Tutukaka is special: so is the food at Schnappa Rock

I had the special of the day, Hapuka with Moroccan-style baby potato, beans and a capsicum jus: and within hours I was tweeting I’d just had the best hapuka I’d had in years!  Where was I? Schnappa Rock Restaurant & Bar  at Tutukaka half an hour north-east of Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand and the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve: from my table I can see the Perfect Day  boat I’ll be taking in the morning for my trip to the islands.

Around me, as in most marine resorts, are a mix of people.  A group of young backpacker-type travellers have just left on a bus, while other independent travellers are enjoying drinks at the outside tables. Opposite me are two couples, the women  well dressed with perfectly coiffured hairstyles – ‘the rock’ accommodates us – and overheard  conversations let me know the fish I’m eating is not the only great thing on the menu!

A dessert of orange and almond cake, with raspberry coulis and yoghurt, completes my meal: perfect.

Nick Keene and Esther Eves have had this restaurant for some five years and pride themselves in serving fresh, local and sustainable food. The fish is line caught, local and fresh.

They describe the setting as “sub-tropical escapism” – being surrounded by punga (NZ’s native tree-fern) and lush hibiscus certainly helps  as we escape our daily lives and sink into a relaxed, coastal, holiday, vacation, mood.

I wander back to my accommodation (Oceans Resort Hotel) on the first day of my destination, two weeks in Northland, knowing I’ve already escaped my daily routine and I’m looking forward my time up here – it’s been a long, long time since I was in this special part of New Zealand.


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