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The Roving Gourmets - Best of 2011

Auckland’s restaurants are alive and well and like Aucklanders themselves are as diverse and sophisticated as anywhere in the world. Last year we dined at some of Auckland’s most celebrated establishments and for devoted foodies that still get a buzz about eating great food it’s fabulous to see so many new additions to Auckland’s dining out scene.    

The restaurant business is extremely competitive and with little improvement in the economy anticipated this year it’s going to be a true test for many and who will be still around in a years time.

Given the celebrity status of many of our chefs and that great cooking will forever flourish, menu selection, the standard of food, the level of service, the creation of mood and the affordability will always be the main ingredients as to a restaurants well-being.

As Auckland’s culinary scene evolves we continue to be blessed with a number of establishments that are setting the benchmark with credentials that would stand the scrutiny anywhere. Many have become institutions with the likes of Euro, The French Café, Soul, Vinnies and Cibo with Cibo being our pick as the best of the best for the year.  

Hidden away in the back-streets of Parnell, Cibo is a magnet for Auckland’s gourmands. The menu is an inspiring innovative view of the world, the cuisine intensely consistent and skilfully prepared by Kate Fay and her dedicated kitchen team. Wine offerings are long concerning itself with only the best. Included is a serious selection of premium estates that embraces many rarely listed wines. And like the menu itself Cibo’s well-informed and personable front line waiting staff make for a tangible and welcoming contribution with their knowledge, competency and dedication to excellence.

During the year we experienced a number of highlights. The high spot would have to be the Barossa Vintage Food and Wine Festival in Adelaide. Food and wine festivals in New Zealand are all too common and have become a bit well staid but Barossa’s carnival is one of the best culinary festivals in Australia and an event not to be missed.

So there you have it! And to finish off the year here’s our best of the best:

Best of the best: Cibo
Best service: Cibo
Best menu: The French Cafe
Best soup: seafood chowder - The Café Pullman
Best appetiser: caesar salad - Euro
Best entrée: tuna loin and black-bean sauce - James
Best main: lamb rack with a pine nut crust - One Tree Grill
Best dessert: crème caramel - The Grill Sky City
Best breakfast: The Café Pullman
Best seafood: Kermadec
Best steaks: The Grill Sky City
Best dining experience: Eight Langham
Best fine dining: Antoine’s
Best occasion: Barossa Vintage Festival
Best chef: Kate Fay - Cibo
Best up and coming chef: Alan Grooby - James
Best host: Grace Esguerea - Eight Langham
Best waiter: Prahallab Dyamanna - The Café Pullman
Best value for money: Eight - Langham
Best wine list: Cibo     
Best wines: ’11 Saint Claire Pioneer Block sauvignon blanc, ’10 Sacred Hill Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay, ’10 Villa Maria Ihumatao gewürztraminer, ’10 Villa Maria Marlborough cellar selection pinot gris, ’10 Auburn Aura Central Otago riesling, ’10 Akarua rose, ’08 Villa Maria reserve verdelho, ’09 Cable Bay viognier, ’08 Valli Bannockburn Vineyard pinot noir, ’09 Matua Valley single vineyard Hawkes Bay merlot, ’07 Villa Maria Reserve Hawke’s Bay syrah, ’05 Wolf Blass black label cabernet sauvignon shiraz, ’09 John Forrest noble riesling dessert wine  
Best cheap eats: Hansan (Vietnamese), Daikoku (Japanese), Al Volo (pizza), Ahsi Itzcalli (Mexican), Canton Café (Chinese), Jungle Flavour (Thai), Choi’s (Korean)   
Best collection:  Empress Garden (Chinese), Java Room (Indonesian), Satya (Indian), Clooney (European), Euro (International), Tribeca (fine dining), Besos Latinos (Latin American), Meredith’s (degustation), Monsoon Poon (Asian), Serafin (Tapas), L’assiette (French), Oceanview (Korean), Mezze (Mediterranean) IMA (Middle Eastern), Café Hanoi (Vietnamese), Bunga Raya (Malaysian), Industry Zen (Japanese), O’Sarracino (Italian), Mae Glong Thai (Thai)
Best café: Mister Morning
Best gourmet shop: Farro
Best takeaways: Catch a Fish
Best bread bakery: Wild Wheat
Best yoghurt: Puhoi Berry  
Best tea: Sir Thomas Lipton Darjeeling Himalaya
Best coffee: iLLY ground roasted dark

Happy new year everybody and bon appetite for 2012!