If you are ever fortunate to visit New Zealand and find yourself in Queenstown, you will be amazed at your dining choices. From food carts to burgers to top tier restaurants, this town offers it all. I was one of those fortunate individuals who visited this year and so got to personally sample the cuisine.
As is my practice, before we left I did my research, asked my travel agent and friends who had been there for recommendations, and made a few reservations. Then once we arrived, I asked the locals...a practice I always recommend you do, too. I have usually found the best places by asking where THEY eat, not what they recommend to tourists. And this trip was no exception...
Almost all of the restaurants in New Zealand promote fresh food with locally sourced ingredients, especially seafood and lamb and we found this to be true in Queenstown. Here are some favorites that should not be missed. As always, I recommend making reservations at any restaurants you really want to try.
If I was forced to choose a personal favorite Queenstown restaurant, Rata would be it. From start to finish, everything was very special, including the vegetarian menu and the open, modern decor. It is tucked away in a quiet corner of downtown with impeccable service and eclectic food. If you like cheese, do not miss the cheese cart or the honey and goat cheese profiteroles. Rata is definitely a dining experience and not where you want to go for a quick bite.
Ivy & Lola's
Located on Steamer Wharf on Beach Street, Ivy & Lola's sits on the water and offers patio dining where you can watch the active Queenstown lifestyle pass you by. They even offer blankets and heaters if the weather turns chilly. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can dine all day or just choose the active bar scene. The house specialty is seafood along with the 3-hour slow roast which my husband indulged in and will happily attest to its deliciousness!
Our hotel did not have a restaurant, but offered to pick up food from local restaurants and set it up for you in the room. On our last night in town, we decided to stay in and pack for our trip home, so we took advantage of this amenity. When the staff kept steering us to Madame Woo, I finally got the hint. Besides, it's from the same chef, Josh Emett, as Rata, so I assumed it's the same quality. The Asian-inspired menu blends traditional staples with contemporary flavors for a delightful meal. They are famous for their Hawker rolls, so make sure to order.
We never would have found VKnow if it hadn't been recommended by our hotel. The staff told us they go there all the time. It's situated in a residential neighborhood in a very small shopping area and you could tell it was all locals dining. It's super casual and offers menus that change regularly with the availability of fresh produce. While we had pasta dishes, I have to say the pizzas look amazing and well worth a visit.
Bespoke is a bit away from the sometimes hectic downtown area and offers a lovely selection of baked goods including gluten-free as well as nice salads. There's plenty of outdoor eating space and efficient service, although it does get busy mid day.
There are several of these restaurants in New Zealand. I'm sure you can surmise from the name, Boswana Butchery, that it caters heavily to the meat crowd! However, it also features many seafood options AND vegetarian dishes. It's housed in a charming cottage-style environment across from Lake Wakatipu. There is a lovely lounge upstairs and an enormous wine cellar. Just an FYI, it is on the more expensive side.
This restaurant and bar is housed in one of Queenstown's iconic hotels. While Eichardt's specializes in tapas, it's also know for its seafood chowder. And if you're looking for a great option to enjoy a cocktail at sunset, you've found it overlooking Lake Wakatipu.
If you want a more special night out, the Bunker should be a good selection. It's tucked away from the hustle and bustle with dim lighting, a cozy atmosphere, and wood decor to add to the feeling. If it's a bit chilly outside, you'll appreciate the roaring fireplace or there's a bar upstairs if you just want a drink. The Bunker specializes in game meats and local seafood with a French-inspired touch.
On the Run
Taco Medic has a food truck where you can get a quick, budget-friendly bite to eat and also a dine-in restaurant, Craft Taqueria. All of the tacos are gluten-free and made with fresh, daily-pressed corn masa tortillas from Mexico. Some of the favorites are Fisherman, Runnyman Breakfast, and Stockman tacos.
There seems to be an obsession in Queenstown with Ferg's. There are lines no matter the time of day, although they do move quickly. I think this qualifies it for a tourist attraction in its own right. It is open pretty much all day as it only closes for like 2 hours in the middle of the night to clean. As I'm not one to stand in line for food, we never made it there. We had the chance to have it brought to our hotel room, but when it comes down to it, it's a burger and fries, no matter how many people claim it's the best burger they've ever had! Of note, don't expect to pay McDonald's prices. These burgers can cost around $12, but they are huge.
If you get a chance to do some wine tours, don't miss the Otago region, the world's southernmost wine growing region. We visited Mt. Difficulty on a tour. They also have a restaurant with a lovely outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards. Both the wines and the meal received thumbs up.
This is another winery that offers a dining experience. They offer both an a la carte menu and a "trust the chef" option. You have to love that...It's situated in an idyllic setting overlooking Lake Hayes.
Queenstown restaurants will not disappoint! There is such a variety you'll find something to please everyone's tastes. That said, be brave...try new dishes and new ingredients. Remember why you travel in the first place and that food is part of the adventure!