All Articles Eat and drink your way around Queenstown

Eat and drink your way around Queenstown

Dig into these picks for the city's best bites and wine pours.

Ben Mack
By Ben Mack11 Apr 2024 4 minutes read
Penthouse Suite at Eichardt's Hotel overlooking the stunning lake and mountain ranges.
Penthouse suite at Eichardt's Hotel overlooking Lake Wakatipu
Image: Tripadvisor/Leonardo

Despite its reputation as an adrenaline seeker’s dream destination, Queenstown is not all high-octane skiing, jet boats, and bungy jumps. Adventures of a different sort can be found at the area’s restaurants and wineries.

At the edge of the Central Otago wine region—which has gone from fewer than a dozen wineries in the '90s to more than 100 today—Queenstown offers plenty for oenophiles and the grape-curious to explore, from walk-in (or boat-in) lakeside eateries to five-star dining with multi-course tasting menus.

Whether you’re in search of the smoothest sauvignon, punchiest pinot, or just something that goes well with local-raised salmon, venison, or Kiwi-Italian pastas—here are a few great options.

For vintage vibes and elegant bites: Eichardt’s Bar

Eichardt's private label pinot noir being poured into a large wine glass.
Enjoy a glass of Eichardt's house label pinot noir
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Dating to the 1800s, Eichardt’s was the first building in Queenstown to have electricity. It’s come a long way from its beginnings as a woolshed and later lodging for treasure-seekers during a gold rush—now, you’ll find a luxury hotel with a cozy, must-visit bar serving upscale bistro fare. (Think sturgeon caviar and oysters with Bollinger Special Cuvée.) The drinks menu is no fewer than 28 pages, delivered in a hardcover book with thick paper.

What to order: The seafood chowder is legendary and filled with chunky, local scallops, mussels, and prawns. Pair it with a sauvignon blanc or chardonnay.

For fine wine and local dining: Amisfield

The interior at Amisfield
The interior at Amisfield
Image: Tripadvisor/Management

Set on a 200-plus-acre organic vineyard in view of the glassy waters of Lake Hayes, Amisfield and its chef, Vaughan Mabee, are all about in-season, local ingredients. Indoors, the décor has a timeless feel, with clean lines and uncrowded overall design that puts the focus on the food and drinks. When it comes to wine, lean on the knowledgeable staff for pairings (usually from Amisfield’s own bottles).

What to order: The menu’s “trust the chef”—a multi-course affair featuring local producers that changes frequently. There might be wild boar sausage, Canterbury duck, or octopus. However, wild-caught deer, salmon, truffles, Bluff oysters, and homemade bread frequently feature.

Tip: Amisfield is about a 25-minute drive from central Queenstown in good traffic, but you can take a local Route 2 bus (towards Arrowtown), which stops right outside.

For Kiwi-Italian fusion fare: Aosta

The bar at Aosta
Roasted Havoc pork at Aosta
The bar at Aosta (L), roasted Havoc pork (R)
Image: Tripadvisor/Management

Northern Italy and southern New Zealand are both roughly 45 degrees from the equator, despite being on opposite sides of the world—a fact that inspires head chef Andrea Cattalini’s seasonal menus at Aosta (pronounced “EH-osta”). While influenced by his Italian roots, all the proteins Cattalini and his team use come from the South Island. You’ll find the restaurant—which is bathed in golden light and filled by softly undulating electronic music—about a 20-minute drive from central Queenstown in the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown.

What to order: Nonna Valeria’s fegatini—organic duck liver pâté on crostini bread—is a stellar starter served on top of smooth rocks in a wooden bowl. A perfect combo of Kiwi and Italian flavors, the Southland agria (a type of potato) gnocchi is earthy and delightfully spongy, and served with a green pesto and pine nuts. Pair it with Geografico Borgo della Terra, a summery white wine produced in Tuscany from Vernaccia grapes.

For top-tier lake views: Wakatipu Grill

White linens on tables line up along the edge of restaurant overlooking the  stunning Lake.
Stunning views of lake at Wakatipu Grill
Image: Tripadvisor/Management

If James Bond were to have a meal in Queenstown, it’d be at the Wakatipu Grill at the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa. That's partly because of the route you take to get here: a 20-minute water taxi ride from central Queenstown’s waterfront to the restaurant's private pier. Dine alfresco while drinking in panoramic lake views and the sounds of waves gently lapping the shore and ducks calling.

What to order: “Baked delight” is the term for Wakatipu’s bread. Made in-house, it’s airy and crispy, and the butter is impossibly soft. The venison ribs are also a must-order and practically melt in your mouth. You’ll find red and white wines aplenty (a Carrick sauvignon blanc from nearby Bannockburn goes well with much of the menu), but also cocktails, like a Jaffa old fashioned with Scapegrace Fortuna whisky, Cointreau, chocolate bitters, and sugar.

For a serene lunch: Kinross

Arial view of table filled with shareable pizza's and glasses of local wines.
Shareable pizza dishes at Kinross Winery Bistro
Image: Tripadvisor/Management

When visiting Kinross for lunch, it can be hard to tell if you’re still in New Zealand or have been transported to France or Napa Valley. It's because the winery is nestled in the lush, vineyard-filled Gibbston Valley just off State Highway 6 about a 30-minute drive east of Queenstown. UK-born chef Pete Franklin’s local-focused menu includes beef croquettes, organic chicken, and sharing platters with New Zealand cheeses, charcuterie, nuts, and olives. Lunches can be taken at a leisurely pace, and if you want to linger longer, you can—Kinross is also a boutique hotel with 14 cute cottages. Otherwise, they do takeaway for dinner each evening.

What to order: If you like pizza, you’re in luck. The sharing-sized chorizo and chili has a kick, but isn’t too spicy. A tasty vegetarian option is the roasted mushroom, parmesan, and black truffle mascarpone. Among the standout Kinross wines are the Luminaire rosé, a dry pinot noir rosé, and The Prospector, a 2022 chardonnay with baked peaches, pear, feijoa, almond meal, and hazelnuts.

For a sophisticated speakeasy: The Bunker

Colorful plate of seared Bannockburn hare loin entree at Bunker restaurant.
Seared Bannockburn hare loin at The Bunker
Image: Tripadvisor/Management

Step through the big black door on a nondescript backstreet in central Queenstown, and enter another world. At least that’s how it feels inside The Bunker, which has been recently refurbished and expanded. Low mood lighting, wood paneling, a fireplace, cozy plush leather couches, a vintage soundtrack, no windows—the speakeasy vibe will have you thinking you’re back in the ’20s. As for the food, executive chef and co-owner Ben Norfolk’s menu specializes in European and Kiwi cuisine, particularly lamb, beef, venison, and seafood. The wine list is huge, as is the cocktail menu.

What to order: The eight-course “Taste of the South'' menu—and its slightly smaller five-course cousin—is a culinary tour through the region, with choices of “earth” (meat) or “water” (seafood) for most dishes, and wine pairings. From the a la carte menu, the West Coast pāua tortellini as a starter and the venison strip loin with gooseberry are musts.

The Toblerone martini—made with Baileys, Frangelico, crème de cacao, cream, honey and large chocolate swirls—makes for a fab finisher. It’s like drinking ice cream.

Ben Mack
New Zealand-based Ben Mack’s work has appeared in the likes of Esquire, Vogue Australia, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, and a menagerie of inflight magazines. He often writes about his favorite food, cheese rolls—and considers inventing a new variety of “southern sushi” (as cheese roll are sometimes known) while in Antarctica to be his greatest achievement.