Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

Queenstown: Southern classic

A Queenstown hotel treats its guests to epicurean delights sourced on its doorstep, finds Morgan Tait.
Eichardt's Private Hotel looks out over Lake Wakatipu, where the TSS Earnslaw can often be seen.
Eichardt's Private Hotel looks out over Lake Wakatipu, where the TSS Earnslaw can often be seen.

Early on a Friday evening, the bar is filling at Eichardt's Private Hotel.

At wooden tables in front of an open fireplace, both guests and locals nestle into the ambient location.

Sitting lakeside in the bustling South Island tourist mecca, the two-storeyed, white stone building cuts a grand figure where Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountains end and the resort town begins.

American drawls blend into Kiwi twangs - but no matter how far these patrons have travelled, they can guarantee the ingredients that make up Eichardt's tapas menu are from just around the corner.

If he hasn't foraged or grown it himself, Scottish chef Will Eaglesfield has swapped herbs, vegetables, seafood and fruit with local growers.

The locality and handpicked nature of the menu is exemplified by a serving of Gibbston Valley goat's cheese and wild marjoram blossom surrounded by misshapen, multicoloured tomatoes.

It is backed up by a platter - made of wood found nearby - of Eichardt's own game (wild boar coppa and Fiordland hunted tahr salami), house cured prosciutto and local olive oil, housemade pickles and the chef's own sourdough ciabatta.

Delicacies are served atop flat stone platters that Eaglesfield collected while kayaking near his Sunshine Bay home, and the ceramic plates stamped with Eichardt's logo he made himself.

Sommelier and talented cocktail-makers are attentive, in a place where the wine also has travelled mere kilometres from grapes grown in the Gibbston Valley to be poured expertly into my glass.

Opulent furnishings further enhance the cosy atmosphere upstairs where guests can stay in luxurious apartments overlooking the lake.

Accommodation is either private apartments and suites in the lakefront building or in the even more private three-storied Residence, a seven-minute walk around the lake.

A lake-front apartment at Eichardt's Private Hotel.

I begin the walk as the evening deepens and a busker wheels a large piano past me.

Arriving at the stone fence that marries the water to the bustling town centre, he plays facing the lake and a crowd gathers behind him in the growing darkness.

The panoramic views from the balcony of The Residence are the type that dissolve minutes and makes the bustle of the party town on the doorstep seem an age away.

The Residence includes three bedrooms and a large living area, as well as a cinema room on the ground floor.

Each option is furnished to impeccable detail. From the photographs on the walls, to fresh flowers and cosy throw rugs, every room exudes the comforts of a stately home.

Back in the main building, guests can relax in a shared lounge that doubles as a whiskey bar and trebles as the venue of a monthly winemakers dinner.

Come morning, the welcoming atmosphere at Eichardt's bar again beckons and the breakfast menu offers another round of local epicurean delights.

Offerings include homemade muesli with nuts and seeds gathered nearby, free range eggs and house-cured bacon, or brioche served with preserves made from fruit given by locals who receive their own jars of jam in return.

Attentive staff will accommodate any guest need - from in-room beauty treatments, to guided tours and golf at the acclaimed Jack's Point course.

For those wanting to explore the compact town centre, the turns of brick lanes lead to cafes, fashion boutiques and award-winning restaurants.

Built in 1871 by Albert Eichardt, the structure was to replace its wooden predecessor, the Queen's Arms Hotel.

Severe flooding in 1999 saw the site restored, and it is now a revered landing spot for those looking for a more refined experience of the region.

The subtle lavishness of the refined interiors is a nod to this site's gold rush heritage - and its continued relevance as a popular meeting point continues the role hotels played as hubs of early New Zealand communities.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies non-stop to Queenstown from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch with up to five return services daily. Connections available from Air New Zealand's other domestic ports.

Where to stay: Eichardt's Private Hotel's The Residence is a private villa with magnificent views of The Remarkables mountain range. Luxury apartment accommodation is also available.

The writer travelled with assistance from Eichardt's, Destination Queenstown and Air New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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