Roscoe’s Guide to New Zealand

Have you been to NZ? You really should, it is so beautiful it will blow your mind.

Sound familiar? That is the usual couple of lines from anyone who has recently returned from our most southerly state. Well, now it is my turn.

After recently getting back from my first trip to NZs south island I came back with the same attitude that everyone does after their first trip. It is odd, being in the wine and food industry for all these years and I had never been across the ditch, I guess I always figured if I had holidays I would rather go overseas and for me NZ didn’t feel like a trip OS but I was sick of hearing how gorgeous it was and how they had apparently all of the southern hemispheres natural beauty locked up on two small and sparsely populated islands. It didn’t take more than a few hours to get a sense that I had been missing out.

The very first night we stayed at a friend’s house on their winery in Waipara, about an hour north of Christchurch. Rolling hills, lush green (that much green pasture is enough to make your average country boy from oz cry), blue skies and those long white clouds dotting the horizon. It was a great start to a sensational visit.

After being back for a few days I thought I would compile a quick list of some of the best places we visited to eat, drink and also a few must do for tourists who like food and wine (especially since we went to a lot of the better known places and had some not so great meals). I figure you don’t need help to find out where the snow or glaciers are, the locals will tell you, all of them, constantly! Also Michael told me I had to write something for the new website, so……… here it is, a hungry and thirsty mans tips four touring in Australia’s southern most state.

Christchurch

It is a quirky little place this city, you also can’t help but notice the construction and repair after the earthquake that tore the place apart a few years back, the damage from which is still being repaired today. It has a kind of mini Melbourne feel, sneaky little places down seemingly empty alley ways, a few cobbled streets where the most trendy joints are.

Most notably and most famously is New Regent street, this is closed to traffic and home to the city’s most hip places. We basically did a small crawl and tried bits and pieces in most of the establishments. The first stop should definitely be the Last Word, a quirky little whiskey and cocktail bar that would be at home in Melbourne CBD. The selection of drams was really comprehensive and there was a few extremely rare old bottlings that you would be lucky to taste anywhere on the mainland. Deftly made cocktails were being made and consumed and the best hot toddy I have had in a while (well two of them actually but who’s counting) really hit the spot.

Shop Eight Food & Wine is just across the street and a few shops down. The place is owned and run by two local chefs who focus on the best local ingredients prepared simply to highlight the quality (something you hear a lot in NZ but quite a few places really missed the mark). We grabbed a few plates to share and a couple of glasses of Riesling. This cosy little joint could pretty easily become your local hangout if you lived close by.

The Institution is another New Regent must do. There is a reasonably good selection of Kiwi beers, but then again there is everywhere on the Island as even their supermarkets stock an extensive range of local brews, a few snacks and some very comfy couches downstairs to sit and chat. They have a sound system that you can control if you log on to their wifi with your ipod but they have strict rules about what kind of things you can play. It is warm, friendly, quiet and a great place to have a few pints.

What’s that, you want a chicken waffle burger? Not a problem, head to Lower Ninth Diner, a little place tucked away in a small and gloomy looking alleyway that punches out classic American style burgers that will  not disappoint and the chicken waffle burger with a Rogue Dead Guy Ale was bang on.

For coffee hard to go past Supreme Supreme, it is just out of the city centre (still very close but everything is) and Melbourne level caffeine is administered.

Waipara

If you are on the wine route do not overlook this region, the wines are great and they have two of the best rural restaurants in the country. I didn’t get to eat at Pegasus Bay but when I popped in for an impromptu tasting and the winemaker/owner recognized me he tried to rope me in to a truffle tasting with their staff. That was the day they were having their annual truffle lunch and the chefs, somm and owners were tasting through three growers truffles to decide what they would use. Unfortunately we caught the red eye flight and hadn’t slept that night so I was more in the mood for a nanna nap and a beer. But the menu looked incredible and the restaurant there is consistently given two hats and often NZs top rated rural restaurant. On a side note their new cook book is great too if you can find it.

Black Estate is owned and run by two of the very best. Their wines are now firmly in the top echelon on the region and certainly making a name for themselves as one of the countries better producers. The restaurant just got its first hat and the food there is great, one of the best meals we had on the trip and well worth the effort. If you can make it ensure you go for lunch and make sure you tell Pen and Nick I sent you (or maybe not actually, I am not sure if dropping my name will help or hinder).

Wanaka

Go here, stay here and get some trout fishing done. While I didn’t eat out really here as we had a huge house with friends I did eat well as I did a lot of the cooking but more importantly Wanaka is one of the more beautiful and visually spectacular places I have ever stayed.

To top it off we took a fishing charter (my other consuming passion) and landed five super trout (all over 3.5 pound and one well over 4) and lost a couple at the boat. I cant recommend this fella highly enough. Davy is semi retired and only takes very small groups out on his boat chasing the elusive and feisty trout. Within a couple of hours we had a few of these little beasts in the oven, it doesn’t get any better or any fresher than that!

http://www.adventurewanaka.com/fishing

Queenstown

Littered with tourists and touristy restaurants, there is apparently a few great places to eat (I have a list of suggestions from my foody mates on the island if you want me to send it to you) but I only had time for one meal so I went to the other top rated winery restaurant in NZ Amisfield. This was an incredible feed, everything super fresh, bright, perfectly plated and paired with a glass of their Chenin, a cellar door only treat and apparently it is usually sold out but well worth asking for as it was reminiscent of good Vouvray and perfect with their Koura (a small spiny little fresh water cray that inhabits the inland rivers of the South Island. It is reminiscent of Margaret River Marron but smaller and sweeter).

Bluff Oysters

Read this carefully, it is important. Check the season before planning your trip as I got their right at the end and had to search everywhere to try and find some. Better to plan the trip at the start of the season to ensure you get fresh Oysters in abundance. These large, creamy, native and wild oysters are unlike anything I have had before and while they may not be for everyone they are a must try for anyone who loves oysters.

East Coast loving

Riverstone Cottage is an absolute must. In the middle of nowhere and near nothing of interest this iconic NZ restaurant will not disappoint. But book early or run the risk of being turned away, it gets very busy and is not a large space. Wine list could use some serious work but the food is sensational and most of the veg comes from their gardens on the property.

Moeraki and Fleurs place

I have to say with all the hype we had a very age feed here. Considering the reputation of the place I am not sure I would recommend it, but also I have to wonder if we just got a bad night.

However the fishing here is good to and the load of Blue cod we caught on another charter resulted in some simple pan fried fillets of one of the sweetest and most pearly white fish I have ever eaten.

Dundedin

A great town but be careful of the places you find if you look up what to eat on google, we tried a couple of more highly rated places by a few sources and they did not deliver. But then there was some gems we stumbled across and a heap of fun bars around the town centre. If you want a glass of something NZ and a great setting try Bacchus wine bar.

The one thing I wish had the opportunity to do more of, apart from fishing, in NZ was to cook. So much great produce can be found on the island and the seafood here is sensational. If you get somewhere with a kitchen and you like to cook then you will have no shortage of inspiration.

So get over to New Zealand, it’s so beautiful it will blow your mind.

- Roscoe Halligan-Rose