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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A weekend in Queenstown

Jetstar – despite hearing negative things surrounding this airline’s timeliness we had no issues whatsoever. Seats were comfortable, flight wasn’t full so we had room to stretch out and relax for the 1 hour 20 minute flight from Auckland (swift I know).
Mantra Marina Apartments - 875 Frankton Road, Queenstown.  We rented a 2 bedroom apartment with kitchen/living and dining area and of course views of beautiful Lake Wakatipu from the Frankton end.
Now Queenstown is generally known for its offering of outdoor pursuits, many of them dare devil that you wouldn’t catch me doing in a lifetime. However the food scene in the South Island really has been boasting some amazing things, so we decided to check it out. We are really big fans of locally produced food and the Southland is very big on this – forget your usual, we’re talking about hearty Angus beef fillet, Stewart Island salmon, Waitaki pork and Fijordland venison. We didn’t know how many restaurants were too keen on focusing local, so we handpicked a couple and cherry picked a couple more.

Gantleys Restaurant - 172 Athurs Point Road
Driving out of Queenstown on the road towards Arrowtown, you’ll stumble upon Gantleys. It’s a beautiful old restaurant that has been there since 1863 when it was a gold miner’s hotel. It was then restored as a restaurant in the 1970’s and in 1993 Director Brend Rands and Head Chef Jared Aldridge took it over. The menu is influenced by a lot of local produce and seasonal changes are made, but the local favourites such as Rack of southland lamb and duck are always there. 
I’d been to Gantley’s before, 8 years ago in fact and it hasn’t changed one bit. The food was exceptional, the service polite and knowledgeable and the surroundings as beautiful as ever. We started with the seared scallops seasoned and served with a whole scampi and finished with a light lemon cream reduction – beautifully cooked and the presentation outdid itself.

Next was the “piece de resistance” grass fed Angus Beef Fillet, garlic and rosemary potato cake, with kumara and blue cheese stuffed gourmet onion, balsamic mustard demi-glace and roasted shallot sauce topped with crispy prosciutto, my mouth is watering as I write this. Sounds delicious yes? Well it was unbelievable and my partner was so impressed with the stuffed onion he’s now re-creating it at home. I chose the “Taste of Southland”, a trio of fish in a way; White bait patty with micro greens, tempura Bluff oyster with crispy bacon and pan fried thyme and brioche Blue Cod fillets served on Israeli cous cous finished with lemon and honey mustard beurre blanc, it was equally delicious.
Gantley’s is at the top end of the market but the food shows this and it’s well worth booking ahead to ensure satisfaction.

We arrived here on our final night, the rain was battering down and the jovial manager greeted us at the door set us up with one of his last tables for the evening. The food was very good indeed, in fact my partner even said it was the best meal he’d had since we’d been in Queenstown. Two if the highlights were the roast French rack of Gus Morton’s Waitaki Pork served with an apple and parsnip mash and creamed savoy cabbage – the pork was perfectly cooked, melt in the mouth and the accompaniments were the perfect additions. The aged Hereford eye fillet of Southland beef, portabello mushroom and oxtail cottage pie, red wine shallots and jus was a massive hit with my partner, proclaiming it to be one of the best fillet steaks he’d had in a long while. The atmosphere at Pier 19 is casual but the food really is sensational, we’ll definitely be back here again.

Tatler - 5 The Mall. Great choice of food and wine. On the main street so plenty of people watching.
Searle Lane Social, 11 Church Street. Fantastic $10 lunches, $3 beers and wines on Thursdays and Fridays. It’s modern with a great atmosphere, cheery staff, pool table and an appeal towards a younger crowd.
WHERE WE WANTED TO EAT: (but were either too full or disorganized to book a table)
Ferg Burger - 42 Shotover Street.  Wow these burgers are legendary and gigantic, we really wanted one but just couldn’t fit it in. Next time.
The Bunker - Cow Lane. It’s situated in the most hard to find place, I mean you really have to hunt it out, but we’d heard it’s definitely worth it and by the look of the place I was definitely intrigued. It’s hidden away behind a dark alley and a rustic door and the friendly staff recommended that we head to Pier 19 for something nearly as good as The Bunker. And with options like oven roasted Cardrona Valley lamb rack and braised boneless hindshank with new potato and chevre gratin, green beans, roasted almonds and thyme jus on the menu, we couldn’t help but feel that we’d let ourselves down by not booking ahead.
Botswana Butchery - 17 Marine Parade.  We’d heard great things and the menu looked delicious, but alas they were fully booked for the night.
WHAT WE LOVED: The atmosphere in Queenstown in the autumn is fantastic; there aren’t the crowds you’d expect during peak winter and summer seasons, so you can take everything at a leisurely pace. It sounds like all we did was eat during our stay – we did manage a bunjy jump and lots of walking but food was our main point of interest. Overall, the range and variety of food available in Queenstown really is impressive, with a lot of restaurants sourcing the majority of food locally and taking pride in what they do. We will definitely be back soon!



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