Food & Drink

14 Of The Best Restaurants And Cafes In Rotorua

By Alice Rich

Bustling Eat Streat which houses some of the best restaurants and cafes in Rotorua.

Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe Rotorua is the go-hard-or-go-home capital of Aotearoa. It’s as much the place for adrenaline-packed adventures as it is for cultural experiences and deep relaxation. It also just so happens to be a bit of a foodie haven, from boujee fine dining to delectable cheap eats spotlighting local and international cuisines.

Grab your finest elasticated pants and get ready to dig into some of the palette-pleasing kai around as Urban List brings you the best restaurants and cafes in Rotorua. 

Eastwood 

Longmile Road, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua

Somebody cuts into a perfectly poached egg. Surrounding the egg are grilled slices of halloumi, broccolini, an avocado half crusted with sesame seeds and filled with a sauce, hummus, green leaves and spiced chickpeas.Image credit: Eastwood | Instagram

Housed in a beautiful building in the forest, in the Scion Crown Research Institute, Eastwood casually claims to do “pizza, beer and other stuff”. Hands down one of the best cafes in Rotorua, and dog-friendly at that, they do food and they do it very, very well.

They're open late on Fridays for pizza and their drool-worthy brunch menu includes dishes like peachy rice pudding, waffles, shakshuka, chilli scramble and... wait for it... breakfast pizza (yep, this is not a drill).

They’ve got a solid smoothie offering, a boozy hot chocolate and a small but perfectly crafted range of cocktails. Speaking of, their Daisy Sunday brunch cocktail with vodka, ginger marmalade, lemon juice and mint might be exactly the sassy little punch your taste buds were after.

The Fainting Goat

1154 Tutanekai Street, Rotorua

The first thing that struck us about The Fainting Goat was its pizzas in all their 1 and 2-foot-long get-in-my-mouth glory. The chilli-marinated, zesty coconut-spiked Satayfaction; the slow-cooked Whiskey & Wild brisket; the fact gluten-free bases and vegan cheese are on hand for when needed. Can you tell we’re a little bit in love?

Don’t get us started on their shared boards, cauliflower wings and Caramilk cheesecake. Yes, you read correctly—Caramilk cheesecake. Essentially, you should just stop reading this list and go and wrap your mouth around anything and everything at The Fainting Goat, stat.

Yamato Japanese Restaurant 

1123 Pukuatua Street, Hillcrest, Rotorua

For eats straight from the land of the rising sun, make a beeline for Yamato. Slinging Japanese goodness in Rotorua for over twenty years, the team certainly knows their stuff which makes sense because their chefs are professionally trained in Japan.

True to what you’d expect, their menu is packed with all your favourite Japanese meals from sashimi to rolled sushi, nigiri to donburi rice bowls, noodles to salads and everything in between.

We’re especially excited by their create-your-own lunch box situation and their deep-fried cream cheese blocks served with sweet chilli sauce. 

Artisan Cafe

1149 Tutanekai Street, Rotorua

A lovely looking slice of carrot cake at Artisan Cafe in Rotorua.Image credit: Artisan Cafe | Instagram

For a whole lot of healthy eats (and ambrosial treats) Artisan Cafe sure packs a punch. From eggs bene to cheesy scones and pancakes; stacked sandos, health-spiked lattes, and sensational salads, this is one of the best brunch spots in Rotorua.

Coeliac and vegan dietary requirements are happily accommodated, which, on that note, we just have to give a shoutout to their vegan veggie stack—a feisty feed of veggie-packed potato cakes with mushrooms and spinach, topped with creamy avocado. And in the winter months? Expect the fireplace to be crankin’.

Urbano Bistro

289 Fenton Street, Glenholme, Rotorua

Cafe by day, restaurant by night, Urbano Bistro has you covered for every meal. Here brunch could look like free-range eggs bene on a crunchy potato cake; a nourishing Urbano bowl of spiced beetroot hummus, various vege treats topped with grilled halloumi; and more.

Butterscotch-spiked banana spring rolls with jackfruit and coconut ice cream are officially on the brunch menu too, which is a power move we respect. Come nightfall you’re just as spoiled for choice. 

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Pātaka Kai Restaurant, Bar And Cafe

20 Hemo Road, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua

Meat and vegetables in a hangi tray at Pataka Kai Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Rotorua. Overlooking the Pōhutu geyser, Pātaka is the best restaurant in Rotorua for contemporary cuisine with an authentic Māori twist.

Come hungry—this is feasting, buffet-style. The hāngī lunch buffet includes crowd-pleasers like corn and watercress soup, kai moana (seafood), pork rib boil-up, hāngī chicken, rewena bread stuffing, and burnt brown sugar steamed pudding.

The dinner buffet has an all-you-can-eat dessert station with kiwiana icons like pavlova (yep, it’s ours—not Australia’s), trifle and cream puffs.  

Pig & Whistle 

1182 Tutanekai Street, Rotorua

Specialising in New Zealand pub grub—with beats to eat to—not only is Pig & Whistle a great choice for dining, but it’s also a historic landmark with its 1940s architecture.

Menu highlights include crumbed mac and cheese balls (with three cheeses—excuse us while we take a moment to drool), jackfruit steamed buns, vegan chicken tacos, loaded brisket fries with mushroom and bacon gravy, harissa-spiked cauliflower steak, and mackin’ good burgers served with curly fries.

On the libations front, they’ve got all the good stuff, and if you order a Little Creatures Pale Ale, the crew will donate $1 for every litre to the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club First Response Unit and the Rotorua Trails Trust. Love that.

Atticus Finch

Eat Streat, 3010/1106 Tutanekai Street, Rotorua

Immerse in speakeasy X metropolitan vibes with a swag of share plates from Atticus Finch. Created by local sister duo, Cherry and Kay, the innovative kai is tasty as, as is their selection of craft beers and cocktails, the latter of which are concocted with house-made syrups, fresh fruit and herbs.

While you can’t go wrong here, you’ll definitely want to ensure their crispy mozzarella risotto balls (complete with blue cheese cream) are amongst your haul. Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan requirements are all well-catered to here, as well making Atticus Finch one of the most inclusive and best restaurants in Rotorua. 

Eat Streat

3010/1106 Tutanekai Street, Rotorua

If you’ve got a bit of an indecisive squad, or you want all the food (we salute you), look no further than Eat Streat. It’s one of the city’s most vibrant hot spots and for good reason.

A plethora of tasty hangouts awaits with restaurants, cafes and bars, with $10 flavour-of-the-week margs and the Rotorua-famous Lady Jane’s Ice Cream Parlour where the crew sling over 40 flavours of ice cream. Legit.

The central walkway is covered (with a retractable roof) ideal for al fresco dining in all weather. And yes, this spot includes Atticus Finch. Score. 

The Vnam Kitchen

1220 Fenton Street, Rotorua

A mouth-watering smorgasboard of Vietnamese fare from The Vnam Kitchen, the oldest and best Vietnamese restaurant in Rotorua. Image credit: The Vnam Kitchen | Instagram

The first Vietnamese restaurant in Rotorua, The Vnam Kitchen remains the best spot for Vietnamese eats and one of the best restaurants in Rotorua.

Get your hit of lemongrass paired with tofu or meat, depending on what your palette’s yearning for. Pancakes, noodles, rice, pho (noodle soup), Bahn mi, and rolls—in crispy and summer iterations… It’s all here. It’s cheap and it’s delicious. It simply doesn’t get better. 

El Mexicano Zapata Cantina

1148 Tutanekai Street, Rotorua

A Mexican BBQ at El Zapata Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Rotorua. Image credit: El Mexicano Zapata Cantina | Instagram

El Zapata is one of the best restaurants in Rotorua for a reason. Start with ‘botanas’ (snacks to share) with freshly fried corn chips and dips or street food-style grilled corn slathered in garlic aioli, cheese and chipotle, or porque no los dos?

Next up, throw yourself at the tapas wolfing down everything from fried chicken to burrito bowls—all of which pair perfectly with a margarita, conveniently.

If you’re in more of a taco mood, you can summon a pair of just about any type of meat or opt for one of three vegetarian options—beans and lentils, nopalito cactus shoots or sliced jackfruit.

Special mention must go to their parrillada BBQ platter (pictured) which is out of this world. Then of course they’ve got churros and deep-fried banana pastries to finish.

Great Spice Indian Takeaway

557 Te Ngae Road, Ōwhata, Rotorua 

Great Spice Indian Takeaway is aptly named yet understated as the food here is delicious. The cheese and garlic naan is a dreamy blend of hot and gooey, the palak paneer is everything you want it to be, and the chicken fried rice might just put all the other chicken fried rice you’ve ever had to shame.

Along with the great eats, you can expect quick, friendly service. It’s a popular stop for travellers and locals alike. 

Poco Tapas & Wine 

1183 Arawa Street, Rotorua

Blue cheese fondue at Poco Tapas & Wine Bar, one of the best restaurants in RotoruaImage credit: Poco Tapas & Wine | Instagram

Relaxed, communal eating is queen at Poco Tapas & Wine. An intimate affair—the restaurant seats only 40—the menu is inspired by the tapas culture in Spain where people gather to share exquisite bites paired with a curated selection of wine, beer and cocktails.

You’ll find the likes of yoghurt flatbread, patatas bravas in red sauce, blue cheese fondue (pictured), basque cheesecake, and dark chocolate espresso cake with rosewater, pistachio syrup and orange cream.

We’re also pretty sure their Manuka Pencillin with smoked whisky, lemon ginger and honey is vital, you know, for health. 

The Mains Restaurant

On The Point, 214 Kawaha Point Road, Kawaha Point, Rotorua

For the ultimate experience, and with a lake view to boot, head to The Mains Restaurant at On The Point luxury lodge. Expect cream-of-the-crop offerings here, from salmon caviar and soup ‘of the moment’ with house-baked bread and truffle butter, to smoked venison tart and an award-winning cheese selection with fig and pinot jam.

Finish your dining experience with a ginger beer brûlée, a white chocolate mousse layered with dark chocolate wafers and candied carrots, or a dark chocolate dome with passionfruit curd and berry compote. Talk about the art of food. 

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Main image credit: Eat Streat by RotoruaNZ

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