Waiheke Island is a changing feast, though the stalwarts hold strong and true: Mudbrick, Cable Bay and Stonyridge are all dependable choices, offering great food and wine experiences. Here, we round-up our favourite Island offerings, from freshly shucked oysters to the grocer you need to know about.
1. ISLAND GROCER
Waiheke’s central hub, Oneroa Village, is just a short trek up a gentle slope from the ferry terminal at Matiatia wharf. Although coffee speeds you up, enjoying a steamy cup sitting outside The Island Grocer, situated at the top roundabout, will most likely slow you down as the pace of the island seeps into your bones.
2. THE ANNEX
Alternatively, head straight to Ostend to The Annex, an original Waiheke cottage turned into the cutest café ever, serving extraordinarily delicious sweet and savoury fare made by Little Tart Bakery, excellent coffee (roasted on the island by sister business Island Coffee), and stylishly presented tea from Tea Total. Open Friday to Monday.
3. THE COURTYARD
A relative newcomer to the Village is The Courtyard. It offers a largely Mediterranean inspired menu with homemade pastas, fresh fish, and innovative ways with vegetables, and poke bowls, burgers and steaks. The setting is done-up bach meets Greek island, with blue and white chairs and tables, a sunny setting and sea views.
Across the road is Café Fenice, offering wood-fired pizzas, pastas, polpette, polenta chips, hand-cut duck fat chips and the like. Try and nab one of the tables at the front of the café for people watching (I mean the view).
5. CASITA MIRO
Casita Miro in Onetangi offers Spanish and Mediterranean dishes including an assortment of tapas dishes. The goat’s cheese croquetas and lamb & fig tagine are so popular they can’t be taken off the menu. A sherry tasting in the Gaudi-esque courtyard is a highlight, and don’t forget to pick up a bottle of superb sherry vinegar on your way out.
6. FRENCHMAN'S HILL
Waiheke has a well-deserved reputation for its wines, especially its big reds. Frenchman’s Hill specialises in Cabernet blends and spicy Syrah. You can enjoy a delicious plat du jour featuring the vineyard’s own olive oil, and fossick in the small shop brimming with textiles, ceramics, locally made soaps and artisan gifts.
7. RANGIHOUA OLIVE ESTATE
While you are in this vicinity, make a stop at Rangihoua Olive Estate and taste the international award winning freshly pressed oils. While olives are grown, gathered, pressed and bottled all over the island, Rangihoua’s owner and oil producer Anne Stanimiroff has planted many of the island’s olive trees and tends them under contract. In other words, you are in expert hands.
8. THE SHED TE MOTU
Superb food with a quirky flair is how I’d describe chef Bronwen Laight’s menus at The Shed Te Motu. Seasonal produce, much of it coming from the restaurant’s gardens, is the star, often served alongside line-caught fish and premium meats. Expect the unexpected: pickled golden raisins, smoked agria potatoes, salted ricotta, or a salad with an orange & sherry vinaigrette topped with quinoa, buckwheat and almond crunch, are examples. A flight of 5 wines, including the flagship Te Motu can be enjoyed at The Tasting Room next door to the restaurant, along with a choice of platters.
Obsidian, has plenty to crow about: Winemaker Michael Wood is the New Zealand Winemaker of the Year 2017, and vineyard manager Tim Adams is the Bauer Young Viticulturist of the Year 2017 and Runner-up Young Horticulturist of the Year 2017. The Obsidian 2013 released early February has had 5-star reviews from New Zealand’s top wine reviewers. The wines are rich, opulent and beguiling.
10. MAN O'WAR
Further afield, but definitely worth the trek, is Man O’War, a unique beachfront cellar door location, with superb white and red wines including a Bordeaux blend, Syrah, Rosé and Chardonnay. Platters of food to go with the wines are available.
11. PODERI CRISCI
A sumptuous long Italian lunch at Poderi Crisci featuring Poderi’s own wines and olive oil, bread and pasta made in-house and produce coming from the garden makes for a hedonistic day. Or enjoy a wine tasting and lighter fare in the adjacent building La Locanda. You’ll want to linger longer whichever you choose.
12. PASSAGE ROCK WINES
Passage Rock Wines, Bistro & Cellar Door specialises in Syrah but also makes Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. The bistro serves wood-fired pizzas and interesting platters of food, and Mediterranean-inspired fare.
13. TANTALUS ESTATE
Tantalus Estate set in 8 hectares of land is home to Tantalus Restaurant & Winery and Alibi Craft Brewery. The restaurant is stylish and chic with food to match. The dark and moody vibe of Alibi Brewery situated underneath the restaurant, contrasts with the light, airy space above. Grab a flight of beers and enjoy them in the cosy brick-lined brewery, or in warm weather, at a table outside.
14. APERITIVO WINE BAR
At the end of the day you might be lucky to catch live jazz at Aperitivo Wine Bar in Oneroa Village, where you can indulge in a wide choice of local and imported wines by the glass while enjoying stunning sea views.
15. THE OYSTER INN
An undisputed island institution, The Oyster Inn is the perfect place to order yourself a platter of freshly shucked Te Matukus and a glass of bubbly to finish your day.
16. ISLAND GELATO
This adorable little ice cream shop will bring out the sweet-tooth in anyone. Located in the heart of Oneroa and boasting more than 70 uniquely different flavour combinations and weekly specials, each and every scoop is lovingly created in-store daily.
17. TOO FAT BUNS
As its name might suggest, this local burger joint boasts the tastiest burgers on the island. Situated in Oneroa, if you're staying overnight and craving something hearty and simple, we suggest making a beeline to this ever-popular takeaway spot. Catering for everyone from the resident-vegan to the ultimate meat-lover, we can't go past the 'Man Bun' – a house-made prime beef patty, streaky bacon, free range egg, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, beetroot, pickles,
relish, house-made aioli, Swiss or blue cheese.