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Rotorua, the North Island town set on the stunning lake of the same name is renowned for its geothermal activity and Māori culture and now its food celebrating both these.
This Winter celebrate Matariki and be dazzled by the region’s culinary stars.
This winter, the inaugural Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge saw eleven local eateries create delicious dishes that highlighted the region’s food while celebrating Matariki. The challenge, which ran for five weeks allowed the public, locals and visitors alike, to taste their way around some of the town’s best eateries. And they were spoilt for choice!
The region’s newest eateries made their mark on Rotorua’s culinary scene including Ani’s Gin Bar with their Puha Pasta, and Poco with a Beetroot cured Warehou kumara brandade. Peppers on the Point impressed with a fine dining entry while the Pullman’s Barrel and Co reinvented the classic boil up. Casual eateries also shone with dishes like Fat Dog’s Matariki Eggs Bene to Eastwood’s Manuka infused lamb pizza.
The judges’ job was a tough one, which Vanessa Wallace, Business Events Manager from RotoruaNZ said is testament to the high quality of the Rotorua food scene.
“It was a fiercely fought competition and we were delighted with the innovative concepts that our local chefs brought to life to celebrate local produce and our indigenous Te Arawa culture.”
There can only be one winner though and taking out the title of 2022 Champion was Ambrosia Bar and Restaurant with their dish of Mamaku venison, Kākano harekeke and foraged Mamaku kawakawa pesto, celeriac puree, hāngi purple potato with Lux micro greens.
Chief judge, Kerry Tyack says: “This was a stunning entry.
“It had all the elements the judges were seeking. It was technically very strong with every ingredient treated respectfully and carefully curated to ensure it contributed something essential and positive. Visually it ticked all the boxes with a standard of presentation as good as you will see anywhere in the country. But it was the provenance of the dish and the expertly and sensitively told story that linked it to Matariki that raised the entry to the top. We really appreciated the attention paid to the detail including the menu presented in Te Reo and the unapologetic use of locally sourced ingredients. Ka pai!”
The judges weren’t the only ones to have their say with the public being able to cast their votes too. Taking out the 2022 People’s Choice award was River’s Catch with their dish of pickled New Zealand mussels, Treetops lodge Manuka honey and eggplant hummus, Lux organics purple potatoes on Rewana flat bread.
Celebrating local and discovering something new is at the heart of the challenge says event organiser Vicki Ravlich-Horan. “As New Zealand develops our own unique food, storytelling and provenance are key. The Matariki Dish Challenge is a wonderful chance for local eateries to start doing this and we were thrilled by the entries in this year’s challenge which spanned luxury resorts to fish n chip shops, all of which have helped highlight the depth and breadth of cuisine on offer in Rotorua.”
From Tipuānuku-Land Southern Pure Eye fillet, topped with Ohiwa Black Diamond fresh truffle, grown in unique volcanic soils, accompanied by crayfish tail, from the Waitā-Sea, Pekepeke Kiore mushroom from Tony Smith curator of gourmet mushrooms of the Whakatane region, Bacon croquette, served with a light café jus
Wine MatchVilla Maria: McDiarmid Hill Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2020
$59214 Kawaha Point Road, Kawaha Point, Rotorua 3010
Pickled New Zealand mussels, Treetops lodge Manuka honey and eggplant hummus, Lux organics purple potatoes on Rewana flat bread
$1514D Pandora Avenue, Sunnybrook
Your choice of either: Katikati Smoked Kahawai OR Seasoned Sous Vide Pork Belly.
Served with free range poached eggs, set on Aunty Ma’s handmade rēwena bread, topped with a Kinaki Wild Herb kawakawa infused hollandaise, then finished with a watercress oil & tips. Served with Fat Dog’s own homemade rosti.
1161 Arawa St, Rotorua
Creamy garlic New Zealand green-lipped mussels, Katikati Fisheries smoked kahawai, sous vide bacon hock with a tomato and Kinaki Wild Herb’s karengo sauce base. Finished with a watercress aioli and tips.
$25 1 ft. $48 2 ft. 1154 Arawa Street, Rotorua
Puha pasta sheets filled with foraged mushrooms, harakeke and ricotta to make raviolo sized ravioli, tossed in a Venison Shank and horopito ragu and served with pickled pumpkin, parsnip puree and finished with crisp garnishes
$331161 Amohau St, Rotorua
Confit Kinaki horopito duck leg served with kumara, local foraged pickled pikopiko and wild mushroom, pea, kawakawa & herb sponge, mushroom crisp and smoked gourmet potato pebbles
Local foraged ingredients used are piko piko and kawakawa
Paired with a delicious dry drop from Volcanic Hills Winery – the Volcanic Hills Blanc de Blanc.
$38 ($50 incl. Bubbles1191 Pukaki Street, Rotorua
Line caught fish with steamed Tuatua clam & green lipped mussel served on lobster bisque sauce with Kinaki Rotorua pikopiko, exotic mushrooms, hangi potato, lumpfish caviar garnished with dehydrated Kinaki Rotorua Kawakawa Crisp.
$481057 Arawa Street, Rotorua
Lux Organics beetroot cured Warehou Tikitere Farm kumara brandade, with Kina butter, Lux Organics micro-greens, red kelp in a fragrant Pink & White gin broth.
$271183 Arawa Street, Rotorua
He tia no Te Mamaku, he pēto kākano harakeke me te kawakawa kua kohia mai Te Mamaku, he penupenu herewi, he rīwai maori kua tunu ki te hāngi, Lux whakarākai rau iti
Mamaku venison, Kākano harekeke & foraged Mamaku kawakawa pesto, celeriac puree, hāngi purple potato, Lux micro greens
$37 1092-1106 Tutanekai Street
Wood fired pizza, Terrace Kitchen Manuka infused lamb, pizza sauce, roast purple kumara, fresh watercress, shaved Omania Farm truffles
$29Titokorangi Drive, Rotorua
A take on the Pork Boil Up and Rewana Flatbread with a little bit of a twist.
$251135 Arawa St, Rotorua