With its cobblestone streets brimming with heritage, stunning historic buildings and darn quaint aesthetic, Arrowtown is one of those places you can’t help but fall head over heels in love with. Look a little closer and you’ll find plenty of hidden gems serving up memorable food and beverage woven throughout the town’s little laneways, not to mention world-famous wineries with world-class eats just a stone's throw out of town.
Whether you’re staying down the road in Queenstown, or in the heart of this magical town, here are seven Arrowtown restaurants you seriously need to dine at, trust us.
Lake Hayes Road, Arrowtown
Wow, just wow. If you’re looking for a memorable experience like no other, go straight to Amisfield. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200 (although it would come in handy). Winners of both Cuisine’s restaurant of the year 2022 and Executive Chef at Amisfield, Vaughan Mabee scooping the Innovation Award 2022, Amisfield brings something that we can only describe as magic to the table. We highly recommend going for the seven-course degustation, a full-immersive experience that not only epitomises the tastes of Central Otago, but takes you on a journey of flavour, and cultural discovery. Mabee takes flavours and endemic ingredients that are so distinctly Kiwi—such as paua, crayfish, kawakawa and huhu grubs—and turns them into some of the most delicious, and creative courses that we’ve had the pleasure of eating. The experience draws on nostalgic tastes, showcases Aotearoa’s culinary roots, and evokes a sense of pride. How good is our country? And, as Amisfield is an award-winning specialist producer of pinot noir and aromatic white wines, you’d be silly not to add the wine pairing to top off the experience—each wine perfectly matched and just as perfectly presented by the in-house sommelier. Big yes.
The Fork And Tap
Buckingham Street, Arrowtown
Standing proudly at the end of the heritage precinct on Buckingham Street, The Fork And Tap is an iconic Arrowtown gastropub that oozes history, class and quirk—it resides in a 150-year-old building after all. Born out of a love of craft beer and cooking (a great place to start if you ask us) this must-visit establishment has been serving up good beer, good wine, good food and good times for over 10 years. With 19 beers and ciders on tap, plenty of local Central Otago wines and a hearty menu full to the brim with delicious pizzas—our pick is the Crown Range with garlic roast mushroom, mushroom truffle cream and rocket—and not-so-ordinary pub grub like the BBQ jackfruit sandwich and grilled halloumi salad, you’ll leave with the utmost content. Plus if you’ve got mini-humans in tow the kids' menu is a crowd-pleaser, not to mention the playground and sandpit on-site which may give you just enough time to finish your beer in peace. Now onto the atmosphere, every Sunday in the warmer months the festoon-lit beer garden comes to life with live music, and throughout the year Wednesdays go off with traditional Irish music—which is best enjoyed with a glass of red by the roaring fire in winter.
Buckingham Street, Arrowtown
Iconic Arrowtown eatery Aosta has just added a little bambino to its family, and we can’t get enough of Little Aosta. With celeb chef Ben Bayly at the helm, you don’t even need to step foot in this joint to know it's going to be a darn good time, with great food, tasty wines and amazing service. What we love the most about this family-friendly trattoria, is its perfect simplicity, which Bayly coins “zero faff”. The menu is inspired by the cooking techniques of Northern Italy (having lived and cooked there for four years, it’s a place close to Bayly’s heart) and serves up traditional pared-back fare that hits the nail on the head Every. Darn. Time. Bringing the magic of an authentic multi-generational Italian home straight to your palate, the sharing menu has plenty of mouthwatering eats, all the way from antipasti, to woodfired pizzas and meats, pastas and secondi (mains)—tip: save a little room for the Nutella Tiramisu at the end *chefs kiss*. The chefs use almost exclusively local products, from well-known and loved producers like Nevis Gardens and ‘Rocket Man’, connecting the food with the land and we’re here for it. Menu must-trys include ‘Julie’s fritto misto’ AKA seasonal veggies and herbs fried in a light batter, the nostalgic ham and barbecued pineapple woodfired pizzettas (with an open kitchen you can watch head chef, Darren Lynch make the dough and pop these tasty morsels in the striking woodfired pizza oven), deliciously tender wallaby meatballs (trust us on this one) and the Wakanui beef tagliata. We could go on and on, but we know your belt buckle is about to pop. Don’t stress, you don’t have to order everything the first time around, as we can guarantee you’ll be back. To quench your thirst, order a spritzer, or a carafe of red wine, close your eyes and be transported to a balmy night in Northern Italy—just magic.
Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road, Lake Hayes
Where do we even start? If you haven’t heard of this absolute gem, then your world is about to get a whole lot better. As you walk up the cobblestone path to the gorgeous white weatherboard cottage that is Akarua, you’ll feel instantly at home. This well-loved and well known Central Otago winery, not only has a boutique cellar door on-site where you can sample their latest and greatest award-winning wines, but it serves up absolutely delicious food from 9 - 5pm daily. Whether you’re after a destination breakfast venue (one of the best around in our opinion) or a long-lunch location, this is the spot. The courtyard is perfect year-round, transforming into a winter wonderland in the cooler months with a stunning translucent marquee, outdoor heaters and plenty of blankets to keep you snug and warm. For breakfast, you can’t go wrong with the seared halloumi with dukkah and poached eggs or the waffles with brulée banana and honeycomb butter—we can assure you it’s as tasty as it sounds. The lunch menu is designed to share with beautiful cuts of meat like the fall-off-the-bone Central Otago lamb shoulder, fresh seafood like the Mt Cook alpine salmon and so many delicious starters and sides. It’s such a beautifully unique location that we suggest grabbing your friends and making a whole day of it, and just in case you need any more convincing they do an epic magnum of rosé.
Buckingham Street, Arrowtown
The older and fancier sibling of Little Aosta is another fabulous restaurant owned by chef Ben Bayley and jeweller Michael Hill—who in our eyes can do no wrong. Named after Aosta, the capital of the Valle d’Aosta in northern Italy, an alpine valley with similar characteristics to Central Otago, the cuisine at Aosta pays homage to the cooking techniques and tastes of both regions. Opening its doors in 2019, Aosta has built up a fabulous reputation for serving up elegant Italian eats, but not how you know them—reimagine what you’re about to be served up, as it’s far from spag bol and carbonara. This low lit and intimate restaurant has a stunning open-plan kitchen where you can watch the chefs work their culinary sorcery on standouts such as the wagyu tartare with chargrilled bell peppers, kina pappardelle with crispy fried leeks, bright as the sun hen’s yolks and shaved Stewart Island paua and the delicious lamb rump with yam gratin and rosemary flowers. Wash your meal down with a delectable Central Otago or Italian drop, or if you’re feeling something stronger we’d highly recommend trusting the bartender with a perfectly matched cocktail pairing. To finish the experience with a bang, the Insta-famous salted caramel tiramisu is a must order—expect a little theatre and fun with this one…we won’t spoil the surprise! Pro tip: If you're looking for a wee tipple after your meal, seek out The Blue Door cocktail bar.
Buckingham Street, Arrowtown
Another gastropub well worth a mention (because who doesn’t love a good gastropub?!) is Bendix Stables. Step inside this charming pub, which was built way back in 1873, and you’ll instantly feel the history of the gold mining high street come alive. With its warm and inviting atmosphere and stunning stone architecture, settle in for a relaxing evening with tasty fare and a tipple or two. The uber-talented chefs serve up a range of internationally inspired dishes, from the Japanese katsu chicken tacos with pickled ginger and BBQ sauce, the Indian-inspired rajma curry with mango pickle and coconut yoghurt to the all-Canadian classic gravy-soaked chips with pancetta and mozzarella… sold, we’ll take all three. There are plenty of drinks to go around too, with the best of local breweries, vineyards and distilleries all ready and waiting to round off your evening.
Kobe Cuisine at Millbrook
Malaghans Road, Arrowtown
You don’t have to be staying at Millbrook to experience the wonderful world of Kobe Cuisine, although we’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a special escape. With an open teppanyaki grill, the mouth-watering aromas of chef Yuki Ariya’s kitchen hit your taste buds before you even have the chance to be seated. If you’re like us, upon reviewing the menu you’ll find it hard to make a decision as the array of exquisite Japanese-inspired eats all sound so desirable. If you’re a seafood lover, a sashimi platter couldn’t be a better place to start—line-caught and on your plate within 24 hours, they’re as fresh and flavoursome as can be. Why not team with a fine white wine or a craft sake? The seasonal sharing menu includes other small plates like sushi, dumplings and a range of tempura-crusted goods that will delight any palate. Move on to the main course for more fine-dining fare, like the aroma of spiced merino lamb fillet with courgette caponata, pickled coriander gel and glazed jus or the Japanese BBQ glazed duck leg with miso paste and maple glazed tamarillo, before finishing with our absolute must-have dessert AKA the strawberry and miso mousse daifuku —trust us when we say order this!
Take a trip over the hill to sample the best restaurants in Queenstown.
Image credit: The Fork And Tap, Amisfield, The Fork And Tap, Little Aosta by Sam Stewart, Akarua, Aosta, Bendix Stables & Kobe Cuisine.