Jono Galuszka is a senior journalist based in Stuff’s office in ManawatÅ«. Previously, he worked in several cafes, bars and restaurants, wrote cafe reviews for student media, and won awards as a barista and for writing about the country’s beer industry.
ManawatÅ« may not be first choice for many foodies, especially with Wellington only a few hours away by train.
But those who live in and around ManawatÅ« know their home is full of great places to eat and drink, much of it made with the vast array of produce grown in the region.
Here’s my list of the best places to visit if you want to spend a day gorging yourself on the best ManawatÅ« – and some places near Horowhneua – has to offer.
COFFEE – single origin filter
At Mouthwater Coffee Company, 159 Main St and 828 Tremaine Ave, Palmerston North
It’s not often you stop at a coffee cart and expect to be served by one of the best baristas in the country.
But drag your under-caffeinated body past one of Mouthwater’s bright red carts and chances are you’ll be served by owner Andrew Feldon.
Feldon started teaching himself how to extract a decent espresso by watching videos on YouTube, but has since forged a career that has seen him certified to judge international coffee competitions.
He also tells a cracking dad joke, which you can find scrawled on signs at one of his carts.
The Main Street location is my go-to spot, with Feldon often having a batch of single origin drip coffee ready to pour, beans for sale, and a new joke to make you laugh or groan.
BREAKFAST – chilli cheddar pretzel
At BABCO, 95 Albert St, Palmerston North
BABCO’s social media accounts should come with content warnings, letting viewers know they’ll be hit with the uncontrollable urge to empty their wallets in exchange for bags of perfectly baked baked goods.
What started as a pop-up pizza and sourdough bread has become arguably the best bakery in ManawatÅ«.
The sourdough is delicious, the vegan sandwiches good enough to turn the heads of the most ardent meat-eaters, and the croissants supremely mocking.
But I’ve always been a fan of the chilli cheddar pretzel, with its chewy baked crust topped with strong cheese and enough chilli to start the day off right.
Pair it with any themed treat they’ve whipped up for the season – their hot cross buns are some of the best around – to start the day off right.
LUNCH – spring roll and tofu noodle salad
At Saigon Corner, 54 Princess St, Palmerston North
ManawatÅ« may be surrounded by dairy, beef, sheep, and poultry farms, but vegans have more than enough to keep their bellies full.
Wholegrain Organics serves nutritious and delicious soups and pizzas made with vegetables from their own farm, Sinergy’s food cart is perfect for a grab-and-go breakfast burrito or decadent Oreo hot cakes, and Whispers Cafe (yes, I know, it’s in Levin, who’s in Horowhenua) has a brilliant rage of quick vegan bites.
But my pick for a cruelty-free kai is Saigon Corner’s spring roll and tofu noodle salad.
What started out as a simple hole in the wall has turned into a restaurant serving some of the best Vietnamese food in ManawatÅ«, with pho and banh mi always on the menu.
But the spring roll and tofu noodle salad, available with vegan sauce on request, is the sweet spot between nutritious and delicious.
SNACK – Sand donut
Au Petit Lapin Blanc 106 Seabury Ave, Foxton Beach
The Little White Rabbit is one of three locations in Foxton and Foxton Beach owned and operated by Anita and Nigel Lynn, who previously had Village Inn Kitchen in Palmerston North.
Foxton Beach may be slightly outside of ManawatÅ« â even though Foxton is home to ManawatÅ« College â but the donuts the Lynns serve are too good to ignore.
The Little White Rabbit is a must stop for me on my way to the beach, with great coffee and food to match.
A Sandy donut is always on the order, with the pillow-like interior protected by a crust created by frying the batter, while the “sandy” sugar provides the perfect sweet kick.
They’re more akin to a New Orleans donut than a cream-filled donut â though you can get a flavored Sandy â and are enjoyed the same way: quick, warm, with a coffee.
DRINK – King St Bohemian pilsner
Chez Brew Union Brewing Company, 39-41 Broadway Ave, Palmerston North
For an appetizer, Brew Union Brewing Company is a favorite for many.
In five years, it has quickly become the region’s go-to spot for its delicious house beers, mind-blowing cocktails and more indulgent pizzas.
Head there in April to try their Turbo Juice Hazy IPA, a seasonal beer made from freshly picked hops.
The hop variety used, Nectaron, is responsible for the waves of peach and nectarine that wash over your taste buds.
But at any other time of the year, their King St Bohemian pilsner is a perfect example of New Zealand pilsner.
It’s very tasty for craft beer lovers, with the use of New Zealand-grown Taiheke and Riwaka hops giving the brew a hint of citrus and a floral buzz.
But with a lean malt profile and 5% alcohol, it’s also crushable enough to be the perfect lawnmower beer.
DINNER – Chateaubriand Tataki
Chez Provenance, 159 Broadway Ave, Palmerston North
There’s never been a better time to dine in ManawatÅ« than now.
Options for brilliant dining include Amayjen at the Cuisine hat, long-running Nero restaurant, small plate specialist The Fat Farmer, Aberdeen steakhouse, Feilding’s The Strong Room and Little Savanna with its African influence.
Then there’s the wide array of ethnic restaurants, with izakaya-inspired Yatai, Afghan Darbar’s Middle Eastern cuisine, Arranged Marriage’s South Indian, and do-it-yourself Korean barbecue. even at GAON.
But my pick is newcomer Provenance, opened by businessman Harry Faas during the Covid-19 pandemic with Aaron Freeman of My kitchen rules fame as executive chef.
Provenance takes its name from its mission – to provide diners with excellent meals using as many products grown or made in ManawatÅ« as possible.
The menu tells you where your ingredients come from: chicken from Foxton’s Turk’s Poultryâ located 40 kilometers to the west, garlic from Äpiti Road Garlicâ 50 km to the north and cheese Cartwheel Creameryâ 40 km away to North-east.
The star of the show is the chateaubriand tataki – Angus beef from Totaranui Angus Pure Studâ (35 km southeast) cooked perfectly rare over coals, served with a sesame ponzu dressing.
The sourness of the ponzu reduces the richness of the beef, while the meat is the epitome of melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.