1. Grey Gardens
This retro delight is nestled behind a charming collection of shops and business on Lovegrove Lane (off Hamilton’s vibrant Grey Street). Decked out in an eclectic 70s style with old school desks, lamps and all sorts of framed pictures and ornaments – most for sale, Grey Gardens serves smooth, well-priced Rocket coffee. They also stock a variety of teas, juices and sodas you won’t find elsewhere, as well as a soothing hot malt and maple drink perfect for winter mornings. The owners and staff are as lovely as the food and as quirky as the atmosphere. While there are way too many mouth-watering menu options to recommend, my personal favourite is the beetroot and feta scone, which is hands-down the best I’ve had.
2. Winner Winner
Just a few metres down Grey Street you’ll find something quite different, but equally enjoyable. Winner Winner is a fried chicken joint with a tasty twist. Walking in, you’re immediately hit with an explosion of beautiful smells from the free-range chicken that’s either fried in butter-milk or grilled with mānuka over a wood fire. The food is bursting with freshness, from the buns right through to the seasonal veges. The recipes are homemade originals and there are plenty of healthy options to choose from, including an impressive selection of cabinet salads. They also serve desserts – make sure you try the popular pinky pie.
3. Raglan Fish
Unwind with a calming combination of fresh fish, sea air and stunning scenery at one of Waikato’s best seafood spots, Raglan Fish. Just outside the main Raglan township, Raglan Fish dishes up local seafood straight off the boat, battered, crumbed or grilled alongside hand-cut fries (try the beer-battered option) and burgers. If you prefer to cook your own at home, the cabinet is well-stocked with a wide selection. But if you’ve got time to sit in, there are plenty of indoor and outdoor tables, most with a view of the harbour where you can enjoy a hearty meal while watch fishing boats deliver their next catch.
4. Fat Pigeon Café
If you’re looking to recharge with a good honest meal or a much-needed coffee during a road trip along SH3, Pio Pio’s Fat Pigeon is a great option. The café sits roughly halfway between New Plymouth and Hamilton, providing a welcome breather, especially when coming from the south which doesn’t offer many pitstop options for several winding hours. The interior is quaint and the pricing reasonable. Although it can get busy, especially during weekends, so you might want to avoid the lunchtime rush. Fat Pigeon is great for families with its indoor play area and small sandpit outside. Plus, a small footbridge connects it to a large grassy area and playground next door, so littlies can burn off some steam before being bundled back in the car.
5. Wonder Horse
Wonder Horse is a soul-filled cocktail bar set in a two-storey loft, perfect for a date night, group catch up or cosy nightcap. Not somewhere you’d naturally stumble across on an evening out, its obscure location – tucked away in an alley off Hamilton’s Victoria Street – gives it an exclusive feel. Wonder Horse offers classic and unique cocktails, craft beer, wine and whisky, plus snacks. The Flip Cup is a favourite tipple for the cooler months, with its comforting combination of rum, banana, maple, spicy chocolate and egg. Connoisseurs can also get amongst the beer and whisky tasting sessions held on the first and third Wednesday of each month. The bar’s musical flavours vary from night to night and include funk, hip hop, soul, Jamaican dub and more, with DJs playing late into the evening.