Words Vanessa Ortynsky
The South Island’s culinary scene is constantly evolving and we’re not complaining. Whether you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful spot to refuel on a weekend road trip or a fine dining restaurant to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, there are heaps of options from which to choose. We know it can all get a bit overwhelming, so we’ve done the legwork for you. These are the must-visit spots around the South Island.
Start your day off with breakfast at The Kitchen (111 Bridge Street), a light-filled, gorgeous café with health-focused meals and quality coffee. Otherwise, enjoy a quiet start to the day at DeVille (22 New Street), which has a beautiful garden setting.
Later on in the day, head to Arden Bar and Kitchen (216 Hardy Street), a casual-yet- considered spot that celebrates all the good stuff from local growers, brewers and makers. Cod & Lobster (300 Trafalgar Street) is another great choice for seafood and cocktail lovers set in a beautiful historic building in the centre of the city.
If it’s sunny (who are we kidding, we’re in Nelson?) grab fish and chips on the Boulder Bank. Otherwise, on the off-chance the forecast isn’t on your side, Stefano’s Pizzeria (91 Trafalgar Street) is an equally smart option for the best slices in town.
Ever since the yellow bus rocked up, we can’t stop eating cookies. Moustache Milk & Cookie’s cookie bus is located on 132 Manchester Street in the CBD and it continues to draw crowds. Definitely try the Oreo marshmallow, Snickers or the good old chocolate chunk.
From the team at Eaton Drink and Southside Social, Barberra (151 Cambridge Terrace) is a fresh, modern take on flavours from the Pacific Rim. Part of a collective on Cambridge Terrace, which includes café City Social and bar Sawyer, Barberra’s atmosphere is certainly part of its charm. The wasabi popcorn to start is a treat, as is the matcha pistachio cake.
No trip to Dunedin is complete without a stop at Good Good at 22 Vogel Street. A simple concept done exceptionally well, Good Good’s menu is limited to three burgers, each served on a lightly toasted milk bun. The beef is served with American cheddar, iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles, all taken to the next level by their signature Good Good sauce, ketchup and mustard. There is also a chicken and vegetarian burger – think barbecue pulled jackfruit with melted American cheddar, lettuce pickles, onion and dripping in creamy maple dressing.
As far as BYOs go, Best Café is one of the best. A Dunedin institution since 1932, the charming fish and chip shop is straight out of the 1970s. Look out for the neon sign on Stuart Street, and you’ve found the spot. Try the whitebait fritters or treat yourself to an ice cream sundae with pink wafer cookies and chocolate fish.
For American-style pit food using the best quality New Zealand meats, Prohibition Smoke House (10 The Octagon) is our go-to. Known for slow cooking and wood smoking, the menu features both small plates, not so meaty mains and main plates from the grill. You can’t miss the beef brisket with roasted shallot pickle and watercress truffle mayo. The crispy pork belly is another favourite, served with red onion jam, citrus slaw and whisky jus. There’s also a gorgeous outdoor seating area with a fire pit and heated gas lamps, ideal for festivities of all kinds.
It’s no secret that Queenstown has its fair share of incredible eateries to rival its laundry list of activities. Locals continue to flock to Rātā (43 Ballarat Street) and it’s easy to see why. The food on offer is diverse, with starters ranging from venison carpaccio, cured salmon and pork belly served with Bluff octopus, butternut squash, new season quince and pearl barley. The Southland cheese rolls are a must. Made with Otago honeycomb, organic mustard and pickled cauliflower, they’re decidedly better than the traditional.
Renowned for its extensive cocktail list and outstanding menu full of locally-sourced Northern Italian and Mediterranean-style cuisine, No5 Church Lane is another unmissable restaurant in Queenstown. We love the grilled bruschetta duo with heirloom tomato, grana padano parmesan, basil, roast eggplant, confit tomato and feta or any of their sourdough pizzas. Their bar snacks are also particularly noteworthy, try the bocconcini. Discerning drinkers should try one of their world-class cocktails.
Everything about Amisfield Winery & Bistro reflects Central Otago, especially the beautiful stone building that houses its bistro and cellar door at 10 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road, Frankton. Since opening in 2005, Amisfield Bistro has become a foodie destination. Executive chef Vaughan Mabee’s dishes are truly a work of art and perfectly complemented by Amisfied’s award-winning wines in a relaxed environment. Opt for Trust the Chef degustation menu, which has been an Amisfield signature since it opened. With three to five courses for lunch and seven courses for dinner, the food is designed to be lingered over. So, pull up a seat and soak in the vineyard view.
If you’re venturing further south to Milford Sound, you won’t want to miss Miles Better Pies in Te Anau. The perfect road trip snack, these are some of the best pies in South Island and, arguably, New Zealand. Try the curry chicken pie and thank us later.