When my parents dropped the bombshell that they were planning on flying out to New Zealand to visit me and they wanted me to plan them a no-holds-barred itinerary, I never imagined that the hardest part would be short-listing all of my favourite places to eat. Given my obsession with all things edible and my insatiable appetite for eating out, I suppose this shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Queenstown boasts an impressive concentration of bars and restaurants, and to save you the pain and difficulty of choosing between the best establishments, I’ve drawn up a whistle-stop 24-hour food itinerary of menus that you absolutely must not miss.
Breakfast: Bespoke Kitchen
You’ve arrived in the adventure capital of the world nice and early. You’ve got the entire day ahead of you to throw yourself off high things and scream at full lung capacity. What first? Breakfast and coffee, of course.
Bespoke Kitchen sits metres away from the Skyline gondola, one of the must-do sightseeing attractions of Queenstown. It may be more convenient to simply grab a coffee if you’re heading up the gondola to enjoy the view, but if you’ve got a bit of spare time before you do, it would be seriously rude (and foolish) not to give Bespoke a go.
Bespoke has a small(ish) but fantastically varied menu offering all the usual suspects; expect perfect poached eggs, smashed avocado and fresh raw pressed juice alongside a multitude of options for people avoiding gluten, dairy and sugar. Your mind will be blown by the pure decadence of these raw treats. The chocolate salted caramel squares are perfect with Bespoke’s famous coffee, and are completely dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free. However, for those with no dietary requirements, there’s plenty of ‘normal’ cake to go around (the carrot cake is truly something to behold). The lunch menu also boasts a few firm favourites, though I must admit that I have opted for the pulled lamb flatbread with pumpkin hummus on more than one occasion because it was so delicious, barely giving the other dishes half a chance.
On a more practical note, Bespoke Kitchen has outdoor seating, warmed by an open log fire and cosy blankets in the winter time, so even if you’ve swerved the sun and arrived in Queenstown to ski, you can still enjoy the mouth-watering treats Bespoke Kitchen has to offer.
Lunch: Caribe Latin Kitchen
Only checked off 3 out of the countless things on your Queenstown bucket list and already relentlessly ravenous? You’re in luck – there is a vast array of places where you can grab lunch on the go. If you’re limited on time, prepare yourself for the spicy delights of Caribe. This tiny little kitchen on The Mall packs a serious punch; fat meaty burritos, quesadillas oozing with cheese, tacos, nachos and tasty little arepas (for those not in the know, an arepa is a sort of corn cake, prominent in Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine — the chicken and avocado ones are especially fantastic). One word of warning about Caribe: when you are asked how spicy you want your food, err on the side of caution. Hot is most definitely hot.
Dinner: Blu Kanu
Blu Kanu is without doubt my sit-down restaurant of choice. Where else in the world have I ever had the chance to eat in a Polynesian-Asian fusion restaurant? On arrival, your table is laced with brightly-coloured candles and delicately folded paper flowers. The waiting staff are all quirkily dressed, the majority in garish Hawaiian-style shirts. The flavours are everything you’d expect. Succulent lamb and venison, an abundance of fresh, locally-sourced seafood, exotic rum-soaked cocktails and local New Zealand wines. Don’t make the mistake of swerving dessert either; order all three puds and enough spoons for all.
Evening drinks: The Bunker
A definite highlight of my noble quest to sample the offerings of all 42 bars in Queenstown was The Bunker, tucked away up some stairs in a passageway. Phenomenal cocktails, dim lights and the faint whiff of wood smoke from the outdoor fire-pit, this place has got serious ambiance. Old school jukebox tunes float through the bar and there’s usually a flickering James Bond re-run projected on a wall in the garden. If you’re looking for more sophistication and a few less Jaegerbombs then you’ve come to the right place. Don’t miss the Salted Caramel Espresso Martini or the Saffron Vanilla Sour — both are incredible.
Drunken snack: Ferg
It’s late; you’ve probably stayed longer than intended in The Bunker, for all of the reasons detailed above. How will you curb those late night hunger pangs?
Queenstown’s infamous Fergburger has a global reputation. Before I even ventured out to New Zealand I had been regaled with tales of mouth-watering meat and freshly baked bread rolls straight out the oven from the bakery next door. Fergbaker is owned by the same company and as if that wasn’t enough, you can hop next door again to Mrs Ferg’s Gelateria to fill your face with ice creams and sorbets. Fergburger, Fergbaker and Mrs Ferg are all open 22 hours a day, closing only between 5-7am. I am not exaggerating when I say that there are ALWAYS customers, and where the burgers are concerned, ALWAYS a queue.
Fergburger is the longest-running of the three and the menu offers a whole host of staple favourites, but the burger I was most often caught demolishing was ‘The Little Lamby’; a fresh bread roll, prime New Zealand lamb and all the trimmings — yes, I’m talking mint jelly.
If burgers aren’t your thing, you can still head back to your hotel or hostel room via that delightful row of Ferg establishments and pick up a famous Ferg pie from Fergbaker; it is around $6 for a sumptuous and sobering pastry of delight and the steak and kumara edition is arguably the best.
In all honesty, when picking somewhere to eat in Queenstown, you genuinely cannot go too far wrong. Having moved back to the UK after an incredible year living in Queenstown, the urge to return is growing all the while; this urge is undoubtedly motivated by my appetite. If you’re headed to New Zealand, do not miss out on this foodie paradise. And if you’re headed home… please bring me a slice of Bespoke’s carrot cake.