Posts Tagged ‘Queenstown’

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.


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.


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.


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.

Kappa Japanese Restaurant, Queenstown, New Zealand

I absolutely love Japanese cooking (or lack of cooking) especially for lunch. The smaller portions are generally all you need and although you don’t feel completely fulfilled it is all you generally need, don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t be going for a sushi roll or a tempura soba on a hangover, but it does go suspiciously well with a spot of sake or beer.

Kappa is a little place upstairs in Queenstown mall, just a single glass door with a sign and menu hanging on it. The dining area is pretty small, only seating about 15 people and a (during winter) plastic enclosed balcony with 3 tables. The balcony feels a little bit like you are a fish, but I think come summer it will be a prime spot to have a quick bite, a glass of wine and some fresh mountain air.

Kappa Bento Box The lunch menu is really limited with only the Kappa bento box, and a couple of ramen and soba dishes. You only need 1 thing however and that is the bento box. Sushi, rice, salmon, teriyaki and tempura prawns and vegetables all for the heap cheap price of $12.80. It all comes out in a cute little compartmented box with miso soup, I’d be curious to see if everything in Japan is like this, including people’s desks, houses and sock drawers.

The staff are by far and away the most polite wait staff you are ever likely to serve you and the are all to eager to help. This was especially true when we had polished off our 4th bottle of Temata Merlot/Cabernet the waitress, who had previously been offering us water (with our refusal) served our 5th bottle but not before enticing us to drink the unsolicited glasses of water she had prepared. Clearly she had our hangover in mind where our eyes were only focused on the booze, in hindsight I wish we had have accepted her offers of water.

Vknow Restaurant, Fernhill, Queenstown

Vknow is the sort of restaurant that you could go to once and go back week in week out for the next 10 years of your life. The only restaurant anywhere nearby, I’m certain that anyone who has dined there before and lives in Fernhill contemplates dropping in there for dinner, rather than the long trek in to town. I don’t know what it is about this sort of place, but it really does feel like you are sitting at someone’s dining table. This feeling was enhanced while we were there as we were asked to sit at the other end of a table as another couple, to who we were introduced by the waiter (and owner) as “good Queenstown locals”.

The decor consists of country style tables and chairs, and a vast array of art. The art are comic like water-colours depicting a random selection events and things to do, such as “Jumping around in Australia” with a paining of a couple of silly looking Kangaroos. Even though Vknow is situated right next to a road and the carpark is just there, you don’t notice it, there is hardly any traffic on the road and the large windows look out onto a few trees and gardens, all in all it’s very pleasant.

The menu consists of a very New Zealand (or maybe Queenstown) like selection consisting of lamb shanks, venison and fish. Don’t get me wrong, I love this style of food and the meals here did not fail to disappoint, my seared venison with mushroom risotto was exceptional if a little bit small and the lamb shanks with garlic mash and gravy was amazing. All of this great tasting food and reasonable prices is definitely a winner with our bill coming in under $100 for 2 meals and a bottle of wine.

I had been told that Vknow’s wine list was impressive and so it should be, considering the name. Due to being cheap arses we grabbed a bottle of the “budget and good” “Vknow bloody good red”. Turns out it was a bottle of the Australian Oxford Landing GSM, which I really enjoyed, not overly dry and definitely not too fruity. Often when you order the cheapest bottle on the list you walk away regretting your decision, but in this case I most certainly was not.

As far as Vknow goes catering to the world’s share of aching heads it gets my vote, not only do they have a takeaway menu (who would have thought, takeaway fine dining), they also host “Bluff oyster” evenings and beer and wine tasting sessions. I’m told that Danny the owner really loves his beer and wine judging by our experience I can imagine one of these sessions would be a great experience, educational and entertaining.

Joe’s Garage – Queenstown Coffee Rescue

Funky music, art and comfortable surrounds are the order of the day at Joe’s Garage. Being one of the bigger cafes in Queenstown it doesn’t have the compact, claustrophobic feel that other coffee shops around here give off. The dining area is quite sparse with a few tables and a full length breakfast-style bar which over looks the food preparation area. There are few things better in my opinion than an open kitchen, being able to see the staff preparing your coffee and meals is something that more places should do. The only problem is it can be hard to grab someone’s attention to order another coffee or food as the staff are busy with their back to you, a small price to pay for the great atmosphere.

The coffee is great at Joe’s (as it is in most places around here), this particular blend/roast is a richer flavour than I am used to but it definitely is not overdone. The quality of the end product is, like most things in this cafe, exceptional. I have seen the dread-locked barista singlehandedly pumping out a ridiculous number of cups high quality coffee in short succession and personally have not tasted a bad cup. No burnt coffee, bitter coffee and the presentation is always top notch.

My only complaint is a distinct lack of raw sugar, I always take a little bit of sugar in my coffee and personally think that white sugar is a waste of time. It does not provide any flavour while raw sugar adds just the slightest hint of caramel. I think a lot of coffee drinkers are in the same boat as I and there really is no reason why sachet’s of both can’t be on the tables.

For food, I think Joe’s is certainly one of the best places in Queenstown for a queezy stomach or an aching head. It has a good range of salads, cereal and hot breakfast on the menu, rounded out with a couple of bratwurst rolls. My personal favourite meal is “The Joker”, it is a toasted roll, bratwurst, bacon and egg. This is certainly full of flavour and meat and certainly won’t dissapoint with it’s size. All in all the meals at Joe’s are superb, they aren’t necessarily the cheapest but they are definitely worth every cent.

Joes Garage Coffee Machine

Joes Garage Coffee Machine

Probably my biggest complaint about Joe’s Garage is the clientele, often the feel given off from the other customers is one where they think you should get out of their coffee shop and town. People have mentioned this to me about other places in Queenstown, but I have only ever noticed it at Joes. I think it is magnified by people sitting in the dining area with their dogs under the table and not caring if anyone else has a problem with this – that is what the outdoor eating area is for!

Overall I love the place and regularly recommend people to drop in for a coffee and breakfast.

A Queenstown Coffee Institution: Motogrill

SL370425Motogrill is one of those places where the first time you walk in there, you don’t actually feel like you belong. The staff probably won’t look up from the newspaper they are reading, or break from the conversation they are having with the 3 guys leaning on the counter. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t being unfriendly or rude, work may not actually be why they are there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I’d be the same if I were them. There isn’t a problem with getting a coffee though, you will get it and it will be good. It just won’t be the all smiles and how can I help that you will get at Starbucks, and don’t get me started on Starbucks.

Which leads me to the next point, the food. The Motogrill steak sandwich may be one of the best lunches in Queenstown, it is definitely not overdone. Served on toasted bread, seasoned with parsley (It might not actually be parsley) and complete with partly melted cheese,tomato and lettuce it is everything you could hope for in a sneak sandwich, and let me tell you, I’ve hoped for a lot of things in a steak sandwich. The pasta salad is another favourite of mine – beans, spiral pasta, chicken, tomatoey sauce and some shaved parmesan. One of the things about everything at Motogrill is the size. They definitely aren’t skimping on the portions, which on a hangover is exactly what you want.

All of this is great, but there is one glaring problem for Motogrill to be the ultimate cafe for a hangover cure, this is of course the fact that Motogrill is closed on Sundays. Now I know that the staff are snowboarding on Sunday’s or recovering from their hangover and who am I to blame them? But seriously guys, you get us addicted with your awesome steak sandwiches and then refuse to open and serve us scrambled eggs and cappuccinos for breakfast on a Sunday.