They call it the land of kiwi, for the bird and the fruit. Honestly, what really stole my heart in New Zealand were the cherries. The big round, juicy, fresh cherries – you put them in your mouth and you are going to be wholly addicted – it doesn’t matter whether you’re particularly fond of the fruit. They’re easily the best I’ve ever eaten, something none of us were able to resist. We kept popping them like candy, one after the other – fighting for the bag of bliss. Arrowtown, about 20 minutes from Queenstown in the South Island, is a small, quaint place that looks straight out of an Enid Blyton storybook, one where the fascinating stories of the Secret Seven or the Famous Five would take me as a child. One could not ignore the lady at the stall selling “damn good cherries”, bewitching, hypnotizing and luring everyone to walk towards her and try the fruit, which almost seemed forbidden.
Truly were “dam good” cherries
Cherries in Arrowtown
One of my favourite restaurants in all of the ten to fifteen places we visited was this extremely charming one in this enchanting town of Motueka in the South Island called Church Lane. Some of us wanted Chinese food, some seafood and a few felt like fast food. But when we saw this place, we were spellbound. It used to be a church which was later converted to an eatery, and attached to it is a surreal store any vintage lover would go crazy about. The food here was absolutely impeccable. From untried combinations of a warm pear, blue cheese and walnut dish and some delish prawn with mango salad to the most appetizing latte, I could go back to New Zealand just for this one restaurant. The place itself looked very elaborate and tremendously timeless, but we were really surprised by how inexpensive it was considering the copious amounts of food we called for. I’d say I’ve never been to a restaurant where the food looked so immensely better than it was portrayed on the menu.
Entrance to the paradise that Church Lane is
Warm Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut
Baked Fish With Carrot Puree
Monterey Prawn with Mango Salad and Chili Aioli
Salted Caramel Latte
One thing that didn’t disappoint us was the breakfast. Every single day — wherever we went, it was always great. From homemade chicken pies to cheese scones, pancakes to ham & cheese sandwiches and eggs benedicts, everything was absolutely binge-worthy. It wasn’t possible to eat a lavish breakfast each morning, because everything is quite expensive there, these were great, healthy options. What I liked about the Kiwis is when they say cheese they bloody mean it!
Ham, Egg and Cheese Sandwich
Pancakes with Maple Syrup and Fresh Cream
Cream Cheese Bagel with Butter and Raspberry Jam
Eggs Benedict with Spinach
Fresh Homemade Muesli with Fruit
Cheese Omelette With Brown Bread
Talking of cheese, one can’t miss the Kaimai Cheese Company Cafe on the way south from Auckland to Rotorua. Since we were traveling by road, and we were on our own, it gave us a lot of options to stop wherever we wished. Kaimai was one such place, which is basically cheese heaven. And I’m someone who steals cheese from other people’s fridges and slyly gulp it in a jiffy. I was in paradise. The café is not as expensive as one would expect it to be. It’s just really beautiful cheese. We tried around ten variations from brie to blue cheese, rouge to gouda. My favourite was the blue cheese. So rich! We were very very high – on the cheese and the wine.
Kaimai Cheese Company
Only a few varieties of cheese fit my frame
New Zealand is very famous for its wineries – they are pretty much all over the country. One of the biggest and oldest is the Missions Estate Winery in the Hawke’s Bay area in Napier, North Island. It’s humungous with hundreds of acres of vineyards. We tasted about seven different kinds of wine from Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir Martinborough to Sauvignon Blanc and a nice sweet Late Harvest. Honestly, I couldn’t keep a track of which one was what after a point. This was a refreshing change from the 100-rupee Heritage wine that I’m usually downing at home in Bangalore. We bought a lot of wine from the multiple places we made pitstops at, and were all drunk pretty much everyday during our happy hours that lasted longer than they should have. My father and his friends made sure not a single bottle was taken back. We finished every single drop left on the last day, and now I can’t even look at alcohol.
Mission Estate Winery, Napier
A happy Mark serving us wine
Apart from the local food that we were eagerly trying everyday, we also did a couple of barbeques where we stopped by for the night. We cooked painstakingly elaborate meals and ate it with all the wine and cheese we had bought through our trip. That was really the fun part – buying a whole variety of meats and sauces to go with, and taking turns to enthusiastically cook.. I’m surprised I haven’t put on any weight! Pork sausages to chicken satays – the food was stellar.
Michael and I enjoying some BBQ cooking
Delish Chicken Satays
Waiting for the spread
Living in Bangalore I’ve gotten quite tired of burgers, but Fergburger in Queenstown was highly recommended by a bunch of friends and strangers, and all for the right reasons. There is ALWAYS a line outside the restaurant, no matter what day, what time of the week! We waited a good 30 minutes to make our order and another 30 to take it. The codfish, chicken and lamb burgers were totally worth it, although the original beef burger is most famous. I was in Queenstown for three days and I ate a Fergburger on all three days. Absolutely yum!
The massive line outside Furgburger, Queenstown
Fergburger on a Monday night
Codfish and Chicken Burgers
There’s also this really cool tradition in New Zealand called National Crate Day to celebrate the beginning of summer, where people can buy crates of beer and binge-drink. So people in parks, on the streets, in bars, at home – they’re just drinking everywhere. One crate is 12 large bottles of beer or 9 litres. We saw this bunch of really drunk people happily struggling to get on a boat with their. I was about to jump off the bridge and join them but then I saw my father coming toward me. Sigh.
People struggling to get their boats
Part where I wanted to jump off the bridge into the boat of beer
In North Island, we went to this pace called TePuia in Rotorua, where the natives of New Zealand, the Maori people, cook their food below the ground. An evening of entertainment and sitting by the hot natural geysers was followed by an exaggerated and very flavourful dinner with the natives. I had the best creamy mussels at TePuia in North Island as part of an extravagant authentic Hangi dinner.
Food being taken out from under the ground
Creamy Mussels cooked in Maori style
New Zealand is also famous for its variety of honey, especially the Manuka honey. We not only bought the honey in liquid form to consume (which I’m also using to soothe my fresh labret piercing), but also a ton of lip balms and hand creams and whatnot. I’m not a very big fan of lamb, but the ones my Auntie Helen made were so tender and totally out of this world. With the number of sheep we saw while traveling, this wasn’t a surprise! We also tried some really great whitebait and crayfish dishes of absolute supreme quality, but I forgot to take pictures because I was so excited!
Three Cheese Pizza at Capizzi, Rotorua
Best ginger beer in Hobbiton, Matamata
Fish and Chips in Devonport
This amazing Chinese restaurant in Franz Josef Glacier
1876, A pretty bar in Queenstown
Stuffed mouth hence unable to smile