Alfresco dining on Waiheke Island. © Matthew Crawford

Indulge: food and drink on Waiheke Island

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1. The far side of the island

Instead of spending 30 hours on a flight to Tuscany, fast-track yourself to Poderi Crisci, tucked in a beautifully secluded spot near Awaawaroa Bay, towards the eastern or 'bottom end’ of the island. Antonio Crisci presides over this vineyard and restaurant, serving up delicious Italian fare and excellent wines. Their Sunday long lunch is legendary, so bookings are essential in summer.

Man O’ War vineyard is also worth a visit, if just to circumnavigate the island while you’re down that way. It has a charming, cottage-style tasting room set in its own idyllic private bay. Their award-winning wines – including the much-lauded Valhalla Chardonnay and Ironclad Bordeaux Blend – are worth the trip alone. On a sunny summer’s day, this is the place to be, along with the many boats anchored in the bay. 

2. Drop in

Kitted out with all the gourmet provisions you’ll need for your bach kitchen on an island holiday, The Island Grocer was conceived by Simon and Nicky Cairns. They have upgraded the store – known to locals as ‘Top Shop,’ due to it’s setting near the brow of Ocean View Road in Oneroa – to offer daytime take-away goodness from coffees and fresh juices to poke bowls. 

Before making gelato Ana Schwartz was a runner-up on Masterchef New Zealand so she knows a thing or two about food and cooking. Join the summertime queue at Island Gelato in Oneroa for their exceptional homemade gelato, but equally, pop by in the morning for an expertly made cup of Allpress coffee or a scrummy bagel topped with cherry tomatoes and avocado. 

3. Right in the middle

The straight bit of Onetangi Road, imaginatively known on the island as ‘Onetangi Straight’ is studded with vineyards. The newest addition, Tantalus Estate, was designed by architectural guru Nat Cheshire and the elegant result is a vineyard restaurant that raised the stakes for Waiheke’s dining scene with its dramatically sophisticated polish. Choose between the gorgeous dining room or the intimate Alibi Brewer’s Lounge downstairs. Yes, they brew their own beer, too. 

Next door, Te Motu, owned by two brothers of Waiheke’s fabled Dunleavy wine-making dynasty offers amazing New Zealand fare created by talented chef Bronwyn Laight. Outstanding, inventive cuisine is served in a rustic, charming shed-like space set against a beautiful backdrop of vines in the Onetangi Valley. Newsflash: at time of writing Laight has moved on to start a new restaurant elsewhere on the island.

Just around the corner by road, or a gentle meander through the vines along the Onetangi Trophy Trail on foot, you’ll find Casita Miro. Cat Vosper presides over the award-winning Spanish-inspired vineyard overlooking rolling hills above Onetangi beach. Try their goat's cheese croquetas, patatas bravas and share a paella for the table. Besides their own wines – including their famous fortified Madame Rouge – they also offer some great food matches from Spain’s best producers including Ximénez-Spínola.

4. Grab and go

From the clever folks behind Island Coffee – Waiheke’s much-loved roastery – The Annex, a teeny cottage on Ostend’s Putiki Road is an absolute must-visit. With to-die-for pastries and cakes created by Jennifer Perry of Little Tart Bakery, The Annex serves excellent coffee and was an island secret that’s long been let out of the bag. Pop in before or after the Ostend market on a Saturday.

Monocle editor Tyler Brûlé was so enamoured of Dragonfired he wrote about it in his column in the Financial Times. Seasonally located at Little Oneroa and a recent pop-up in Onetangi, the Dragonfired team serve great pizza using organic flour as well as delicious pita pockets, grilled polenta dishes and amazing home-made semifreddo. Perfect take-away fare to enjoy with a side of Waiheke sunset.

5. Village life

The Oyster Inn is a coastal bistro that has become somewhat of an island institution. On seasonal Waiheke where consistency is difficult, The Oyster Inn manages to deliver an excellent menu as one of the few restaurants that are open seven days a week, year-round. Beyond ubiquitous oysters, the sashimi, salt and pepper squid and five-spice crispy lamb ribs perennial favourites. Book a table on the veranda with its grandstand view of Oneroa Bay. 

Across the road at The Courtyard, chef and owner Brent Mills stirred up controversy on the island when he refused to serve fries to adults – only offering them to kids. For good reason, as his menu of homemade pasta, sandwiches and steaks have earned him a loyal local following. Casual daytime items include cauliflower nasi goreng and tuna poke bowls; substantial evening dishes are innovative and Mediterranean-influenced. It’s not a huge space so be sure to book. 

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