Food lover’s guide to NZ

Christchurch to Nelson: The Delicious Alternative to Rugby

If you would rather step on a fire ant nest than watch a sporting match, there is plenty for you to do in New Zealand that doesn’t involve rugby.

The purity of New Zealand’s environment has some pretty tasty results in the form of raw milk cheeses, Pinot Noir and seafood. If you’re a footy widow, or simply a lover of la dolce vita, an enticing food and wine trail has emerged out of the shaken foundations of Christchurch.

In the words of Johnny Horton, ‘head north’ (but not until Alaska; that is way too far). Beginning in Christchurch, the first stop on your oenology-meets-piggy adventure is the Canterbury Cheese Mongers. Curd nerds will revel in the raw cheese paradise that is the cheese room at this charming gem. Run by British ex-pats Sarah and Martin Aspinwall, the shop has a distinctly olde English feel that is further enhanced by the presence of traditional Lancashire pork pies. Being in the presence of that much quality pastry and dairy gives you thoroughly tangible endorphin rush.

Once you’ve started your day with a good strong coffee from the Aspinwall’s machine and you’ve loaded up your ‘chilly bin’ (See:

Black truffle and taleggio omelette

Black truffle and taleggio omelette

‘Esky’ for non-Kiwis) with snacks for the road, hit the asphalt and head up to Pegasus Bay (/www.pegasusbay.com) in Waipara for a genuinely outstanding antipasto platter and a glass of their big-busted, honeyed Riesling. Set on rolling verdant acreage, the winery and restaurant opens up to a formal herb and vegetable garden and a paved patio that overlooks the landscaped grounds. In cooler weather, the best place is definitely in front of the open fire on the leather couches. So cosy and so romantic.

Designated drivers beware: you may want to book accommodation in the nearby vicinity. The temptation to linger is overwhelming.

Cruising further north along State Highway 1, you pass countryside that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jane Austen novel. Things shift dramatically when you hit the coastline; black sand meets craggy outcrops and white wash, lending a certain Shakespearean drama to the scene. Hamlet would love it.

On arrival in the quaint township of Kaikoura – which literally means ‘food’ (kai) and ‘koura’ (lobster) in Maori – it’s hard not to get overexcited about the deep sea treasures heading to your plate. Hislops Wholefoods is a no-brainer as it serves local tucker with a focus on wild foods. From 5.30pm daily, you can roll up for a 4-course menu priced at NZ $49.50 that features intriguing dishes like confit of hare ravioli, wallaby and pistachio sausage, wild pork and horopito (a wild medicinal herb that is native to the region) schnitzel and organic pear fritter. Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and whole food options abound because the Hislops’ philosophy is all about wellbeing, environmental gentleness and damn fine food. What’s not to love?

Nin's Bin

The legendary Nin's Bin crayfish shack

Some places become an institution for their food but others enter folklore due to the characters involved. Nin’s Bin is an unassuming caravan on the side of the road that sells lobsters.  To say it’s humble is like saying the Dalai Llama is kinda laidback. What makes this crayfish shack even more appealing is its history. The story goes that that one day, the eponymous ‘Nin’ was in the caravan when a truck came flying around the corner and bulldozed the caravan directly into the sea. She walked out without a scratch. Legend.

Back on the road and, before long, you’re in Marlborough, home of the most famous – and cleverly marketed – Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Acres of vines spread out across desolate plains and every second driveway boasts a ‘cellar door’ sign. It’s hard to know where to turn, such is the litany of options. To avoid this conundrum, the smart money is on heading straight to Nautilus for a first-hand explanation of the ins and outs of the region. Assistant Winemaker Brett Bermingham is the friendliest man in the wine industry and takes regular tours through the winery, explaining the process in plain language with enormous tastings along the way.

If you make it to Nelson with your drinking boots still on, spectacular drinking opportunities present themselves. The best place to get into the boho-hippie-artsy vibe of Nelson is at The Freehouse. This converted church is a shrine to all that is semi-holy; craft beers, local wines by the glass and a warm, wooden interior that harks back to the days of taverns free of poker machines, flatscreens televisions and neon.

To recover from the dreaded ‘night before’, make sure you book a chopper ride over the Lord of the Rings locations with Reid Heslop Helicopters. The hidden benefit of this is that you can scope out all the best trout fly-fishing spots without having to wade through anything. Cheers to that!

Wanna go? Check out Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand for more info.

Comments
4 Responses to “Food lover’s guide to NZ”
  1. One of our favourite meals ever in NZ was at Nin’s Bin! 🙂 Nothing beats the view and we couldn’t help but relax and stay a while even though we were in a hurry 🙂

  2. admin says:

    Did you go and play with the baby seals? Oh mah gawd. The adorableness was JUST TOO MUCH!

  3. Cassandra Douglas-Hill says:

    Does anyone know of some good cooking schools in NZ- Not super fancy, just good wholesome food??? The land of organic and dairy you’d think there would be good cooking schools, maybe just hard to find.

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