When it comes to eating out, Queenstown’s constantly evolving gastronomy scene is one to watch, and of course enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful spot to refuel after a day full of activities or a fine dining establishment to celebrate a special occasion, our adventure capital has a whole host of world-famous restaurants that won’t disappoint.
We’ve done our due diligence (and by that we mean over indulged) to bring you this list of the best, must-visit restaurants in Queenstown.
The Bunker Restaurant & Bar
Who doesn’t love a little hidden gem? Tucked away on the notoriously hard-to-find Cow Lane, The Bunker is one of Queenstown’s best kept secrets (well, maybe more like a secret that your best friend let slip). When you discover this little beauty, you’ll be glad you went looking as behind the rustic wooden door lies a beautifully inviting interior with an intimate fireplace. Whether you’re in for dinner or a big night out, The Bunker will cater to your every need. From the fine dining menu specialising in game and red meats to the Upstairs “Old School Cool” Cocktail Bar—home of some of the town’s best craft cocktails and late night house music—The Bunker is not only hard to find, but hard to forget.
The Grille by Eichardt's
Part of the iconic and luxurious hotel, Eichardt’s, The Grille is notably one of Queenstown’s premier dining spots. Only a few metres from the picturesque shores of Lake Wakatipu, it also boasts one of the best dining room views in town. Enter the New York bistro-esque restaurant and you’ll be pleasantly welcomed by the stylish and classy interior and warm friendly staff, before getting down to business with the impeccable menu that showcases the unique tastes of Central Otago and Southland in every dish. With mains like Eichardt’s Legendary Seafood Chowder, through to a comprehensive chargrilled and Otago meats menu you’re spoilt for choice, however if you trust the chef—hey, he’s a trusting guy—then we recommend the taste the region four course set-menu—with matching vino of course. An impressive wine, beer and cocktail list means you can keep the drinks free-flowing after dinner too. Tip: if you’ve spent the day shredding the slopes of Cardrona you can show the friendly staff your ski pass you’ll automatically get 20% off your bill—how’s that for value.
We know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you just do. Like when you judge the food is going to be epic at a restaurant based on the fact that the interior is cool and artsy—we may have just done this with Blue Kanu, and it most definitely paid off. The colourful and contemporary restaurant interior blends Pacifica and Asian cultures together in an uber-cool and classy way—aptly named, “Polynasia”. This seamless fusion carries on to the cuisine, with a combination of healthy, fresh and exotic dishes that are sure to leave you wanting more. Gather your troops and enjoy the tapas-style selection up at the Hula Hut bar or soak up the art, culture and friendliness of the Pacific in the restaurant—either way you’re in for a cultural soul food session like no other. We recommend trying the pulled duck nachos, salmon poke, Hulu Hulu chicken and one of their quirky cocktails. With a vibrant and fun atmosphere, sip away as you enjoy the delicious food, and if it’s your lucky day the staff might just serenade you with live singing and music, no wonder it makes our list of one of Queenstown's best restaurants.
Nest Bar & Kitchen
You’ll start on a high at Nest Bar & Kitchen—literally, as it’s renowned for being the highest alfresco eatery in Queenstown—and with the heights, come stunning views over lake Wakatipu. With a contemporary twist on much loved Mediterranean classics, the menu at Nest has six delicious sharing-style sections including street food, small bites and mains—tip: the more friends you bring the more you can order (and you’ll want to order everything). We love the street food menu and have to give a special shout out to the calamari and saffron sliders with a charcoal bao bun, both beautiful and delicious. Other favourites include the seared tuna and salmon, heirloom tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella (delish!), and you can’t go past Nest’s signature Southern Alps Merino Lamb with lemon cous-cous, spicy Moroccan sauce, mint and yoghurt. You won’t be short of an after dinner refreshment either, the bar is fully stocked with a specially curated selection of NZ gin and tonics, Japanese whiskeys and exclusively available Central Otago cellar.
If you’re looking for a spot to refuel after a big day of activities, or big night out (we’re not judging) go straight to Fergburger, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. If you haven’t heard of this one, you may just be living under a rock, as it’s not only New Zealand’s, but one of the world’s favourite burger joints and it’s right here in our backyard—and as such no self-respecting list of best Queenstown restaurants would be complete without it. Make sure you bring your appetite, as the burgers are no small feat. You can’t beat the classic Fergburger, with Prime NZ beef, the quirky-named Cockadoodle Oink (crumbed chicken and bacon—geddit?) or the Holier Than Thou, spicy satay tempura tofu burger mmm. There’s a line outside 24/7, so prepare for some people watching as you wait for your feast or take a local’s tip and call in your order, swing by the pick-up window and pop down to the lake (just watch the pesky seagulls who are also partial to a Fergberger treat or two). With Fergbaker, Mrs Ferg Gelateria and Fergbar right next door, you’ve pretty much got everything you could ever need in one spot.
You simply can’t write a top dining list in Queenstown without including Rātā, it just wouldn’t be complete. The brainchild of legendary celebrity chef, Josh Emett, this eatery is one we recommend everyone tries at least once, foodie or not you’ll leave wanting more. The deliciously inventive menu celebrates New Zealand in all its glory, from the freshest produce to locally sourced organic ingredients that are preserved, fermented and dehydrated to bring the flavours of the south year-round. The menu has everything you could possibly want, from grass-fed beef tartare to Big Glory Bay Salmon, Havoc Farm Pork Belly with torched scampi (mmm) and spring carrot and pine nut filo. Whether you’re dining in for lunch or dinner you have to try the eatery’s modern twist on the infamous NZ classic cheese roll—the Southland Windsor Blue Cheese Roll with preserved apricots and honey and mustard which will blow your socks off in more ways than one. It’s not hard to tell why people dine here again and again.
If you love seafood, look no further. Since 1991, Fishbone has been serving up New Zealand’s biggest selection of local seafood right here in the heart of Queenstown. A lively spot, where you can enjoy fresh South Island seafood prepared in every way, shape and form you can imagine. Chef-owner Darren Lovell is behind the contemporary daily menu that includes much loved classics like South Island Chowder with fresh and smoked fish and littleneck clams to house-baked seaweed sourdough and creative dishes like Sea Urchin “Kina” pasta. With fish straight from the ports of the South Island, locally grown vegetables and a hand-picked wine list that showcases the best of what NZ and Central Otago have to offer, it’s a must add to your dining itinerary.
A well-oiled Central Otago establishment, Botswana Butchery is undeniably one of Queenstown's best and most renowned restaurants. Housed in Queenstown’s historic Archer’s Cottage, the ever-so-stylish and inviting setting will instantly make you want to stay all night long and with roaring fires and lake views, there really is no reason to ever leave. Sit in complete luxury, while you enjoy the superb menu on offer—everything from the finest cuts of wagyu eye fillet and slow roast lamb shoulder from the “Butchers Block” to an extensive range of seafood (try the Flash Fried NZ Paua with garlic and lemon—yes!). And to wash it down, both the dinner and lunch settings can be matched with a recommended wine from the restaurant's private 1800 bottle cellar. The attention to detail in this establishment is ten-fold, everything from the service to food to wine—you’ll feel right at home.
Pedro’s House of Lamb
As you can probably guess by its name, this joint specialises in New Zealand Lamb. If you don’t have the time, or can’t be bothered putting the work in for your Sunday dinner, Pedro’s House of Lamb is the answer to all of your roast prayers. All you have to do is order in, take out and you’ll get to enjoy the deliciousness in the comfort of your own home. We suggest trying the iconic whole lamb shoulder, smothered in rosemary and garlic and slow roasted so perfectly it falls right off the bone. It comes with a generous side of scalloped potatoes already, but we recommend chucking in some coleslaw and cheeky bread rolls to soak up the goodness.
Relatively new to the iconic Steamer Wharf and yet landing itself squarely on the list as of one QT's best restaurants, Boardwalk is giving Queenstown’s fine dining scene a shake-up. Dining here is the complete package, from the nautical-lush setting to the impressive views of Lake Wakatipu and an evolving menu offering the freshest seafood, local meats and beautifully prepared produce. Get things started with the walk-up oyster bar, yes, you read that correct. Daily from 9:30am (and year-round) you can enjoy fresh, live shucked oysters—whether you have one or a cheeky dozen, you’d be silly not to head upstairs to the star of the show. The restaurant is a true culinary experience, from the beautifully presented Grilled North Island Octopus with lemongrass mayo and chilli to the mouth-watering Cardrona Merino Lamb Rack and everything in between, you really can’t go wrong. The chefs have even gone one step further to create a separate full vegetarian menu. And if the first two courses have you wanting to take things to third base (recommended), the dessert menu is top notch. Whether you select the Whittaker’s Chocolate Delice or a moreish cocktail from the specially-curated dessert cocktail menu, you can indulge as you admire the majestic Lady of the Lake, the TSS Earnslaw steaming away.
The Cow is a Queenstown classic, and a damn good one at that. For over 40 years the rustic yet inviting eatery has been popular with locals and visitors alike, and it’s not hard to see why. With a cosy atmosphere and a fail-proof pizza and pasta menu that hasn’t changed since day dot, The Cow knows a thing or ten about running a successful hospitality business. Our pick is the prosciutto or bolognaise pizza—large of course. The coolest part is that the restaurant itself is set in an old cow shed. Legend has it that over 100 years ago old-school dairy farmers used to walk through the lane to get to their milking shed—just iconic.
There’s something special about dining at a restaurant and knowing that so much care goes into every dish well before it reaches the plate. Sherwood is a restaurant at the heart of sustainable practice, and with a mad respect for nature not only does all of its produce come from the organic kitchen garden, local growers and producers but 100% of its organic waste is returned to the kitchen garden. The ever-so-creative seasonal menu offers flavours, colours and textures that reflect the current season, bringing the landscapes right outside the door to your plate. Designed to select a main course and add on a range of sides, we suggest bringing a few friends and trying as much as you possibly can—you won’t regret it. If you need a thirst quencher, the bar operates under zero-waste principles too with 60% of wine bottled in house—pretty darn cool may we add. Thoughtfulness goes well beyond the plate at Sherwood and if we had to keep eating at one place again and again this may have to be it.
All that munching got you thirsty? Hit up one of Queenstown's best bars.
Image credit: The Bunker, The Grille by Eichardt's, Blue Kanu, Nest Bar & Kitchen, Rātā, Fishbone, Botswana Butchery, Boardwalk, The Cow, Sherwood