1. Bareknuckle BBQ
Nestled on an acre of land five minutes from Hastings’ main drag is Bareknuckle, a fully licensed backyard Texan BBQ joint serving authentic wood-smoked southern fare.
Hosts Jimmy and Tam Macken have brought this little slice of Texas to Hastings, the result of a research trip a few years ago to learn how to pit-smoke ribs and brisket from some of the USA’s best BBQ masters. Armed with their imported 16-foot pit smoker, they opened Bareknuckle, where you can dine al fresco in the garden ‘yard style.'
It’s good old southern American style BBQ, served as it would be in Texas – fingers are the best cutlery here. Try the slow-cooked pork spare ribs, beef brisket, trailer trash mash or a chilli bowl with extra jalapeño if you’re feeling brave.
2. Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market
For 17 years the Farmers’ Market has been a firm fixture on the ‘must-do’ list for locals and visitors alike. Every Sunday at the Showgrounds, growers and artisan producers set up shop offering a wide range of fresh vegetables, preserves, wine and craft beer, meat, treats and delicacies of every description.
Grab a bag or even a wheelbarrow and work your way around the market, tasting as you go. There are plenty of treats to fuel you while you’re browsing, including a bacon sandwich vendor (they’re the best bacon sarnies, trust me) or a particular favourite, a sticky brioche from the German bakery washed down with a strong coffee.
3. Heretaunga Street East
Over the last year, the eastern end of Hastings’ main street has evolved into a destination for foodies and design aficionados.
The precinct is a global mashup; a mix of stores with international influences including Ya Bon French bakery and Cupple café, organic food shop Cornucopia, French artisan chocolatier La Petite Chocolat, handmade gift store Coco & Co, independent bookseller Little Red Bookshop and relaxed neighbourhood lounge bar, the Common Room.
New to the block is Asian street food bar FunBuns. Owner Nick Pike makes his Bao buns fresh every day, serving them with Asian-fusion flavours including a Kiwi Lamb version (sounds sketchy, but it’s delicious). The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is also not to be missed. Park up at the high tables or sit outside, it’s a casual, lively space that lives up to its Fun moniker.
4. Te Awa Winery
Hawke’s Bay is not short on wineries – there are more than 70 to visit – and one of the loveliest is Te Awa, on the outskirts of Hastings in the Gimblett Gravels wine growing district.
Te Awa has a cellar door for wine tasting – check out the winery cat who makes himself at home reclined on the counter – but it’s the winery restaurant that is the star of the show, with a casual vibe that belies its gastronomic pedigree.
Run by popular chef Stephen Tindall, the restaurant is relaxed, with rustic chandeliers, concrete floors and floor-to-ceiling glass, all framed by a backdrop of lush vineyard and vast lawn.
During the summer, book a table under the trees and while away the afternoon dining on fabulous food and wonderful wine. In the winter, a roaring fire inside will keep you cosy while you indulge in a hearty red or two.
5. Osmanthus Gardens
Hastings’ Cornwall Park is not just known for its eight hectares of English village green atmosphere, cricket ground and play areas, it is also home to a traditional Chinese garden, Osmanthus.
The garden was established in 1996 to commemorate the relationship of Hastings and its sister city Guilin and takes its name from the Osmanthus family of highly scented shrubs and groundcovers, which have been planted throughout.
Walk across the Friendship Bridge over the lake pond and back over the Crooked Bridge, and take five in one of the beautiful Chinese pavilions. If you’re visiting in March, there is an annual lighting of the gardens event that is quite beautiful.