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Jeremy Rameka, owner and chef at award-winning Napier resturant, Pacifica, was praised for his "artistry and passion" and awarded two hats at last night's Cuisine awards. (Photo: Pacifica Facebook)

Napier restaurant Pacifica was named Best Regional Restaurant for the second straight year at last night's prestigious Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards in Auckland.

In naming Pacifica as the best regional restaurant in the country for the second time in as many years, and awarding it two out of three hats, the judges praised chef and owner Jeremy Rameka for his "artistry and passion" in the kitchen and the "professionalism" of his front-of-house team at the restaurant on Marine Pde.

In another categroy win for the Bay at last night's awards, inventive Napier restaurant Bistronomy, opened by talented chef-owner James Beck last year, won the Best New Regional Restaurant Award and was duly awarded one hat.

Last night's awards proved Hawke's Bay is punching above its weight when it comes to good food, with seven of the region’s restaurants named among the top 83 vying for the title of NZ Restaurant of the Year, which went to critically acclaimed Auckland restaurant The French Café.

In their 12th year, the Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards remain the only national restaurant awards, where restaurants are judged using the Hat System, the benchmark of quality in the New Zealand and Australian hospitality industry. 

The highest score is three hats, which was awarded to The French Cafe and six others. Pacifica was the only Bay restaurant awarded two hats, while Bistronomy along with Mister D, Elephant Hill and Te Awa Winery were awarded one hat.

Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards 2016 winners

- RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR 2016: The French Café, Auckland

- Vittoria Coffee Chef of the Year: Sid Sahrawat, Auckland

Runner-up: Michael Meredith, Auckland

- Sanpellegrino Best Metropolitan Restaurant: The French Café, Auckland

Runner-up: Pescatore, Christchurch

- Neat Meat Best New Metropolitan Restaurant: Phil’s Kitchen, Auckland

Runner-up: Field & Green, Wellington

- Stuff.co.nz Best Regional Restaurant: Pacifica, Napier

Runner-up: Victoria Street Bistro, Hamilton

- Neighbourly Best New Regional Restaurant: Bistronomy, Napier

- Monteith’s Best Specialist Restaurant: Cocoro, Auckland

Runner-up: Cassia, Auckland

- Kenwood Restaurant Personality of the Year: Sarah Bullock, The Larder, Wellington

- Ōra King Salmon Innovation Award: Tom Hishon, Orphans Kitchen, Auckland

- Whitestone Cheese Best Winery Restaurant: Pegasus Bay, North Canterbury

Runner-up: Amisfield, Queenstown

- Negociants New Zealand Best Wine Experience: Apero, Auckland

- Opawa Wine Best Drinks List: Charley Noble, Wellington

- 2016 Hat recipients

The score out of 20 is our assessment of the total restaurant experience. Up to nine points are given for food (flavour, technique, produce, balance), up to four points for service (knowledge, care, professionalism), four for wine and wine service (wine menu, staff knowledge, pricing), and up to three points for ambience (decor, lighting, buzz).

- 3 HATS

Cocoro, Auckland

Kazuya, Auckland

Merediths, Auckland

Roots, Lyttelton

Sidart, Auckland

The French Café, Auckland

The Grove, Auckland

- 2 HATS

Amisfield, Queenstown

Baduzzi, Auckland

Cassia, Auckland

Clooney, Auckland

Orphans Kitchen, Auckland

Pacifica, Napier

Pegasus Bay, North Canterbury

Pescatore, Christchurch

The Grill, Auckland

The Larder, Wellington

Victoria Street Bistro, Hamilton

- 1 HAT

Apero, Auckland

Bistro Gentil, Wanaka

Bistronomy, Napier

Black Estate, Waipara

Botswana Butchery, Queenstown

Bracken, Dunedin

Bracu, Auckland

Cazador, Auckland

Charley Noble, Wellington

Depot, Auckland

Elephant Hill, Hawke’s Bay

Field & Green, Wellington

Fishbone Bar & Grill, Queenstown

Gusto at the Grand, Auckland

Hippopotamus, Wellington

Ima, Auckland

Jano Bistro, Wellington

Logan Brown, Wellington

Masu, Auckland

Mister D, Napier

Ortega Fish Shack & Bar, Wellington

Palate, Hamilton

Phil’s Kitchen, Auckland

Ponsonby Road Bistro, Auckland

Rata, Queenstown

Soul Bar & Bistro, Auckland

Te Awa Winery Restaurant, Hastings

The Engine Room, Auckland

The Sugar Club, Auckland

WBC, Wellington

Whitebait, Wellington