Dunedin proudly displays its Scottish heritage and friendly, laid-back demeanour at every turn. Unlike its northern cousin Auckland, folk down here tend to dress casually for a night out to dinner. If you stick to the city’s Octagon, you can find the usual array of cafes and restaurants, but go a little further afield and you’ll start to discover some real gems. And whilst it can get a little chilly in Dunedin, this isn’t a reason not to venture out of your accommodation in search for good food, because there’s plenty of it to find. With tons of locally-produced treats on offer, you’ll be far from disappointed.
The Saturday morning market is a must-do if you only have a weekend to spare in Dunedin, because it’s the perfect opportunity to sample all kinds of local fare in one place. Top of the list is the Bacon Buttie Man, who lovingly cures his own bacon. Be prepared to queue for this treat, served up with onions, relish, mustard and sauce in soft white bread. Once you’ve devoured your buttie, collect some goodies from the other food trucks including the Hungry Tui, the Tart Tin, and Beam Me Up Bagels, for a takeaway picnic. If you’re after some fresh, local produce, bring a bag because the market attracts more than 65 fruit and produce sellers every week.
This organic Mecca will leave you feeling wholesome inside, offering a peaceful space where you can sit and recharge your batteries after time on the road. It’s a grocery store and eatery in one, where goods are certified organic, and you can bring your own jars and bags. If you’re gluten-free or vegan, the eatery’s range of specially-made pizzas, salads, and sweet treats is sure to appeal. Then, after you’ve eaten your fill, it’s time to shop. You’ll be sure to cook up an organic storm with their extensive range of fresh produce, free range meat, and bulk wholefoods.
If you want to soak up Dunedin’s Scottish heritage, visit Scotia and its adjoining whisky bar. Bookings are essential at this traditional nook, nestled away just off the Octagon in cosy surroundings that are smart but not pretentious. Most of the rich, meaty fare pays homage to its country of inspiration – none more so than the entree of haggis, served with gravy and oat biscuits. If you’ve never tried haggis before, you’ll soon be won over and asking for another helping. Don’t have time to a full sit down meal? Head upstairs to Doon Bar, where you can enjoy your haggis as a bar snack with one of more than 200 single malts.
Vanguard is the ideal pitstop for the peckish Dunedin explorer, following the inner city art trail. In fact, artwork number 15 on the trail, by Argentinian artist Hyuro, can only be viewed from Vanguard’s back window. The cafe has a strong commitment to serving fair trade coffee and locally grown produce. And whilst it’s usually busy, it preserves an air of quiet tranquillity. Pore through Vanguard’s extensive range of magazines and papers, while chomping away on a medley of its four, fresh daily salads. Then, inhale its dark chocolate and salted caramel tart for a sugar rush to see you through the rest of the art trail.
A drive to Spelt’s hilltop location offers a chance to take in some stunning views of the city at the same time as being able to stock up on some of their fabulous treats. Some of their many artisan breads are made with ancient spelt wheat, sourced from New Zealand farms. And even if you’re not a bread fan, its range of gourmet pies, pastries and sweets will leave you salivating. (Spelt’s creamy mushroom, parmesan and black pepper pie took out a silver award at the 2017 National Pie Awards and is not to be missed.) Wear your loosest fitting clothing for a visit to Spelt, because you’ll want to try one of everything.
Tucked away in Dunedin’s student quarter, this affordable but healthy eatery means you don’t have to compromise on a good feed while watching your pennies. Formosa will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Taiwanese home kitchen, complete with produce straight from the garden. The cafe prides itself on having no deep fried food, no MSG or additives. While it serves plenty of meat dishes, it has lots to offer vegetarians, from noodle dishes to organic salads with dumplings, (they even offer gluten free dumplings for those who prefer them). Eat up, then wash it all down with a bubble tea and wheel cake.
If you’re meandering around the city on a sunny day, you can’t beat Johnnies for some tasty takeaways to enjoy in John Wicklife Square or Queens Gardens. Watching American husband and wife team Matt and Kim Morgan at work is a pure delight. Kim fronts the counter with lashings of charm, while Matt pumps out orders tirelessly. Choose your own burrito and taco fillings if you like, and be sure to get a side of cornbread. The lunchtime rush on Johnnies is flat out, so nip in just before 12pm. Prices are incredibly reasonable, so you can really push the boat out and walk away with a great feed.
St Clair beach is a must on any Dunedin travel itinerary, and you’ll want to catch a moody photo of the old pier poles being thrashed about by the pounding waves. After braving the windswept beach, you’ll have worked up an appetite, and Starfish is the perfect place to indulge it. Although it’s busy, staff are attentive, and once you’ve claimed your table, it’s all worth the wait you may have had. Try the Starfish Stack for brunch: grilled ciabatta, hash browns, streaky bacon, tomatoes, free-range poached egg and hollandaise sauce. The cafe also doubles as a bar with live entertainment in the evenings, so if you want you can bookend your day with a Starfish visit..
This is the closest you’ll get to a Kiwi home kitchen fish and chips meal without having to be invited over for dinner. Cosy up at their formica tables while munching away happily with all the trimmings – tomato sauce in tomato-shaped bottles, white bread and butter so you can make chip butties, and beer and wine to wash down the salt. Best Cafe has been serving up since about 1932 and Dunedin residents were so concerned to see it come up for sale in 2016, the local newspaper wrote a story on it. But rest assured, new owners saved the day and its fearsome reputation lives on.
One of Dunedin’s best kept secrets, this oft-described ‘quirky’ harbourfront restaurant will have you wondering if you’ve walked into a secondhand store by mistake. Plato’s walls are lined with a jumbled collection of teapots, and its tables are covered in colourful cloths. It’s the place to come if you want a fun, lighthearted night out, but make no mistake – Plato takes food seriously. It boasts the freshest South Island seafood and produce, washed down with Central Otago wines and locally-produced beer. Just a short walk away from town, you’ll be glad you made the effort.