Dining out can make or break a holiday visit. We’ve all had that dining experience that lodges itself firmly in our memory and entirely influences our perception of the area we visited. What we eat and drink, where we eat and drink, and how we are treated at said venue make a massive impact on our minds and hearts and has a huge role to play in shaping our holiday.
As a host, I take it upon myself to ensure my guests have positive dining experiences which contribute to a wonderful holiday in the Coromandel. My guests always tell me about their dining experiences; both the ups and downs. I value what they have to say and their feedback influences my recommendations to future guests.
So what makes a great dining experience? Listening to my guests over the years, I have learnt there are three key things which always come up when people have a positive dining experience.
1. Being made to feel special.
2. Establishing a connection with the locale; through the food and wine, and/or the people.
3. Satisfying food and beverages.
(And of course, when people don’t have a happy experience, it is guaranteed that one or more of the above will surely be missing).
I guess you could say I have a good handle on the places that really make visitors happy when they dine out in Tairua and surrounding areas. My guests trust me to make reliable recommendations, so it is imperative that the places I suggest are consistent. Just as I want to knock people’s socks off with their stay at Sunlover Retreat, I want local restaurants to knock people’s socks off too!
Fortunately, there are a range of wonderful places to dine around the Coromandel. These are my Top Five, chosen because they are within close proximity to Sunlover Retreat, and based on my guest’s feedback and my own experiences, these are the places which please people the most. I have total confidence in sending guests there and I happily recommend them to you, too!
1. Manaia Kitchen and Bar
You can count on Manaia’s proprietor, Andrea Johnson to give her patrons the star treatment. Manaia’s menu is of a consistently high standard, with a strong focus on fresh, local and seasonal food and flavours and a zesty new wine list offering a diverse array of local and international wines. The current Spring menu charms guests with its ‘Coromandel Miner’s Breakfast’ and locally loved pizzas named after surrounding landmarks (Paku, Puketui, Slipper Island, Hikuai). Andrea is proud and passionate about her hometown Tairua - evidenced by the effort she makes to ensure people feel welcome in her restaurant. I know I can count on Manaia to give my visitors a positive dining experience in Tairua. Open from 9am for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, as well as coffee and cake and drinks at the bar.
5 days a week in winter, 7 days in summer.
2. Flock Kitchen and Bar
We just love the tapa style menu available at Flock. Flock was named as a little place for people to gather and gather they do. They have a real love and passion for Asian cuisine and have created a Tapa’s style menu taking inspiration from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea and Malaysia.
I love the way you pick a few dishes from the tapas menu to share with friends. Everything is tasty and mouthwatering. Every now and then they run cooking classes. If you are lucky enough to be in town when these are on, then I would recommend booking in.
Sara and Lisa, along with their team, really have created a place to enjoy flocking to.
3. The Old Mill Cafe Tairua
Somewhat of a hidden treasure, The Old Mill is the only restaurant where you can eat out whilst overlooking the sparkling Tairua inner harbour. Located at the base of Mt Paku on the waterfront, guests feel like they are in another town entirely when they are seated in the restaurant’s outdoor garden or in the airy indoor courtyard. Proprietors Linda and Jim Crozier are a couple with a winning cafe combination. Linda is arguably one of New Zealand’s best pastry chefs, offering up the most delectable homemade pies, quiches and tarts, of both the sweet and savoury variety. Jimmy makes a calm and gracious host, ensuring your meal arrives with minimum fuss and maximum flavour, contributing to a very pleasant waterfront dining experience. The Old Mill is an atmospheric spot for lunch or cake and coffee (don’t go past Linda’s amazing Apple Strudel or Chocolate Tart) - you can even order an ice cream cone from their Kapiti ice cream selection. Currently open 8am-4pm Thursday through Sunday.
4. The Pepe
Don’t judge a book by its cover! The Pepe is a bit of an unsung hero in Tairua’s restaurant scene. When recommending The Pepe to my guests, I tell them ‘it’s not going to be flash but you will always enjoy your meal.’ The quality of the food on the menu at The Pepe is excellent, as is Steve Morris, the restaurant owner who makes a massive effort for every single one of his customers. The Pepe appeals and caters to all kinds of patrons, including families with small children and people with dogs (two groups that aren’t always welcomed at restaurants!). The Pepe is a relaxed and unpretentious coastal cafe with a big outdoor seating area adjacent to Tairua’s Pepe Playground. The staff are consistently friendly and hospitable, and whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you will not be disappointed by your discoveries on the menu. Open 8am til late, 7 days.
5. Tairua Beach Club
Sitting at the bottom of Paku , Tairua Beach Club is my go-to place for special occasion dining. We love it and we’re clearly not the only ones, as this restaurant has a loyal and well-established following from both Coromandel Peninsula locals and national and international visitors. Their menu incorporates locally sourced foods from Coromandel oysters to Cathedral Cove macadamias, right down to the herbs and micro greens grown on the premises.
Sitting outside with the sun going down, cocktail in hand is one of our most favourite things to do. The chef & owner, Graeme Riki, has created a menu featuring classic dishes that are executed with a unique culinary flair that only Graeme could be capable of. Everything is fresh and oh so delicious.
"If anyone is looking for a romantic getaway or an amazing Celebrant, I would 100% recommend staying with Donna and Chris at the Sunlover Retreat & Celebrant by the Sea in Tairua. Their Bed and breakfast are absolutely stunning and you're treated as part of the family. Donna Brooke...
Amanda and Lemuel, New Zealand
"We stayed for 3 fabulous nights and loved every minute. Chris and Donna are warm and welcoming hosts who made us feel at home in their fantastic house. The breathtaking views across the estuary from the balconies are incredible, watching the birds in the sunshine is a delight and there is...
Brighton & Hove, United Kingdom
Spent two nights at Sunlover as part of our 3 week trip to NZ and wish we had stayed longer. Chris & Donna made us very welcome, the accommodation was 1st class and the views stunning. Would definitely stay there again if we come back to NZ - 5 out of 5.
Ruth and Mervyn