Hawkes Bay is my childhood stomping ground, and Havelock North is a little village that punches above its weight for eating, drinking and being generally merry. Here’s my list of the places I try and get to each time I visit:
Pronounced May + Low (after the two guys who built it), this restaurant has opened in the new Porters Hotel in the heart of Havelock North (once the Happy Tav for you former locals!). It’s got a reputation for being fancy, so with my husband’s 50th to celebrate we decided that was fancy enough. I have to say, I think my meal was the dish of the night. Pan fried snapper with sweet corn, roasted almonds and then they poured over a crab sauce. OMG! ($34) A few at our table had the sirloin which was beef cooked two ways including a couple of rare slices and a slow cooked style which was also raved about. The wine list starts at about $45 per bottle and you’ll get a Hawkes Bay red from $46 to $250.
This kid on the block just arrived late 2013 and my family waited for a table in the busy throng to wrap our laughing gear around their delicious small plates. You won’t find piles of nachos, but the ribs, fresh cerviche, pulled pork tacos and other little plates of spicy delights have made this my new fave in Havers. Prices are small too – we ordered 2 plates each and with a jug of sangria and other drinks for those weren’t persuaded by the chilled red wine, we were out spending $35 each.
This vineyard on the slopes of Te Mata Peak has a fine dining restaurant and a number of really great events including open air cinema in the summer in their amphitheatre where you can take a picnic and drink their award-winning wines in a civilised manner whilst nibbling on your chicken wings and coronation salad, but it’s the Grower’s Market which runs on Saturday mornings through summer that is worth going to sample at.
It’s set out in a circle under the giant plane trees with canvas awnings – kinda like an olde worlde market. All you need is a chook running round as you browse the locally produced oils, relishes, veges and wine with a hot espresso.
There are a few cafes in the little village of Havelock North, but I have changed from formerly recommending Cuccini for its brunches and coffee as well as outdoor seating under the vines that are just beginning to stretch along the footpath, because it has had a name change and owner change and I haven’t yet been. But I do like Wright and Co, up Joll Road, for a morning flat white and maybe brunch.
This bright pink building is hard to miss on Joll Road, but whatever you do, don’t miss it. It’s open from 4pm till 10pm every night and is the closest thing to a real fair dinkum Italian experience you’ll find in these parts. You help yourself to beer and soft drinks from the old fashioned fridge and they just add up the empties.
Their meatballs on pasta is sweetly delicious and the pizzas generous in size. They also have a truck (below) and if you follow them on Facebook you’ll find where they’ll be to go and grab one on the run.
The poshest spot in Havelock North would have to be Craggy Range. This stunning vineyard restaurant and tasting room sits right behind Te Mata Peak (great views from the peak over it) and alongside the Tuki Tuki River.
Its restaurant, Terroir, is on the pricey side but if it’s a special night, then hey – you’re worth it. During the winter you can enjoy the enormous fire places or if it’s one of those perfect Hawkes Bay days, then lunch outside on the terrace is fab.
For more info on Havelock North, click onto www.villageinfo.co.nz.