About the awards


The New Zealand Cuisine Good Food Awards bring recognition to New Zealand’s top restaurants. As the only nationwide restaurant awards, Cuisine is committed to telling the New Zealand food story and shining a guiding light on the very best dining experiences our country has to offer. We believe New Zealand cuisine deserves to be celebrated and see it as our job to help elevate New Zealand’s finest onto the world stage.

Winners of the Cuisine Good Food Awards are highly acclaimed; and competition is tough. Only a handful of restaurants win the most coveted title in the awards’ hat scoring system - three hats. Scoring a rating of 18 or more out of 20, these restaurants have been found to excel in every part of the restaurant experience.

A panel of more than 40 expert judges, appointed by Cuisine editor Kelli Brett, scour the country seeking out the very best. In 2017 a list of the top 100 restaurants will be announced. Of these some will be recognised as category winners and ‘hats’ if they earn a score of 15 or more.

At a time when anyone can publish a review, Kelli believes the professional process through which restaurants are judged for the awards makes them all the more important.

“If a restaurant doesn’t make the Cuisine Good Food Guide it is devastating news for the team behind the restaurant. It is hard, really hard to tell a chef or a restaurauter that they have not been recognised, but it is important. When a restaurant does make the Cuisine Good Food Guide it is a celebration of their incredible work, their growth and their ability to shine within a tough and highly competitive industry.”

Award catagories

  • Restaurant of the Year
  • Chef of the Year
  • Best Metropolitan Restaurant
  • Best New Metropolitan Restaurant
  • Best Regional Restaurant
  • Best New Regional Restaurant
  • Best Specialist Restaurant
  • Best Casual Dining Restaurant NEW
  • Restaurant Personality of the Year
  • Innovation Award
  • Best Winery Restaurant
  • Best Wine Experience
  • Best Drinks List

The Hats

  • 3 Hats: A score of 18, consistently outstanding; 19, Extraordinary: approaching perfection; 20, Best of the best.
  • 2 Hats: A score of 16, Great or 17, Excellent: up there with the best
  • 1 Hat: A score of 15, Very good.  

The 2017 awards will be held on 7 August. Keep an eye out for the September issue of Cuisine to get your copy of the Cuisine Good Food Guide.

Want to know about how the awards work? Read our FAQs for more information.


How does the judging process work?

A panel of expert judges quietly assess restaurants from across New Zealand over a number of months:

  • All restaurants are visited anonymously and judges pay for their meals
  • Restaurants do not apply to be reviewed, the judges choose who is visited
  • Restaurants may be visited multiple times by multiple judges to ensure an accurate final score.
  • The judges score the restaurants based on the hat system (see below)

What is the hat system?

The Hats

The hat system is our criteria for assessing restaurants. A score out of 20 is the assessment of the total restaurant experience. Up to nine points are given for food (flavour, technique, produce, balance) and up to four points for service (knowledge, care, professionalism). Four to wine and wine service (wine menu, staff knowledge, pricing), and up to three points for ambience (decor, lighting, buzz). Scores of 15 or more receive a hat - the more hats, the higher the score.  

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The scoring

Who are the judges?

Judging is done anonymously at the restaurants so we can’t tell you who they all are. But we can tell you we have a panel of 40 judges from around the country who are all esteemed food and beverage professionals. The judging panel is headed up by Kerry Tyack who says:

“It’s important the awards provide a simple, transparent, honest and valued service to our audience. It must also be respectful of those we critique and we must be prepared to defend our decisions. I love the discovery - of new ideas, talent, skills, creativity, innovation and progression. We have true leaders who are making the most of our resources using local, regional and seasonal ingredients.”

When does the judging take place?

Judging takes place across the year.

Do judges provide feedback?

Judges are happy to provide feedback, as requested, to a top 100 restaurant. We have found that those who have talked through their score with one of our judges in the past have been very happy with the constructive feedback - and gone on to score higher in the following years.

Where can I get a copy of the Cuisine Good Food Guide?

The Cuisine Good Food Guide will be available in the September issue of Cuisine. You will also find the list online. Take a look at the 2016 winners here.