It’s a seabird you can eat that flies, smells like fish and tastes like mutton. This quirky and tasty combo is a little bit representative of Wānaka’s Muttonbird; a casual bar and eatery tucked down an alley on the resort town’s main Ardmore Street.
Muttonbird is the brainchild of George Proudfoot and Jonty Jackson. Two best friends who travelled the world, cheffed together in Melbourne and dreamed of creating a place of their own. The vision; to serve food they love to cook and make something special in the process. And that they sure did.
Walking through the double doors and up the stairs takes you to a friendly and funky space (decked out with thoughtful quirks including retro cutlery tins, fish plates on the wall, fly fishing rods and old school snow skis). This could be any top restaurant in the world – if not for the snow-capped mountains seen through the windows.
With seasonal treats from farmers and producers across Otago and New Zealand, the menu is refined and creative but accessible. Focusing on simple food done well, Muttonbird’s dishes allow food to be the star. Regularly changing smaller and larger plates encourage sharing and relaxed dining (think blooming onion with bay leaf salt and vinegar and Royalburn Station lamb neck with fried bread). Drinks include whistle wetters such as local craft beer, wine and Elderflower Negronis.
The energy is lively, welcoming and unpretentious. Tunes pump from the sound system featuring hits from the 60s and 70s, reminiscent of the good old days. Perhaps evoking a bit of nostalgia for one’s record collection. Take a seat under hanging lights at the marble bar and enjoy a bit of banter with the staff or make yourself comfy outside before tucking into a Muttonbird Mix – a tastebud surprise of the daily changing menu.
So whether you’re a local or in town to get your Central Otago fix, make sure Muttonbird is on your list.