At La Rumbla in Arrowtown, the atmosphere is buzzing and the food is fresh and tangy, with plenty of Latin American spice. Created by Sam Gruar, a previous manager at Eichardts Private Hotel, and Penelope Johnson (known as PJ), who managed Barmuda and helped set up Botswana Butchery, the restaurant was born out of a love for Spain. The couple lived there for a number of years and their knowledge and passion for the food and energy of the country is evident in the restaurant, with its brightly coloured murals by Flox and delicious menu made for sharing.
Meet the Chef: Jay Sherwood
When he’s not cooking at La Rumbla, executive chef Jay Sherwood is brewing fine craft beers from sister restaurant Slow Cuts for his boutique brewery, Lake & Wood Brew Company, which services many of Arrowtown’s pubs, bars and restaurants. Hailing from Los Angeles, Sherwood has extensive knowledge of Latin American cuisine and a love for the hospitality scene and for Arrowtown, where he has lived for the past six years.
Fine clothing may not be necessary at the Sherwood restaurant, but the food is definitely fine dining quality. The menu favours freshness, flavour and seasonality. The atmosphere here is vibrant, with the philosophy behind the hotel-retreat-restaurant being one of fostering community through food, arts, and wellness. The restaurant sources a good deal of its food from its huge, on-site gardens. All kitchen waste is also composted on site and fed back into the gardens, making this a guilt-free addition to your Queenstown fine dining experience. The restaurant was recently awarded two hats in the 2021 Cuisine Good Food Awards.
Meet the chef: Chris Scott
With previous positions at Michelin starred restaurants in the UK, and 5-star restaurants Rātā and Jack’s Point Clubhouse here in Queenstown, Chris Scott knows great food. Using the best the region has to offer, he creates flavour-filled meals at Sherwood, using ingredients which are often sourced just a few steps from the kitchen. If Chris can’t find what he needs for a dish on-site, he uses local and organic producers and foraged ingredients to ensure fresh hyper-seasonal flavour and a low environmental impact.
Awarded 2 hats at the 2019 Cuisine Good Food Awards, Rātā is a stalwart in the Queenstown dining scene. The beautifully structured restaurant is ensconced in an urban forest of native trees, with the crimson-blossomed rātā lending its name to the establishment. These trees also lend the restaurant its philosophy of keeping things local and native, with inspired dishes created with New Zealand ingredients and decidedly of the countries diverse cultural traditions. A casual dining atmosphere with exceptional meals and attentive waitstaff make this a sure win for a 5-star Queenstown dining experience.
Meet the chef: Michael Bickford
Michael grew up polishing glasses in a winery restaurant and shadowing his sous-chef stepbrother. He left school at 16, cut his teeth at local restaurants in Napier, before heading over the Tasman to spend over a decade working at some of Australia’s best restaurants: the Royal Mail Hotel in regional Victoria, Qualia on Hamilton Island, IDES in Melbourne, and GOMA in Brisbane. The Royal Mail Hotel has the largest kitchen garden in the Southern Hemisphere and all produce sourced within 100kms. This is where Michael developed his commitment to local flavours. At Rātā he champions ingredients native to Otago and Southland letting seasonality dictate the ever-changing menu.
Aosta & Little Aosta
Named after the alpine valley in Italy with a similar climate, flora, fauna and soil to Central Otago, where executive chef Ben Bayly lived and cooked for four years, Aosta is an excellent reason to detour to the historic village of Arrowtown. The menu is inspired by northern Italian cuisine, and the amazing service is matched by a wine list that reflects the best local and Italian offerings. Encased in an architecturally designed fit-out that won a 2020 Southern Architecture Award, the restaurant is nestled on the main street and is open in the evenings. It was recently awarded one hat in the 2021 Cuisine Good Food Awards. Next door, family-friendly trattoria, Little Aosta offers what Ben calls, “simple, delish Italian food with zero faff,” wood fired grilled meats and sourdough pizzettas, and affordable wines by the carafe.”
Meet the chef: Ben Bayly
Cutting his teeth at highly acclaimed restaurants in Melbourne, Las Vegas, and around the United Kingdom and France, Ben Bayly is also known for his work in leading, multi award-winning Auckland restaurants The Grove and Baduzzi. His food philosophy is based around creating seasonal dishes using heirloom and small-scale growers and organic produce, to create cuisine that builds beautiful relationships.
With Cuisine Good Food Award-winning Chef of the Year Vaughan Mabee at the helm, Amisfield Restaurant’s 3 hat status means it remains a key destination on any fine dining Queenstown itinerary. Set on beautifully landscaped grounds above Lake Hayes, patrons can sit fireside inside the classic central Otago, chapel-like stone building, or enjoy an al fresco meal with views of local vineyards and the surrounding mountains. The restaurant is famous for its seasonal and ever-delightful degustation menu, which is available for lunch or dinner sittings, and for its exceptional service.
Meet the chef: Vaughan Mabee
Kiwi-born, Vaughan sharpened his culinary skills during his travels across Europe, including his work at a three-star Michelin restaurant in San Sebastian and at famed two Michelin star Noma in Copenhagen. Back in New Zealand, he was drawn to Amisfield for its sterling reputation and works closely with local producers, foragers and fishermen to create an ever-changing seasonal menu that celebrates the bounty of the region.
No tour of Queenstown’s fine dining restaurants would be complete without a stop at Botswana Butchery. Seated in Queenstown’s historic Archer’s Cottage overlooking sparkling Lake Wakatipu, Botswana Butchery takes ambience and comfort to a new level, with roaring fires, lush seating and top-notch service from knowledgeable and detailed oriented staff. The menu is both hearty and refined and the wine list is unmatched, with a private cellar of more than 1800 bottles. The restaurant was recently awarded one hat in the 2021 Cuisine Good Food Awards
Meet the chef: Warwick Taylor
Hailing from South Africa, head chef Warwick Taylor honed his skills at five-star hotels and resorts in the area and across Europe, culminating in becoming part of the opening team for Greece’s award-winning Costa Navarino complex, which includes fourteen on-site restaurants. He believes that by using boutique suppliers of quality produce and meats, the quality and true flavour of an ingredient can be reflected on the plate, and this philosophy can be seen in the meals he creates at Botswana.
Jervois Steak House
Steak lovers unite at Jervois Steak House, where meat is the order of the day, every day. Located near the Sofitel with a fit-out that has the moody aesthetic of an upscale hunting lodge, the Queenstown iteration of Jervois Steak House (the original is located on Jervois Rd in Auckland) invites dining on hearty meals with plenty of flavour and richness, surrounded by hearty laughter and conversation.
Meet the Chef: Josh Harris
Cooking was part of Josh Harris’ DNA from a very young age where he started at the bottom, slowly working himself up the ranks. Following a 10-year stint at one of Queenstown’s longest running restaurants, Gantley’s, he now heads up the kitchen at Jervois Steakhouse working alongside some of the best chefs in the business including Nourish Group’s Executive Chef, Gareth Stewart. His love for the deep South and his passion for hunting, fishing and diving is the inspiration behind his cooking where he experiments with the likes of wild Fiordland venison and Stewart Island salmon, crayfish and paua as well as Bluff oysters. When he’s not in the kitchen, you’ll find Josh off the southern tip of Stewart Island gathering the mutton bird (Titi) – one of the South’s most prized culinary delights.
Aptly named, the Bunker is the restaurant of choice if you want to escape the hustle and/or the weather and melt into a cosy table by the fire to enjoy a sumptuous meal. The restaurant is small and intimate, seating just 30, with low lighting and a nostalgic vibe. Food is ‘rustic fine dining’ style - in other words, the cuisine is top-notch but not too fussy. Taking advantage of fresh, local produce, the menu merges European and kiwi flavours and the wine and cocktail list is to die for.
Meet the Chef - Ben Norfolk
Co-owner and executive chef for the Bunker, renowned local chef Ben Norfolk has been working at his craft for a long time, and it shows. His dishes at the Bunker change with the seasons and always provide pleasant surprises, with freshly caught seafood and wild game often gracing the menu. In 2019, Ben was a finalist in the Hospitality Awards’ Outstanding Chef title in Queenstown.
Bazaar, Reds Bar & Lil Red at QT Hotel
Foodies in search of brunch hit up Bazaar for hearty breakfasts packed with seasonal Central Otago ingredients. Think truffled scrambled eggs, buttermilk waffles, and their big Ben Lomond breakfast. During Covid, Bazaar are offering a la carte, and when restrictions lift they’ll be back to their fun marketplace style buffet complete with DIY Bloody Mary bar. Reds Bar offers a sensational gourmet snacking menu with flavours like buffalo cheese, fermented chilli and lemon woodfired pizza, and Jerusalem artichoke ice-cream. Closed while we’re at Covid Red level, but back soon, intimate pop up restaurant Lil Red’s fun menu draws influences from around the world, with a series of plates designed for sharing. With a vibe described as cheeky chalet chic, Lil Red doesn’t take itself too seriously, apart when it comes to the quality of their ingredients, where they go for locally farmed meats and fresh Southland seafood.
Meet the Chef – Ryan Henley
Obsessive about sourcing the best local ingredients, Executive Chef Ryan Henley is a fan of foraged, fermented and raw. He works with local producers to bring Wagyu beef from the Canterbury Plains, fish from Bluff, and lamb from Invercargill to the plates of Queenstown diners. Born in Australia, Ryan worked in Melbourne’s Vue de Monde before moving to Christchurch, to work at the George Hotel, first at the Park Bistro before becoming Chef de Cuisine for Pescatore and earning two hats in the Cuisine Good Food Awards.
Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant at Walters Peak
A lakeside dining experience in a colonial homestead, preceded by a cruise across Lake Whakatipu in the historic steamship the TSS Earnslaw. Succulent grilled goodness is the order of the day, with Cardrona Merino lamb, Southland beef sizzling on woodfired barbecues along with local sausages. But it’s not all about the meat. Chef Mauro is an enthusiastic fan of heirloom vegetables, and a line up of delicious seasonal salads and vegetables, pastas and home-baked breads are stars in their own right. Although it’s possibly all a preamble to their indulgent lineup of desserts and cheeses.
Meet the Chef – Mauro Battaglia
Mauro puts love, care and thought into the menu at Walter Peak, sourcing meats, seafood and vegetables with a focus on sustainability and quality local ingredients. Born in Lombardy, Italy, he began his career in London, working at Durrants Hotel, and the Connaught, before returning home to the Taverna del Colleoni & Dell'Angelo in Bergamo. After moving to New Zealand, he worked at Tiffany’s in Christchurch, before moving to Queenstown at the Wakatipu Grill. Mauro’s Italian upbringing and time in top restaurants, has given him a preference for simple seasonal food that lets the quality of the ingredients shine. The abundant buffet of delights at Walter Peak lets him express this preference to the full.