A Foodie guide to 48 hours in Queenstown
The NADIA team take Queenstown, one meal at a time
When you think of Queenstown, your mind probably goes straight to the 43-metre-high bungy on the historic Kawarau Bridge, the jet boats that soar across the Shotover River at heart-pumping speed, and the plethora of mountainous peaks ready to be conquered. But there’s another side of Queenstown that’s equally as appealing – just with less adrenaline. It’s the side of this small but thriving tourist town that boasts world-class restaurants and hotels, meandering riverside walks, quaint hole-in-the-wall bars and inviting wineries for whiling away hours in the afternoon sun.
It was with relaxation, eating and exploring in mind that the NADIA team hit Queenstown for 48 hours, ready for fun and determined to discover as many delights as we could in the time. Feasting on local fare was at the top of the priority list, and what better way to ease that queasy post-flight feeling than with some tapas at Eichardt’s Bar on the lake front?
Located underneath the famous Eichardt’s Private Hotel – one of the first hotels to spring up during the gold rush of the 1860s – the small, welcoming bar has become an icon in the area, as much for its famous seafood chowder as for the fact that no matter when you swing by, chances are there’ll be a queue of people out the door, waiting for a seat.
No reservations, no wait-list, just get in line and stay there. Giving up your place could mean you miss out on the fried haloumi with marinated courgette and smoked tomato sauce, pork cheek croquettes in wild thyme breadcrumbs, and calamari in squid-ink tempura batter with lemon aioli (the hands-down dish of the day). The tapas are well worth the wait, trust us!
If time is of the essence, though, The Grille by Eichardt’s – right next door – is the newest eatery in town, boasting plenty of seating and farm-to-table dining at its best. Park up at the bar for a quick venison prosciutto or brisket open sandwich, bring a party of people to the wine bottle-lined private dining room, or melt into one of the comfy tan-leather booths for hours on end.
In the height of summer, the floor-to-ceiling glass walls pull back to allow uninterrupted views of Lake Wakatipu and a fresh breeze to cool you as you enjoy a signature cocktail or two. (Note: the owner’s margarita with Patron Silver tequila and Cointreau is highly recommended.)
The dinner menu is packed with local, ethically sourced fare, perfect for large group sharing or an intimate dinner for two. The whole barbecued Cardrona merino lamb shoulder with salsa verde, tomato and eggplant was a stand-out dish but special mentions go to the seafood ceviche featuring grapefruit and pea shoots, and the West Coast whitebait with preserved lemon and chilli. Save room for dessert if you can because the profiteroles with vanilla cream, chocolate and salted caramel sauce are To. Die. For.
If you fancy a nightcap, Rodd & Gun’s The Lodge Bar, a minute down the road, is a perfect spot for a tipple. The decor is reminiscent of an alpine ski lodge, all wooden floors, leather chairs, deer hides, Black Watch tartan and dim lighting.
Sample from the selection of New Zealand wine and local craft beer and don’t even think about leaving before trying the bread with house-made cultured butter or the beautifully fresh kingfish ceviche with apple and dill.
As much as we loved sampling the cuisine (and wine) this town has to offer, the following afternoon we dedicated to a lovely yoga session at Yoga Nadi studio on Stanley Street. Our vinyasa flow class taken by Sandi Murphy – owner of the Nadi Wellness Centre – was a beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle of the humming town below.
Located two levels up, the studio – like all prime locations in Queenstown – looks out over the lake. If you can’t do yoga outside, this is certainly the next best thing. The class schedule here is packed. From meditation to hatha, power yoga and yin, there’s something for everyone and classes are all drop-in. Just head on in when the mood strikes.
Making the most of the whole Queenstown experience means setting aside time to explore beyond the town centre, so the next day we jumped in the hire car and headed for Arrowtown – just 20 minutes away and famous for its well-preserved gold rush-era architecture.
Also famous in these parts are the sticky buns at Provisions Cafe, so naturally breakfast was the first thing on the agenda. After a warm welcome from the staff – and owner Jane’s adorable black Labrador Bella – we feasted on avocado bruschetta, chilli scrambled eggs, toasted muesli and top-notch coffee, while sitting on the deck among the plentiful fruit trees and fragrant rose bushes. With a paper bag of sticky buns in hand, we later strolled to the other side of town for a meander along the Arrow River Trail, the shores of which were blooming with purple lupins.
It’s the perfect spot to take in the history of the area, with original gold-miners’ cottages still standing at the start of the trail. Immerse yourself in the era and hire a pan to search for gold in the river – just be prepared to get your feet wet! Walk far enough along the river and you’ll end up in the now-uninhabited gold-mining settlement of Macetown, 15km away, or stop off earlier for a picnic at Sawpit Gully.
As appealing as a 15km walk may be, an afternoon at Gibbston Valley Winery was calling! Although the vineyard is renowned for its al fresco dining, sun-drenched courtyard and vines as far as the eye can see, it was a picnic under the apricot tree hidden at the back of the property that was the cherry on top of our trip. Not to mention sampling the vineyard’s special 2011 blanc de blancs and grazing platter brimming with local cheese, cured meats and juicy dolmades. No experience at Gibbston Valley is complete without a tour through New Zealand’s largest wine cave. A cool respite from the warm summer air, the cave – lined with 400 barrels – remains at 15°C year-round and can be booked for degustation dinners for up to 32 people and, of course, tastings of Gibbston Valley’s top varietals.
The sun’s slow descent behind the ranges of the Gibbston Valley was our cue to hit the road for the airport. With full bellies and tired bodies from our jam-packed schedule, it would only take a night in a pillowy hotel bed to revive us for another day of food and fun. This time around, though, we’re content with our 48 hours. Perhaps we’ll be back for a white winter…
Before you leave town
- Stay at The Spire Hotel and enjoy the nightly turn-down service with homemade fudge from the Eichardt’s kitchen and breakfast from No 5 Church Lane.
- Treat yourself to an award-winning dulce de leche ice cream at Patagonia Chocolates.
- Stroll along the waterfront with a takeaway flat white from Vudu Cafe & Larder.
- Test your frisbee golf skills at the 18-basket tournament course in the Queenstown Gardens.
- Take in a new release or art-house movie at Dorothy Brown’s in Arrowtown. You can even hire out The Den cinema room for a group of 20.
- Stop for calamari at The Stables Restaurant in Arrowtown and take in the original workmanship of the stone stabling, circa 1873.