What a feast for the senses Queenstown provides, in more ways than one. As well as devouring the incredible scenery, you'll find an abundance of delightful gastronomic experiences in our southern adventure playground. Here are six of my favourites.
Level 6, 38-54 Lake Esplanade, Queenstown
Forget everything you've ever thought about buffet dining. The signature restaurant of QT Queenstown (the hotel is opening later this year), Bazaar offers a theatrical and interactive dining experience like no other, with seafood, cheese and charcuterie bars, Asian and grill stations and authentic Italian wood-fired pizzas. Our visit begins with an orientation tour, including the excellent advice to save room for the bounty of the dessert bar. My choice of steak was cooked to perfection in front of me with some entertaining commentary, while my vegetarian friend was equally delighted with the range — there really is something (many things, in fact) for everyone. At $69 a head (plus drinks), come here with a big appetite and great expectations.
Top tip: wear comfortable shoes because you'll be making many trips to and from your table. Oh, and see if that table can be by a window: the food is only equalled by the stunning views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables.
9 Isle St, Queenstown
Situated close to the Skyline gondola, this is the ideal place to indulge in a hearty, healthy brunch before a day of adventure. Open less than two years, Bespoke has quickly earned a fantastic reputation: its focus on raw and organic ingredients, coupled with a creative menu, saw it named NZ's Cafe of the Year last year.
The day I visit, Bespoke Kitchen is humming and after eyeing up the impressive cabinet fare, I take a sunny spot at an outdoor table while perusing the menu. The orange spiced pancakes sound intriguing but I decide my appetite warrants the Breakfast Board: toast with avocado and poached eggs with chilli lime salt, a chia strawberry pot and a shot of greens. It's a treat for the eyes as well as the tum and, at $20, well-priced as it keeps me full for hours.
AKARUA WINES & KITCHEN BY ARTISAN
265 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Rd, Arrowtown
Akarua is a well-respected winery that has teamed up with catering maestros Artisan to offer breakfast and lunch. The garden setting of historic Walnut Cottage is a treat, and there's no need to rush as the doors are open until 5pm. The menu centres on seasonal local produce; my hankering for fresh fish sees me opt for the cerviche, with its fragrant and delectable flavours of coconut, lime, chilli and coriander, served with charred bread. At $14, it's a generous starter but I supplement it by sharing a roast beet salad ($21.50), as colourful as it is delicious. A glass of Akarua wine complements the meal beautifully, as does the attentive service.
Plaza Arcade, 30 Shotover Street, Queenstown
You won't find this Middle Eastern-influenced cafe and takeaway in the fine-dining guides but if you're on a budget, this is a must. For $9.50 I get a beautiful tomato and chickpea soup to go, served with a warm tortilla filled with hummus. Moments later, I'm sitting on the beach in the autumn sun, watching the TSS Earnslaw steam past on Lake Wakatipu and thinking it's one of the best meals I've had in Queenstown. For less than 10 bucks!
14 Beach St, Queenstown
I expected The Winery, in the heart of the town, to be a nice wine bar. What I found was something unique, something extraordinary, something that is an essential winelovers' experience in a place renowned for its excellent tasting opportunities. Using a
clever chipped card and state-of-the-art wine cabinets, you decide what to try and when: there are more than 80 wines, champagnes, whisky, port and sherry available by the taste, half- or full-glass. Sink into a cosy leather chair with a cheeseboard, and you could while away hours. Like what you try? Buy a bottle - there are more than 800 cellar-door wines in stock, and a hand-picked selection can be shipped home. They've even developed a snazzy app for the purpose. Highlights? Sampling the Penfolds Grange Shiraz 2012 (a mere $1099 a bottle — having just a taste was a decadent thrill) then deciding I preferred the shiraz next to it at a tenth of the price; and enjoying the 2015 pinot noir from acting legend Sam Neill's Two Paddocks label, in the specially designed Central Otago pinot noir glass from Riedel. Love wine? You'll adore The Winery.
43 Ballarat St, Queenstown
The brainchild of Josh Emett and Fleur Caulton, Rata has a reputation as one of the best dining spots in Queenstown — and it delivers on the promise. The decor reflects the local landscapes perfectly and the vibe is relaxed, although the service is first-class. The signature dish is the beef wellington but it's meant for two; my friend wants something else but a quick check with the kitchen and I am offered a half-portion. It doesn't disappoint. My only complaint is that even the half leaves no room for dessert — or even one of the dessert cocktails, which sound divine. The highlight? The goat's cheese profiteroles starter served with rata honey. Heaven for just $12.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: Air New Zealand and Jetstar fly direct from Auckland to Queenstown.
What's on: The annual Queenstown Winter Festival runs from June 22-25 with a range of events, including street parties, fireworks, music, comedy, fireworks, family fun and snow activities.
Further details: See queenstownnz.co.nz
Lorna Subritzky is the 10am-3pm host on Coast.