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DINE BY PETER GORDON
Sky City Grand Hotel
Level 3, 90 Federal St.
The chef, though famous in London, is in fact from Wanganui, and this sophisticated room marks his homecoming. His food is Pacific Rim—he practically invented the genre, with delicious dishes that read complex, but taste simply divine. One example: the pan-seared South Island scampi on a salad of pawpaw, ya pear, wasabi agar agar jelly, hijiki, and coriander with coconut-ginger dressing—and that's an appetizer.
144 Parnell Rd.
There's nothing out of place about the warm, mid-century modern decor in trendy Parnell's historic Windsor Castle. In fact, a table in the conservatory or secret little garden is a perfect setting for sampling the all-ecofarmed, free-range cooking of creative chef Sonya Paget.
THE FRENCH CAFÉ
210 Symonds St.
This multi-award-winning place is lovable, not stuffy, with its white tablecloths, white walls, and huge windows overlooking a lovely conservatory. Chef Simon Wright is a culinary star; dishes like quail tempura with chili jam and sesame mayonnaise or roast beef filet with foie gras croquette may also appear on his eight-course tasting menu, so save up your appetite for this treat.
70 Jervois Rd.
In rooms that manage to be both glamorous and cozy, with exposed-brick walls and lots of candles, superior Italian classics are served to the chic neighborhood crowds. The upstairs room is better than the tables by the kitchen.
SOUL BAR & BISTRO
There is no finer perch than a terrace table here—it's front and center for the yacht action in the bay, and the beyond-buzzy bistro is a tonic even on a gray day. Soul Food, as they call it, is fun, generous, and seasonal, heavy on the seafood: hot salt-and-pepper calamari with coriander-chili chutney; whitebait fritter with lemon and chive butter; and multiple fishes of the day.
270 Willis St.
An adorable dollhouse of a restaurant is the showcase for classically trained Maori chef Rex Morgan's eight-course tasting menus—or three-course prix-fixes, if you're not up to the challenge. It's consistently top-rated in the windy city, so reserve well ahead.
ARBITRAGEUR WINE ROOM & DELICATESSA
125 Featherston St.
That's no misprint: The last part of this lovely, casual new restaurant in the capital refers to the tapas, charcuterie, and cheeses on the menu, perfect for sharing when what you really want to do is sample flights of the country's wines as you gaze into each other's eyes.
AMISFIELD WINERY BISTRO
10 Lake Hayes Rd.
You'll feel part of the winemaking dynasty at one of the fireside tables under the recycled-redwood beams in this architect-designed, historic-looking stone building—or, in summer, out in the courtyard. Chef Dan Monopoli's always locally sourced dishes change daily and complement the estate's wines: duck with quince paste; roast pork with pea puree; a rich chocolate cake.