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Cafes, Restarants & Bars

The quality of New Zealand restaurants is fantastic, the portions are respectable, and good value for money - especially at BYO establishments, where the cost is eased if you "bring your own" wine, sometimes for a small corkage fee (typically $2-5). In most restaurants you can expect to pay upwards of $15 for a main course, perhaps $30 for three courses without wine. Service tends to be unpretentious and helpful without being forced, and there is no expectation of a tip, though a reward for exceptional service is always welcomed.

New Zealand's range of ethnic restaurants is meagre by international standards, with only the major influx of east Asian immigrants enervating the scene and lending a strong Chinese and Japanese and Thai flavour to the larger cities, alongside a smattering of Mexican places. Maori food is barely represented in restaurants at all, but you shouldn't miss the opportunity to sample the contents of a hangi , an earth oven producing delectable, fall-off-the-bone meat and delicately steamed vegetables.

Often there is little ground between restaurants and the better café/bars which have sprung up all over New Zealand and offer food that's just as good and a few dollars cheaper. In the café or bar dining is less formal and you may well find yourself elbow to elbow with people only there for the beer or coffee, but dining is very much part of the café/bar scene. Simpler cafés may only stretch to breakfasts, grilled focaccias stuffed with Italian-inspired fillings, salads and cakes but always produce good coffee and keep long hours.

Though common in the more cosmopolitan cities, cafés are less prevalent in the country towns, which are still ruled by traditional tearooms , daytime (most close around 5pm), self-service places that are low on atmosphere but high on value. Your drink of choice would be coffee or Tea, nothing to flash here, usually accompanied by a cellophane-wrapped sandwich, uninspiring savouries and either "Devonshire (cream) Teas" or home-style cakes - the carrot cake, banana cake and custard squares are generally good bets. On main tourist routes, long-distance buses usually make their comfort stops at tearooms.

Most good bars serve pub meals , often the best budget eating around with straightforward plates of steak and chips, lasagne or burritos, all served with salad for around $10. One to look out for here is the nationwide Cobb & Co. chain, formerly used as waystations by stagecoaches and now offering reliable meals and good last-all-day breakfasts.


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