Posts Tagged ‘new zealand’


Luciano’s, Queenstown

Luciano’s can be described quite simply, great meat cooked brilliantly. If you take away the mobster theme; the walls covered in quotes from gangster films, the Tommy gun mounted on the wall near the entrance, and the blues brother’s car that drives around town; then the food can stand on it’s own. I believe Luciano’s is the best restaurant in Queenstown – the food isn’t quite as refined as a couple of other places, however the price is great and the vibe is familiar.

The origins of the food As the menu suggests (see picture) the produce is all sourced as locally as possible and is as fresh as possible. The menu is italian, pizza, pasta, and meat. I haven’t even considered the pizza or pasta – the “3 hour slow roasted 90 day aged Hereford rib-eye baked gratin, seasonal veg, whole garlic & pinot jus” or “Wild fiordland venison, bacon arancini, Sicilian caponata & cherry balsamic” are far too tempting. To make matters even better, the prices are great – any one of these mains for $30  would be a steal but the entire menu is downright outrageous. Couple this with the fact that the portions are quite large and not only do you have brilliant food, it is at great value.

The food isn’t thae only thing going for it, the service is great; friendly, prompt and courteous and the wine list is well considered, a good range of prices and varieties but nothing over the top or pretentious.

What more can I say? Luciano’s probably isn’t going to feature on the list of New Zealand’s best restaurants but it damn well should. It encapsulates everything that the south holds dear – great food, good produce and a warm friendly atmosphere.

Duck & goose liver pate

The duck and goose liver pate. I’m not normally a fan of pate however this was sweet and rich but not the flavour wasn’t too overpowering.

Slow cooked wild rabbit & hare, grilled brioche, quince c

Slow cooked rabbit and hare ragu with brioche and chutney. I’m a sucker for ragu and this didn’t fail to impress. The gamey meats are perfectly suited for slow cooking – it falls apart perfectly but still maintains a great texture in your mouth. Served with brioche and chutney what more can I say?

Duck

Half a duck w baked kumara & leek, green beans, toasted almonds & caramelised orange sauce. I only tasted a little bit of the duck and the meat was beautiful but the skin was a touch too fatty. As far as I’m concerned this was the only blemish and perhaps hard to avoid.

Venison

The main attraction. Wild fiordland venison, bacon arancini, Sicilian caponata & cherry balsamic. If I didn’t like all the other food so much, I’d say this was my favourite dish. There’s something about venison that makes me wish for a baby’s bib so I don’t have to hold the drool in my mouth. This was no exception. The sweetness of the balsamic reduction cut through the weight of this dish brilliantly.

Rhubarb & hazelnut crumble, berry sorbet

Rhubarb crumble with berry sorbet. Warm, comforting rhubarb. Sweet, acidic sorbet. Almond meal crumble. A well-balanced almost savoury dessert.

Steinlager Pure in Melbourne, Australia

A frequent search query that people arrive here is for “Steinlager Pure in Australia.” Rather than arriving to anything useful they have reached my Steinlager Pure review. Until now I was under the impression that this beer was simply not available over the ditch but I was wrong. Today I spotted a shelf full of it in the All Nations Backpacker Bar near the corner of Flinders St and Swanston St in the Melbourne CBD. I believe it was brought in for Waitangi Day, but it seems like they have a fair bit in stock.

Hawke’s Bay Wine Region, New Zealand

Surrounding the towns of Hastings and Napier Hawke’s Bay is a unique part of New Zealand. Driving through New Zealand you start to grow accustomed to the site of vineyards and wineries on all sides, but you certainly won’t get used to the geometric ornaments and motifs of the Art-Deco style of architecture. Rebuilt almost from scratch after a 1930s earthquake, Napier (and to a lesser extent Hastings) gives you the feeling you are in the Truman Show. This strange feeling continues when you seemingly the majority of restaurants and bars are closed for business.The places that aren’t shut are busy until late at night despite them being expensive, pretentious and in my experience the service being below par.

In stark contrast to the City of Napier, the wineries in the surrounding area all emit a vibe of passion and love of wine. Great red wine is the order of the day in Hawke’s Bay with wineries growing Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah) and the odd Pinot Noir. The region is not without its Whites with award-winning Chardonnay and complex aromatics (Mainly Pinot Gris, Riesling and Viognier). The climate provides great wine-making for the rich flavoured reds with hot summer temperatures, low rainfall and long sunlight hours.

Add to this a large number of micro-regions which provide the wines of this area a great deal of diversity. The most renowned of these micro-regions is the Gimblett Gravels region which has very gravelly soil providing a perfect fast-draining basis for the Bordeaux varieties. A number of wineries in the area own vineyards in this small apellation and produce single vineyard and reserve labels from them with amazing results.

We only spent an afternoon and a morning tasting wines in the area but we left wishing we had a whole lot more time, more space in the luggage and some sort of expense account. The wineries we stopped at were:

  • Elephant Hill
  • Clearview
  • Kim Crawford
  • Craggy Range
  • Te Mata
  • Vidal
  • Matariki
  • Trinity Hill

Having spent a fair bit of time in and around Central Otago wineries and seeing a small part of Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay’s wineries really were something special. Each of the wineries was unique, the staff were passionate, the wines were beautiful and there was a feel of history and of something special in the air. While it may not be the major draw card of New Zealand wine, it for me is what I will remember when thinking of the people and the feel of New Zealand wine.

Marlborough Wine Region, New Zealand

No self-respecting wine lover, or even drinker, who is travelling New Zealand should miss the opportunity to check out the wineries of the Marlborough region. This area is New Zealand’s largest wine growing area and probably it’s most famous. The Sauvignon Blanc’s grown around the Wairau River are becoming known as some of the finest in the world and by visiting any cellar door in the area anybody will see why. Each of the wineries I visited was unique but there was one common theme, the people here love wine and they love to talk about it.

Marlborough is the largest wine growing region in New Zealand with over 11,000 hectares of vineyards growing mainly in the Wairau Valley. The weather is predominantly sunny and dry (when we were there however, there was torrential rain) with hot days and cool nights, this coupled with fast-draining alluvial soils makes this an excellent area to grow aromatic varietals. Sauvignon Blanc is the most respected of these and as Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris are gaining in popularity more of these aromatic styles are being planted and grown.

The majority of wineries are located west of Blenheim around the town of Renwick, there are more cellar doors than you could possibly visit in a day and you would struggle to do it in two. Many of the wineries have restaurants and cafes on site, and you are welcome to picnic on the grounds at others. The whole area is perfectly suited to sitting in the sun (or torrential rain) and enjoying a bottle of the local poison, a few olives and some pancetta amongst the vines. Before you visit it is well worth checking out the Marlborough Winegrowers Association website which has a heap of maps and information about the area.

During our visit we visited 6 and wished we had more time, a driver and a whole lot more money able to spend on sending wine home. The wineries we visited were:

  • Wairau River
  • Hunters
  • Saint Clair
  • Cloudy Bay
  • Mount Riley
  • Montana

Bob’s Weigh Cafe, Queenstown, New Zealand

Bob's Weigh, Queenstown It doesn’t take many things to make a good cafe, what’s needed is to do the simple things well. Good coffee, good food, friendly staff, a cozy shop and good location. Bob’s Weigh ticks all of these boxes but you might only remember one of them if you happen to have an encounter with Bob himself. He’s the guy working in the kitchen that greets pretty much everyone that walks into the shop with a friendly g’day, maybe introducing himself and huge smile. He’s a man that loves his job.

While Bob is friendly, you might think he’s too friendly. He’s nothing until you meet his mother. Mad Mary (she makes the jam for the toast) has a very curious presence, pink or purple hair, a strange dress sense and a wicked sense of humour, she runs all over the cafe laughing and having a good time. It’s this sense of humour that probably forced her to decorate the cafe with scales, there is weighing devices of every shape and form on the shelves and walls and Bob himself doesn’t quite know why.

The bizarre decor and the quirky staff give the cafe a very homely feel that doesn’t stop when you order breakfast. Nothing on the menu could be described as gourmet, which just adds to the allure of the place. Toast, muesli, bacon and eggs and omelettes is the faire all topped off with beautiful homemade jam and chutney. There is nothing out of the ordinary about the drinks menu, except the Chai latte. It’s not the mellow cinnamon drink you expect, it’s extra spicy and very tasty but, not for the faint of heart. The prices on are reasonable and if you bring in your own cup for a takeaway coffee, they’ll knock 50c off the price – just how it should be.

Everything about this cafe is like home, you could cook everything on the menu at home, but you wouldn’t do as good a job. You could make the jam, but it wouldn’t be as nice, same goes for the coffee and besides you would have to do the dishes. Talk to Bob, he’ll be happy to do them for you.

Bob's Weigh, Queenstown More scales at Bob's Weigh Scales @ Bob's Weigh Bob and Mary @ Bob's Weigh Eggs Benedict

Drinking and Bars in Queenstown: A Definitive Guide

Known as the adventure capital of New Zealand (the Pacific? the Southern Hemisphere? the World?) Queenstown is a “must see” place in New Zealand. Aside from Bungy jumping, rafting, canyoning and jetboating it also has a pretty awesome bar and boozing culture. In fact, a lot of kiwis from all over make the trek down south purely for the party. Now, before you turn you away thinking it’s not for you, let me assure you there is something here for everyone.

There is basically 3 types of drinking establishment in Queenstown, Bars, Pubs and backpacker bars. That doesn’t sound like much but there is over 70 liquor licenses in the central business area and probably 30 of those are dedicated to drinking. If you can check out them all in a weekend then Monday morning would definitely be a struggle – infact Monday mornings in Queenstown are nearly always a struggle.

Pubs

The pubs in Queenstown are the places that you go to when you want to kick back, have a sneaky pint or 3, and enjoy the scenery and the weather. Wether it’s by accident or design they are all positioned perfectly to get hours and hours of afternoon and evening sun during summer. The Pig & Whistle, Monty’s and Dux de Lux are the pick of the pubs and all are well worth the time, they all sell cheap pints and decent pub food. It’s worth mentioning that Dux de Lux brews all their own beer on the premises and it is very good. Personally I’m a fan of the Alpine Ale, but there is a flavour for everyone.

If you want a bit more of a “local” experience, try the Frankton Arm Tavern (in Frankton) or the Wakatipu Tavern. Both of them sell cheap grub, beer and feel exactly like your local.

Backpacker Bars

Calling these bars “Backpacker Bars” doesn’t really do them the justice they deserve. If you want to party, Winnies, Frasers, Altitude, Buffalo Club and the World Bar are the places to go. They are all huge places, sell cheap drinks, play cool music and all the tour buses full of people that just want to get loose. It’s best to not leave it too late in the evening to get there. Altitude and Buffalo Club are usually pumping around 10:30, World Bar doesn’t really start hitting it’s straps till midnight.

If you are planning on heading out to these places and you should, then there are always people wandering around town in the evening giving out 2 for 1 vouchers, hit them up for a few. It wouldn’t be a night out in Queenstown without some cheap jaegar bombs at Frasers, some horizontal bungy at Altitude, standing by the fire at the Buff and a teapot from the World. Teapot? It’s a tasty tasty cocktails served in a teapot with a few shot glasses, not really worth the money, but it’s a must do, you will be asked about it.

Bars

While people mainly think of Queenstown for the big party venues, in my mind it’s the tiny bars that make it. At 3am when the World Bar kicks everyone out on the street there are still places to drink and drink you will. Walking around during the day it’s easy to miss the multitude of tiny establishments but if you look hard enough they are everywhere. Bardeaux, Minibar, Barmuda and Bar-up are all down Searle Lane. They all have a massive range of beer, spirits or wine and will charge you a fortune for the pleasure. That’s not going to stop you though when it’s 4:30am, you are parched and they are the only places open.

Debajo and Tardis are both on Cow Lane and Skybar is just around the corner of Camp and Cow. Skybar is a swanky cocktail bar, where the staff are always friendly and will be happy to have a chat and a drink. Debajo is a tiki-style bar that always plays funky dance music. Tardis is the only place in town where you’ll hear good hip-hop maybe with the possibility of a live MC. If you are in town in May, make sure you checkout the Sugardaddy competition, it just might make your winter, or break your wallet.

The rest of the bars are scattered around the place, The Boiler Room and Minus 5 are in the wharf, Eichardts is on the water-front on Marine Parade, Sub-culture is underneath Montys and Harry’s Pool Bar is near Buffalo Club. Each of these places has it’s own attraction, Boiler Room plays the cheesiest of the 80s and 90s on the weekends, the locals love it so it’s usually pretty busy. Minus 5 is an ice bar, it’s pretty expensive but worth a look. Subculture is the closest to Queenstown’s only dance club, and the drum and bass pumps until the wee hours of the morning and Harry’s is the only place in town with more than a couple of pool tables. Finally, Eichardts is the house bar of an extremely exclusive hotel but the bar is open to all comers. The cocktail list is extensive, varied and made with the freshest of ingredients. Eichardts is my favourite bar in Queenstown, regardless of it being more expensive, closed after 11 and super-pretentious.

Food

Come the end of the night you are going to be stumbling the streets looking for some sort of actual sustenance, something big, something greasy and something fast. There are 2 options, Fergburger and the Night and Day (the locals call it the 2-4.) Fergburger is an amazing gourmet burger place that sells expensive hamburgers which taste amazing and you will inhale with glee in a drunken stupor but, I recommend saving the Ferg until you are sober you will enjoy it more. The 2-4 sells all you need, deep fried lasagne, cordon bleu (whatever that is,) nachos, wedges and my personal favourite lamb shanks

That’s pretty much all there is to say about Queenstown, except for 1 bar. I’m not really sure where to classify it and even less sure what to say about it, but Chicos is a Queenstown institution. It’s been there as far as I can tell it’s been there forever and it wouldn’t surprise me if the same reggae/dub cover band has been playing for just as long. I’ve been going there for a year and a half and they haven’t changed their set. If you are in town, Chicos is upstairs on the mall and it’s the sort of place that you just might well stumble into having an awesome night at. Last time I checked they sold $2 beers between 10:30 and 11:30 every night, it’s definitely worth stopping in for one.

Gourmet Burger Joints, Australia and New Zealand

If you have never partaken in a gourmet burger then you are in for a delight. Popping up all over Australia and New Zealand are small hamburger shops that really know how to make hamburgers. They usually have your regular style burger – meat-pattie, lettuce, tomato and cheese on a hamburger roll but the menu generally consists of a number of delights you had never dreamt of. Well maybe you have dreamt it, but this is your dreams coming true.

Now, I’m not going to rant about the history of this phenomenom but there is a few of this style of shop opening, Velvet Burger in Dunedin, ChimiChanga in Brisbane (now closed I’m told), Wunder Burger in Tauranga, I’m told there are a few stores in Melbourne and last but certainly not least, Fergburger in Queenstown. I’m sure they are popping up everywhere, probably in my own kitchen, but the point is there are lots around the traps and the numbers are growing.

Now, the first gourmet burger joint I ever visited was Queenstown’s own Ferg a few years ago and since then I’ve had more than I could ever count. This includes every burger on the menu, in every state of drunk, sober and hungover possible. Needless to say, I love the place and it’s going to be very difficult for me to be impartial in any reviews I write. I’d also love to hear about any other gourmet burger shops around the traps.