Sunday, 9 August 2015

How to Eat like a Royal in Queenstown: Part 1.

Not even a two-hour delay due to runway ice could have curbed my excitement for a week with my family in Queenstown. The prospect of snow-capped mountains, my very first ‘Fergburger’ and a seven course winery lunch was my kind of Monday morning mantra. The picturesque flight complete with clear blue skies and mountains that glistened in the morning sun truly took my breath away – whilst restoring my appetite to full capacity. 

Day 1. It all began in the crisp air of Arrowtown, with an Allpress coffee from Provisions (unfortunately their famous Sticky Buns had sold out!), a wander (READ: ice skate) through the quaint little town made complete with merino sock purchase and fudge tasting at The Remarkables Sweet Shop. Down a near-deserted alleyway and up the stairwell we were welcomed by the cosy, hip and hustling atmosphere of The Chop Shop Food Merchants. 

Following a classic ‘dad joke’ about the lack of chops, the rest of the menu promised some seriously interesting feasting. Confit rabbit, spiced roasted chestnuts and fried sage fettuccini complete with lemon labneh and French sorrel. Dreamy, creamy and devoured with forkfuls flying across the table. Their infamous ‘Elvis’ Corn Fritters with chilli caramel, coriander salad and a perfectly poached egg would have done the rock star proud. They tried to take it off the menu once before, but an up roar from locals meant it was there to stay. A few glasses of pinot gris, smoked pork hock hash and a savoury donut meant I didn’t even miss the Turkish eggs (another signature dish). Who am I kidding, I’m already planning my return. 

A wander around Lakes Hayes to digest lunch geared us up for the carb-fest that awaited, at The Cow - my Dad’s favourite restaurant in the world. This long-standing historic pub is hidden down Cow Lane, and serves up generous portions of ‘Pizza and Spaghetti’ to hungry families and hardcore ski-bunnies after a big day on the slopes. But the true gem in this place is their ‘Homemade Bread’ a warm wholemeal loaf slathered in garlic and herbs, served with a slab of softened butter and a giant bread knife so you can DIY! With the fireplace roaring we gorged on pizzas loaded with prawns, salami, tomatoes, olives and extra anchovies. Along with bowls of spaghetti where the seafood swam amongst the creamy white wine sauce and where chicken livers and mushrooms made the best of friends. An evening of comfort food and conversation that lead to full bellies and even fuller hearts.

Day 2. Waking up to a -7 degree morning was an experience in itself, but what it lacked in warmth it made up for in beauty. We warmed our cockles at the stunning and newly renovated Sherwood Hotel, restoring last night's gluttony with a Dynamic Vinyasa Yoga class in their very own (heated) studio. Followed by a bowl of hearty porridge in their chic refurbished eatery. Poached tamarillos and chia-cacao-nut crumble sprinkled on creamy oats was a hug in a bowl, washed down by coffee with a view. We heard a whisper that they are offering a range of yoga/health retreats - alongside food foraged straight from their kitchen garden. Guess I’ll be seeing you there.

A wander back along Lake Wakatipu in the brisk air awakened our zen senses, but nothing could prepare us for the gastronomic sensation that awaited at Amisfield. A Tuesday afternoon and this Winery/Bistro was full to the brim, and from the first bite, it was clear to see why. Our Trust the Chef menu was exceptional. From the award-winning wines, duck parfait on wafer-thin seed crackers and wild rabbit rillete to the mushroom truffle risotto. Lamb rump with roasted garlic puree, black fermented garlic and fried sage leaves blew us away, combined perfectly with two-way kumara, black truffle butter and more of those crispy sage sensations. Did I mention the wine. Two words. Pinot Noir. 

Dessert. A chocolate fondant, as it should be, rich, decadent and complete with oozing molten centre. Their take on a ‘Walnut Apple Crumble’ remains firmly engraved in my mind - beautifully plated with cinnamon cream, beetroot poached apple, candied walnut powder and balsamic reduction. Truly inspiring fare. It felt like a dream.

Not wanting the dream to end we finished the evening with a sophisticated lakeside drink at the historic Eichardt’s Private Hotel and Bar. Nibbling on squid ink battered calamari with lemon aioli and fries, cause clearly we were starving. Less than 48 hours and Queenstown had me hooked…

 TBC... x