For every glistening, frosted peak on New Zealand’s rugged Te Waipounamu/South Island, there’s a culinary wonder. We rounded up five restaurants, from roadside stops to high-end dining, that are well worth filling the tank for.
Kaikōura Seafood BBQ, Kaikōura
This roadside shack specialises in local seafood so fresh it’s practically dripping salt water. Since 2003 it’s been serving up the sort of meals and snacks that warrant a postcard home, including pāua (pronounced pow-uh) patties made from blackfoot abalone, garlic scallops, whitebait fritters, crayfish fritter sandwiches and seafood chowder – or go nuts and order a seafood platter. Everything is served with either rice and salad or in a sandwich, and most items are under NZ$10 aside from crayfish meals. The kiosk, which has some outdoor seating, is located on Fyffe Quay and is the perfect pit stop for a visit to the Point Kean lookout where you can spy on the local seal colony.
The movers and shakers behind Arbour, Bradley Hornby and Liz Buttimore, have spent two decades in five-star hotels, resorts and award-winning restaurants, so it’s no surprise that this handsome space has accumulated a few awards of its own. Known for its innovative cuisine, Arbour is best suited for a very long lunch or an indulgent dinner because when there’s a four-course tasting menu and seven-course experience among the offerings, it would be churlish to plan just a flying visit. Arbour specialises in seasonal cuisine, such as ham hock with goat’s curd; a starter of beets, organic plums and red walnut; and wild venison crudo with mushrooms, burnt corn and hazelnut. And, as you might expect from a fine-dining restaurant in the heart of Marlborough, New Zealand's famed wine country, there’s no shortage of liquid accompaniment for those with a designated driver in tow.
Hopgood’s & Co, Nelson
The coastal town of Nelson has a thriving arts and crafts scene, and holds the Nelson Arts Festival every October, so it’s fitting that this celebrated restaurant has repurposed a historic merchant’s building to stunning effect. Hopgood’s & Co serves paddock-to-plate cuisine, with degustation and à la carte menus, earning it an unfathomable five stars on Trip Advisor across more than 1300 reviews – the people have spoken. Fancy a smoked ora king salmon starter with rosti, shallots and brown butter? And maybe a main of turbot, caramelised fennel puree, pickled grapes, almonds and capers?
Olivers Restaurant & Bar, Clyde
In the goldrush town of Clyde in the stunning Central Otago region, a fine thing has happened to what was once the 1869-built Victoria Store – a pit stop for prospectors needing supplies and refreshments. The stone-walled site is now home to Olivers Restaurant & Bar and the Victoria Store Brewery. Stop in for a no-nonsense midday feed like the Olivers Philly cheesesteak sandwich on focaccia with caramelised onion and provolone, served with fries, or book for the evening and feast on dishes such as kumara falafel rosti with borlotti beans, mash, romesco, capers and mizuna. Take your pick from dining in the rustic interior or in the relaxed courtyard.
Bannockburn Hotel, Cromwell
While you’re in the Central Otago region, another must-try is the Bannockburn Hotel in the historic town of Cromwell, located on the breathtaking shores of Lake Dunstan. Winner of the New Zealand Restaurant Association’s Best Regional Restaurant category in 2021, it specialises in European and Latin tapas and sharing plates, but also has plenty of main dish options – and a 200-bottle wine list. Fill your boots in the 19th-century dining room or on the stunning grounds, both overlooking the vineyards. While in the area, seek out the Cromwell Heritage Precinct where the oldest buildings of the area – which were submerged when the Clyde dam was built – have been lovingly reconstructed.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with 100% Pure New Zealand.
This article was published on May 13, 2022. Some menu items may have changed since publication.