I didn’t expect much from New Zealand food, but was pleasantly surprised by all of the delightful dishes on my plate at every meal. In fact, partway through our trip I was reminded of the section in Eat Pray Love where Elizabeth Gilbert buys new pants because she’s eaten so much amazing food and can’t fit into her old ones anymore. Here is my guide to food on the South Island…
Numerous locals recommended the Boat Shed Cafe located on the water in Nelson. Now, when Kiwis say “Boat Shed Cafe” it sounds like “Boat Sh*t Cafe”, which is funny every time – and doesn’t sound like an appealing place to eat at all. The actual restaurant is seaside shabby chic with food comprised of the freshest ingredients available, and every seat has a fantastic ocean view.
Continuing our trend of eating meals while enjoying the best view available, we reserved a table outside at Finz Seafood & Grill at the wharf in Queenstown where we experienced the finest sunset of our travels. I’ve always found that food and wine taste better when paired with dramatic scenery.
If you want to dine like Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring, make a reservation at the popular Redcliff Cafe in Te Anau. While we ate delicious food during our entire trip this country isn’t generally fancy, especially in the presentation of food. Redcliff was the notable exception bringing truly fine dining to New Zealand one plate at a time.
A converted cottage, this restaurant is cozy and personable with a bar area in what was once the front living room. We chowed on The House Specialty: Trio of Lamb, House Smoked Fiordland River Eel Bruschetta with Lemon Chutney and devoured the Deconstructed Banoffee for dessert
Oh, by the way: Tax and tip are always included in the cost of your meal in New Zealand. This means you’re refilling your own water glass from a carafe at the table and not always checked on as many times as you would be in other countries but, you’ll get used to it and appreciate not being interrupted while chatting with your companions.
Let’s be honest: The entire country is beautiful to look at but a big part of why we went to New Zealand was to drink their amazing wines, mostly the world renown Sauvignon Blanc. No meal would be complete without a glass of something from the Marlborough Wine Region. International wine enthusiasts are likely familiar with Cloudy Bay and this is your chance to see where the grapes come from and try some Reserve wines not available outside New Zealand.
Our local favorite was Bladen Wines. Stop into this family owned winery’s cellar door (aka tasting room) and pick up as many bottles as you can get past customs!
Your wine accessories are sometimes as important as what you’re drinking!