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Canterbury Restaurant Roots named NZ best

Lyttelton restaurant Roots has been named Restaurant of the Year in the Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards.

The awards recognised the best restaurants throughout New Zealand at an industry-only cocktail event on Monday 8 June at Auckland's St Matthew in the City. They were announced in conjunction with the publication of the Cuisine Good Food Guide, which profiles the top 76 restaurants throughout the country
Roots is a small restaurant with set menus that showcase local ingredients. It's owned by chef Giulio Sturla and his partner Christy Martin, who established the restaurant in 2012, following the 2011 Canterbury earthquake. "It showed me life is today, not tomorrow, so why not?" Chilean-born Sturla said.

"Roots has a fantastic focus on sustainability and localism," said Cuisine editor Sarah Nicholson.

"Sturla grows or forages many of his ingredients and creates some wonderfully innovative, delicious dishes." The restaurant was additionally given the Innovation Award.

The awards use the chef's hat system to recognise particularly outstanding restaurants, with those places that score 15/20 receiving a chef's hat; 16-17 given two hats; and restaurants that score 18 and above awarded three hats.

Cuisine Good Food Awards head judge Kerry Tyack said the competition got tougher every year.

"The New Zealand hospitality scene continues to evolve and we're hugely fortunate to have such a high calibre of restaurants here. We were delighted to see the number of hatted restaurants increase this year – 37 restaurants throughout the country, from Dunedin to Auckland, received coveted chef's hats, up from 30 last year."

Auckland fine-diner Sidart was named Best Metropolitan Restaurant in the awards, with Auckland's The Grove and The French Cafe joint runners up. The Grove executive chef Ben Bayly additionally took home the title of Chef of the Year.

Also in Auckland, the game-focused Cazador won Best Specialist Restaurant. Established by Tony Lolaiy in the 1980s, the restaurant is now run by Lolaiy's chef son Dariush and his wife Rebecca Smidt. The pair are introducing a new generation to the delights of game, from poussin hearts to hare, venison, wild boar and more.

Nicholson noted that New Zealand has seen a growth in degustation-only restaurants in the past year. Roots, Sidart and The Grove all offer a variety of fixed menus, and Napier's Pacifica, which took home the Best Regional Restaurant gong, has also changed its approach to serve only degustations.

"Pacifica's $50 degustations are great value with some fantastically creative dishes," said Nicholson.

Wellington also performed well – seafood-focused Whitebait was named Best New Restaurant, while Ortega Fish Shack & Bar maitre d' Davey McDonald took the title of Restaurant Personality of the Year. "Davey's friendly, knowledgeable service is a key part of

Ortega's charm and success," Nicholson said.

For more about the winners, plus profiles of the 76 restaurants throughout New Zealand that are featured in the Cuisine Good Food Guide (published in conjunction with the awards), go to cuisinegoodfoodguide.co.nz

WINNERS OF THE 2015 CUISINE NZ GOOD FOOD AWARDS, PRESENTED WITH VITTORIA COFFEE

Cuisine Restaurant of the Year: Roots, Lyttelton

Vittoria Coffee Chef of the Year: Ben Bayly, The Grove & Baduzzi, Auckland

Sanpellegrino Best Metropolitan Restaurant: Sidart, Auckland
Runners-up: The French Café & The Grove, both Auckland

KitchenAid Best Regional Restaurant:
Pacifica, Napier

Runner-up: Hopgood's, Nelson

Electrolux Best New Restaurant: Whitebait, Wellington
Runner-up: Jano Bistro, Wellington

American Express Best Specialist Restaurant: Cazador, Auckland

Best Winery Restaurant: Pegasus Bay, Canterbury
Runner-up: Elephant Hill, Hawke's Bay

Ghiotti by European Foods Restaurant Personality of the Year: Davey McDonald, Ortega Fish Shack & Bar, Wellington

Negociants New Zealand Best Wine Experience: The French Cafe, Auckland

Ora King Salmon Innovation Award:
Roots, Lyttelton

Stuff.co.nz