Monday night this week saw the foodie world meet at Auckland Museum to see who would take out the title of Cuisine Restaurant Of The Year 2011.

It’s official. Auckland has the best restaurant in New Zealand, with Merediths named the supreme winner of the Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2011 this week.

The judges were unanimous in their decision that chef Michael Meredith’s Dominion Rd restaurant was the clear champion.

“In the last 12 months, Merediths has become one of the country’s most exciting dining experiences,” says Sarah Nicholson, Cuisine editor.

“His utterly original food has evolved over the past year, during which time he has also decided to focus solely on highlighting New Zealand ingredients. The dining room is sophisticated and intimate, the service warm yet intelligent. He has created a strong sense of identity that defines the entire experience.”

The Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards is New Zealand’s only national restaurant competition and is widely regarded as the ultimate award within the hospitality industry.

Merediths also took out the title for Best Smart Dining Metropolitan.  

His mouth-watering menu features dishes including a smoked duck and beetroot sandwich; buttercup tortellini, tofu, green banana and coconut; and blue cod, mandarin, octopus and leek.

Samoan-born Meredith moved to Auckland at age 13.  After studying at both AUT and the Culinary Institute of America, he worked at renowned Auckland restaurants Vinnie’s and The Grove before opening Merediths in 2007.  

The restaurant seats 40 people between its three dining rooms. And, from the end of August Merediths will serve only degustation menus, ranging from five to nine courses – a long-term goal for the chef.

“I feel more comfortable in myself and I think that’s reflected in my food,” he says.

“Now my focus is on showcasing the country’s best produce and knowing an ingredient will carry itself without the need for too much technique.”

He says winning the award reaffirms the choices he has made.

“It confirms and gives me great confidence in my vision for the direction and philosophy of Merediths. It also really celebrates all the efforts of my team.”

Head judge Kerry Tyack says the decision-making progress was particularly tough this year.

“Diners in this country are increasingly well served – not just in the quality of food and service, but also in terms of variety and value,” says Tyack.

“However, it is clear that Michael Meredith’s food has developed a consistency in execution, married with a creative edge that makes it truly exceptional. Dining there is a world-class experience.”

Guest international judge and food writer Joanna Savill agrees.

“There is no doubt that Merediths was the most original of all the restaurants I visited. Michael Meredith pushes the proverbial envelope with every dish, taking his customers on a multicoloured journey of tastes, textures and ingredients.”

Fellow Auckland restaurant Cocoro won the title of Best Specialist Restaurant and Ponsonby Road Bistro was named runner-up in the Best Casual Dining Metropolitan category.

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