Heading south soon? The Barrel Room is Ayrburn’s exquisite new subterranean bar & event space that should be on your radar

Having emerged as the region’s beacon of culinary and hospitality excellence since its opening last December, Ayrburn has been captivating both locals and visitors alike with its fusion of heritage charm, contemporary design and exceptional food and drink. And now, the popular destination has added another layer of intrigue to its repertoire, as it proudly unveils its latest gem: The Barrel Room. 

Here, stepping inside feels like entering a hidden world, where time stands still and the promise of memorable nights abound. Set beyond a steel gate adorned with Ayrburn’s vineyard motif, The Barrel Room’s entrance is lined with 56 ageing wine barrels, setting the stage for the unique ambience that lies beyond. Located beneath the Burr Bar’s outdoor garden, this subterranean sanctuary marries cosy, thoughtful design with a sense of unparalleled privacy and sophistication. From its solid oak bar to its hand-painted mural depicting Ayrburn’s rich history, every detail here has been meticulously crafted to set the perfect scene and immerse guests in an atmosphere of opulence. 

With a grand piano as the centrepiece. The Barrel Room is perfect for any occasion; with the ability to host up to 50 guests for intimate, seated candle-lit soirees, or many more for lively late-night gatherings, and everything in between. As Ayrburn continues to redefine the boundaries of hospitality, The Barrel Room stands as a testament to providing bespoke experiences that both deliver escapism and excellence.

ayrburn.co.nz

Gastronomy

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Three reasons why you should be heading south to Ayrburn this autumn
Meet Grape & Olive — Viaduct Harbour’s new Mediterranean-inspired bar & eatery
The Gentlemen
Palm Royale
Sugar
The Regime
3 Body Problem

While away the weekend with one of these captivating new TV series to watch now

As the weather cools down and a hint of cosiness settles in, we find ourselves seeking a touch of escapism. And for those who would rather curl up in front of the TV instead of with a new book in hand, we have delved into the captivating new TV series offering exactly that. From sweeping historical dramas to lavish ’60s comedies, propulsive mini-series and more, this is everything worth adding to your watch list right now.

3 Body Problem

From the creators of Game of Thrones, this new TV series (based on ‘Remembrances of Earth’s Past’ — a novel by Chinese author Liu Cixin) tells the story of a humanity confronting a terrifying cosmic threat initiated by a fateful experiment in 1960s China. Physics-defying mysteries, earth-shattering discoveries, and otherworldly connections collide to catastrophic effect in this complex, novel, and larger-than-life story.

Watch now on Netflix

The Gentlemen

Theo James stars in The Gentlemen, a new series from Guy Ritchie that serves as a spin-off to his 2019 movie of the same name. Upon inheriting a large estate from his father, Eddie Halstead (played by James) discovers that the land is, in fact, part of Mickey Pearson’s cannabis-growing empire.

Watch now on Netflix

Palm Royale

This lavish 60s comedy charts the story of an ambitious underdog desperately scheming her way into Miami’s seemingly impenetrable high society beach club. With a star-studded cast including Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern, Carol Burnett, Alison Janney, Kaia Gerber and Ricky Martin, Palm Royale is as ridiculous as it is addictive — and promises sun-soaked, sartorial escapism at its finest.

Watch now on Apple TV+

Sugar

The detective noir genre is staging a comeback in this new TV series starring Colin Farrell. In Sugar, Farrell plays a private investigator on the heels of the mysterious disappearance of Olivia Siegel, the beloved granddaughter of legendary Hollywood producer Jonathan Siegel. As he explores her disappearance, he also unearths the Siegel’s deepest and most sinister family secrets, leading to a case far bigger than he could have imagined.

Coming soon to Apple TV+

The Regime

This propulsive miniseries offers a compelling glimpse into a dystopian future where a totalitarian regime rules with an iron fist, dominating every facet of society. Amidst this oppressive backdrop, disparate individuals find themselves drawn into a perilous struggle for liberation. As alliances form and fractures deepen, The Regime delves into themes of power, resistance, and the enduring resilience of the human spirit. With gripping storytelling and thought-provoking narrative, Kate Winslet stars in this in-depth exploration of societal control and individual defiance.

Watch now on Neon

The Sympathizer

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Sympathizer stars Robert Downey Jr. as a master of disguise — portraying all of the characters that make up the vague notion of ‘The Man’ in a tale of a Viet Cong spy infiltrating the South Vietnamese community in 1970s Los Angeles. Navigating themes of loyalty, betrayal, and cultural displacement with gripping intensity, this cross-culture satire explores a tapestry of complex characters and historical context, promising a riveting and thought-provoking exploration of self.

Coming soon to Neon

A Gentleman in Moscow

Real life lovers Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead star in this sweeping adaptation of the historical fictional novel of the same name. McGregor masterfully portrays Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat exiled to house arrest in an attic hotel room post-Revolution, in this riches to rags epic that charts friendship, family and love.

Coming soon to Paramount+

Ripley

Notorious conman Tom Ripley is played by Andrew Scott in this fresh take on the story that acted as the premise for the 1999 movie The Talented Mr Ripley. Originally based on Patricia Highsmith’s novels, this mini-series sees Ripley living in New York in the 60s, charting his complex life on the wrong side of the law.

Coming soon to Netflix

Fallout

The murky, post-apocalyptic world of the Fallout video game franchise has been masterfully brought to life in this subversive and darkly funny screen adaptation by the creators of Westworld. Walton Goggins, Ella Purnell, and Kyle MacLachlan star in the live-action remake, where a diverse cast navigate Fallout’s retro-futuristic, nuclear war-torn world.

Coming soon to Prime Video

Culture

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Matisse unveils an exquisite new flagship showroom, home to some of the most renowned design brands in the world

Nestled in the heart of Auckland’s design district, at 130 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Matisse’s new showroom not only marks a moment of evolution for the brand, but stands as the embodiment of the elevated and globally-renowned design on which Matisse has built its reputation. From its incredible layout to its fine finishes, this new showroom is a celebration of 12 of the most renowned international furniture, kitchen, bathroom and lighting marques under one roof, and has come together in such a way as to rival any design showroom of a similar ilk around the world.

Here, a tone of calm sophistication is set from the entrance, where two walls finished in Patricia Urquiola bricks stand alongside a small but beautifully landscaped garden, dotted with deciduous trees. It is an apt introduction to the perfectly-realised spaces that lie beyond. 

The first thing you notice upon entering Matisse’s showroom is its eye-watering scale. From the sprawling ground floor, curated almost like a gallery and bathed in natural light, to the two upper levels, here, soaring ceilings are paired with contrasting material finishes — warm timber alongside cool concrete and metal — to deliver spaces that feel both vast and inviting. There is even a 25-year-old olive tree standing proudly in the showroom’s centre, casting the pieces around it in a soft, natural light, and serving as a reminder of the European origins of Matisse’s sought-after stable of brands. 

Venture inside further and you’ll come across a series of exceptional kitchens, from the Antonio Citterio iteration in vintage stainless steel and black peppered veneer, to the sleek Arclinea design, uniquely finished in bronzed stainless steel and boasting a scullery space hidden behind beautiful tri-folding doors.

The main area of the showroom has been specifically curated by B&B Italia and Maxalto, showcasing the best designs from each of their catalogues and comprising floor-to-ceiling wall units, large scale sofas and coffee tables in exquisite finishes. There are also two incredible staircases rendered in recycled New Zealand Rimu timber with metal balustrades, designed to lead you up to the bridge and mezzanine level, where you can discover brands like Rimadesio, Arrital, Cassina, Moroso, Gessi, Herman Miller, AntonioLupi and Agape, all of which are exclusive to Matisse in New Zealand.  

The thoughtful layout and striking finishes of the showroom were created in collaboration with the clever team at Bureaux, whose expertise was called on to bring Matisse’s vision to life. From the metal pillars with inlaid timber, to the aforementioned Patricia Urquiola bricks, to the recycled timber and concrete floors to the breathtaking full-height curtains, Bureaux’s unique eye was able to bring a number of disparate ideas together in harmony, and the result is truly spectacular.   

Ultimately, Matisse’s move to 130 St Georges Bay Road is more than just a relocation; it is the dawn of an exciting new era for the brand as it continues to give discerning New Zealanders access to the world’s finest design brands and residential furnishings. After nearly four decades in business, Matisse knows its clientele intimately, and is answering their collective call for a more international level of choice and sophistication when it comes to their interiors. This showroom is the manifestation of that aim. 

It is also Matisse’s promise to continue building on its already incredible legacy, and its commitment to bringing the best of classic and contemporary European design to our shores, with renewed vigour and a refreshed vision for the future. 

matisse.co.nz

Matisse

130 St Georges Bay Road
Parnell

Design

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Planning a holiday? Here’s why you should book a luxurious island getaway at Te Vakaroa Villas

If you’re already planning this year’s holidays, why not lock in a luxurious island getaway? With crystal clear waters, beautiful nature, and plenty of sunshine, Rarotonga is the perfect escape, and at the award-winning Te Vakaroa Villas resort, rest, relaxation and recuperation await.

An opulent retreat deserving of its accolade as the ‘Best South Pacific & Oceania Luxury Architectural Design Hotel’ in the World Travel Awards, Te Vakaroa Villas in Rarotonga is an oasis of tranquillity and refined elegance. 

As you step into this exclusive haven, a sense of serenity will take hold, signalling the start of an extraordinary escape. The award-winning accommodation is nestled discreetly along the pristine beachfront of Muri Lagoon and comprises six luxurious villas, impeccably designed to merge with the Island’s natural allure, each offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Designed by renowned architect Lawrence Sumich, the resort harmoniously blends with its lush surroundings, where spacious interiors converge into outdoor spaces adorned with inviting loungers and a horizon-edged, heated infinity pool. The villas themselves are thoughtfully appointed and incredibly comfortable, offering convivial communal areas for dining and lounging as well as intimate spaces for relaxation, and moments of secluded repose.

Exquisite, daily tropical breakfasts are just the beginning of the culinary experiences here. With dining options ranging from Sails restaurant to the vibrant flavours found along the island road, guests can indulge in Rarotonga’s vibrant and flourishing culinary scene as well as its plentiful natural wonders.

From beachfront strolls to adventurous kayak expeditions, the Island’s many splendours beckon from the unparalleled vantage point this accommodation offers. The only dilemma will be deciding whether to venture out and explore or savour every moment within the embrace of this heavenly escape.

Need To Know

When to Visit: The best time to visit Rarotonga is between April and November, when the weather is warm and dry, with temperatures ranging from 24 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius. 

How to get there: Air New Zealand flies direct from Auckland to Rarotonga. When you land on the island, you will be driven 20 minutes to Te Vakaroa Villas via private transfer. 

Insider’s Tip: Exploring the Muri Lagoon is a must while on holiday here. Make time to hire a glass bottom boat, or embark on a wind surfing or sailing adventure. The Rarotonga Sailing Club at Muri Lagoon welcomes all visitors. 

tevakaroavillas.com

Escape

Planning a holiday? According to our Editor-in-chief, paradise is found at Fiji’s Kokomo Private Island
Craving that holiday high? Look local and plan a luxurious staycation at one of Auckland’s best hotel suites
Sights set on a European jaunt? Journey in style on one of Ponant’s Grand Voyages
The Gables, Russell
Ayrburn, Queenstown
Picnicka, Tauranga
Zephyr, Gisborne
Charlotte’s Kitchen, Paihia

Escaping the city for the long weekend? We round up the best eateries up and down the country

One of the best parts of traversing the country is sampling the amazing eateries New Zealand has to offer and, luckily for us, we’re spoiled for choice when we step outside our usual culinary stomping grounds. For your gastronomic pleasure, we have compiled a mouth-watering selection of the best cafes and restaurants, from Paihia to Dunedin, and several stops in between. Be sure to check the opening hours before you make a pit stop — especially as holiday hours come into play.

The Best Of
Northland
Left: Charlotte’s Kitchen, Paihia. Right: The Gables, Russell

The Gables

Location: Russell

The iconic Gables in Russell has been refurbished and rebranded. The Heritage-listed building (Built 1847) is now operating as The Gables Osteria & Enoteca, serving freshly made pasta and approachable Italian fare alongside Northland & Italian wines. The Gables is where old-world elegance collides with the warm, welcoming ambience of a casual osteria, and is a must-try if you’re heading up North this summer.

Hone’s Garden

Location: Russell

No matter the season, a woodfired pizza and a couple of beers at Hone’s Garden always hits the spot. Located in the heart of Russell, we recommend exploring the charming town by foot, then parking up at a picnic table where you’ll be well taken care of.

Charlotte’s Kitchen

Location: Paihia

With unparalleled waterfront vistas, an assortment of delicious sharing plates, and an impressive cocktail menu featuring the all-important expertly-made Negroni, this charming addition to the far North has become a regular stop on any discerning road-tripping itinerary.

Local Talent Taverna

Location: Whangārei

Having just opened this March, Local Talent Taverna beckons visitors with its unpretentious charm and a menu brimming with Mediterranean flavours. In this unassuming space, Matt Hawkes (of Wellington’s cult-favourite Mason) captures the essence of Northland’s local produce, with a distinctly European flair.

McLeod’s Pizza Barn

Location: Waipu

Sampling the tasty lineup of brews at McLeod’s Pizza Barn is crucial to any traveller, and so is getting stuck into its pizza. There’s a laundry list of tasty options to try, from classics like the Margherita with basil pesto, tomato and a double helping of mozzarella to more creative flourishes like the Workhorse with salami, pepperoni, artichoke, gherkin and olive tapenade.

The Best Of
Bay of Plenty & Coromandel
Left: Picnicka, Tauranga Right: Flatwhite Cafe, Waihi

Flatwhite Cafe

Location: Waihi

This Shaw Road destination is so much more than just a perfect coffee refuelling stop, set to the sounds of the rolling surf. While the fish and chips are truly excellent, the Kai Moana pizza with mussels, fresh fish, calamari, lemon pepper and aioli is unbeatable and best devoured with feet firmly planted in the sand. Add it to your bucket list.

Camina

Location: Whangamatā

Embracing the tradition of gathering and eating around a communal fire, Camina harnesses the ancient cooking style to craft delicious fare perfect for sharing. With a menu that celebrates local produce, an incredibly friendly group of staff and an impressive drinks list that heroes locally-brewed beer, New Zealand wines and gin cocktails, this is one spot you don’t want to skip.

Luke’s Kitchen

Location: Kuaotunu

This eatery in Kuaotunu, Whitianga, is the ultimate laid-back destination adored by holiday-goers from all parts of the Coromandel. Admire the million-dollar view as you enjoy craft beers and devour smoky wood-fired pizzas. Destinations like this are a reminder that some humble restaurants are legacy for good reason.

Picnicka

Location: Tauranga

Found in Central Tauranga, but still only a stone’s throw from the famed beaches of Mount Maunganui, Picnicka is a new-ish (opened mid-last year) Denizen favourite in this neck of the woods. Weekend brunches here are some of the most enticing in the region, and come dinner time, the impressive woodfire makes its mark on the menu, offering a truly memorable experience for all.

Breadhead

Location: Tauranga

Breadhead, the bakery born out of Love Rosie Bakery, has recently expanded from a small shop into a charming cafe, offering a space for customers to savour their heavenly bread and pastries. With Brent Beamish’s self-taught baking skills at the forefront, Breadhead is enticing with its array of treats, including miso tahini sourdough, fluffy pastries and doughy-soft sandwiches, all crafted with a commitment to quality ingredients and attention to detail.

The Best Of
Waiheke Island
Left: Tantalus, Waiheke. Right: Mudbrick, Waiheke

Tantalus

Location: Waiheke Island

Tantalus has been loved for its inventive food, award-winning wines and stunning location ever since opening its impeccable new space (the work of Cheshire Architects) in Onetangi Valley. Even the approach from the driveway is enough to take our breath away — and it only gets better from there. Given the estate’s popularity, bookings are absolutely recommended.

The Heke

Location: Waiheke Island

As the new kid on the block, The Heke is a must-visit destination in Onetangi — home to a wood-fired restaurant as well as the award-winning Waiheke Whisky and Waiheke Brewing Co. Owned by two Waiheke families, who have created a welcoming feel, you can park up at one of the many outdoor tables, watch the kids bounce around on its jumbo bouncing pillow and have a thoroughly lovely afternoon.

Charlie’s

Location: Waiheke Island

Nowadays, Onetangi is a world-class culinary destination with a line-up of sophisticated eateries with sweeping views of its beautiful beach. But before all this, there was Charlie Farley’s, a laid back restaurant and bar that locals and visitors alike kept coming back to. After a recent refurbishment, and the new moniker of Charlie’s, this Tropicana-inspired eatery sets the scene for an array of crowd-pleasing dishes. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner — and complemented by suitable cocktails all day long — Charlie’s is holding its own among the newcomers.

Waiheke Distilling Co.

Location: Waiheke Island

On the ridge above Cowes Bay, Waiheke Distilling Co. has unrivalled views of the ‘other side’ of the Island, looking out to Pakatoa Island and the Coromandel beyond. The artisan gin producer led by Liz Scott and Glen Cadwallader champions the local botanicals that grow in abundance in the area, while also allowing visitors to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. Not only the birthplace of brand new gins, but home to a stunning garden bar as well, they deserve to pour themselves a drink — for a job well done.

Man O’ War

Location: Waiheke Island

On the far Eastern side of the Island, Man O’ War is a complete slice of paradise. It’s where you will find 75 of Waiheke’s 100 vineyards. At the start of it all, the winery’s exquisite beachfront Tasting Room spills out onto a lawn where long lunches can be indulged in, before a stroll along the tranquil Man O’ War Bay. With covered and outdoor park bench seating, and plenty of room for little ones and pets, you can get that picnic feeling all year round.

Mudbrick

Location: Waiheke Island

The most romantic spot on the Island, in our opinion, Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant is a charming estate to while away the hours on Waiheke. The Restaurant offers a sensory culinary experience while its modern bistro, the Archive, serves island-inspired dishes in a relaxed setting. With an outdoor bar and charming private dining rooms also available to book, Mudbrick sparkles as much as its view of the Hauraki Gulf.

Casita Miro

Location: Waiheke Island

A little bit off the beaten beach track, Casita Miro is found in the frondescence of the Miro Vineyard. Set back from Onetangi Bay with views to the township and sea, Casita Miro is a Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant that appears more like a greenhouse than a dining room. With a colourful tiled ascent and courtyard, charming gardens and twinkling fairy lights at night, it lends itself to truly unique and memorable occasions.

Stonyridge

Location: Waiheke Island

Nestled in a valley of olive trees, Stonyridge Vineyard & Cafe offers an enchanting experience. The ongoing dream of owner Stephen White, it’s situated on an ideal north-facing site to both harvest vino and welcome visitors. Enjoy Stonyridge’s platters and seasonal plates with a glass of the estate produced Waiheke Bordeaux wines under the shade of its vines, which grow overhead — and all around.

372

Location: Waiheke Island

On the aforementioned Onetangi promenade, 372 takes casual dining up a notch while keeping a breezy island vibe. Run by Luke and Helen Carter, who, in fact, originally set up their neighbouring stalwart (Charlie’s) — 372 feels like a luxury resort offering with an expansive front deck overlooking the beach, and a sheltered patio with a showcase bar towards the back. The menu subscribes to summery by-the-beach food with an elevated edge.

Ki Māha, Waiheke

Ki Māha

Location: Waiheke Island

The third, and finest, jewel in Onetangi’s crown is Ki Māha by Dominique Parat. The artfully designed restaurant has a front deck with panoramic views that are a pleasure to be a part of. Indoors, the sophisticated interior is just as charming. The menu combines sustainably harvested seafood and ethically farmed meats, with locally sourced seasonal fruit and vegetables — expressing the essence of Aotearoa cuisine.

Poderi Crisci

Location: Waiheke Island

At the end of a country lane in the Awaawaroa Valley, Poderi Crisci is an Italian family-owned vineyard and restaurant. As such, it’s a stunning destination vineyard, which appreciates the art of al fresco food and wine, and fine gardens. Antonio Crisci and his partner Vivienne Farnell also originally opened the charming Non Solo Pizza in Parnell, but now their focus is on this slice of Tuscany, on Waiheke. The main restaurant is inspired by the finest traditional cuisine of the chefs’ homeland, prepared with local produce and modern touches. Nextdoor, La Locanda is a breath of fresh air, for those who prefer a more casual outing — still with freshly shucked Te Matuku bay oysters accompanied by a glass of Poderi Crisci Arneis.

Passage Rock

Location: Waiheke Island

It seems the further we get from the main township of Waiheke, the more carefree things become. Passage Rock Wines in Te Matuku Bay was established in the 90s, and while the team takes great pride in their award-winning 14 varietals, their home base is a friendly, casual place where you can enjoy pizza, platters and tapas over summer. Surrounded by Syrah vines, the Bistro café comes with lawn games to entertain all ages and encourage the whole family to enjoy a day out.

Te Motu

Location: Waiheke Island

Te Motu Vineyard is a hidden jewel in the island’s already impressive wine stable, but has fast become one of the most popular Waiheke restaurants. The estate is nestled in the stunning Onetangi Valley, and epitomises every element of the ultimate Waiheke experience. Famed for their award-winning reds (of which we recommend sampling the entire cellar), The Shed’s restaurant offerings are created to complement the varietals, with a modern-rustic approach that harnesses the best of local produce in an un-intimidating way. An essential on every Waiheke itinerary, we think.

Akitō

Location: Waiheke Island

They say good things take time, and this is exemplified at daytime eatery Akitō, named after the word for doing things slowly in te reo. Owners Shantala Tengblad and Simon McNeish’s approach their cooking and food practises with patience, love and attention, especially with their plant-focussed pickling, preserving and fermentation. With inventive twists on typical brunch and lunch fare, this holistic eatery on Ocean View Road, Oneroa, is certainly one of the best Waiheke restaurants.

The Oyster Inn

Location: Waiheke Island

Josh and Helen Emett were regulars at The Oyster Inn since it opened in 2012, and made their presence official in 2020 when they became the new ‘innkeepers’, taking the restaurant and hotel on an exciting new trajectory. Situated above the shops on Ocean View Road, it has charming views of Oneroa Beach and of spectacular sunsets on a good day. The coastal-inspired bistro menu features fresh seafood dishes and seasonal crowd-pleasers. The namesake oysters come from Waiheke’s own Te Matuku, harvested fresh daily.

Cable Bay

Location: Waiheke Island

When thinking of where to wow visitors to Waiheke Island, Cable Bay is often first in mind. Both its award-winning dining room and the more casual wine bar have served many intimate dinners and laughter-filled lunches for over a decade, all to the stunning backdrop of its sweeping views back to Auckland city. With an ever-revolving display of produce, Cable Bay’s focus on seasonal goods means that we’re met with different, garden-fresh fare on every visit. The short meander back to the ferry through native bush afterwards completes the full experience.

Island Gelato Company

Location: Waiheke Island

Built on the nostalgia associated with ice cream and balmy kiwi summers, Island Gelato Co. has long been the go-to spot for a taste of island paradise. Owners Ana Schwarz and Geoff Tippett opened their gelateria originally as a pop-up in Oneroa eight years ago, and — three new openings on the mainland and a new location on the Island (up Ocean View Road) later — it still has us lining up for more.

The Courtyard

Location: Waiheke Island

Whether you’re out for a casual dinner, ordering takeaways to be enjoyed on the beach, or slurping a few Bloody Marys the ‘morning after’, The Courtyard is the place to go. Set off the main stretch in Oneroa, the carefree Waiheke restaurant has a bach-like feel to it, with a mix of indoor and outdoor dining and enviable water views. Stop by no matter the time of day and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, with refined food.

The Best Of
Waikato & Taranaki
Left: Embra, Taupō Right: Rock- It Kitchen, Raglan

Rock-It Kitchen

Location: Raglan

Just out of the township, as you head towards the surf break, everything about this destination feels totally Raglan. Fresh, organic food and afternoon beers on the lawn are a perfect way to while away the weekend. Live music is just a bonus.

The Shack Raglan

Location: Raglan

The perfect spot en route to the West Coast beach, it’s easy to see why The Shack is a favourite among locals. Open for breakfast and lunch, the rustic menu is filled with favourites like housemade granola, bagels and the Hungry Surfer burger. There are also vegan and gluten-free options aplenty, ensuring no diner is left behind.

Cream Eatery

Location: Hamilton

Whether you seek the perfect pick-me-up with their invigorating coffee and seriously good cakes or crave a truly gratifying lunch, this joint has you covered. With a laser focus on bold, robust flavours, Cream Eatery takes pride in crafting dishes that showcase the true essence of ingredients, allowing their natural allure to shine through every bite.

Banh Mi Caphe

Location: Hamilton

Hamilton natives Anh and Pat Chaimontree do an outstanding job plying the people of Hamilton with their delicious Vietnamese eats. Trained in the addictive cuisine since watching her grandmother cook as a child, Anh has carefully honed her craft to creatively deliver flavoursome, family-style fare, from street food dishes through to fresh noodles and salads.

Hayes Common

Location: Hamilton

Quite likely the best thing to happen to the ‘Tron since the Botanical Gardens, Lisa and Brent Quarrie’s cafe by day and gastropub by night — complete with glittering hand-blown Monmouth glass pendants overhead — is a highlight within the burgeoning artisanal food scene.

Embra

Location: Taupō

A rarity in these parts, Embra’s unflinching offering is easily on par with some of the best in major cities, and it’s small boutique and back-street nature makes it all the more endearing. Boasting a celebration of modern Kiwi cuisine, French and British cooking techniques and locally grown produce, the set menu is a constantly evolving work of culinary art.

Cafe Baku

Location: Taupō

Less of a destination and more of an essential for those passing through, Cafe Baku’s plentiful cabinet offerings never fail to impress. From housemade salads to fresh, stuffed sandwiches (and the hallowed Allpress coffee), it is as reliable as it is enjoyable.

Zephyr

Location: Gisborne

Zephyr is the epitome of Gisborne’s growing surf culture. The plant-based cafe is the brainchild of four friends who wanted to use delicious food to better the world. Perfect for a post-swim smoothie bowl, or the beloved Brekky Burritos, this Wainui Beach outpost feels straight out of Byron Bay.

Social Kitchen

Location: Taranaki

This eatery quickly reached stalwart status in Taranaki for exhibiting nothing short of brilliance. Loved by locals as much as it is us out-of-towners, the bistro offers a new take on shared dining that always promises deliciousness.

The Ōkato

Location: Taranaki

The Ōkato is a newly renovated, historic hotel just south of Taranaki. Its flagship eatery, Little Trench, and soon-to-come bar, Trencherman, offer some of the most divine food we’d never expect to find in this corner of town. Think salmon and egg toasts, homebaked gluten-free cakes, and coffee you can rely on (a long road trip essential).

The Best Of
Hawke’s Bay
Left: Black Barn Bistro, Havelock North Right: Sazio, Hastings

Black Barn Bistro

Location: Havelock North

After enduring extensive damage from a fire last February, Black Barn Vineyards’ bistro has emerged from the ashes, presenting a renewed ambience and an evolved menu. Chef Regnar Christensen crafts a culinary journey that features delights such as chicken and duck terrine with tiger milk mustard, fish of the day with rigatoni and crayfish sauce and a caramelised crepe adorned with burnt orange caramel and velvety vanilla ice cream. Perfect long weekend dining, we say.

Bistronomy

Location: Napier

Fresh, foraged flavours are what you will find at Napier’s contemporary restaurant, Bistronomy. The menu changes along with the season and the dishes only feature the best of the best ingredients, ensuring that everything that comes out of its kitchens is top quality.

Vinci’s Pizza

Location: Napier

Run by none other than Mr Vinci himself, this Napier hotspot is serving up pizza pie just as it should be; big, thin-crusted and extremely tasty. Lord knows we love a good slice of the aptly named Banger.

Central Fire Station Bistro, Napier

Central Fire Station Bistro

Location: Napier

If you’re looking for something different from the usual winery-based dining in Hawkes Bay, Central Fire Station Bistro in Napier is serving up a crowd-pleasing menu. In one of the art deco buildings that make the city so quaint, and like all good eateries, there’s a strong focus on local, seasonal produce, a fitting choice as the region is abundant with its offerings. We recommend the spiced lamb rump, just as the weather begins to cool off.

Mary’s

Location: Havelock North

New to the heart of Havelock North is Mary’s, a delicious and down-to-earth restaurant and wine bar. Clever yet concise, the menu features a succinct selection of bites and main plates (think burgers, gnocchi and local seafood), along with wines from the region and cocktails.

Sazio

Location: Hastings

Handmade pasta is the name of the hunger game at Sazio, a contemporary and welcoming bar and eatery in the heart of Hastings. 

The Best Of
Wellington
Left: Highwater Eatery, Wellington Right: Kisa, Wellington

August

Location: Wellington

Taranaki Street’s August Eatery has all the makings of a new classic. The menu feels a little Honey Bones-esque while still offering its own slant on staples like Istanbul Eggs and pappardelle pasta for breakfast.

Rita

Location: Wellington

Taking up residence on Aro Valley’s main drag, this intimate 30-seater restaurant feels more akin to a delicious dinner party with friends. The set menu evolves every day, focussing on (as they all do) fresh, seasonal produce that pays homage to the surrounds. With two sittings every night, while the menu is never guaranteed, the execution is always delightful.

Highwater Eatery

Location: Wellington

Found tucked away in lower Cuba Street, the open kitchen’s crown jewel is the charcoal oven imported from Spain, which informs everything Mediterranean inspired on the menu. Complete with local craft brews and an excellent wine list, it’s an intimate destination we recommend for lunch and dinner.

GPO, Wellington

GPO

Location: Wellington

GPO transcends the boundaries of hotel dining by offering an enchanting retreat for indulging in modern European cuisine. With a menu that showcases hand-pinched butternut ravioli, spear-caught butterfish and organic sourdough with cacio e pepe butter, this culinary gem beckons any traveller seeking something new.

Kisa

Location: Wellington

Kisa is Wellington’s answer to fresh, Middle Eastern fare. With a prime corner position on the infamous Cuba Street, the menu is casual yet chic, beginning with an impressive dips menu that extends all the way to indulgent dishes designed to share.

Margot

Location: Wellington

Taking up residence where former cult-favourite Mason once stood, Margot’s menu describes itself as a seasonal work in progress. It is part wine bar, part dining destination, that offers an ever-changing raft of sumptuous small plates to share. Lately, we’ve loved the fried butternut squash, and it would be a mistake not to order a bowl of stracciatella to start.

The Runholder

Location: Martinborough

Nestled on the edge of the famed Martinborough Terrace amid Wairarapa sits The Runholder, an expansive new hospitality beacon by Foley Wines that celebrates the best of the region’s spoils. With its restaurant, tasting room, cellar door, distillery, private dining room and subterranean barrel hall, The Runholder sits pretty on a run of land at Te Kairanga vineyard — a plot originally held by Martinborough’s pioneering namesake, John Martin. Here, you’ll find exquisite local food and drink, striking views, and endless ways to while away a day in paradise.

The Best Of
Nelson/Marlborough

The Mussel Inn

Location: Onekaka, Golden Bay

Built by the Dixon family, who felled their own trees, The Mussel Inn is an off-beat institution in Onekaka that brews its own beer, serves wholesome fare and features live music.

Arden

Location: Nelson

With a menu of imaginative seasonal dishes designed for sharing, accompanied by a thoughtfully curated wine selection, including rare and natural wines available at their adjacent wine shop, Porta Via, Arden invites you to indulge in a gastronomic experience that celebrates the richness of local produce and intimate dining.

Le Plônc

Location: Nelson

Fine European cuisine hasn’t always been synonymous with Nelson, but Le Plonc’s inspired offering is worth discovering. (In fact, it has quickly made it one of the best restaurants in New Zealand.) Using local wildlife photographer Craig Potton’s works as the starting point (whose gallery is co-incidentally next door), the degustation menu is complemented with divine French wines, culminating in a truly memorable meal.

Harvest, Blenheim

Harvest

Location: Blenheim

Serving up a raft of utterly delicious fare that harnesses the mouth-watering potential of charcoal-fire cooking, Harvest is a must-visit for anyone stopping in Blenheim. For the team at Harvest, ‘authenticity’ is the name of the game, where ever-changing seasonal menus tap into the best local produce, and the culinary maestros in the kitchen whip up most of their dishes in a Mibrasa Charcoal oven (the kind used in a number of Michelin Star restaurants around the world). Here, diners will not only discover exceptionally tasty food but they will be treated to world-class hospitality in a breathtaking, Marlborough setting.

Boat Shed Cafe

Location: Nelson

Appearing to levitate above the water on Nelson’s winding waterfront, Boat Shed’s seasonally inspired menu celebrates elevated New Zealand produce every day. Here, make the most of the nearby port’s bounty with freshly caught seafood, and an outlook that truly feels like summer, no matter the weather.

Hopgoods & Co

Location: Nelson

Hopgoods & Co is a Nelson institution, with the bistro taking up residence in the heart of the city, serving seasonally based bistro-style food with the best of the region’s artisan produce. Intimate and chic, it’s always delicious.

Arbour

Location: Blenheim

Far from the winery destinations, Arbour is undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s finest regional restaurants. It is perhaps the grandest showcase of Marlborough’s bountiful offering and delivers a four-course tasting menu and a seven-course dining experience.

The Best Of
Canterbury
Left: Bessie, Christchurch Right: Inati, Christchurch

The Store

Location: Kekerengu, Kaikoura

Found on the coastline between the Marlborough Sounds and the expanse of Christchurch is Kekerengu’s The Store. Some 60km north of Kaikoura, the rugged coastline makes for a beautiful holiday drive, and The Store is the perfect pitstop. It’s been a mainstay for 28 years, serving much of the same locally sourced fresh fish. The breathtaking views of the beaches beyond are just a welcome addition you can expect to find around these parts.

Inati

Location: Christchurch

Inati’s captivating fare, meticulously prepared and sourced from the finest local ingredients, adds a new element to Christchurch’s dining scene. From the intriguing Boeuf-nuts to the evocative Donkey Carrot, Chef Simon Levy’s culinary artistry unfolds amidst a thoughtfully designed space, promising a seriously unforgettable meal.

Earl

Location: Christchurch

Earl will transport you with its European bistro-style classics and warm, welcoming atmosphere. The all-day eatery and wine bar is not only one of New Zealand’s best restaurants but is a must-visit for fans of unpretentious food with an emphasis on flavour and premium ingredients.

Gatherings

Location: Christchurch

At the southern destination’s Gatherings, organics take precedence. Boasting the official title of the country’s first natural wine bar, the drinks offering is just a wonderful complement to the food, which by our judgement, is second to none. Featuring modern, innovative fare, that loosely nods to Mediterranean cuisine, it is essential dining for any Christchurch vacation.

Bessie, Christchurch

Bessie

Location: Christchurch

This excellent spot offers a unique taste of the South Island that needs to be on your radar. Bessie specialises in dry-aged cuts, so vegans need not apply, and trust us, they’re not exaggerating when they claim to be ‘Canterbury’s best’. With a complimentary wine menu that promises to keep you perfectly libated, Bessie is a Christchurch favourite.

Barkers’ Foodstore & Eatery

Location: Geraldine

A town traditionally considered a pit-stop, Barkers’ new eatery is the perfect spot to while away some time in South Canterbury. Half shopfront for the now-impressive New Zealand food brand, the eatery is what has us coming back. Serving Allpress Coffee (a rare commodity around these parts), the menu showcases Barkers’ brilliance with delicious local slants on eggs benedict, French toast, and burgers for later in the day. We’d also suggest the Tasting Platter, where local cheeses and produce have been expertly paired with some of Barkers’ emblematic condiments.

Fairlie Bakehouse

Location: Fairlie

Anyone undertaking the harrowing journey south to the snow will be familiar with Fairlie Bakehouse — or, more specifically, the pies. With 4000+ Google reviews and counting, it’s fair to say that these pies are unrivalled and are an essential contribution to a car of happy travellers.

The Best Of
Otago
Left: Odd Saint, Queenstown Right: Ayrburn, Queenstown

Ayrburn

Location: Queenstown

Set on a piece of historic land in Arrowtown, Ayrburn is the spectacular new dining precinct that is shaking up New Zealand’s culinary scene. Here, you’ll find original farm buildings now housing a series of exceptional hospitality venues that will offer visitors a vast array of experiences. From delicious, family-friendly eateries to intimate bars, fine dining restaurants, picnic spots, a gelateria and more, you’ll find something for every taste and proclivity.

Sherwood

Location: Queenstown

Loved for its passionate commitment to being both organic and 100% sustainable, the Sherwood kitchen is very much focused on a homegrown ethos. With a philosophy of things “not having to travel far” to make it onto your plate, the team at Sherwood have an extremely deft way of working locally grown produce into unspeakably delicious dishes.

Odd Saint

Location: Queenstown

Odd Saint complements its owners’ previous impressive destinations but also sits as a unique establishment — a bistro-style eatery that puts a deliciously creative spin on an otherwise traditional menu, offering what the owners call ‘global soul food’.

Amisfield

Location: Lake Hayes

Perhaps the region’s most familiar destination, there is good reasons the crowds habitually frequent Amisfield’s restaurant and cellar door. Helmed by Executive Chef Vaughan Mabee, the flavour profiles on this menu are so authentically regional, you can see how the entire team are doing all that they can to honour both the specialness of the environment and the species that live there.

Mora Wines & Artisan Kitchen

Location: Lake Hayes

Formerly (and fondly) known as Akarua, Mora Wines & Artisan Kitchen recently stepped into its second culinary chapter. Renowned for its magical outdoor courtyard and its cottage garden festooned with flowers, Mora is the ideal spot to dine with a group without compromising on fanciful fare.

Aosta

Location: Arrowtown

With a menu inspired by the intricate cooking techniques of Northern Italy and showcasing premium, Central Otago produce, Aosta is the South Island venture from renowned chef Ben Bayly and is one of the best restaurants in New Zealand. Putting a Kiwi spin on fine Italian food, this incredible restaurant has become a fast favourite among locals and visitors alike. 

The Lodge Bar, Queenstown

The Lodge Bar

Location: Queenstown

An extension of the Rodd & Gunn clothing empire, The Lodge Bar is the place to sample the best food and wine our country has to offer. Located on the lakefront side of their retail store, the picturesque setting is made all the better by the seasonal menu, designed by famed Kiwi chef Matt Lambert, formerly of New York City’s Michelin-starred Musket Room. For more excellent Queenstown eateries, discover our comprehensive round-up here.

Miss Rita’s Cantina

Location: Queenstown

Authentic Tex-Mex, frozen margaritas and legendary service collide at Miss Rita’s Cantina, the latest eatery to open its door in Queenstown’s newest hospitality precinct below the Skyline Gondola. Sure to deliver a seriously good time for the whole family, the all-day eatery is bright, airy, and all about kicking back and relaxing over great food and delicious drinks. Sublime.

Olivers

Location: Clyde

On Clyde’s charming main street, Olivers is a sun-drenched café by day and an atmospheric restaurant at nightfall. As well as the calibre of wines you’d expect from Central Otago, the on-site Victoria Store Brewery pulls craft beers.

No7 Balmac

Location: Dunedin

This iconic southern restaurant has been a pioneer of woodfired cuisine, noted as routinely serving up some of the country’s most delicious meats — the kind that you would only find around these parts. It’s not every day you’ll find us in Dunedin, so when you do, No7 Balmac becomes essential dining.

Moiety

Location: Dunedin

A trip to Dunedin wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Moiety, a sophisticated restaurant located in the historic warehouse precinct. With its five-course offering flawlessly showcasing local produce at its finest, each plate is like a work of art.

Esplanade

Location: Dunedin

Here, the team from No7 Balmac presents an impeccable Italian restaurant at Saint Clair Beach, Esplanade, which serves up a slice of the good life. With interiors by Cheshire Architects, it’s cosy even when the waves are crashing.

Plato

Location: Dunedin

One of Dunedin’s most famous institutions, Plato is the place to go if you’re looking for fresh seafood cooked to perfection. A treasure trove of quirky decor with a consistently lively vibe, here, you’ll find an extensive menu and considered drinks list featuring in-house Birch Street Brewery beers.

The Best Of
Southland
Oyster Cove Restaurant & Bar, Bluff

Black Shag

Location: Invercargill

Think of this as Southland’s answer to Orphans Kitchen. It’s eclectic and, dare I say it, slightly hipster, with a thorough yet sincerely delicious coffee menu, and an all-day eats menu that ranges from bagels and Turkish eggs to pork belly bao buns. 

Oyster Cove Restaurant & Bar

Location: Bluff

As we find ourselves in the midst of Bluffie season, is there any better destination to indulge than the southern tip itself? Here, the focus is on both food and expansive views where even if oysters aren’t your thing, plenty of local delicacies like a fresh seafood chowder, and at times, an iconic Southland Roll can be found.

Gastronomy

Weekend Dining Agenda: Where to go and what to eat this weekend
Three reasons why you should be heading south to Ayrburn this autumn
Meet Grape & Olive — Viaduct Harbour’s new Mediterranean-inspired bar & eatery

The wait is over — we present Denizen’s definitive guide to the best hot cross buns for Easter 2024

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. In the lead-up to Easter, we’ve eaten our way through an inordinate amount of hot cross buns in a bid to definitively uncover those which reigns supreme. Whether you’re more of a heavy fruit, heavy spice lover, partial to an indulgent chocolate iteration, a fan of a classic with lashings of butter, or looking for something different entirely, we’ve tasted (and rated) them all.

Here, we present our guide to the best of the best, including something for every taste preference — mapping out our personal favourites across all of the important categories. Enjoy.

Best Overall

Winner

This year’s breakthrough hero, ladies & gents! Beabea’s has quickly become known for its unique, modern and honestly, utterly delicious takes on traditional Kiwi bakery fare, and their hot cross buns do not deviate. Crafted using a three-day sourdough, multi-dough process, these fluffy morsels are inspired by Panettone, the Italian Christmas bread, making them impossibly light and airy. Ben & Sarah, the clever duo behind Beabea’s, blended cinnamon, pimento, cardamom, white pepper and a few others secret spices to create buns with a comforting warmth and not “a punch in the face” (their words!). The juicy fruit — poached South African sultanas and house-made orange peel, is a timely labour of love. And finally, perhaps the most genius addition, once the buns are out of the oven, they’re finished with an Honest rum and tart apple glaze which adds a stunning touch of brightness. Honestly, sublime. Sarah eats hers fresh out of the over with a lick of salted butter, but Ben likes to mix it up and pair his with peanut butter or blue cheese. Over to you!

Texture: Pillowy clouds (light, airy, with the perfect bite).
Crust: Soft and sticky with a healthy dose of rum and apple glaze.
Serving: In our opinion, these are best served fresh with no butter, exactly as God intended — toast from day two onwards.
Price: $4 each, or $22 per half dozen

Best Traditional

Winner

With outposts in Mount Eden and Wynyard Quarter, Mibo has become somewhat of a go-to for sweet delights thanks to its stunning line-up of baked goods — but their hot cross buns are in a league of their own entirely. The crust is impossibly glossy and subtly sweet, while the utterly perfect spice blend is beautifully offset by the hearty fruit ratio (raisins soaked and cooked in orange juice and zest). And, while all of these elements are undeniably delicious, the bun’s consistency is the real hero here. Pillowy soft and bouncy, but still with a decent bite — reminiscent of an impossibly fresh bread roll, boasting, dare I say it, the perfect amount of moisture. We devoured most of these straight from the box, sans butter, and they were perfect just as they came, but lightly toasted with butter was tasty too.

Texture: Soft and bouncy, underpinned by the perfect baseline density.
Crust: Lacquered with an iridescent, subtly sweet glaze.
Serving suggestion: While these could just one devoured fresh and warm with nothing at all on top, adding a slab of cold butter will up the ante. Recommend lightly toasting after day one.
Price: $6 each

Best Traditional Runner Up

We are huge fans of Knead on Benson here at Denizen, along with everyone else in Auckland (if the full sidewalk on Saturday mornings is anything to go by) and we weren’t even slightly surprised to learn that their hot cross buns are just as exceptional as the rest of their delightful cabinet and flavourful menu. These buns — nicknamed ‘The Big Softie’ and boasting the silver medal in BIANZ’s The Great NZ Hot Cross Bun Competition for 2024, exit the oven impossibly soft and airy, and stay that way for days (unlike many others). While devouring, you’ll find a generous amount of fruit, evenly distributed so not to overpower, and a balanced level of spice. And while the buns are light for sure, they still have a touch of bite, and one of the highest moisture levels we have encountered on our tastings.

Texture: Soft, plush and featherlight.
Crust: Marmalade-esque glaze — sweet but not overpowering.
Serving suggestion: Fresh really is best here, and a healthy spread of butter is a welcome addition. We suggest enjoying these at Knead, where they’re served with house-made earl-grey infused butter.
Price: $6.50 each & $36 for a half dozen

Best Traditional Runner Up

Bread & Butter’s hot cross buns are organic, and made with a long fermentation time, which makes for a delicious flavour with depth, and decent amount of moistness. Their portion size is generous, and the addition of house-churned butter is a welcome touch. These buns arrived at the office so fresh they were still oozing and boasted a gently spiced flavour profile, and with no peel included, they’re less tart and more simple than others — in the best way. We suggest lightly toasting (to bring out the true magic of the long ferment) and topping with butter.

Texture: Light and fluffy, but still with a bit of weight to them.
Crust: Chewy and sticky, and the cross itself was a nice added crunch.
Serving suggestion: Lightly toasted, with a smear of soft butter. We’d substitute this for heavily salted butter if you have it at home.
Price: $19.50 for a half dozen

Best Traditional Runner Up

Earmarked as some of last year’s (and the year before’s) office favourites, Wild Wheat’s 2024 buns had some remarkably big boots to fill. What we love about these buns is that the piped cross almost diffuses into the bun — it’s not the traditional, sometimes jawbreaking cross that we’ve come to know. And they also have some real textural synergy. It’s not until you sink your teeth into them you realise that these buns have a lasting hint of vanilla, and with a seriously sticky top, which in our eyes, is pretty hard to beat.

Texture: Soft, but still with some essential hardiness.
Crust: Firm, but not chewy, covered in glaze.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, with a solid smear of butter. Or toasted if you’re really wanting to take in all the flavours.
Price: $2.50 each & buy 11, get 12

Best Chocolate

Winner

Amano’s bakery is known City-wide for its bakery fare, so it was hardly surprising to discover that their hot cross buns (both chocolate and original) are something special, too. These buns are unique in texture — light and airy, but with a great amount of bite. The chocolate iteration is subtly sweet — definitely not overpoweringly so, and still has that hot cross bun feel that many flavoured iterations miss the mark on. These should come with a warning, given how addictive they are, and absolutely need to be bought in half dozens — as one will never be enough. An Easter staple in our humble opinions.

Texture: Light and airy with a delicious bite.
Crust: Glossy with a slight stickiness.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, no butter needed. Toast and top with butter from day two.
Price: $3 each & $15 for a half dozen
Other flavours available: Traditional

Best Chocolate Runner Up

From French patisserie La Petite Fourchette (and their sister venue, Copain) comes some of the most authentic French buns we’ve tried. These unique takes are incredibly soft and spongy, evidently fresh from the oven, and decidedly French. Generously, we were allowed to sample both the traditional buns and the chocolate buns — and while the traditional were delicious, the chocolate was a stand out. More like a chocolate brioche than a hot cross bun per se, the soft, buttery bread was light and fresh, with chocolate chips smattered through in perfect ratio. These are the perfect Sunday morning, long weekend breakfast in bed companions, and could easily double as a tasty after dinner treat.

Texture: Unspeakably soft.
Crust: Squishy, but with the right amount of firmness.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, no butter needed. There’s plenty of that in the batter.
Price: $3.50 each & $19 for a half dozen
Other flavours available: Traditional

Best CrowdPleasers

For The Pantry Winner

Daniel Cruden, AKA Dan The Baker has done it again this year with his infamous, stout-infused bready buns. This Helensville micro-bakery’s hot cross buns are somewhat of a phenomenon across the City. Taking cues from their approach to traditional baking methods, they’re dense but delicious. And in collaboration with local brewers, Liberty Brewing, the Darkest Days Oat Stout is infused in the bun, and the added sultanas, raisins and candied fruit peel have been drunkenly soaked in more beer, to make these totally indulgent for the holidays.

Texture: Dense and bread-like, with notes of its sourdough roots.
Crust: Firm, crunchy and not too sticky.
Serving suggestion: Ever so slightly toasted, with lashings of salted butter. Here, the insides seem to melt, and the exterior is nice and crispy.
Price: $3 each & $15 for a half dozen

For The Whole Family Winner

Known for making some of the most sought-after patisserie and viennoiseries in town, Remuera-based bakery Mor has, unsurprisingly, mastered the hot cross bun this Easter. The buns balance their traditionally dense texture with a fluffy, light quality that gives them a superb mouthfeel — a little bit chewy and perfectly soft. The spice is right too, with each bun boasting that classic flavour we crave at this time of year, and one of the best fruit-to-bun ratios of the 2024 cohort. There is also a tantalising glaze that adds a touch of extra sweetness without overpowering the inherent nature of these morsels which are, at their heart, just really good, classic, moreish hot cross buns — exactly as you want them. They came with a sticky apricot jam and an utterly indulgent burnt butter, which, while not entirely necessary considering how good these buns are au naturale, were a welcome addition and a nice way to change things up.

Texture: Soft and fluffy with the perfect amount of bite.
Crust: Coated with a subtly-sweet glaze, which beautifully softens the crust.
Serving suggestion: Fresh from the oven is the dream, otherwise lightly toasted — topped with Mor’s salted, whipped burnt butter and in-house apricot jam. Sublime.
Price: $5 each.

For The Office Winner

Ima Cuisine’s hot cross buns have been known to garner lines for miles, loved for their unique take which features a gooey custard cross — a delicious addition indeed. While the buns themselves are relatively dense, they still have a lightness to them, and the heady mix of currants, orange zest and spice makes for a tasty iteration indeed. These buns should always be enjoyed toasted so the butter seeps into the dense bread and the custard is warmed and caramelised.

Texture: Dense and delicious.
Crust: Custard-laden and soft.
Serving suggestion: Toasted, no butter needed.
Price: $6.50 each & $39 for a half dozen

For The Discerning Diners Winner

Florets has developed somewhat of a cult following since opening its doors in 2022, and for good reason. Known for producing some of the most wholesome, inventive breads and other baked goods in the City, the Grey Lynn-based bakery’s hot cross buns were sure to stand out. Here, a denser, almost yeasty bun produced with local organic flour is complimented deliciously by a trio of currants, sultanas, and a generous amount housemade peel, resulting in a more sophisticated, unique, but definitely delicious hot cross bun iteration.

Texture: Heavier and denser, but with a softer, chewier centre (think sourdough).
Crust: Firm with a decent bite, and not too sticky.
Serving suggestion: Toasted in the oven with a generous amount of unsalted butter is sublime.
Price: $6 each

Best Unique

Winner
Spiced Apple

Look, we all know Daily Bread’s hot cross buns are great (we’ve seen the billboards and the list of awards), and while the traditional are undeniably tasty, it was the apple iteration in collaboration with Farro that did it for us this year. With their signature sourdough base, which is as light and airy as it is moist, and a hearty dose of spice, paired with delicious chunks of perfectly cooked apple (retaining some bite), there’s really nothing not to like. We enjoyed the switch up, subbing out the raisins and sultanas for another fruit — perfect for the fussier, sultana haters amongst us, and as with their other six packs, these buns came wrapped in Daily Bread’s signature packaging — which is a nice touch, and means they keep fresh for longer than others.

Texture: Chewy, but somehow light and fluffy. And, yes, moist.
Crust: Thin, delicate and and sticky.
Serving: Toasted with lashings of salted butter.
Price: $4.50 each ($5 toasted with butter) or $22 for a half dozen
Other flavours available: Traditional, Chocolate & Ready to Bake

Best Unique Runner Up
Raspberry & White Chocolate

This Remuera bakery’s buns are ultra-soft, fluffy and sticky. This year sees two delicious iterations on offer; the traditional fruity bun (with notes of vanilla) and a decadent raspberry & white chocolate bun which, while definitely more sweet treat than hot cross bun, is not to be missed. These beautiful looking morsels, complete with bright fuchsia icing, were somehow both fluffy and dense, and fresh out of the oven, the smell of melted white chocolate wafting through the office was nothing short of mouthwatering — restraint is needed here.

Texture: Almost cakey in density.
Crust: Bouncy, and semi-sticky.
Serving suggestion: Toasted, or fresh out of the oven if you’re able, no butter needed.
Price: TBC
Other flavours available: Traditional

Best Unique Runner Up
Nutella

If you have yet to hear of Luna Bakehouse, we’re afraid you’ve been missing out. A charming Parisian bakery with an artful Asian-fusion flare, this is the place to go for unique sweet treats sure to satisfy — and the hot cross buns (if you can call them that) don’t deviate. With three flavours, including Nutella — which proved our favourite, biscoff, and classic buttercream, these Easter treats come in individual cups, mirroring Luna’s famed ‘cruffins’ (croissant muffins) and follow a similar style in texture. Light, bready and well balanced on the spice front, with just the right amount of fruit (a mix of raisins and citrus peel) and a decadent nutella filling.

Texture: Light, airy, bready.
Crust: Light, thin and semi-glossy.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, fresh, fresh.
Price: $7 each
Other flavours available: Biscoff & Classic Buttercream

Best Gluten Free

Winner

Lucy’s has delivered for those of us that are sans gluten, with their limited edition gluten free (and vegan) hot cross buns. These tasty morsels are infused with a blend of punchy mixed spice, plump cranberries (a tasty addition), and fresh citrus. The cranberries really add something unique, which is more than welcome when you’ve been taste testing hot cross buns for weeks, and the texture, despite being gluten free, was really soft and fluffy. Gluten and dairy free, these are buns to be enjoyed by all.

Texture: Soft, fluffy, and a little chewy.
Crust: Thin, delicate and a little sticky.
Serving: Lightly toasted with butter (or a butter alt).
Price: $24 for a half dozen

Best Hot Cross Buns
The Best Of The Rest

Baked at Devonport
Flavours available: Traditional

Cake Concepts
Flavours available: Traditional

Little French Pastry
Flavours available: Traditional

Little & Friday
Flavours available: Traditional

Mizu
Flavours available: Traditional (made with miso & yuzu zest)

Pastrami & Rye
Flavours available: Traditional (made with Hallertau stout)

Rollers Bakery
Flavours available: Traditional

Vaniyé Patisserie
Flavours available: Traditional

Gastronomy

Weekend Dining Agenda: Where to go and what to eat this weekend
Three reasons why you should be heading south to Ayrburn this autumn
Meet Grape & Olive — Viaduct Harbour’s new Mediterranean-inspired bar & eatery
Natasha wears Rosso Ancora jumpsuit, Horsebit Joni platform loafers, Marina Chain necklace, Moon Side mini shoulder bag all from Gucci.

We speak to New York-based New Zealand artist Natasha Wright for the cover story of our beautiful new autumn issue

Photography by Steven Chee
Styling by Claire Sullivan-Kraus
Creative Direction by Anna Saveleva

Known for her work that explores the dichotomies of womanhood and the gender-driven power dynamics that are so perpetuated in popular culture, Natasha Wright is an artist whose message and métier has evolved in a captivating way. Living and working in New York for nearly a decade, the New Zealander has developed a distinct creative language that marries various iterations of the female form with the rich qualities of oil paint, her pieces, despite engaging with their subject in different ways, always drawing the onlooker in for their urgent brushstrokes, evocative colours, layered techniques and compelling forms. Now, on the back of Wright’s recent solo exhibition in Sydney and just as she is preparing to open another one in Auckland at Sanderson Contemporary, the artist gives us insight into her creativity, her craft and what we can expect from her upcoming show. 

Being a full-time artist in any context is a notoriously difficult path to pursue. But to work full-time as an artist in New York City, particularly as someone who wasn’t born and bred there, is another challenge entirely. For Natasha Wright, a Kiwi artist who has called New York home since undertaking her Masters of Fine Arts at The New York Studio School in 2017, embracing this challenge has buoyed and bettered her work, the City as much a source of inspiration for her métier as it is a practical place to build her burgeoning following, both in the United States and across Australia and New Zealand too.  

Black A-line dress, Marina Chain earrings, Marina Chain bracelet all from Gucci.

“I am influenced by everything around me,” Wright explains, “so just walking down the street in New York there are a number of things that might catch my eye, the tones on a billboard, the decay in a subway station, the texture of someone’s outfit.” She continues, “But beyond that, there are so many galleries and museums here, and such a big community of artists around me that, while the actual practice of making art can be lonely, I never feel isolated, I feel part of something bigger.” In fact, Wright’s first solo show in New York came about because a friend recommended that a gallerist visit her studio, resulting in an exhibition that thrust the artist into the spotlight soon after her studies and saw her, at the time, included in Harper’s Bazaar’s ‘The Five Best Female Art Exhibitions in New York City’ — a lofty but certainly deserved accolade.

“Sometimes I look at my work and wonder, how did I get here? But for me, the female form offers so many opportunities for expression, how women are depicted…”

Back then, Wright was at the start of establishing her creative voice, gaining cut-through for the ways in which she engaged with and expressed notions of the female form — a theme that has continued to define her pieces to this day. “My subject matter has been the same since I was about five years old and obsessed with drawing and fashion magazines,” Wright tells me, explaining how she would draw with her grandmother, who was also an artist and who taught her about art history and how to respect her materials. “The female form is the common thread, although I approach it in different ways,” she says. “Sometimes it’s more abstract, sometimes more figurative, but I’ve always been interested in exploring that middle ground between vulnerability and power, between softness and aggression.”

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Indeed, it is the inherent dichotomies of womanhood, so present in Wright’s works, that make them compelling, with the artist choosing a continued exploration of femininity in its various guises as her central creative tenant (and discovering a rich wellspring of inspiration as a result). “Sometimes I look at my work and wonder, how did I get here?” Wright tells me, with a laugh, “but for me, the female form offers so many opportunities for expression,” she pauses, “whether I’m inspired by how women are depicted in advertising and fashion or women throughout history (from Mary Magdalena to The Three Graces) it not only allows me to engage with interesting concepts but also, is an incredible vessel for exploring paint.” 

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Underpinned by urgent, broad strokes and the kind of textural application that makes you want to reach out and touch the canvas, Wright’s painterly practice imbues her pieces with an immediacy and a richness of tone that serves to enhance her subject matter. In fact, the artist has spoken in the past of how the substance of paint has become an analogy for the body, used as a metaphor to create a skin of human experience. “Colour is really important in my work,” Wright explains, “and I choose to use oil paints because they are very luscious and malleable, which is important for the way I bring my pieces to life.”

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That process, the artist tells me, starts with a series of ink drawings that allow her to play with the composition and to deconstruct the image. Sometimes she will collage these drawings or experiment with multiple versions of the same idea, allowing her to collect her thoughts more freely before translating them onto the canvas. “I usually begin painting by working through my composition with oil paint that has been very thinned down with turpentine,” Wright tells me. “From there, I build up the surface with large brush strokes and huge swathes of colour and I work on multiple canvases at once in order to keep the paintings feeling fresh and immediate.” She continues, “For me, painting is emotional, not intellectual, so I have to operate from intuition.” I wonder how she knows when a piece is finished. “It’s a gut feeling,” she replies, “I just know when it doesn’t need anything more.”

“I treat my studio time like any other job… I have to be in there working at least five days a week, sometimes more”

Lately, Wright has been experimenting with scale, telling me how being increasingly ambitious with the size of her paintings (seeing her use larger brushes and forcing her to focus on the materiality and fluidity of the paint), has allowed her to explore more complex compositions with multiple figures. It has also given her latest works a different kind of impact, and from an onlooker’s perspective, it feels like a promising new era for the artist. “My subject will remain consistent but my work is becoming more abstract,” she explains, “I want my paintings to feel rhythmic and effortless, and on a larger scale they emulate this sense of power and confidence that hasn’t been as strong before.” 

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In her most recent body of work, set to be showcased in a solo exhibition at Sanderson Contemporary from the 16th of April until the 12th of May, Wright has delved into the significance of the female body as an icon, drawing on references from fashion, advertising and art history to speak to the representation of women throughout time. 

“‘Les Biches’ is a darker, more complex series of paintings that address the psychological elements of a character, where the women balance a complicated polarity between the grotesque and the beautiful,” the artist explains. Here, each piece has been built-up in layers with flat brushes, used to apply broad swathes of thick oil paint that deliver a captivating tactility. Bright pops of colour feel urgent and impactful against the paintings’ dark backgrounds, while the female figures seem to inhabit an in-between space that links past and present; existing within a kind of classical painting canon while simultaneously expressing something that feels anchored in a contemporary context. 

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“I feel like I’m finally arriving at the paintings that are closest to me,” says Wright. And for someone who has been painting consistently for over a decade, it is a statement that not only speaks to the time required for artists to evolve, but one that also showcases the inherent qualities that have contributed to Wright’s success. While her talent with a brush and canvas is undeniable, it is the ways in which her ability is coupled with a determined, driven and disciplined attitude that has seen her build a meaningful career in what can be such a fickle field. Talent, plus time, plus work ethic — clearly a winning formula. 

“I treat my studio time like any other job,” Wright divulges, emphasising the importance of maintaining structure around her creativity, “And I have to be in there working at least five days a week, sometimes more when I’m preparing for a show.” That said, Wright articulates that she rarely allows the commercial realities of being a working artist impinge on her process. “I do try to put all of that part of my work to the side while I’m painting… the logistics, the expenses, the practicalities of running my studio and the idea of trying to appeal to everyone.” She pauses, “I think some of the best work is quite niche, and looking at the sizes of my most recent paintings, they’re really not practical at all,” she laughs, “but I have to do what feels right to me in the moment, and it’s so rewarding when it all comes together.”

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Now, it feels like Wright is in the midst of an evolution, one that is taking her paintings to the next level, both in size and composition. It is as though everything she has learned so far is starting to consolidate and crystallise, and her future looks bright as a result. “There have been many highs and lows and I have had to learn some tough lessons in resilience and tenacity,” she says. “When you’re working in the studio there are moments of feeling untouchable, and others when you feel like the most fragile person in the world.” She continues, “being an artist can be an incredibly uncertain path and it can take a lot of mental strength to persevere, but being able to pursue my passion has truly been the greatest privilege of my life. It’s something I am grateful for every day.” 

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Looking beyond her upcoming show, Wright indicates that she has some exciting projects on the horizon, including a possible international residency (the details of which she could not yet divulge), alongside continuing to build her practice and network in New York. One thing we do know is that aside from her consistent subject matter, Wright will never serve up the same thing twice, a quality that makes the work feel an apt representation of her. 

“I like to think my work is always evolving,” she says. “Life is constantly changing and as I become more aware of who I am as a person, I think my painting changes too.” This willingness of Wright’s to embrace evolution just as she keeps elements of her offering consistent is, in my view, the secret to her longevity.
As the great New York art critic Jerry Saltz said, “make something, learn something, and move on. Or you’ll be buried waist-deep in the big muddy of perfectionism,” which is a place I certainly don’t see Wright ending up anytime soon. 

Hair: Richard Kavanagh. Makeup: Nicole Thompson.

Culture

It’s officially the season for cosying up with a good book — this is our guide on what to read this autumn
The celebrate the launch of The Effect, we sit down with co-stars  to discuss chemistry, comfort zones, complex subject matter and more
We talk to Kiwi actor and director Rachel House on her incredible, enduring career, how she selects roles, and what the future holds
Elsa Pataky wearing Bulgari's Serpenti Spiga watch

Dial up your daily timepiece with one of these exquisite, diamond-lined watches

While many of the below watches might boast familiar silhouettes, their diamond-lined dials and similarly adorned bracelets promise to take any kind of collection to the next level. From Bulgari’s exceptional Serpenti Tubogas to a sparkling iteration of Cartier’s famous Baignoire, these sought-after styles are guaranteed to be on any collector’s wishlist.

Shop The Edit
Women’s Watches
HardWear watch from Tiffany
Serpenti Tubogas watch from Bulgari
Lady Féerie Or Rose watch from Van Cleef & Arpels
Vacheron Constantin Malte watch from Partridge
PIAGET Polo Automatic watch from Net-a-Porter
JAEGER-LECOULTRE Reverso Classic Duetto Watch from Partridge
IWC Portofino Day & Night Automatic Watch from Net-a-Porter
Baignoire watch from Cartier
Shop The Edit
Men’s Watches
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris watch from Partridge
PIAGET Polo Automatic Chronograph watch from Mr. Porter
Omega James Bond 60th Anniversary Seamaster 300 watch from Partridge
SANTOS-DUMONT WATCH from Cartier
Rolex Cosmograph daytona WATCH from Partridge
BVLGARI octo roma WATCH from Bulgari
East West watch from Tiffany
CHOPARD Alpine Eagle XL Chrono Automatic watch from Mr. Porter

Coveted

Channel your inner denim darling with the blue-jean looks our editors are loving
Hoop dreams — add some drama to your adornments with the high-end hoops to shop now
Dadelszen is ushering in a new era — unveiling an exclusive new showroom within Faradays

Our beautiful new autumn issue is here — filled with pages of inspiring people to shift your perspective for the season ahead

As we leave what has been a lovely summer behind, we move into autumn with a sense, not of pessimism for the colder months ahead, but of promise, for what possibilities the middle of the year holds. In our highly-anticipated autumn issue, this idea of changing perspective and of being inspired comes through in the fascinating people we have interviewed — from our cover star, New York-based Kiwi artist Natasha Wright, whose métier has long focused on the female form, and whose star continues to rise in the highly-competitive New York art scene, to actor and director Rachel House, known for her impactful roles in some of the best films of our time, to a line-up of influential characters in local hospitality, who talk about how they have forged fruitful careers in what can be a misunderstood industry.

Elsewhere, we delve into the latest and greatest trends in fashion and design that you need to know for autumn, explore the iconic work of the Bouroullec brothers via their most recognisable furniture pieces, and speak with renowned designer Christopher Esber about his almost-15-year journey in fashion and what lies ahead.

In our Wellbeing section, alongside the new products and buzzwords you need to know about, we speak with Lukis Mac and Hellè Weston, a Kiwi couple, based in Los Angeles where they work with some of Hollywood’s biggest names and are spearheading an international breathwork movement via their company Owaken.

For escapism over the autumn months, look no further than our culture section, where we explore the best books, series, films and more to consume as the weather cools down. Or, for a more literal escapism, take inspiration from our Editor-in-chief, who surprised her family with a trip to one of Fiji’s most exclusive and exquisite destinations — Kokomo Private Island — and writes about her experience here.

All of that and so much more is to be found in the pages of our latest issue, out in all good newsagents and supermarkets now.

Coveted

Channel your inner denim darling with the blue-jean looks our editors are loving
Hoop dreams — add some drama to your adornments with the high-end hoops to shop now
Dadelszen is ushering in a new era — unveiling an exclusive new showroom within Faradays

Porsche Presents: The Drive with Sarcha Every & Leanne Crozier 

Sarcha Every and Leanne Crozier are true trailblazers in the world of executive recruitment. Co-founding Decipher Group 16 years ago, the pair made a name for themselves with an agency notoriously capable of quickly bolstering the success of their clients, and have since proven dynamic entrepreneurs and an unstoppable duo.

Here, Every and Crozier sit down in front of the camera as part of Porsche’s series, The Drive, to talk about being fuelled by collective ambition, the power of purposeful partnership, and their dual drive to constantly evolve. “The secret to being driven is actually looking at the future,” says Every. “What do you want your future to look like? If you work hard, and you work together as a team, you can make that a reality.”

The two women and their impressive, enduring partnership are a reminder that having drive doesn’t need to be a lonely pursuit — in fact, the support of others and the energy created from collaboration can fuel us just as much, or maybe even more.

porsche.co.nz

Design

We sit down with curator, creative director & strategist, Karl Johnstone, to discuss what te ao Māori can bring to Aotearoa’s built environment
Into the blue — bring vibrancy & depth to interiors with the tonal trend of the moment
Add an artful touch to your interiors with this edit of sleek and functional consoles