I recently had the opportunity to spend 8 days in New Zealand. The vast majority of this time was spent in conference rooms, hotels and airplanes, visiting Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. But I did have a couple days to play in Auckland between the day I got in and a day and a half on the weekend before I left. It definitely left me with a taste to return, because the quality of the seafood, meat, dairy, etc was equal to some of Northern California's best.
New Zealand is a primary producer of many of these products with a well-deserved reputation for quality. As a lover of English cheeses, I was quite taken with some of New Zealand's offerings, especially the blues which definitely would hold up to comparison with a blue Wensleydale.
Similarly, the seafood was great and varied as one might expect.
Auckland, as NZ's largest city definitely had some terrific restaurants, including 2 I ate at on the Harbour front -- Cin Cin on Quay and the Soul Bar. The first I enjoyed an entree at the bar on my own -- 2 largish, rare and very tasty lamb tendorloins on an interesting salad with the consistency of a ratatouille but comprising bacon, tomato, fennel, onion and other things. The restaurant had an extensive offering of NZ wines by the glass, including a really great dry riesling -- unfortunately I've lost my notes on which one.
Even more to my taste was the Soul Bar, where my hosts took me one evening on Viaduct Basin. This largish restaurant had just won NZ Cuisine Magazine's award for best service, and I thought the fish just stellar. The restaurant specializes in fish and other seafood, in a sort of NZ-Middle Eastern fusion style. I had a fabulous type of grouper that was grilled and served with a Tarator-influenced sauce with walnuts, vinegar and cumin and fried wedges of little potatos with sage. Yum. Sadly my entree was not quite quite up to par -- figs and blue cheese -- only because the figs were not sufficiently ripe. The cheese was great and quite close to a well--aged Stilton.
Other things enjoyed during the week:
-- Pristine sushi at a tiny sushi bar in the Auckland fish market, including a slice of "crayfish" -- which were huge pacific lobster-like creatures
-- Great Malaysian food at Kopi in Wellington
-- Monteith's Summer Beer, a true ginger-honey ale (about 5% alcohol), spicy and very refreshing
-- Ponsonby pies -- very good quality traditional meat pies with a variety of fillings
-- Phoenix Organic fruit drinks especially the quite dry lemonade
-- Good coffee (flat white with 2 shots please)
-- Excellent wines, not only Sauvignon blanc and Pinot Noir, but good rieslings, Gewurtztraminer, Viognier, and others (I went out on a West Auckland wine tour, which included 5 wineries and lunch, along with a group of locals who did a 6th winery while I went with the driver to see the gannets and Muriwai Beach)
Thanks to the poster here who tipped me to trying the Phoenix juices and fruit drinks. You are right, I've not previously had anything that compares.