Good food is more than just a side order to a menu of alpine thrills in Queenstown. It’s reason alone to visit, and not just for that burger place. Read on for what to eat and drink in Queenstown for any occasion.
The absolute, no exceptions, must-try: Fergburger
Queenstown’s worst kept secret is deserving of all its fame, never-ending queues and 21,214 Instagram hashtags (at current count). And yet I almost bypassed it, so disillusioned I was with all its fanfare. Oh look, yet another tourist taking a photo of their food. Could it really be that good? Cue eye roll. How wrong I was.
Is it the best burger on the planet? It certainly deserves a look in, so there's no need to bother with local imitations. Is it really worth lining up for? Yes, multiple times, in fact, to make a dent in the 20-strong burger menu. For purists and one-time visitors, the Fergburger with cheddar is your go-to – that plump juicy patty, melted cheese, crisp lettuce, red onion and oh, the sauce! If you’re going back for seconds, try the Sweet Bambi with wild Fiordland deer and Thai plump chutney for a distinctly Kiwi twist.
- They’re big enough for sharing (and they’ll kindly cut it in half for you too).
- Go early around 10am or mid afternoon to avoid most of the crowds. The queue doesn’t really ease until they close at 5am.
- You can call ahead to place your order!
When the Fergburger queue is too long: Fergbaker
While Fergbaker aren’t slinging patties between buns, you can get the next best thing: meat in pastry. Its pies are an institution, much like its burger brothers next door. Four’n Twenty has nothing on their lamb and kumara or venison and portobello pies. The best part is that you can get your carb fix until 4.30am everyday. Fresh as, bro.
When you deserve a fancy pants lunch: Amisfield Winery
All that wine tasting, relaxing and adventure can make you work up an appetite. Amisfield Winery is a Central Otago icon, renowned for its decadent pinot noir varietals and relaxed bistro. Settle in for an a la carte or ‘trust the chef’ lunch, which could include everything from tender Wakanui filet to sweet native crayfish served on an icy platter.
For wine tasting without having to venture out of town: The Winery
Queenstown is lucky enough to have the Central Otago wine region right on its doorstep, but if you happen to fall under the spell of Lake Wakatipu, you can taste the best of the vines without having to leave town. The Winery, a cosy bar-cum-bottle-shop-cum-cellar-door, showcases everything from single vintage to reserve vino from right around the country. And because we all love a bit of novelty, tastings (and half or full glasses) are dispensed with a swipe of a post-paid store ‘credit’ card and push of a button. It’s great for groups, but if you visit in pairs, you’ll get your pick of leather armchairs clad in fluffy blankets to snuggle into, perfect foil for lingering over cheese and charcuterie late at night. Or any time of the day, really. You’re on holiday after all!
When you need a break from cheese and wine: Blue Kanu
Blue Kanu is alpine on the outside, Treasure Island on the inside. Step into an ambient tropical world where the Pacific Rim meets Asia (‘Polynasia’) to feast on share plates with a difference. South Pacific island and Southeast Asian influences transform local ingredients, and you can chow down on fresh kokoda (cured fish) with spicy nahm jim sorbet, before heating things up again with a red curry lamb shoulder.
For après ski when a rowdy backpacker bar just won’t do: The Sherwood Hotel
Everyone that’s been to The Sherwood Hotel says the same thing: it’s cool. To be specific, it’s authentic and atmospheric with an edgy modern ski lodge feel. (Here’s looking at you, millennials.) Most importantly, it serves up a bevvy of unique seasonally inspired cocktails, craft beers and rare and small-batch spirits. Settle in at the bar and toast to a productive day on the slopes or trails with a Sidartha, made with Matusalem Anejo aged rum, chai spice almond milk and Xocolati bitters. Go on, you hipster, you.
When you unexpectedly lose track of time in Arrowtown and you're looking for a dinner venue: La Rumbla
Looking more like a film set from the Wild West than New Zealand, nearby Arrowtown is quite simply, utterly charming. It’s a day-tripper’s delight, with tree-lined streets surrounded by lush mountain ranges and hiking trails. Nestled among the original buildings – many dating back to the 1860s – is a bounty of exceptional blink-and-you’ll-miss it dining venues (such as The Postmaster’s House and Saffron). However, it was La Rumbla that won me over, with its bold Spanish flavours and slick little dining room. You wouldn’t think sleepy Arrowtown could dish up the best ‘potato’ bravas outside Spain, but they do. A big call, I know.
When you want to treat yo’self: Botswana Butchery
Botswana Butchery is the ultimate Queenstown splurge. Sitting pretty on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the elegant (but not stuffy) restaurant is an icon in itself, from the cosy private dining rooms to the meat clever front door handle. Naturally, vegetarians beware. Expect the finest cuts from the butcher’s block, including local Angus beef and a meltingly soft Cardrona Merino lamb shoulder for two. Order the duck fat potatoes and a glass of pinot noir and call it a day.
When it’s freezing but you still want ice cream: Patagonia
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From humble beginnings in Arrowtown, Patagonia is the southern lakes of New Zealand’s answer to Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. Escape to its toasty lakeside location for dessert, including handmade chocolates, cake, impressive desserts, ice cream, hot chocolate and more.