Cuisine : Cuisine, Issue 144
bay city rollers Once a cliché of New Year excess and all-year surf, Bay of Plenty has broadened its regional repertoire. Denise Irvine catches the exciting new wave of culinary openings There's nothing nicer on a sunny morning than sitting at a Mt Maunganui café directly across the road from the sparkling blue Pacific, sipping a good coffee and tackling a bagel topped with buttery green avocado plucked from a local orchard. Bay of Plenty has always done the simple is best philosophy well, probably always will. But these days it also does much more than that, and nowhere is it more obvious than the blossoming restaurant scene. Every time you turn around it seems there is another restaurant or café adding its chairs, tables and blackboards to the cheerful pavement clutter as newcomers cater to an increasingly diverse and knowledgeable clientele. They have joined earlier path-setters Two Small Fish on the Mount, which continues to impress with its excellent seafood; the long-standing Mediterraneo in Tauranga, which never fails to please; and Bethlehem's sophisticated Somerset Cottage, which set the benchmark 21 years ago. Many chefs here look to the Pacific Ocean for inspiration, serving fresh seafood complemented by local vegetables, fruits and condiments. This is, after all, the place where the climate nurtures horticultural staples such as avocado, citrus and kiwifruit. Add in the many artisan producers making oils, cheeses, sausages, breads, preserves, cakes, fruit spirits, smoked goods and more, and there is plenty for your plate. There are great places to stay while you sample your way through the region, including fine lodges in the hinterland. In Tauranga there is another enticing range of options for those who prefer a short walk home after sampling the humming bar scene. Or just hunt out the best of the Bay's produce at the farmers' markets and excellent food stores, and cook it at home. You'll enjoy it all.
Cuisine, Issue 145