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Diverse Winners In Corbans Wine And Food Challenge

This year's winners of New Zealand's top restaurant awards include a diverse range of restaurants who swept the awards in each centre.

The results of the month-long Corbans Wine and Food Challenge were announced over the last two days (Auckland and Wellington September 5, Christchurch September 6). The wine and food matching competition attracted 185 restaurants in the three cities. Capacity audiences attended the awards ceremonies held in each city over the last two days.

"This is a record-breaking challenge in every way, from the results achieved by restaurants to the huge number of diners trying the menus on offer," said Noel Scanlan, the chief executive officer of Corbans Wines.

At stake was the country's most prestigious restaurant award, with the winner in each centre receiving a prize package worth $20,000. Restaurants are judged in categories (based on the style of restaurant) with seven category winners in addition to the overall winner.

The results show a refreshing mix of established excellence and newcomer talent. Some winners have been open only a few months while others have been finalists in the challenge in previous years. Highlights of the results:

The overall winners in the three centres (Cibo Parnell - Auckland, Serrano's - Wellington, 50 on Park - Christchurch) are all previous category winners. This is a first for the challenge, which has been running for eight years in Auckland and five in Wellington and Christchurch.

As well as the overall prize in each centre, the winners also won the best service category - another first for the challenge.

Auckland's winner, Cibo Parnell, made a clean sweep of the awards, winning three categories (best brasserie Challenge menu, best service of the Challenge menu and best single course) as well as the overall award.

Consistent excellence also for Wellington's Caf Globe, who won the award for best caf challenge menu for the second year in a row this year and Auckland's Sail's Restaurant who won their category again this year after winning the overall award in 1997.

A number of new restaurants achieved great results in their first year of entering the Challenge. In Auckland, both the caf and hotel restaurant categories were won by newcomers (The Monarch Caf - Pukekohe and Circa - Rydges Hotel). In Christchurch the caf category winner was also new to the Challenge (Nor'Wester Caf and Bar) and in Wellington, high profile new restaurant Two Rooms Restaurant, won its category.

The challenge also broke records in terms of diner interest, with thousands of diners trying challenge menus throughout the competition. Corbans also recorded a record number of visits to its website, which included all challenge menus.

Restaurants taking part in the Challenge create a three-course menu with matching wines. It is offered to diners throughout the month-long competition and is judged by an independent panel of wine and food experts in each centre. The overall winner in each centre receives a $20,000 prize package.

This year 76 Auckland, 55 Wellington and 54 Christchurch restaurants took part.

The competition aims to increase understanding of wine and food matching and was developed by Corbans. There is no other similar competition in the world.

A complete list of results is available by calling 0800 CORBANS.

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