If you're heading to Queenstown, make time to eat at one of these great new restaurants,
writes Stephanie Holmes
Slightly out of town, up in Fernhill, this restaurant is part of the Kamana Lakehouse luxury hotel. Dining at hotels used to be only for unimaginative tourists but this is really starting to change — now hotel restaurants are becoming destination dining in their own right. Don't just come for the food (which is excellent) and the drinks (ditto), but also the view — the restaurant provides a breath-taking, unobstructed vista down to Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables, Cecil Peak and Walter Peak, and beyond.
The menu is by executive chef Juan Pablo Aravena, formerly of Arrowtown's Saffron restaurant and Millbrook Resort's Millhouse Restaurant, and it's full of Mediterranean-inspired dishes using the best local produce. Choose from street food, small bites, pizzas, salads, veges, grilled meats and fish . . . or have a little bit of everything. The cocktails are well worth the journey, too. My negroni, with an added dash of hot sauce, was one of the best I've had in New Zealand.
2 The Fat Lamb
Bet you can't guess what these guys serve on the menu? The restaurant is in one of Queenstown's oldest buildings, Eureka House, on pedestrianised Ballarat St. Grab an upstairs window table and you can watch the hustle and bustle, while being away from the tourist throng.
This centrally-located gem specialises in sustainably sourced New Zealand lamb. On our visit, three of us shared Moroccan-style lamb kebabs with local honey, wild thyme, tabouli, herb salad and dukkah yoghurt; Cardrona lamb chops with cavolo nero, spring onion, broad beans, peas, edamame, broccolini, spinach and salsa verde; and an incredible lamb ragu with fresh cut, handmade pasta. It was all wonderful.
If someone in your group is not into lamb, there are other options on the menu — including a couple of vegetarian choices.
Wash it all down with a local pinot noir and watch the world go by.
3 Big Fig
You may recognise this name if you've dined in Wānaka in the past couple of years and now popular modern Middle Eastern restaurant Big Fig has expanded to a second location in Queenstown. It's owned by siblings Chrissie, Shaz, and Paul Lahood, and Paul's former wife, Tasha, who are inspired by the slow-food movement.
The Lahoods grew up in Taranaki — a family of 10 kids — and have Lebanese heritage on their father's side. The restaurant's name is inspired by the big fig tree that grew in their backyard. Big Fig serves deli-style, contemporary, healthy, Middle Eastern inspired food. Simply choose a plate size and fill it from the selection of beautifully cooked meats, fresh salads and tasty sides.
There's a commitment to sustainability, too. "Food scraps go to pigs, we sell reusable takeaway cups and bowls and offer a discount when you use them. We don't use plastic straws or bags." So you can be happy your meal is good for the planet, as well as for your puku.