Kiwis are not known for holding back when it comes to travel. We love to get out and explore our own country. Central Otago has much to offer including adventure tourism, an incredible new cycle trail, wine and cellar door visits, skiing and hiking over the winter months.
When it comes to dining there are plenty of options. A stroll through downtown Queenstown can make the decision easy, but if you’re looking for something outside the main dining spots, or need a short list of options, to add to your dining calendar, here are our recommendations.
The Lodge Bar
The Lodge Bar is an intimate space right on the lakefront of downtown Queenstown. With sheepskin-lined chairs, comfortable loungers or a captain’s table option, as well as bar seating, every seat has a view of the lake just 30 feet away. The venue is all about quiet music, excellent wine and slow-food dining.
I recommend you start with house-baked bread and cultured butter with a glass of wine, followed by duck liver mousse with red currant jelly and herbs, then the Gunner’s game pie and Lodge Bar side salad accompanied by a locally crafted pinot noir. The winelist showcases the best of Otago and the team can make just about any cocktail you can think of.
2 Rees Street, Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown roddandgunn.com/nz/the-lodge-bar
Cargo at Gantley’s
A great destination for a winter escape, head to Cargo at Gantley’s for craft beer and delicious pub food in a cosy, fireside setting. Over the winter months, the historic pub – which is situated just a one-minute drive from Coronet Ski Field – hosts après-ski, the perfect place to head after a day on the slopes, where you can enjoy mulled wine in the beer garden. The stone building is Queenstown’s oldest hospitality business.
172 Arthur’s Point Road, Queenstown cargobrewery.co.nz
The new cycle track from Cromwell to Clyde opened in early May and takes riders through some of the most dramatic and picturesque landscape in Otago. At the end of the track and below the Clyde dam is the tiny township of Clyde, where you’ll find Olivers. Housed in a fully restored heritage building from 1869, the space has open-plan dining, a bar and brewery.
From the dinner menu I recommend the fallow deer tartare with chimichurri, pancetta crumble and chicory endive as a starter; while the reserve beef rib-eye with hasselback potatoes, roasted beets, spring greens, beef cheek and mushroom popcorn and madeira jus is a main course not to miss. There’s a great wine list and fresh beer brewed onsite.
34 Sunderland Street, Clyde oliverscentralotago.co.nz
This organic vineyard in Cromwell has introduced a private lunch experience. Available to book for 4-20 guests, you can enjoy a delicious winery lunch in a rustic and relaxed private dining room. Here you can explore the vineyard’s gorgeous homestead and landscape and while away the hours enjoying a gourmet lunch and premium selection of its signature Central Otago and Burgundian wines.
46 Clark Road, Cromwell domainethomsonwines.com
This is definitely a meat lovers’ venue, with cuts from Hawke’s Bay and Taupo and local game as well. Imported cuts are featured and the classic sirloin, rib-eye and Scotch fillet are always on the menu. The shallot tarte tatin or crayfish ravioli are also very good. The cocktail list is extensive and the wine list includes a Coravin section.
8 Duke Street, Queenstown jervoissteakhouse.co.nz
The Stoaker Room
If you are visiting the Cromwell region make sure you visit Misha’s Vineyard, Stewart Town Vineyard and Matt Connell Wines, next door to the Stoaker Room (below). This clever barrel cuisine experience, where a myriad of seafood, shellfish and meats are steamed and smoked inside wine barrels, is not to be missed. The food is delicious and the menu will feed the whole family, either à la carte or banquet-style. Wild Earth wines, by the glass or bottle, are my recommendations for the perfect wine match. Be sure to order the half rack pork ribs with Asian barbecue sauce; or the homemade sausage with smoked slaw, onion marmalade, chipotle mustard and tomato sauce in a bun. If you’re in a group of 4-6 then the Butcher Feast is a banquet not to be overlooked.
180 State Highway 8B, Cromwell thestoakerroom.co.nz
There’s some wholesome family dining to enjoy here which includes a Duo of Beef dish – braised beef cheek, grilled beef fillet, Lyonnaise potatoes, sautéed greens and pinot jus – or try the tussock venison loin. If you’re staying overnight, be sure to start with its signature ‘Southern Man’ breakfast.
45 Swindon Street, Ophir pitches-store.co.nz
The Fork and Tap
The Fork and Tap is a gastropub venue in the heritage precinct in Arrowtown. It’s an easy 20-minute drive from Queenstown. As the name suggests, it has a full range of local brews on tap along with à la carte dining. Perhaps start with the potted paté made with free range chicken livers and served with crostini and an onion sage jam. Follow this with a BBQ Jackfruit sandwich, made with smoked mushroom, red cabbage, buttermilk aioli and jalapeño. It’s also a family-friendly venue with space for whānau and a separate menu for the pre-teens.
51 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown, theforkandtap.co.nz
Nest Kitchen and Bar
A five-minute drive from downtown Queenstown, Nest is also part of the Kamana Lakehouse luxury accommodation with spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu. For evening dining, you can choose a three-course, degustation or à la carte option. It’s hard to recommend one over the other. The chef’s degustation is often the best introduction to the fusion of flavours and textures using local produce.
If you prefer to select from the à la carte menu, then the braised pork belly with pea purée and dried prosciutto, bok choy and pickled radish is new to the menu. The signature Nest slow-cooked lamb with Moroccan sauce, couscous, mint yoghurt and almonds is highly recommended. There are plenty of cocktails and by-the-glass wine options to accompany the food and setting.
139 Fernhill Road, Queenstown nestqt.co.nz
This tapas and sharing plates establishment is operated by chef James Stapely. The food is super-fresh, with flavours inspired by local and northern hemisphere classics including Asian, French, Italian and Kiwi fusions. The portion sizes are ample for each plate. Start with three items, then reset the palate for round two.
Good examples of where to begin include the Jerusalem artichokes, goat’s curd, coffee hazelnut crumble and truffle; tea-smoked duck waffles, goat feta crema, beet purée and vanilla oil; and grilled salmon, nori, miso caramel, ponzu and fennel. Try a glass of rosé with them.
2 Dunmore Street, Wanaka kika.nz
Bella Cucina is in the heart of Queenstown, not too far from the steps that lead to the gondolas. I’m a big fan of Italian food, especially pizza and fresh pasta, but what I also like about this venue is that everything is made from scratch, has an authentic Italian feel and I always leave satisfied.
The gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options are very good, especially the pizzas. I recommend you start with warm Sicilian olives on arrival, followed by the octopus risotto or Diavola pizza, and finish with the cannoli Siciliani, filled with ricotta, candied lemon and orange with praline.
6 Brecon Street, Queenstown bellacucina.co.nz