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Art lovers who relish fabulous food can certainly have their cake and eat it in Taupō. What’s more, they can make their own cake platter at a downtown pottery studio!
Thanks to an ever-growing range of restaurants, cafes and other culinary options, no-one need visit the region’s galleries or glass blowers or painters on an empty stomach.
Gourmands can opt for a serving of street art when hunting for urban foodie treats. Or take a country lane for impressive lake views en route to a garden art and food experience.
Want to see the famous Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings carved into cliffs on the edge of Lake Taupō? Why not sail there in style, with a sumptuous deckside picnic on board a Taupo Sailing Adventures yacht?
Art and food are natural pairings in this part of New Zealand.
North of town, Lava Glass offers tours of the resident glassblower’s workshop, a garden full of glass sculpture and a glass art gallery featuring handblown artworks that are inspired by New Zealand's dramatic landscapes..
It also boasts Lava Glass Café where “delicious food meets beautiful art.” Expect a scattering of fresh flowers on the sweet slices and excellent vegetarian options such as the black bean burger in a beetroot bun.
Similarly, longstanding local favourite L’Arte Café and Gallery promises “a visual and edible feast” for daytime diners and art buyers. Opt for Allpress coffee or tuck into a glass of wine and a shared antipasti platter in the mosaic-filled garden. The all-day breakfast includes plenty of gluten-free options, while the salads are as colourful as the brightly glazed ceramic flowers, birds and other artworks made on the premises.
If all that clay is inspiring, sign up for a pottery workshop with Didi Chapman. The Czech Republic-born artist and potter offers classes for both children and adults at her downtown studio and also sells her Quirky Pottery homewares at the weekly Market Central Taupō. The market is a great spot to graze while speaking with artists and craftspeople.
However, it is also possible to try Didi’s wares in style before buying.
Dine degustation-style at Embra, where chef Phill Blackburne translates his Michelin-starred restaurant experience into “beautifully crafted dishes using sustainably sourced ingredients.” Each spectacular seasonal dish – think crayfish crumpet and wagyu beef spelt risotto - is served on a Quirky Pottery plate or bowl. Every ceramic side plate and jug has been handmade by Didi, too.
Taupō’s beloved The Bistro restaurant is another excellent spot to sample this ceramic range, topped with “simple clean flavours and honest tasty food from fresh local produce.” The changing menu might include handmade lemon gnocchi with calamari or a white chocolate and hazelnut parfait.
A four minute drive away, ZeaYou Gallery showcases an impressive range of contemporary jewellery, paintings, homewares and sculptural pieces. However, art also spills downstairs, to The Brantry which occupies the main floor of the building and dishes up its own kind of contemporary fare.
Between curried coconut prawn entrée and walnut tart dessert, diners can ogle - and buy - artwork displayed on the restaurant walls, alongside the fireplace and in the courtyard garden.
Need to take treats home or stock up for a special occasion?
Head to The Merchant for the best wine selection in town alongside a carefully curated selection of gourmet treats from New Zealand and around the world. This is the place to find locally-made Brot Art German-style wholegrain bread and award-winning Volcanic Chocolates.
Buzz next door to sample and buy the fermented honey offerings at Beehave Craft Meadery.The building is also home to one of Taupō’s largest murals, created during the annual Graffiato: Taupō Street Art Festival.
Find about 85 other murals scattered on surfaces throughout the town, or call into the visitor centre for a map of art locations.
At the other end of the lake, Creel Tackle House is an ode to the art of fly tying. Visitors to the historic tackle shop – the restored, relocated building dates back to the 1920’s – can buy trout fishing gear and occasionally watch flies being tied by hand.
The latest owners are experienced guides and fishing lodge owners. Their diminutive Creel Tackle Café, tucked into the back of the shop, offers great coffee, a chicken, leek and bacon pie in homemade pastry and packed lunches or picnics for those who can’t bear to leave the neighbouring Tongariro River.
Or continue into Tūrangi township to find Pihanga Gallery, which showcases harakeke and fibre art as well as handcrafted wood, ceramics, paintings, sculptures made by artists from the Tūrangi-Tongariro area.
Local master glass artist Lynden Over and Christine Robb are excited to formally announce that New Zealand Gardens Trust has endorsed the Lava Glass Sculpture Garden as a Garden of Significance.