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Wellington 'local' picked as NZ's best restaurant

PRESS RELEASE Thursday 21 August 2008

Wellington 'local' picked as New Zealand's best restaurant

A Wellington institution that left judges "begging for more" has taken the title of New Zealand's best restaurant in the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards 2008, in association with Mercedes-Benz.

Wellington's Matterhorn is more popularly known as the favoured local bar for Wellington's chic crowd. Yet it is the cuisine that wowed the judges, who awarded Matterhorn the Supreme Winner as well as Best Casual Dining - Metropolitan in this year's competition, announced in the latest issue of the magazine.

This is the second year in a row that a Wellington restaurant has taken the supreme title in the annual Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year competition. Last year's winner was Wellington's Martin Bosley's at the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club.

Easy on the pocket, a main on the weekend brunch menu at Matterhorn would set you back $16, and lunch and dinner mains are on offer for between $18-$32.

Judges described Matterhorn as a restaurant that appeals to all ages. "The arrival last year of chef Sean Marshall to Matterhorn lifted this restaurant from good to excellent. It is now not only a premium destination in Wellington for a great time but also for seriously good food."

Guest international judge John Lethlean, restaurant critic for the Melbourne Age and Australian Gourmet Traveller, was clearly impressed by one of Marshall's signature starters.

"A tuna sashimi-style starter left us moaning for more, such was the intelligence of the combined ingredients and quality of the fish," he says. "Ultimately, it was a dining tour de force from go to whoa with energy, wit and a superb sense of its own identity.

"Stunning produce, unpredictable combinations, fresh thinking and thorough craftsmanship were the hallmarks of every dish."

Across the board, Matterhorn impressed judges with every aspect of the dining experience, from decor to the extensive 321-strong wine list to the casual yet knowledgeable trainer wearing staff and serving style.

Joint-owner Christian McCabe says it has been an immensely challenging task to build the Matterhorn's restaurant from nothing to one of country's best - while maintaining the high standards of the venue's award-winning bar.

"We are fortunate enough to have a loyal and loving clientele who have evolved with us over the years and allowed us to do what we love. This award is accepted by us on behalf of the many staff members who have loved the Matterhorn as much as we do and have left their mark on the rich and complex culture that it represents today."

Matterhorn rose above 40 finalists and many of New Zealand's best restaurants to take the title of the country's finest eatery.

Across all of the finalists, freshness, seasonality and the local sourcing of produce were key themes in this year's competition, with some chefs only going as far as their own home grown garden plot to inspire their menus.

Head judge and Cuisine food editor Lauraine Jacobs says all of the judges were thoroughly impressed by the exceptional quality of produce, which resulted in "fresher, better-tasting food that has no need of too much work or excess garnish".

Jacobs was also thrilled to note the rise and rise of top-notch fare in the regions. This year's winners and runners-up included a collection of restaurants from all corners of the country.

"We are happy to report some outstanding eating in Napier, Nelson and Richmond, in the Wairarapa, in Otago and at winery restaurants in Canterbury, Hawke's Bay and Queenstown."

Auckland's acclaimed The French Café won over judges again, taking the Best Smart Dining title. They described it as a "restaurant that consistently delivers a polished performance". It was a closely fought competition, with smart dining runner-up Wellington's Martin Bosley's, winner of last year's Supreme Award.

The Wairarapa's Wendy Campbell's French Bistro, run by Wendy and Jim Campbell, the parents of TV presenter John Campbell, was awarded the Best Casual Dining - Regional title. The runner-up in regional dining was Riverstone Kitchen in Oamaru, run by owner and chef Bevan Smith.

Best Winery Restaurant was Pegasus Bay Winery in Waipara, described by judges as one of the "best places to eat in Canterbury", and the runner-up was Terrôir at Craggy Range in Hawke's Bay.

Best Wine Experience went to Auckland's O'Connell Street Bistro for the second year in a row, selected in the face of strong competition from several finalists.

Mercedes-Benz New Zealand Executive General Manager Roger Zagorski says the winning line-up shows the exceptional standard of dining around New Zealand.

"We are thrilled to see such fantastic restaurants recognised from all over the country," says Mr Zagorski. "The Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards is an outstanding celebration of passion, commitment and dedication to excellence. Congratulations to all the winning establishments."

Now in its fourth year, the esteemed Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards is the only national restaurant competition in this country celebrating the very best dining experiences.

The full list of winners and 40 finalists, along with a pocket guide to the 100 best restaurants in New Zealand, is available in the latest issue of Cuisine, on sale from Monday 25 August.

Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year 2008 Supreme and Category Winners

Supreme Winner and Best Casual Dining - Metropolitan
Matterhorn, Cuba St, Wellington

Runner-Up Best Casual Dining - Metropolitan
Plato, Birch St, Dunedin

Best Smart Dining
The French Café, Symonds St, Auckland
Supreme Winner 2006, Runner-up Best Smart Dining 2007

Runner-Up Best Smart Dining
Martin Bosley's, Oriental Parade, Wellington
Supreme Winner 2007

Best Casual Dining - Regional
Wendy Campbell's French Bistro, Kitchener St, Martinborough

Runner-Up Best Casual Dining - Regional
Riverstone Kitchen, SH1, Oamaru

Best Wine Experience
O'Connell Street Bistro, O'Connell St, Auckland
Winner, Best Wine Experience, 2007

Best Winery Restaurant
Pegasus Bay Winery Restaurant, Stockgrove Rd, Waipara

Runner-Up Best Winery Restaurant
Terrôir at Craggy Range, Waimarama Rd, Havelock North


Editor's Notes:

What the judges look for
Judges are seeking restaurants that deliver well what they set out to do. Criteria include food, wine, service and atmosphere. First and foremost, judges look for excellent food and a well-chosen wine list. They are also looking for top-quality ingredients, selected with attention to season and region, and skilfully prepared; wines carefully selected to match the food, clientele and nature of the restaurant; and delivery with service by knowledgeable and professional staff.

The 2008 judging panel for the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards 2008 is:

* Lauraine Jacobs
Head judge and Cuisine food editor

* John Lethlean
Guest international judge, restaurant critic for the Age, Melbourne

* Graham Brown
Consultant chef and owner of The Cookhouse, Rangiora

* David Burton
Restaurant critic and senior features writer for Cuisine, and food writer, Dominion Post

* Fleur Caulton
General manager Amisfield Winery, Queenstown

* Simon Cunliffe
Longtime restaurant critic and associate editor, Otago Daily Times

* Karl du Fresne
Restaurant critic and wine writer, Wairarapa

* Sue Fleischl
Caterer and former restaurateur, Auckland

* Don Fletcher
Former restaurateur and restaurant consultant, Auckland

* Kate Fraser
Cuisine restaurant critic and editor of the Zest section of the Press, Christchurch

* Therese Herzog
Restaurateur, Blenheim

* Jeremy Jones
Former chef and restaurateur, Marlborough

* Nicola Legat
Publishing manager Random House and restaurant critic, Auckland

* Mark Limacher
Former restaurateur and inaugural winner of the 2005 Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards, Wellington

* Toni Mason
Cuisine editor of Food, News & Views and Restaurants, Auckland

* Phillip Reay
Hospitality tutor, Nelson

* John Saker
Cuisine New Zealand wine writer, Wellington

* Natalia Schamroth
Chef-owner The Engine Room and Cuisine senior food writer, Auckland

* Charmian Smith
Cuisine restaurant critic and editor of the Good Living section, Otago Daily Times

* Kerry Tyack
Restaurant reviewer and food and wine writer, Auckland

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