8 Best Places To Eat in Queenstown
New Zealand’s urban outdoor playground and adventure capital, Queenstown (affectionately referred to as Q-Town by its locals) is a year-round destination. Residents and tourists alike come here in search of nature-filled thrills and are spoiled for choice thanks to its position tucked between a dazzling lake and the Southern Alps. Whether buckling into your skis to venture into the crannies of the Remarkables, kayaking across the waters of Wakatipu or tying up your laces to navigate the trails of Fiordland National Park, you know that when you come to Queenstown, you’re going to be on the move.
With activity at the core of Queenstown’s culture, the city understands the importance of both fueling up and winding down with a hearty meal. When you add to this the influx of travellers who come by for their holidays (while Queenstown’s population is a mere 13,000-or-so people, it’s arguably the most visited spot in New Zealand), the result is a slew of hungry people. Nearby Otago, a wine region celebrated for its scenic vineyards as well as its Pinot Noir, undoubtedly contributes to the gastronomy scene, too.
While there are over 120 restaurants and cafes in Queenstown at your fingertips, I’ve narrowed down my top 8 picks to take out some of the guesswork.
If you’ve already done some research on where to dine in Queenstown, it’s likely you’ve heard of Botswana Butchery. The vibe here is subdued fine dining; while tables are draped with white linen cloths, patterned wallpaper and paper lanterns mellow things out. Boasting a cellar of 1800 bottles, you may want to take them up on their pairing menus, where lunch and dinner can be expertly matched with a Central Otago wine. Head Chef Vicky Wong was born and raised in Hong Kong and learned under French-trained chefs at the Mandarin Oriental, so you’ll find a combination of Asian, French and New Zealand influences in their dishes.
Tucked away on a back alley in downtown Queenstown, push past a wooden door to find The Bunker’s swanky dining room on the other side. This cozy and intimate setting combines fine rustic dining, a late night bar and a private event venue all in one. Their menu specializes in game, red meat and distinctively New Zealand delicacies like seared southern ocean scallops and loin of Bannockburn hare, as seen on their “Taste of the South” menu. Post-dinner, you can stick around for a craft cocktail by the crackling sound of the log fire and house music sets from Thursday through Saturday.
Don’t be alarmed to find line-ups around the corner for this burger joint and their early morning bakery next door. Fergburger has made quite the name for itself in Queenstown, and once you get your lips on one of their massive and tasty burgers, it will be easy to understand why. Using exclusively New Zealand beef, you can stick with something classic like the Ferg Deluxe (their most popular choice), a beef burger with the usual toppings plus cheddar and bacon. Or embrace the adventurous spirit of Queensland and go for the Sweet Bambi, with a patty made from wild Fiordland deer.
In true Kiwi style, the Grille at Eichardt’s is an equally laid-back experience as it is elegant. Seated in front of Lake Wakatipu, the crystal waters that anchor the city, you can tuck into a sumptuous breakfast, lunch or dinner. The highlight is their oyster menu that allows you to order three ways: natural with lemon and garlic, with cucumber and gin granita, or baked in garlic with speck breadcrumbs.
You’ll find Kappa in an unpretentious, attic-style room on top of a street-side shop. While it may look unassuming at first, this sushi restaurant executes unrivalled Japanese cuisine in Queenstown, from light and crispy tempura to the freshest sashimi to tangy tatakis dressed with house-made sauces. Though the setting is casual, the presentation is not, with each plate consistently served as a work of art.
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Rata’s name comes from the flowering, fiery-coloured rata tree – a species native to New Zealand – and serves as an homage to the country. Headed by Michelin-starred chef, Josh Emett, and veteran restaurateur, Fleur Caulton, Rata aims to embody the landscape (and flavours) of the South Island and combine them with a breezy Kiwi attitude in a relaxed eatery. This sense of calm extends to its discreet location away from the core and a decor of unfinished wood, polished stone and a trompe-l’oeil wall of a plush, green forest. As for the food, seafood and meat take on unconventional twists like Paua (a mollusc native to New Zealand) tortellini, glazed beef cheek from Wakanui and smoked eel from the freshwater streams and lakes of North Canterbury served with black truffle.
You’ll need to venture out of the city to make a visit to the trendy Sherwood and its sprawling three acres of land that watch over of Lake Wakatipu. Both a motel and restaurant, The Sherwood encapsulates Queenstown’s community spirit. Using ingredients from their own kitchen gardens and the surrounding farms as well as a few foraged bits, their culinary team whips up feel-good food reflective of the season, while tattoo-clad bartenders concoct artisan cocktails and pour pints from ever-rotating taps of craft beer. Be sure to check out their schedule of hosted DJ sets and live music nights which happen a few times a month.
This is my favourite spot for Italian food in Queenstown. You’ll have to take about a 5-minute cab ride out of town to get here, but trust me that it’s well worth the journey (another plus is you know it will be full of Q-Town natives rather than tourists). The intent here is to feel like you’re at home, and you do thanks to the excellent service, chilled-out atmosphere and home-style dishes.
A visit here is also a perfect opportunity to sip wine from the Otago region; co-owner Danny Carson has over 10 years of experience in the wine industry and runs some regular wine tasting events at the restaurant. If you’re interested in learning more about New Zealand vino, call ahead and ask when the next tasting evening is.