So we said we’d share more South Island extravaganza, three months on and we’d only posted two lots of photographs. So here is more.
You will find that 90% of these photos have mountains in the background. Wherever you go, they follow. It is so easy to forget about the city lights after spending a week lake and mountain hopping.The sunsets are the most breath-taking thing ever. We probably took a couple hundred ‘on-the-road’ snaps, it was a scenic drive 24-7. We can’t wait to go back!
The water is just as clear as Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. There are of course more towering mountains and also this famous #thatwanakatree. To my surprise, the houses here are modern and very flash, like those you see in design magazines. We spent a day here and did a 3 hour walk up Rocky Mountain. There are two ways which you can get up the top, we recommend going west for up and east when coming down. You have to use your hands and climb a few sections, but walking different routes mean you get to experience it all. Bring a picnic to have at the top too!
The Lake Tekapo/Mount Cook area has the clearest skies in the whole world. The best place for stargazing, if of course you don’t bump into a full moon like we did. It’s also home to the most photographed church, The Church of the Good Shepherd. Pro tip: book early and get a place to stay in Tekapo. We lucked out on all the accommodation and had to stay at Fairlie, which is a 30 minute drive away and not very convenient. On the 2 days that we stayed there, it was all rain and thunderstorms in Fairlie while Tekapo had sunny blue skies and beautiful sunsets.
Mt Cook/Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki was my favourite lake. The water is a striking baby blue caused by sediment deposit from glacial erosion. It is the most beautiful thing ever. You have to see to believe. Mt Cook sits with a family of other mountains which tower over you. We stopped at the info centre first. This info centre has more than just pamphlets and toilets, there are artefacts, old cameras, maps, and stories of the first climbers. We did the short walk to Kea Lookout, just 30 minutes. It’s the best walk when you’re tight on time. At the lookout point you can see Mt Cook, Mount Sefton, The Footstool, Hooker valley, and Mueller Glacier lake. Unlike Lake Pukaki, the water here is grey.
“Can you recommend me a place to eat?” Depot.
“What’s your favourite restaurant in Auckland?” Depot.
That’s generally how conversations go, but wait times at Al Brown’s Depot Eatery detract most people. Even on a Monday night the restaurant has kickstarted a waitlist and is full right up to the drinks tables outside as soon as we hit six o’clock. Tip: get in at 5:30 and make sure the whole gang is on time. I can assure you it’s well worth the wait. Classic Depot food is at least a dozen fresh tuatua clams to begin and fish sliders for all ($17 for 3 or $5.50 each) – you will want more than one. If oysters are your thing, get those too. I recommend going for many small plates to share. You can request to get portion sizes as per the number of diners, so no fighting occurs. The smoked brisket tortilla ($15 for 3 or $5 each) is packed with flavour and incredibly juicy. The big plates are not as intriguing. The skirt steak ($25) is good, but probably not Baduzzi good. Though the mustard is one-of-a-kind and the tobacco onions are so incredibly delicious – can we get those as a side on its own? There’s a lot of meat on the plate with the crisp ‘Freedom Farms’ pork hock ($32) but the meat is dry and lacking that punch of flavour that you have in the other dishes. Potato skins ($10) are great as a side, they do fill you up almost immediately though. When dessert time rolls around tell them you’re going next door. Al Brown’s The Fed 3-way pie combo ($18) is best especially if you want everything, otherwise get the banoffee ($11.50) if you’re going solo.
Depot is the restaurant that truly reflects the kiwi culture – rustic decor, fresh seafood, casual, lively. There are no white table cloths and no gasps when you drop a fork or when you get the bill. Service is top notch, your ice cold tumbler rarely goes empty for a few minutes. Rest easy and recommend this place to all your friends visiting from afar. It’s always a good time at the Depot.
Oh, and did I mention the sliders? You have to get the sliders.
86 Federal Street, Auckland Central
New beginnings are always very exciting. Brian Campbell recently left the narrow, honeycomb-walled sweet house, Milse, to start his own dessert pop-up all over town. I made it to the very first one last Monday at Meredith’s.
The first three dishes cost $45 in total, and an extra $9 could bring you to a sugar high with a fourth dessert.
Each plate was delicately presented and visually appealing. You can expect no less from Brian with a CV as impressive as his (stalk here). The first dessert was Tonka Bean Vanilla Hyssop Panna Cotta served with strawberries, cherries and lemon curd. As you dig through the dish, the sourness from the lemon curd and the hint of hyssop in the panna cotta makes the dish surprisingly refreshing and delicious.
I wasn’t a big fan of the second course. A true beetroot supporter would enjoy this one but beetroot and I are not the best of friends. The beetroot mousse was topped with raspberries and yoghurt cake. On the side there were beetroot meringues, raspberry puree and a slice of fresh beetroot. I loved the freeze-dried meringues and fresh raspberry the most.
The third course was divine. The dish came out with a chocolate globe on top of a pile of chocolate soil and hidden inside was a very rich orange flavoured chocolate mousse. The soil was a mix of macadamia nuts, cacao nibs, chocolate coated rice puffs, mint leaves and chewy caramel nugget with a swirl of caramel. The combination was one crunchy gooey mess.
Now most people would stop here, but you know, it’s all or nothing. So to end the night we finished off with a plum dish. Sour plums were accompanied with sweet sable breton. The popcorn though was a little stale.
There are positive and negative things about pop-ups. They’re of course exciting and mysterious, and due to the limited time only feature, they induce high levels of FOMO aka fear of missing out. The downside is the set menu which cannot be catered to any dietary requirements. You can keep up with the news on where the next pop-up is on Instagram @briancampbell80.
Queenstown is an absolute beauty. There are mountains in your backyard, burger shops that open till 5am, water so clear it makes you want to drink it. The city is a true tourist destination, there are next to none locals and the supermarket is the tiniest thing ever. It’s very busy, there are people hopping onto water jets constantly, a steam boat that drives off into the mountains, live music, markets, frisbee golfers, bicycles. Honestly, it’s the best place ever.
Long summer nights are the real deal in the South Island. The sun goes down at 10pm, people eat dinner at 9pm and ice cream at 9am. In Queenstown that is. Amisfield is a mere 15-minute drive from the tourist hot spot. Lake Hayes is just across the road, Morven’s Hill is the backdrop, and the Remarkables stand on the side. With the Trust the Chef menu, dishes change according to what is fresh that day, and probably how the chef is feeling. We ordered the $65 option and an extra glass of wine. It came with nine items where two were starters, two were mains, two were sides, two complimentary mini items and one sweet treat. The gazpacho and mousse starters we didn’t enjoy because they were so strongly flavoured and salty. Our favourites were definitely the smoked salmon and the potatoes. And dare I say you haven’t had roast potatoes until you’ve had these.
You may choose from three Trust the Chef options, all of which are very well priced. I recommend that you book ahead of time and arrange transport or veto a sober driver.
If the potatoes don’t come, screw it. Order it a la carte.
Two weekends ago I made it to Waiheke for the first time. Shameful, I know. But better late than never.
We started off at Mudbrick for lunch. The restaurant was very beautiful, with brilliant views and interior. I enjoyed the Fish of the Day with Soft Shell Crab, Thai Curry Cream, Mango, and Coriander ($47). It came paired with the Viognier 2014 Waiheke Island which we weren’t particular fans of. The Buffalo Yoghurt Mousse was lovely and perfectly matched with Ned Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Marlborough ($18). Oh, and the truffle mash is amazing. Definitely get the truffle mash.
We then headed off to Cable Bay just down the road. Where Mudbrick was the traditional, prestigious brick house, Cable Bay was the large, classy modern house. Walking through the massive double doors it felt almost like a demo unit, like those setups you leaf through in design magazines. There is a large lawn with full 180 degree sea view, a helicopter, beanbags and a courtyard. The courtyard came with a French singer and his guitar, double thumbs up. Since we were well satisfied from the food at Mudbrick, we settled for wine and some shoestring fries.
Our last stop was Little Oneroa Beach before heading back on the ferry home.