most famous for: Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (white) and Pinot Noir (red). From $10 a bottle.
If you’re not a wine drinker, never fear, there are also good beers in the Land of the Long White Cloud. You have a range of lagers to choose from, but make sure you try some of the specialist beers from microbreweries or the seasonal ranges from larger suppliers. Monteith’s Summer Ale is a personal favourite. About $10 per bottle in a bar.
New Zealand might not be known as a gastronomical paradise, but there’s certainly a lot of delicious food and drink to try during your visit here. Bon appetit!
Note: this article was first published in 2011, and was updated in 2020.