Ah, Queenstown. Surrounded by the beautiful Southern Alps and the Remarkables mountain range and nestled by the cool (read: very cold) blue waters of Lake Wakatipu. There’s so much to do here and all that fresh air works up an appetite. So it’s just as well Queenstown knows how to cook up a storm.
Though it’s small, the town punches well above its weight when it comes to fab dining experiences. It has a booming café culture, plenty of fancy restaurants and more-than-lively nightlife. New to the scene are a plethora of top-notch hawker-style food trucks and outlets which are catering to the backpacker and broke-as hospitality worker crowds.
Let’s get this one out of the way quickly. You’ve heard the hype, you’ve seen the mile-long queues, yes, it’s The Ferg – a Queenstown institution.
This burger pedlar started out as tasty way of getting around alcohol licencing laws. Legend has it, the big burgers soon became more popular than the beers and now Fergburger is known the world over for its giant, juicy burgers with cheeky names. From the ‘Sweet Bambi’ with wild venison and brie to the ‘Bun Laden’ falafel and lemon yoghurt burger, there’s something to suit every palate.
Though the locals are sick of the hype, it’s a must-do on your visit to QT. Here’s a tip – avoid the queues and phone in your order ahead of time. (If you can get through.)
If burgers are not your gig, then pop next door to Fergbakers for scrumptious homemade pies, pastries, tarts and other amazing baked goods. Or try Mrs Fergs for some of the most mouth watering gelatos and sorbets in town.
Raeward Fresh Queenstown
You’ll hear locals refer to this gourmet market store by it’s original name - the Mediterranean Market. This is where all true food lovers shop and has been the bastion for supplying the very best in local and exotic food for many years.
Pick up everything you need for a gourmet feast. Fresh local and imported produce and gourmet treats abound. Grab some fresh Italian pasta to go with that locally-made Zamora sausage and Central Otago Pinot. Then head to the open kitchen to watch the chefs at work in the deli. If you’re in a hurry you can pick up some delicious ready made meals and salads or if they’re not busy, ask the chefs how to whip up the perfect tomato sauce or how long you should marinate your sauerkraut.
When you’re done shopping, sip a latte in the café and tuck into a raw health food truffle, or a slice of Jenny’s famous chocolate mud cake.
The World Bar
Reborn after a catastrophic fire in 2013, the legendary World Bar is now in an historic building on Church Lane. This whimsical pub still offers its infamous tea pot cocktails and regular live gigs, but the offering from the kitchen is better than ever.
Tuck into seriously yummy burgers, chicken and waffles and a humungous plate of nachos. Stick around for Bitchin’ Bingo with Queen Fi-Fi or toe-tapping tunes from local musos Calico.
It’s customary to wake up hungover after a night at World Bar, so head next door to their new café, Yonder, to recover. Filled with leafy plants and funky décor, it carries the same quirky vibes as the bar, but the menu is more breakfast and lunch orientated. ‘The Cure’ bacon butty comes with a Bloody Mary, there’s wholesome porridge, tofu bowls and plenty of vegan and gluten free options too.
Yonder’s events calendar includes mountain flow yoga sessions on a Monday and chilled acoustic music on the stage hidden at the back of the café.
Erik's Fish and Chips
A must do Queenstown experience is to sit on the waterfront by the lake with one of New Zealand’s favourite dishes: “fush and chups”.
Enter Erik’s, run by fish and chip enthusiast Erik, his partner Anna and their friendly team. Their original colourful food truck is just metres from the waterfront and might just be the best fish and chips in New Zealand.
Everything is cooked in rice bran oil and their special recipe batter is gluten free, so this is lip-smackingly-good greasy food without the stomach pain. Handmade sausages, battered kiwi fruit and chicken tenders are must-eats as well as Erik’s tribute to all the ex-pat Brits in town: cheesy chips and curry sauce.
The Empanada Kitchen
This is one of the top snacks in Queenstown AND has one of the cutest logos you ever did see.
Seek out the kiosk on Earnslaw park to try this handmade South American street food that’s packed full of flavour. For the uninitiated, empanadas are savoury stuffed and baked pastry; sounds simple, but don’t underestimate the power of a well-made empanada when the 3pm munchies strike.
There are four or five different flavours available each day from cauliflower and blue cheese to lamb and rosemary. Bite off a corner and pour in one of the Empanada Kitchen’s special sauces – you won’t regret it. Locals Tip – if you want to buy some frozen ones to take home – you can pick these up at Raeward Fresh.
Perky's - Floating Bar
If you don’t fancy plonking your backside down on the beach to eat, a new go-to is Perky’s Floating Bar – the only one of its kind in New Zealand.
BYO food is encouraged on this boat-turned-café that’s permanently moored in the bay. The immaculate boat has indoor and outdoor seating, fairy lights, a good range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as well as the all-important espresso machine.
It’s pet friendly, so bring your takeaway and your pooch and enjoy one of Queenstown’s spectacular sunsets with a vino in hand.
Pedro's House Of Lamb - Queenstown
It’s hard to believe that a takeaway joint could only offer one dish and survive in Queenstown, but Pedro’s lamb is not just any dish. Slow-cooked to perfection, Pedro’s house of Lamb serves (you guessed it) a whole shoulder of lamb with scalloped potatoes on the side.
Perfect after a hard day on the slopes, or a lazy day wine tasting, when you want a hearty, home-cooked meal but don’t have the time or the skills to spend eight quality hours in the kitchen.
House-cured meats hang in the open kitchen, there’s the scrape of wooden chairs on terracotta tiled floors and carafes of all-too-drinkable house wine on the tables. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a slice of Italy in this small, cosy restaurant. Established in 2008, Bella Cucina has become a firm locals favourite for casual dining in Queenstown.
Though the pizzas are great, it’s the not-pizza dishes which make this restaurant truly special. The menu is changed every day according to the whims of the passionate Italian head chef, but stuffed crab, sautéed gnocchi and roast porchetta are typical favourites.
Bespoke Kitchen is part of the Vudu family, a Queenstown staple since 1997. Though the original café is no longer with us, the dedication to wholesome food, delectable baked goods and great Allpress coffee lives on.
Plant plentiful, with a hint of kiwiana charm, Bespoke Kitchen’s popularity went through the roof after it won New Zealand Café of the Year in 2016. Now, alongside hordes of locals, you’ll find the occasional juice-sipping celebrity and tourists keen to find out what all the fuss is about.
On the menu, you’ll find hearty soups, quinoa salads and eggs benedict on sourdough toast. But let’s face it – all you’ll want to do is fill up on food from the cabinet… raw bounty bars, whole food truffles and traditional lemon tarts, what’s not to like?
This grand old building is one of New Zealand’s oldest hotels and its brand-new ultra-modern extension has certainly got tongues wagging, particularly as the penthouse has a $10,000-per-night price tag.
But you don’t have to be a millionaire to dine here. The original Eichardt’s Bar has been a local favourite for almost a century and a half. Cosy up by the fireplace and order tapas, a cocktail or one of their excellent coffees.
It’s a solid bet for a posh breakfast that won’t break the bank.
Once an ugly 80s mock-Tudor hotel, The Sherwood Hotel was recently renovated into a hippy, eco-friendly lodge, bar and restaurant.
There are solar panels on the roof, the bar is waste-free and many of the vegetables and salad leaves are grown in the kitchen garden. It could have been kooky, but The Sherwood have got the mix just right and now locals rave about this slightly-out-the-way destination.
Come for the mouth-watering roast chicken, twice cooked potatoes and local wines and stay for the live music, poetry and yoga sessions.
This hidden away restaurant feels very much like a luxury bunker made for a King to hide away in. Expect silver service and a fine wine matched menu.
If you’ve got cash to splash and want to taste the very, very best of the Central Otago region, opt for the Taste of the South menu. From hare loins to succulent merino lamb, this eight-course taste sensation is a rare treat that’s well worth seeking out.
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