Dine Out on the Neat Places’ Team's Restaurant Picks

A flatlay of plates of pizza and drinks on a table.

If there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that New Zealand’s restaurant scene is up there with the best. Whether it’s cheap eats or silver service, our country really does have it all.

Our Neat Places team has taken the time to each pick their absolute favourite (or two!) places for dinner across the country and their reasoning behind each selection. Expect casual eateries and breweries to Italian pasta houses and Asian eats - there really is quite the range.

Julia Rutherford, Writer

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Christchurch based

There are so many top contenders for my favourite dinner spot, we are very blessed with the food scene in Christchurch! You can never go wrong with Italian, and Francesca’s Italian Kitchen is pretty incredible. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, it is always busy (make sure to book ahead), and the aroma drifting out of the kitchen will have your mouth watering the second you walk in the door. Head there with a group of friends or family so you can share some pizzas for the table and then enjoy some pasta; my top pick here has to be the braised beef cheek gnocchi. Add a glass of red wine to accompany dinner and a tiramisu to end the meal; that is my idea of perfection.

Jerome Warburton, Photographer

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Auckland based

I love a small, intimate venue and Mount Eden’s Ooh Fa nails that, are also kept cozy by the warmth of the pizza oven. Shout out to Fraser for the delicious pies! There is always good natural wine on offer + all the Italian Aperitif and digestif goodness you'll ever need.

John Son, Writer

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Wellington-based

Apache is hands-down one of the best fusion restaurants in Wellington. This moody, dimly lit spot is perfect for everything from dates to large family gatherings. The mix of flavours and aromas is always on point and it's always a fun challenge picking which dishes to go for. The popcorn chicken and bang bang chicken salad are my personal favourites.

Mike Field, Christchurch Account Manager

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Christchurch based

I've just been to Odeon in Christchurch, which was outstanding! If you go, don't miss the Wagyu intercostals and the life-changing greens. The asparagus with tahini and black garlic was also something to remember.

Nancy Zhou, Photographer

Christchurch based

When it comes to dining, I love a full Chinese banquet experience, complete with excess ordering (for takeaways, of course) and a lazy Susan. We are loyal to Celine's on Manchester Street but also love Southern Asian on Colombo Street. Key items on our order will always include 'Marked Flammulina' (a cold side dish of enoki mushrooms in chilli oil), twice cooked pork, one of the eggplant dishes (we're never sure which) and the big pickled fish soup. Celine's is family run and the staff are super warm and lovely. They're also happy to make any dish vegan if required.

Nicole Mudgway, Writer

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Auckland based

Italian is my go-to, and on that basis, Pici and Amano are hard to beat. Pici is my favourite spot for an intimate dinner, and it should be criminal not to order the cacio e pepe every time. Amano is ideal for any occasion. It’s one of those places where every visit is a unique experience depending on where you sit, but perfectly cooked pasta is always a certainty.

Christopher Barnhart, Digital Marketer

Queenstown based

Aosta in Arrowtown.  When we talk about this place, my wife (also a Neat Places contributor) gets a whimsical look as she describes a mythical mountain of Tiramisu that we once climbed together after a stunning eight courses, most of which we can still tell you about three years later.  Inevitably, one of us will say "the ravioli"  and the other one will say "Oh! THE RAVIOLI!" We're still paying the bank back for that one night out, but it was worth it.

Sophie Morris, Writer

Auckland based

I currently live in Auckland, where there are far too many places to drink and eat away your money. But I’m not mad about it. A favourite institution would have to be Hotel Ponsonby. I first visited it just as a bar when visiting Auckland. Each time I went I learned more - they do amazing food, have a cute sunny courtyard perfect for an evening Aperol, and do amazing Sunday roasts - it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Customers ordering at a long bar counter.

Petra Nyman, Writer

Christchurch based

The Brewery. The beer is top-notch, the pizza is delicious, and it’s extremely easy with the kids in tow. Need I say more?!

Johnny Gibson, Business Manager

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Lyttelton based

With a one-and-a-half-year-old on the scene, we're running early dinners these days. It’s pretty hard to beat walking down the hill to Arbour Woodfire Pizza, the local pizza joint in Lyttelton. It's always good vibes, beers cold and yummy as woodfired pizza.

A large dining area inside The Sherwood in Queenstown.

Claire Barnhart, Social Media Manager

Queenstown based

Narrowing down a favourite spot for dinner really feels like picking my favourite child, but let's be honest - there's always a slight favourite child, isn't there? If I have friends coming to town, my go-to restaurant (for dinner, a drink, a live show - anything really!) is always The Sherwood in Queenstown. I really appreciate a restaurant that has a variety of 'vibes' when it comes to seating - low down intimate seats with a view for a date, big high round tables for a family-style affair, long outdoor rustic tables for a get-together with the girls, even stumps around the fire for your post-dinner port. The crew here go above and beyond to provide authentically great service, the quality of food here is next-level, and the drinks to match are *chef's kiss*. Their menu is subject to change,, but the salmon, dill flatbread, wagyu beef tartare, and twice-cooked potatoes are never a miss.

Marcia Butterfield, Director

Christchurch based

Roca is a Mediterranean restaurant that has recently opened in Christchurch, and it's my new favourite place for dinner. There are lots of vegetarian options, and the margaritas are strong and delicious. The best place to sit is in the covered outdoor area overlooking the Avon River (excellent for people-watching too).

And if there’s still room for dessert…

Claire Murphy adds: My husband calls me a hummingbird because of how much I love a sweet treat, so I felt it only right to put everyone onto (arguably) the best sweet treat in all of New Zealand.

Living in Queenstown for a while now, you end up trying out all of the tourist activities at one point or another - but the one I keep going back to is the Earnslaw boat to the Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant. And don't get me wrong, it's an epic journey in itself, you can go into the engine room and watch the coal being shovelled, and the buffet dinner is one of the best - but the real reason I keep going back is the sticky toffee pudding. I kid you not, I'll be mid-dinner, and if the dessert trays open, I will fill a plate just to ensure they don't run out before I actually finish my dinner. Don't say I never gave you anything…

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Boo's

Plated food and drink on the table at Boo's.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Inventive in its approach to dining, Boo's draws from the savant of comfort food: Southern American cuisine.

Pomeroy's Old Brewery Inn

The lounge area of the bar.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury Editor's Pick
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Pomeroy’s has been the catalyst of the Christchurch craft beer scene for years, with its ever-changing blackboard showcasing over 31 beers on offer.

Greystone Wines

A woman in a white shirt holds a bottle of Greystone Rose Pet Nat against the vineyard's green backdrop at Greystone Wines.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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A day exploring the magic being made by Greystone Wines in Waipara is a day well spent.

Paddy McNaughton's

Exterior of Paddy McNaughton's, Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Paddy McNaughton's is a pint-sized pub with Guinness and Magners on tap. It’s the closest thing to a Dublin pub this side of the equator. Live music every week.