New Zealand’s best chefs and restaurants have been revealed at the prestigious Cuisine Good Food Awards, held last night (15th October) at the historic Civic Theatre in Auckland.

Auckland’s Cocoro (image above) came away with the highly-coveted Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year award, recognised as an exceptionally creative, surprising and innovative Japanese restaurant, while Guilio Sturla, the chef behind acclaimed Roots restaurant in Canterbury, was named as Santa Vittoria Chef of the Year.

Cuisine editor and co-director Kelli Brett says the award winners are a perfect example of the high standards of New Zealand’s dining scene and how far we have come.

“We should truly be proud of the dining scene in this country – it’s one of inventiveness, variety and skill, and in my opinion, New Zealand deserves to be recognised as a premium food and drink destination.

“It’s a privilege to present these awards to such deserving recipients and give them a chance to celebrate their impressive work on this one special night of the year.”

Among the 14 award categories presented on the evening were two new awards: Pead PR New Zealand Long-Term Player, an award aimed at acknowledging our industry stalwarts, and the Whitestone Cheese Best New Zealand Dish which honours the growing trend for dishes with a distinctly New Zealand style and flavour.

Wellington’s much-loved Logan Brown, which has brought a contemporary and innovative spin to the city’s dining scene since it opened in 1996, received the Long-Term Player award while Vaughan Mabee’s (Amisfield Bistro) Paua Pie was named as the Best New Zealand Dish.

Another big winner on the night was Monique Fiso, the chef renowned for creating Michelin-style Maori cuisine. Monique was unable to be present on the night but accepted the Cuisine New Zealand Future Food Legend Award from Moutere, where she was preparing a hangi for the opening of the Ōra King Awards.

The only nationwide restaurant awards programme of its kind, the Cuisine Good Food Awards, presented by Vittoria Coffee, recognise and celebrate New Zealand’s very best chefs, restaurateurs and food and drink experiences.

Now independently owned, Cuisine magazine enlists more than 40 experts who, over the course of the year, anonymously judge restaurants around the country to determine New Zealand’s best chefs and restaurants.

Kerry Tyack, lead assessor of the awards, says it’s always a tough process determining the final winners as there is such a high calibre of establishments in New Zealand.

“The awards winners have demonstrated innovation, consistency, delivery of promise, value and satisfaction. From the Restaurant of the Year to the hatted establishments and those who made the Top 100 list – these are the best of the best, those of which Kiwis can be immensely proud.”

This year, just four restaurants – Clooney, Cocoro, Kazuya and Roots – were awarded the ultimate tribute – three ‘hats’ (Cuisine’s rating system of one, two or three hats).

“This year we had a particularly challenging task in determining the winners and hatted restaurants – there have been an unprecedented number of new entrants into the industry, myriad changes of chefs, new menu directions and a host of other developments – including the rise of casual dining – all of which made the assessment task more complex than ever,” says Tyack.

“We’re delighted to recognise these exceptional chefs, restaurants and restauranteurs – both new and established – who contribute to New Zealand’s world-class dining scene.”

The awards and naming of the hatted restaurants follow the Cuisine Top 100 list, which was announced in September and is included in the Cuisine Good Food Guide. Released after the awards ceremony, this guide is used as a reference by national and international food lovers.

Cuisine Good Food Guide 2018 

Category Winners 

Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year 

COCORO – Auckland

Santa Vittoria Chef of the Year 

Giulio Sturla – Roots – Canterbury

Best Metropolitan Restaurant 

Cassia – Auckland with special mention for Ortega Wellington

SILERE Best Regional Restaurant 

Palate – Hamilton

Estrella Damm Best Specialist Restaurant 

Gemmayze St – Auckland

Epicure Trading Best Casual Dining Restaurant 

Depot – Auckland

De’Longhi Restaurant Personality 

Tony Stewart – Clooney – Auckland

Ora King Salmon Innovation Award 

Vaughan Mabee – Amisfield Bistro – Central Otago with Special Mention for Alex Davies

Yellow Brick Road Best Winery Restaurant 

Elephant Hill – Hawkes Bay

Negociants New Zealand Best Wine Experience 

Noble Rot – Wellington

Best Drinks List 

Charley Noble – Wellington

Cuisine New Zealand Future Food Legend 

Monique Fiso

Pead PR New Zealand Long-Term Player 

Logan Brown – Wellington

Whitestone Cheese Best NZ Dish 

Paua Pie – Vaughan Mabee – Amisfield Bistro

For more information on the awards and winners, Cuisine Top 100 and regional breakdowns, visit cuisine.co.nz. The full list of winners and information on each restaurant will be available in the 2018 Cuisine Good Food Guide, released in the November issue of Cuisine magazine.