If you’re visiting Rotorua for a quick break or an extended holiday, you need to know where to eat. We’ve compiled a list of our top ten Rotorua restaurants and eateries, so you don’t need to stress about finding a delicious dinner diner. Enjoy – or, to borrow a Māori phrase, kia mākona!
Rotorua’s Top 10 Restaurants
A classic blend of al fresco and indoor dining, Atticus Finch strikes a balance between sleek urban bistro and casual bar. Dining here is a group experience – the Atticus Finch team preps ‘share plates’, designed to be consumed with a heady combination of beer, wine and cocktails. Embrace your high school English memories with drinks like ‘Harper Lee’ (gin mixed with apple syrup, lemon juice, thyme and apple cider) and ‘Scout Sangria’ (vodka and sugar syrup with mixed berries, orange, lemon and rose). Alternatively, knock back a Croucher Low Rider while snacking on lamb rump with smoked aubergine and feta.
Ambrosia Restaurant & Bar
It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but Ambrosia holds the honour of being the first licensed restaurant in Rotorua, which definitely makes it worth a visit. Varnished furniture and timber flooring are offset by white-washed walls, lending this classic Kiwi diner a traditional ambience. Choose from an upscale menu populated by dishes like Vietnamese spiced duck breast, bacon-wrapped eye fillets and parmesan gnocchi. It’s a great option for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and includes a selection of bar snacks and tapas for something more casual.
Abracadabra Café & Bar
Abracadabra is casual dining done right. Embracing a white-washed, beachside aesthetic, it offers diners an internationally-influenced selection, drawing inspiration from places like Morocco, Mexico and Tunisia. Sample creative combinations like bus-station kefta tagine and chargrilled mushroom chicken, or go classic with options like the Abracadabra steak. True to its café spirit, it also offers brunch, dessert and tapas, as well as a great selection of hot and cold drinks.
One of Rotorua’s best fine dining restaurants, Mokoia Restaurant combines bold flavours with exquisite plating. Its focus on its Māori heritage has produced an exceptional a la carte menu, spanning a spectrum of classic New Zealand offerings. Although dishes like fettuccine and Caesar salad are still up for grabs, you can also sample treats like the playful Mokoia salad (vegetables, mandarin pieces and greens tossed with coriander sesame dressing) and the formidable Ora king salmon. Our favourite? Their to-share seafood platter – at NZD45, it’s not cheap, but the combination of mussels, squid, prawns, scallops and pan-fried salmon is exceptional.
Pizza might often be bastardised and tainted with ingredients like pineapple, but it’s pretty hard to beat a traditional wood-fired pizza. Pizzeria Imperfetto is authentic Italian, made using fresh, local ingredients and hand-rolled dough. It’s run by Rotorua locals Matthew and Brenda Semple, making a stop there perfect for experiencing the town’s trademark hospitality. From frutti de mare (seafood) and carne (meat) pizza to antipasti, vegan and vegetarian options, Pizzeria Imperfetto has a great selection of dinner offerings. They also do delivery, so, if you’re exhausted from a hard day exploring, you can enjoy a quiet Italian dinner in your room at Ramada Resort by Wyndham Rotorua Marama.
Skyline Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar
This fine dining restaurant’s play on words is almost as delicious as its food. Hugging the slopes of Mount Ngongotaha, Skyline Stratosfare’s main selling point is its incredible views of Lake Rotorua, but award-winning cuisine comes a close second. Open for both lunch and dinner, it offers guests a pared-down menu saturated with Mediterranean and Asian influences. Choose from seasonal soups, finely-plated salads and locally-sourced seafood. Dining here does come with a price tag – a dinner and the requisite gondola ride will set you back NZD75 – but it’s a great way to cap off your Rotorua holiday.
CBK Craft Bar & Kitchen
What’s CBK stand for? Craft Bar & Kitchen. It’s a name that’s simple and effective, just like their food. Their website says they’re “a comfortable venue where people [feel] they [can] kick their shoes off and fully relax without sacrificing the quality of their meal or the choice available in terms of drinks”, and it’s a pretty accurate description. It’s the kind of hip joint that feels upmarket without being pretentious, and offers a range of hand-smoked meats and stone-grilled meals. It’s also home to 60+ beer varieties, so don’t feel like you need to BYO.
Te Po Indigenous Evening Tour
A visit to Rotorua wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the region’s thriving Māori culture. The Te Pō Indigenous Evening Tour combines a waka boat ride through geothermal springs with a range of traditional Māori performances, including a hāngī. If you haven’t experienced a hāngī before, you’re in for a treat. Cooked in underground ovens, it’s a feast that includes mussels, corn, rewana bread, chicken, lamb and more, so, if experiencing New Zealand’s traditional culture is on your bucket-list, then this tour is a must-do.
Kinaki Food Tours
This one isn’t technically a restaurant, but we included it here because it’s something different and uniquely Kiwi, and definitely worth consideration. Kinaki is a company founded by Charles Royal, one of New Zealand’s indigenous cooking experts – it aims to promote the usage of traditional herbs and plants in modern cooking, and combines sustainability with the revitalisation of ancient Māori harvesting practices. You can visit their shop in Rotorua, or you can embark on a Kinaki Food Tour around the shores of Lake Rotomā (which is just under half an hour’s drive from Wyndham Rotorua Marama).
Last but not least is Sabroso Restaurant, right in the heart of the Rotorua township. Its menu features classic Latin American and Caribbean offerings, so don’t come here expecting Kiwi cuisine. With everything from cachete de res (chipotle braised beef cheeks with bacon, potatoes and green beans inside a tortilla) to moqueca de camaroes (spicy prawn stew), it’s is a great way to spice up an evening in Rotorua. There’s vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options, as well as a range of specialty cocktails, including their signature margarita.
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