It’s an exciting time to be eating out in New Zealand, as evidenced by the Top 50 finalists in this year’s Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards. In a departure from previous years, Cuisine magazine has hand-picked its Top 50 rather than taken entries, and the magazine’s editor, Sarah Nicholson, says the number of first-time finalists on the list is an indication of how strong the country’s restaurant scene has become.
 
“The Top 50 finalists are a good-news story for our country’s dining scene; our judges have been hugely impressed by the standard of restaurants in both the main centres and regionally. As we look towards the Rugby World Cup, it’s great to see that there are so many places that can showcase the best of New Zealand food and wine and hold their own on the world stage,” she says.
 
Now in its seventh year, the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards, proudly supported by Mercedes-Benz, is the only national restaurant competition in New Zealand.
 
Kerry Tyack, who is regarded as one of the country’s most experienced food and restaurant judges, returns as head judge for the 2011 awards. He says that while compiling the Top 50 was tough, the judging panel was confident that the list represented the best of New Zealand dining, spanning everything from fine-diners to local bistros.
 
“The Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards continue to highlight great dining throughout the country,” he says. “As well as a number of exciting new finalists in Auckland and Wellington, it’s fantastic to see first-time appearances on the list in Hamilton, Nelson, Canterbury and Otago.”
 
Two Christchurch restaurants, Pescatore and Edesia, are also included in the Top 50. Pescatore has previously been a finalist while Edesia is a newcomer to the list.

“We’re thrilled that after all that Christchurch has been through, it still has restaurants of this high standard following the February quake. It’s a testament to the strength of the city’s dining scene and we look forward to the emergence of more top-quality eateries as the city rebuilds,” Nicholson says.
 
Judges will visit each of the final 50 restaurants anonymously in pairs to select eight category winners:
 
The categories for the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year 2011 are:
 
·         Supreme Winner
·         Mercedes-Benz Best Smart-Dining Experience – Metropolitan
·         Vittoria Coffee Best Smart-Dining Experience – Regional
·         San Pellegrino Best Casual-Dining Experience – Metropolitan
·         Electrolux Best Casual-Dining Experience – Regional
·         PLUMM Glassware Best Specialist Restaurant
·         Whitestone Cheese Best Winery Restaurant
·         Villa Maria NZ Restaurant Personality of the Year
 
Participating finalists have special Star Grazing menus on offer to the public from 18 June – 17 July. These great-value fixed-price menus will be matched with wines from New Zealand’s most-awarded winery, Villa Maria Estate, silver sponsor of the awards for the third year.
 
Cuisine has launched a new website, cuisinerestaurantoftheyear.co.nz, as a backbone to the awards. The website profiles the Top 50 finalists and has full details on Star Grazing menu offers and more.
 
A full list of the finalists is also available in the July issue of Cuisine, on sale Monday 20 June.
 
The winners of the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year 2011 Awards will be announced on 15 August at an exclusive event for the restaurant industry in Auckland. The awards will be profiled in the September issue of Cuisine, on sale from 18 August.

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