I am a massive believer in tasting the local food when travelling so it might seem a little strange to be reviewing a Greek restaurant in New Zealand. To be fair, we did sample a traditional Māori Hangi at Te Puia Rotorua, before we branched out and truth be told, Greek is my very favourite cuisine. I have visited Greece four times and have eaten my way through mountains of spanokopita, devoured countless souvlaki, gorged on oodles of dolmades, munched many a saganaki and gobbled down way more than my fair share of delicious, sticky loukoumades in various tavernas both there and abroad. The Hubs first spotted Al Camino Restaurant Whitianga when we were walking home from No.8 Bar & Restaurant where we had dinner on our first night and he knew it would be right up my alley. So how did our NZ Greek experience measure up? Read on for all the details …
Al Camino Restaurant Whitianga Overview
Al Camino Restaurant Whitianga occupies a prime position on The Esplanade directly across from Buffalo Beach in The Coromandel Peninsula which was the second stop on our road trip through New Zealand’s North Island. Even better for us, it was only a 4 minute walk from our accommodation at the Beachside Resort Whitianga which meant that we could leave our hire car from Airport Rentals at the resort and enjoy a few bevvies. While I have been talking up the Greek, the menu also features some Italian classics to provide variety. The dining room is quite spacious and some outdoor seating is available. When we spotted Al Camino on that first night we had to check out the menu to make sure it was to our liking but unlike practically every other restaurant I have visited in my entire life there was no menu board posted out the front. Undeterred we popped inside to investigate further. We were initially ignored while waiting patiently and had to practically crash tackle a staff member to assist us. When we finally got someone’s attention we were treated like an inconvenience and this did not bode well with me. Despite this negative first impression, we chose to return the next night based on the strength of the menu. We ate a little later than the peak dinner time so I was surprised to see the dining room quite busy. We were seated promptly and given a table right at the back. It didn’t take The Hubs long to peruse the drinks menu because as soon as he spotted Estrella he was sold. I ordered a Kiwi Sauv Blanc while we perused the menu in a little more detail than we had the previous night.
What We Ate
We had a big lunch after our Cathedral Cove Kayak Tour so we looked for something light to satisfy without over doing it. The mezze platter for 2 seemed like the perfect place to start. If you are not familiar with eating mezze style you are missing out. It’s the perfect introduction to Greek cuisine as it let’s you sample lots of bite sized serves of different dishes. Al Camino Restaurant Whitianga had a unique take on the mezze platter and among the dolmades, feta and spanakopita I was expecting there were also some rather strange additions like pickles, falafel, chorizo, brie, crackers (what no pita????), picked onions and prawns. The Hubs loved the sausage pieces and my favorite was the spanakopita which was cooked perfectly.
I’m a sucker for a souvlaki and we shared a mixed chicken and lamb. I thought they were a little stingy on the tzatiki but I guess we could’ve/should’ve ordered extra. I’ve never had zucchini on a skewer before but there is a first time for everything! The flavours were authentic and we could certainly taste the lemon, garlic and oregano in every bite. The meat was tender and the lamb had a pink blush in the centre exactly like it should have. I prefer my chips chunky cut but it didn’t stop me scoffing these fries. The side salad could hardly be considered Greek given it didn’t have any feta or olives and was more a token effort than a true accompaniment.
All things considered we had a pleasant night at Al Camino Restaurant Whitianga. The service was better (not brilliant, but better) on our second visit and the food had more positives than negatives which is always a good thing. I would have loved to share a link to the full menu but Al Camino does not have a website (why???), you can however check them out on Facebook here. If you are visiting New Zealand for the first time you should definitely read my New Zealand Essentials post and bargain hunters should check out all my tips on scoring a bargain flight before making a booking.
Do you like Greek food? Are you tempted to try Al Camino? I would love to hear you thoughts in the comments below.
Until Next Time …
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I paid in full for my meal at Al Camino Restaurant Whitianga and as always, all opinions are my own.
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