Tairāwhiti Gisborne is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most underrated food and wine regions.
For great food and wine, go to the source. Tairāwhiti Gisborne is blessed with rich soils, acres of coastline, and more sunshine than Tuscany in Italy. It’s not surprising that this is where many award-winning chefs and winerieschoose tocall home.
As the name suggests, the Flagship Eatery(opens in new window) is one of the region’s best places to eat. It offers all the classic options you’d expect from a European-style café, along with dishes that have been inspired from further afield. Like the Vietnamese rice pancakes with spicy achiote chicken, cashew cream, dukkah, and coriander. Or the slow-roasted beef bagel with sweet and sour pickles, grilled cheese, and sticky balsamic mustard.
Far East Coffee Co
The founders of Far East Coffee Co(opens in new window) say that if they were they were cool enough to be hipsters, they’d describe themselves as 'specialty coffee micro-roasters'. While it is debatable as to whether hipsters still have a monopoly on being cool, they don’t have a monopoly on micro-roasting, as this husband-and-wife team have proven. You can buy their coffee around town, or you can go to their fantastic coffee house and roastery, which is located down a long driveway on an industrial estate – a location any self-respecting hipster would approve of.
The food at Zephyr's(opens in new window) vegan eatery is so good, most of the clientele aren’t even vegan. The café specialises in acai bowls, smoothies, wraps, and bagels. Try one of their specialty drinks for a caffeine fix with added health benefits, such as their Mocha Maca Mug with double espresso, cacao, maca and oak milk. Or a Mushie Mug, which has a long list of ingredients you’ve probably never heard of, so it must be very healthy.
USSCO(opens in new window) owner and award-winning chef Thomas Boyce says he loves cooking with fresh, local ingredients. For most chefs, this means getting up early; for Thomas, it’s matter of logistics. His restaurant is located down the road from Gisborne fisheries, which is 200 metres from Gisborne Wharf. Seafood, as you might imagine, is Thomas’s favourite ingredient. Try snapper ravioli or the snapper mousse to see what all the fuss is about.
The Dome Cinema
The Dome Cinema(opens in new window) takes the old saying ‘grab dinner and a movie’ literally. During the film’s intermission, ushers – or are they waiters at this point? – deliver pizza and ice cream to your seat – or rather, beanbag. There are no proper seats in this cinema. Just giant beanbags that you can only sit on with the help of an usher-waiter. (If you try to seat yourself, you risk falling off the side.)
There’s nothing in the world quite like great pizza. Yet there is little consensus on what makes the perfect pizza. Whilst the combinations for toppings seem infinite and a matter of taste, deeper existential questions are yet to be answered. Should tomato sauce be applied cooked or raw? Is a coal oven better than a wood-burning one? Is it a margherita if the mozzarella doesn’t come from a buffalo? At Neighbourhood Pizzeria(opens in new window), Gisborne’s most popular pizzeria, they’ve found the right answers to many of these questions. They’re great at the classics, along with innovative ensembles such as the Bianca Mushroom, with a feta whip base, mushroom, caramelized onion, olives and a balsamic reduction. Or the Chicken & Chorizo pizza with spinach, red onion, chicken, chorizo, and Caribbean sauce.
The Works(opens in new window) offers contemporary and traditional dishes that taste as wonderful as they look. Must-try dishes include walnut pasta and chili butter calamari. All dishes can be paired with award-winning local wines.
Fans of organic and low-sulphur wines will love this biodynamic winery. The vintners at Millton Vineyards(opens in new window) use minimal technology and additives during the fermentation process, relying instead on the terroir to give the wine its flavour and character. The result is some excellent riesling and chenin blanc.
Matawhero(opens in new window) was the region's first boutique winery, created by the legendary vintner Denis Irwin. The winery now practises dry farming, which means it relies on rain instead of irrigation. Not only does dry farming conserve water, but it also produces wines with distinctive flavours and light textures. Plus, the winery runs an exceptional cellar door, offering tasting platters and a tour of the underground cellar.
The Wrights have been making wine since 1931. And it has always been a family affair. Visit their cellar door at Wrights Vineyard(opens in new window) and the current owners Geoff and Nicola Wright, along with one or more of their five young sons, will be your hosts. All the Wrights, young or wise, are knowledgeable about making wine – particularly organic and biodynamic wines. Wines that the five young sons have yet to try, of course.
Cycle Gisborne Vineyard Tour
With a Cycle Gisborne self-guided vineyard tour, you’ll be given a bike, a list of wineries, and a map of the most scenic cycling route. Lunch at a vineyard is also included.
Thirty years ago, the only thing Jakicevich and Peter Thorpe, the founders of Sunshine Brewery(opens in new window), cared about was surfing. They began the brewery as a way of filling time while waiting for a ‘set to roll in.’ But then the tide changed permanently, you might say, and brewing became their passion. Although, with beers named for local surf breaks, such as Point Annihilation IPA and Pipeline Pilsner, surfing is obviously still an influence. Visit their taproom to sample from the 21 own-brand beers on tap.
Gisborne Farmers’ Market
As far as farmers’ markets go, Gisborne Farmers’ Market(opens in new window) has a high profile. But then it is no ordinary market. Many of the region’s top producers have stalls here, and the market embodies something of the local spirit. Scan the aisles filled with produce of every kind and you’re left with the impression that the fuel for all this great food is, in fact, good old-fashioned passion. Highlights include Far East Coffee Co., Heavitree Fruit Farm, Real Fish from the Sea, Waimata Cheese, Torere Macadamia, and Hihi Wines – but there are many more.