‘I love fresh and seasonal food, am partial to a crisp gin and tonic, and love nothing more than going out for dinner, whether it’s a fancy
restaurant, a cheap noodle joint, or to someone else’s house.’ Delaney Mes
Who better, then, to scout the country from north to south and everywhere in between, to come up with a list of restaurants that she knows can be relied on for a great evening out.
Although she studied law at university, food and good coffee has always been at the centre of Delaney Mes’s life. In fact, she even started writing her popular Heartbreak Pie food blog to help mend her broken heart.Mes, without a doubt, lives and breathes food. She’s the first to say she talks and thinks about it all the time.
Today, warm and personable Mes has left law behind, and she’s become a familiar name on our food scene. She writes for various publications, is often on the radio talking about food and has run events for people.
Now she toasts our flourishing and exciting restaurant industry with her gorgeous new book, New Zealand Restaurant Cookbook.
A follow-up of sorts to Penguin’s bestselling New Zealand Café Cookbook, winery restaurants, breweries, neighbourhood bistros and fine dining establishments all make an appearance, with recipes that draw from a broad range of cooking styles and international cuisines.A celebration of New Zealand’s diverse and thriving dining scene, the New Zealand Restaurant Cookbook is an indispensable companion. As well as introducing new and iconic restaurants throughout the country, the book highlights some of the most popular dishes from their menus for readers to recreate at home.
As with any list, conversations often centre around who doesn’t make the cut, and Mes is the first to admit that narrowing the selection down to just - 50 was a near impossible task because there are so many great places to eat these days.She’s keen to make it clear that this is not a list of the top 50 restaurants in the country. There are plenty of those sorts of lists that are published regularly.
Rather, hers is a representative list of 50 restaurants that she feels consistently deliver the whole package required to make an evening special. To her mind, a great meal doesn’t just mean what’s served up on the plate. It’s the total experience that makes an evening out a memorable one. Yes, it’s certainly about the food, but it’s also just as much about the PEOPLE, service, and the décor.
In an industry where a restaurant’s survival is at the mercy of an often fickle consumer, all of the restaurants in Mes’s book enjoy loyal followings because they offer the whole package.
Collectively, Mes believes the restaurants she has chosen also reflect what people are looking for from a quality, local dining experience. Paddock to plate is not just a food trend, says Mes. She believes it’s become much bigger than that. It’s a way of eating for everyone. Provenance and authenticity has become hugely important. People want to know where the food has come from, and they expect it to reflect the local community. Or, as with the family-run Gemmayze Street, the menu and décor strongly reflect the family’s Lebanese roots.
People also want beautiful, fresh, seasonal produce, and many of the restaurants either have their own kitchen gardens or have excellent local suppliers and, in some cases, foragers, to ensure they have the very best available produce on their menu. Many restaurants have also invested in unique and distinctive interiors to create a sense of place.
Mes says defining what a restaurant is these days can be challenging, as many cafés have become all-day eateries and day-time cafés transform at night into amazing places for dinner. Her selection reflects this trend.Vineyard and winery restaurants, which attract tourists, play a larger role in promoting New Zealand to the world.
Each of the restaurateurs in the book, she feels, bring something fresh and unique ‘to the table’.Mes says she hopes people will love the book as much as she loved working on it, because it ‘showcases the best of what New Zealand food has to offer’.
New Zealand Restaurant Cookbook is a gorgeous snapshot of what dining in New Zealand is like at the moment, and is the perfect accompaniment to your next foodie foray.
DELANEY MES has been a judge of the Metro Restaurant of the Year Award as well as the Metro Café of the Year and Best Bars issues. She has a weekly column writing recipes for the Herald on Sunday. Delaney’s love of food and travel has taken her around New Zealand and overseas, from visiting farmer’s markets in Christchurch to trying the best tea in Sri Lanka to sampling street food in Tokyo, and everything in between. She shares her food and travel writing on her website delaneymes.com, which has an enthusiastic following.