The Viaduct's swanky Soul Bar and Bistro has scooped the top 2012 Hospitality New Zealand award with Auckland establishments claiming five prizes.
The bar was named best restaurant and won an award for excellence in training and staff development, and owner Judith Tabron was named personality of the year.
Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said Tabron was renowned for her passion and commitment to the restaurant trade, not only for running "one of the country's best drinking and dinning establishments" but also for developing cooking and service talents.
"Judith's lifelong commitment to the hospitality industry is unquestionable," he said. "Judith has risen through the career ranks - starting as a junior chef in the kitchens, to running her own highly successful establishment, which in its own right is among the best of its genre in New Zealand. She has also continued to give back so much to the industry through her support of training.
"Judith Tabron epitomises everything great about the hospitality industry in New Zealand - vibrancy, enthusiasm, passion, innovation, and a heartfelt desire for the continuing success of young staff and the sector as a whole."
Tabron began her hospitality career as a chef at Logan Park Hotel in Greenlane, before working in a London restaurant, then returning to work at 1980s icon De Bretts.
She then opened Ramses in Newmarket in the early 1990s before working in various kitchens and for SkyCity, before opening Soul in the early 2000s.
The Studio on Karangahape Rd was named best entertainment venue; Mt Eden's The Clare Inn won best beef bar meal and West Auckland's The Riverhead won best lamb bar meal.
The winners were announced in Wellington last night.
Robertson said while many businesses were struggling to make a profit, the four Auckland winners were prospering.
"The judges noted that a repeated theme in many of this year's winning entries, including all of those from Auckland, was a determination of their businesses not to be stymied by a slower economy, and daring to be different in what some customers are seeing as a 'vanilla' or homogenous marketplace," he said.
"Those points of differences showcased by many of the winners include service offerings, delivering customers a totally unexpected yet far superior experience to what they were anticipating, providing an ambience or atmosphere far removed from the local competition, and embracing new technology."
Robertson said awards judges noted many of the winning Auckland entries were increasingly reviving 'old school' hospitality practices like marketing to their local customer networks and "offering amenities and ambience from throughout the generations of New Zealand's heritage".
Entrants are judged over a six-week period by a panel of independent industry professionals.
- Auckland Now