A taste of South Island, New Zealand

Orchards, wineries and a thriving culinary scene make Queenstown a foodie find. Chef Ben Batterbury reveals the best eats around New Zealand's Southern Alps.

By Ben Batterbury
Published 20 Sept 2017, 18:19 BST, Updated 12 Jul 2021, 11:24 BST
Paragliding over Remarkables Mountain Range, Queenstown, New Zealand

Paragliding over Remarkables Mountain Range, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Photograph by Getty Images

Queenstown's food scene has really evolved since I first arrived from the UK around eight years ago. The Nordic-style foraging trend is strong, aligning with the 'hunter gatherer' nature of locals. Indigenous plants, wild foods and nutritious seaweeds are popping up on local menus, and there's a drive to support smaller producers from our South Island's 'epicurean way' too. Since we enjoy four distinct seasons, there's a bounty of produce here, including Cardrona Merino lamb and succulent stone fruits.

A taste of the town

Kickstart the day at Vudu Cafe and Larder, with its artfully arranged display cabinet, or try Bespoke Kitchen's healthy, seedy treats. For apres ski eats, The Cow, a converted livestock shed, offers homemade pizzas and open fires, while Atlas Beer Cafe does great craft beer and steak.

Out in the fields

Coronet Peak is Queenstown's closest ski field (resort), 25 minutes north of the city. En route, visit the Amisfield Winery & Bistro, overlooking Lake Hayes, a schist stone version of Denmark's Noma. Near Cardrona's ski fields you'll find one of New Zealand's oldest pubs: Cardrona Hotel, on the spectacular Crown Range Road.

Top three ingredients of South Island

Creamy Bluff Oysters: Unique to the region and probably its best-known ingredient, they're sourced from the cold clean waters of the Foveaux Strait at the southern tip of the South Island; available March-July.

Cardrona Merino Lamb: This meat has a mild, sweet and instantly recognisable flavour due to the animal's grazing grounds on the near- vertical slopes of the majestic South Alps, rich with native grasses and wild briar berries.

Whitebait: A tiny prized delicacy and a 'must try', though not to be confused with British whitebait. One of the traditional New Zealand ways of serving whitebait is actually in a sandwich.

RECIPE: Whitebait with gremolata butter

Serves: 4

400g west coast whitebait
Half a lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp butter
8 slices sourdough chargrilled or toasted
Rocket leaves
Rice flour

- Heat a wide non-stick frying pan, medium heat.
- Coat the whitebait in rice flour, shake using a sieve to remove excess.
- Lightly oil the pan, add the garlic and fry briefly, add the whitebait for 30 seconds, then the butter.
- When it foams add the lemon juice, a pinch of salt and the parsley.
- Toss and serve on toast with lemon wedges and rocket. Use the melted butter to dip the bread in.

Ben Batterbury is the award-winning, executive chef of True South Dining Room, at The Rees Hotel in Queenstown.

Published in the Winter Sports guide, distributed with the October 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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