Scores of restaurants and bars fill Queenstown; some come and go, others have a deserved reputation for burgers, pizzas or fine dining, with ingredients and dishes spanning the globe. The experience ranges from buffet dinners with-a-view at the top of Skyline Gondola to intimate apres-ski bars and hidden treasures such as The Bunker, ridiculously popular for its innovative modern NZ menu, but almost hidden down a back alley called Cow Lane.
Wine lovers won’t be disappointed, with the likes of Grantley’s Restaurant offering 250 wines on its menu and winning regular Wine List of the Year awards. Don’t miss a drive out along the Gibbston Valley wine route, where cellar doors offer great restaurants.
Most of the town’s bars are within a short walk of each other, making bar-hopping easy. Barmuda has a great outdoor courtyard with a huge open fire in winter. Around the corner, Bardeaux has leather armchairs and a laidback vibe, where a relaxed crowd of champagne and beer drinkers mingle.
Our top picks
16 Church Street
Les Alpes offers food from the alpine Savoy region of France, such as superb ham and cheese platters as entrees, and an excellent traditional raclette, melted cheese poured over potatoes and accompanied by pickles that’s just the thing on a wintry night. Leave room for the profiteroles. The interior is uber-cosy in wood and stone, and has live music (usually jazz and blues) on Friday and Saturday nights.
17 Marine Parade
It says much about Queenstown’s eclectic dining scene that this carnivore’s delight, run by Botswana-born Leungo Lippe, has been wildly popular since it opened in 2008. And rightly so. A chic setting, lake views and a top-notch wine list combine with meat selections prime beef, game, New Zealand lamb to get you licking your fingers. Fish and seafood choices satisfy the light eater. Set menus are good value.
Eat like a local
Want to know where locals go for their morning caffeine fix? Head to Joe’s, an American-style roadside cafe with a facade so uninspiring you could pass it by. Inside, it’s hipster heaven. The coffee is great, you can have all-day breakfasts that specialise in warm rolls with all manner of fillings, or enjoy lunchtime burgers and salads.
Vudu Cafe & Larder
16 Rees Street
Vudu Cafe is hardly a secret; chances are you won’t even get into the main Beach Street venue. If so, try the scaled-down alternative eatery on Rees Street, where a rather pared-down, industrial interior contrasts with a sumptuous choice of pastries, baked items, counter food and satisfying breakfast choices. A favourite hangout among young locals.
2 Marine Parade
Don’t be intimidated by its air of exclusivity: this bar in a petite, private waterfront hotel welcomes non-guests and is just the quiet, cosy spot for a light lunch of seafood chowder, pre-dinner cocktails or wine, or an evening meal of tapas that roams from squid tempura to salted cod croquettes, gazpacho and fried haloumi.