To celebrate my mum’s 50th birthday, our family recently embarked on a trip to the stunning resort town on New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown. A popular destination for adventure junkies, we were to spend 10 days in the South – with 5 of those spent relaxing with great food and wine in the lakeside town, and the remaining 5 spent conquering the famous and challenging Milford Track.
No matter where you look in Queenstown, you’ll be treated to stunning views – gorgeous birdlife, the breathtaking Lake Wakatipu, or the aptly named mountain range, The Remarkables.
We were treated to gorgeous sun and amazing blue skies for much of our trip however, on our first day, it was pouring rain and the town was looking dark and dreary. Tired after our flight and very cold, we collapsed into Pub on Wharf. This pub offers good value with a range of dinner options for $20 each. Sitting near the fire, we ordered hearty comfort food – Mum had the Beef Wellington with potato mash and mushroom sauce, while my brother and I opted for the Flintstone Steak (rib eye with rosemary potatoes, salad, onion rings and mushroom sauce). On such a cold and drizzly night these meals hit the spot, and we loved the onion rings (which, as we would go on to discover, are big in Queenstown).
Energised after a good night’s sleep, we woke to find the sun shining and our tummies rumbling, in need of a caffeine hit and some eggs. As always, we’d marked down the cafes and restaurants we were keen to check out, so we knew exactly where we were heading that morning – Vudu Cafe in Beach Street. First things first – the coffee in Queenstown is good, pretty much everywhere. My skinny latte – or as the locals would say, “trum” (trim) latte, always served in a ceramic cup – was a beautiful start to our first breakfast in New Zealand, enjoyed while we read over the tempting and extensive menu.
Always a sucker for salmon, I went with the fennel and vodka cured salmon with scrambled eggs, sourdough and pickled beetroot – SO GOOD. This is pretty much my idea of a perfect breakfast, the type that leaves me thinking about the dish for days; it got me searching for good pickled beetroot at local stores when I returned home, eager to recreate this dish.
We all throughly enjoyed our breakfasts at Vudu. Mum chose the Moroccan spiced baked beans with poached eggs, harissa, spinach & toasted turkish bread, which was a huge dish with a wonderful smoky flavour from that harissa; my brother (who, like me, always loves a spicy/mexican inspired dish) went with the breakfast quesadilla, with salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, coriander & poached eggs. Vudu offered delicious, big meals at reasonable prices – our meals here ranged from $16-$18.
Days later, strolling by the lake, we discovered there was another Vudu! Vudu Cafe & Larder was described by the NZ Sunday Star Times as the original Vudu’s “sexier sister establishment”, and while the location is arguably more beautiful (right by the lake with plenty of outdoor seating to let you take in the view), I found the service and the menu more appealing at the Beach Street venue. I wanted to order the house-cured Mt Cook salmon with potato rosti, poached egg, spinach and beetroot relish, but unfortunately the cafe was out of both the salmon and the potato rosti. After a bit of confusion and a couple of chats with the chef, our waitress arranged for the dish above to be made for me, with grilled salmon and little roast potatoes instead. The meal was good, and it came with that delicious beetroot relish I loved, but I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t experience the meal as it was written on the menu.
A good coffee, a berry smoothie (in a preserving jar, of course), and an amazing view at Vudu Cafe and Larder.
You’ll notice throughout this blog post that we did double up on a few venues during our stay in Queenstown – there are a couple of standout eateries that we couldn’t resist going back to, and Halo was one of those places. It’s a toss up between Halo and Vudu when it comes to choosing the best brekky spot, but Halo is probably slightly ahead due to the excellent customer service, consistently good food and coffee, and the all-important free wifi – and Halo was one of the few places that didn’t limit the amount of time you could use their network for.
On our first visit, I followed my brother’s lead and went with the Breakfast Burrito – a beast of a meal consisting of a tortilla stuffed with chorizo, onion, hash brown, scrambled eggs, chilli beans, topped with Halo chilli sauce & melted cheese and served with sour cream & salsa. This ridiculously awesome combination of ingredients ensured we were stuffed full for hours.
Mum, on the other hand, went with something a little lighter – the Corn & Feta Fritters, served with roasted tomato, salad greens and mango salsa, topped with a poached egg. These fritters were from the lunch menu but made for a perfect brekky; the fritters were incredibly flavoursome and paired perfectly with the fresh greens and salsa.
Of course, no visit to Queenstown would be complete without a stop at Fergburger!
Visiting Fergburger is an interesting experience, and I suspect the whole ordering process is probably a lot more fun if you’ve had a few drinks. This joint is world famous, and busy at literally every hour of the day; the queue for these burgers spills out the door and into the street, and in the evenings it’s almost like a street party, with hungry drunk tourists waiting for a feed. The staff are young with American and European accents – travellers themselves, as with many of the staff in this town – and the focus is certainly not on delivering great customer service.
To be honest, the whole experience of ordering made us want to grab our burgers as soon as we could and get the hell out of there, and luckily (and surprisingly, given the crowds), we were never waiting for more than 15 minutes. There are a few tables inside and out the front if you did feel like dining in, but you’d be lucky to secure one.
We took our burgers down to the waterfront and found a quiet table to sit at and enjoy our meals in peace. Mum and I went with the Southern Swine: New Zealand beef teamed with American streaky bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, aioli and tomato relish. Despite the poor customer service, it’s clear why people (including ourselves) keep going back – these burgers are awesome. They’re big buns topped with premium quality ingredients and I personally think the Southern Swine is the perfect combo of flavours. My brother loved his Mr Big Stuff burger, the ultimate in dude food with half a pound of beef, melted cheddar, American bacon, BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion and aioli.
Oh, and those onion rings and aioli! Ordering a side of these crispy rounds of onion and the creamy, deliciously pungent aioli is a must.
The weather during our time in Queenstown was stunning, and there was no better place to be than right by the crystal clear water. There were many drink stops during our holiday and Pog Mahones was a favourite, an Irish pub we discovered after finishing our burgers. They made a great gin & tonic, offered free wifi, and the hot rock meals were a fun experience, letting us cook our own steaks, prawns and scallops at the table.
A couple of days in to our holiday, and we needed a quick and tasty meal before we met our Milford guides for a briefing before we left for the track. We went back to the trusty old Pub on Wharf, where my brother and mum went with beer battered fish served with fries, salad greens and tartare sauce, while I chose a tasty Trio of Sliders.
Trio of Sliders: Beef Pattie, cheese, lettuce and aioli; Corn chip crusted chicken breast, lettuce and aioli with chipotle relish; Crumbed fish, lettuce and tartare sauce, all served on a mini burger with a side of potato skins.
Our holiday was split between the town centre and the Milford track, with our first two days spent exploring the town, the next five days spent on the track, and then three remaining days to relax in Queenstown before we headed home. Once we’d finished the track – and took a helicopter back to our accommodation in town! – we still had quite a few things we wanted to do and see, and we were conscious that time was getting away from us. On a busy day of shopping, louge-riding and a go on the Shotover Jet, the $15 lunch special at Brazz Steakhouse hit the spot – we grabbed a quick meal of chicken burgers, chips and beers and dined outside, enjoying the sunshine.
After ten glorious days, our little holiday sadly came to an end, and we decided to farewell this beautiful town with another stop at Halo. I started my trip with a smoked salmon breakfast and finished it the same way: smoked salmon, capers, cream cheese and scrambled eggs, all on a toasted bagel with a garden salad.
Everyone should get themselves to Queenstown; it’s an amazing place that really does have something for everyone. Whether you want to skydive or bungee jump in one of the world’s most beautiful locations, or simply relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery, Queenstown is a must – especially for Aussies who need only spare a few hours out of their day to get to this destination. The photos above show just a selection of the food we enjoyed on this trip – places like Bobs Weigh, Fergbaker, and indeed the Milford track lodges, all provided fantastic meals. The eating in this part of the world is good, and I can’t wait to go back.