Rural NZ restaurant tops 'Cuisine' awards
17 Aug 2010
A South Island restaurant that began in the paddock of a family farm has just been named 'restaurant of the year' in the Cuisine New Zealand annual awards.
Riverstone Kitchen, 12km north of Oamaru in northern Otago, beat 49 other finalists, including big city counterparts, to take first prize in the national competition.
It’s the first time a South Island restaurant has won the top prize, and the second time owners Bevan and Monique Smith have been finalists in the ‘Restaurant of the Year’ awards.
Soul of NZ cuisine
Riverstone Kitchen was praised for its treatment of fresh, local produce.
Judges commented that the restaurant "feels like it pours New Zealand’s very soul into diners. It is a wonderful showcase for what makes New Zealand cuisine special. Everything is so beautifully cooked and composed, it was such a joy".
Guest international judge, highly regarded food critic Simon Thomsen of Sydney's Daily Telegraph, said Riverstone Kitchen had a vibe somewhere between a city bistro and a country lodge.
"Chef Bevan Smith has something bold to say about what it means to be Kiwi," said Thomsen.
Judges were unanimous in their praise for Riverstone Kitchen saying the restaurant had a strong sense of place and was unfussy in its style with the menu featuring fresh produce from the family’s garden.
Riverstone Kitchen also won the award for best casual dining, in the regional section.
‘Cuisine NZ’ awards
Riverstone is the first South Island restaurant to win the supreme award in the competition’s six-year history. Wellington and Auckland restaurants have taken top honours in previous years.
After the awards ceremony in Auckland last night (16.08.2010), Bevan Smith said he and wife Monique would be heading straight back to work.
"The industry is not just about a half-hearted effort, it's about graft. We want to showcase the produce we have and get it out there."
Riverstone Kitchen aimed to keep things simple and really honest this year, Mr Smith said: "We don't try and tart things up."
The couple started the restaurant four years ago on what used to be a paddock on the family farm.
Mr Smith's mother Dot, who has run a gift shop nearby for nearly 20 years, expanded the business when she heard her son and daughter-in-law were returning to New Zealand.
Bevan Smith trained as a chef in Christchurch and went on to work at Terence Conran's La Pont de La Tour and Michael Caine's Canteen in London. He moved back to New Zealand six years ago after a stint as head chef at Brisbane's acclaimed e'cco bistro.
Riverstone Restaurant has adopted the motto "local and starting from scratch", with the Smiths sourcing fresh produce from around the district.
The pork is supplied by Havoc Farm in nearby Waimate - the only paddock-to-plate pig farm in New Zealand.
They source their venison from Ikawai, and lamb from the Waitaki Valley, having gone directly to the producers to get top export-quality produce.
The Smiths also run 80 hens that provide all the eggs, and they grow a large amount of produce on site.
Cuisine NZ magazine editor, Sarah Nicholson said New Zealand restaurants had set new standards in excellence and innovation this year. They had gone from strength to strength, which was shown by the number of finalists in the 2010 awards climbing from 40 to 50.
There were 26 restaurants as first-time finalists, including Barolo at the Langham Auckland, Hawke’s Bay’s Elephant Hill and Black Barn Bistro, Wellington’s Ortega Fish Shack & Bar, and Dunedin’s Two Chefs Bistro.
Two new categories were introduced this year: 'Best Specialist Restaurant' recognising excellence in niche dining such as seafood, ethnic and vegetarian, and 'Restaurant Personality of the Year' celebrating spectacular service by an individual.
2010 Cuisine NZ Award winners
- Riverstone Kitchen, Oamaru
Best Smart Dining Metropolitan:
- The French Café, Auckland
- Runner-up - Martin Bosley’s, Wellington
Best Smart Dining Regional (first equal):
- À Deco, Whangarei
- Bouterey’s at 251, Richmond (Nelson)
Best Casual Dining Metropolitan:
- Soul Bar & Bistro, Auckland
- Runner-up - Ponsonby Road Bistro, Auckland
Best Casual Dining Regional:
- Riverstone Kitchen, Oamaru
- Runner-up - Palate, Hamilton
Best Neighbourhood Restaurant:
- Ambeli, Wellington
- Runner-up - Two Fifteen Bistro & Wine Bar, Auckland
Best Specialist Restaurant:
- O’Sarracino, Auckland
- Runner-up - Ortega Fish Shack & Bar, Wellington
Best Winery Restaurant:
- Pegasus Bay Winery Restaurant, Amberley (Canterbury)
- Runner-up - Black Barn Bistro, Hawke’s Bay
Best Restaurant Personality:
- Shae Moleta - Ambeli Restaurant, Wellington
Note: 2009 Supreme winner, Logan Brown, was ineligible this year as co-owner Al Brown is now senior food writer for Cuisine magazine.
Paddock to the Plate
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