Anna King Shahab takes a journey from southern charm to northern nous to seek out a lineup of special dining experiences
The luxury of dining out is these days measured less by ostentatious ingredients flown in from far-flung corners of the world, and more by the level of care and attention that has gone into creating a rounded experience for you, the diner. Fitting out the space, selecting the ingredients and preparing them, nailing service that walks a delicate balance, and leaving you with an overall impression of wanting to relive the experience in your dreams that very night. Eating amazing food without leaving a big environmental footprint in the act, discovering new and diverse ingredients, and learning the background story to what’s on your plate are key points in today’s definition of luxury dining.
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A heritage building in Dunedin’s blossoming warehouse district is home to petite Moiety, where chef Sam Gasson blends French and Japanese techniques and calls on the best of Southern produce. Meanwhile, one of the first restaurants in the country to employ a dedicated foraging expert (the esteemed Peter Langlands), Amisfield Bistro, with chef Vaughan Mabee at the helm, was a pioneer in the now-popular focus on hyperlocal ingredients. Mabee uses them to take diners on a time and place-specific taste journey that has been elevated further with Tony Stewart (ex-Clooney in Auckland) joining the team as director of food and beverage. Stewart explains that as well as the signature tasting-menu experience, “A more casual bar food offering has been a focus of mine, to bring balance to our offering.”
Wānaka’s Ode describes its purpose as “conscious dining”, and you can choose your journey: from a three-course to an eight-course menu, with options for plant-based or wild-shot game and kaimoana from exemplary fishing folk Gravity, and a chef’s table add-on.
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