The visitor center has a helpful free Dine Out guide. You'll find the bulk of the best restaurants, cafes, bars, and nightspots in a tight cluster in and around the south end of Victoria Street.
Domaine, 575 Victoria St. (tel. 07/839-2100; www.domaine.co.nz), attracts a mixed business crowd during the day and has just enough flair to keep you coming back. Dine on delicious a la carte meals overlooking the river at the Novotel's Cafe Alma. Hindustan, 10 Garden Place (tel. 07/838-3501; www.hindustan.co.nz), is an excellent Indian restaurant in central city. Also popular, especially for weekend brunch, is River Kitchen, 237 Victoria St. (tel. 07/839-2906), where the atmosphere is always lively. For the best breakfasts and lunches, go to Scott Epicurean Café, 181 Victoria St. (tel. 07/839-6680); it's open daily.
If you're in the mood for relaxing in a casual local cafe/bar, head for a large tasty meal at The Cook Café, 7 Cook St., Hamilton East (tel. 07/856-6088). Iguana (tel. 07/834-2280) deserves a mention for its sushi, gourmet pizzas, comfy booths, and fast-paced night scene; and Barzurk, 250 Victoria St. (tel. 07/834-2363; www.barzurk.co.nz), is sought out for its superb pizzas and laid-back atmosphere. The Museum Café, 1 Grantham St. (tel. 07/839-7209), offers dinner Tuesday through Saturday and over-the-river cafe service throughout the day; and if you just feel like a quick takeout, Burger Fuel, 213 Victoria St. (tel. 07/838-2400; www.burgerfuel.com), has plenty of filling options.
At last! The Cambridge dining scene has something to boast about. Onyx, 70 Alpha St. (tel. 07/827-7740), should be your first port of call. Here you'll find fabulous wood-fired pizzas, great salads, and tasty seafood platters. In Stone Café, 85 Victoria St. (tel. 07/827-8590), is open for great coffee and snacks daily 7am to 7pm; and there's a hidden rural gem called the Boatshed Café, RD2, Amber Lane (tel. 07/827-8286), which overlooks Lake Karapiro and also runs a rental kayak operation that takes you through a canyon sparkling with glowworms.
About the best you'll find in these parts is Huhu Café, 10 Waitomo Caves Rd., Waitomo (tel. 07/878-6674; www.huhucafe.co.nz), where a tasty all-day breakfast will set you up for a day of underground fun. They serve delicious evening meals (reservations recommended) that feature dishes like braised lamb medallions. They're open daily from 8:30am to 8:30pm. Blackwater Rafting's Long Black Café, Main Road (tel. 07/878-7361), where the counter food includes good vegetarian fare, is a good coffee stop too.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.