We’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time this summer on Waiheke island, one of my favourite places to eat and drink. There’s just something inherently relaxing about the place which just makes everything taste better. That, and the fact there are a number of great places to eat and talented food producers on the island. Here are a few of the places we enjoyed on our last visit.
Man O’ War Vineyard Tasting Room
Worth putting up with the ridged, dirt road that leads you there, Man O’ War sits right by the water on the eastern end of Waiheke, and has a heap – 76 – small plantings dotted round the 150 acres of land there and on neighbouring Ponui Island. Each plot has its own microclimate, they say. The tasting room has only been open for a short time but it looks comfy on its waterfront patch, a though it’s been there for decades. This is a great place to take the kids as you can sit right out by the beach and watch them play while you enjoy a glass of wine (tastings are free and a great way to decide which bottle to order) and a tasting platter (nothing very amazing, but a nice way to taste some local products). We fell in love with the Valhalla chardonnay from the Flagship range.
The Oyster Inn
This new kid on the block has been getting all the attention of late, but it’s not all hot air. The all-day eating establishment also boasts a private dining room and 3 boutique rooms for accommodation, all packaged up in a light, breezy Cape Cod look that manages to escape being twee.
We’ve had lunch and dinner there, from which I’d pluck the spaghetti alla vongole as my fave dish – though the spiced squid was pretty darn good too, with its dipping sauce a rich, warm mix of coriander root, kaffir lime and other such SE-Asian flavours. The kibbelings, described as Dutch fish nuggets, were the only not so fantastic dish we had. Made from the offcuts of fish fillets from the kitchen, the batter was a bit too heavy and dark and the tartare sauce just didn’t have any punch in it. A good option for the kids, though – ours liked them – and I like that they’re using the bit of fish that might usually be wasted (fillets are inherently so wasteful, aren’t they?) Another favourite dish at The Oyster Inn was a special of the day panzanella, with delicious heirloom toms and a nicely sharp red wine vinaigrette: the perfect thing on a hot, hot day after doing the Headland Sculpture on the Gulf trail.
This is my new go-to place on the island, somewhere I can see us going for a meal every time we’re on Waiheke.
Cable Bay Winebar
In possession of one of the most killer views the country over, the wine bar at Cable Bay is the best place to head to watch the sun set over the city and feel smug about not being there. We tasted a few of their wines before settling on the viognier, a brilliant wine which matched the evening out there perfectly.
The eerie cloud formations looked like extra islands out there in the gulf, as lounged on big beanbag chairs on the expanse of lawn that stretches across to the water view, framed by flowering flax bushes. Too pretty. My question is, who goes to the restaurant? It was empty bar one table on the night we went, whereas the wine bar was full. The restaurant has been the subject of mixed reviews and until something happens to change that, it seems a sad kind of waste of one of the most amazing venues for a restaurant in the country.