'Listen to the experts'. It's here that this phrase rings particularly true. When it comes to culinary expertise, chefs Anthony Gradiska of Gibbston Valley in Queenstown and Mario Rodrigues of Bistro Gentil in Wanaka, know their stuff. So, we decided to ask them about their favourite epicurean hidden gems from either side of the Crown Range.
Let’s start off easy - where’s your favourite place to get a coffee? And what’s your order?
MR: Relishes on Ardmore Street, always a cappuccino one sugar.
AG: In the winter, it would have to be a long black in the sun at Heidi’s Hut after a few laps up at Coronet Peak. It’s a good brew and the view is pretty hard to beat. On a normal day, it’s Provisions in Arrowtown. But to be honest you’re more likely to catch me out for a beer than a coffee, so if that’s more your thing, then the Tap Room at Altitude Brewing in Frankton or The Fork & Tap in Arrowtown are both must do’s.
How about something quick? Do you have a go-to grab-and-go or favourite food truck?
AG: Slow Cuts in Arrowtown is my all-time favourite. Ring ahead for takeaway if you’re on the move. Or if you have some time up your sleeve, I highly recommend eating in. The food is awesome, the staff are super friendly and there’s always good vibes. They also brew their own beer and usually have a couple of other pretty tasty local brews on offer.
What about local producers? Any stand-outs?
MR: The Bistro garden supplies a lot of my summer ingredients. Pirate Pickles in Hawea are pretty good too.
AG: There’s so many great producers in the region, your best bet is to hit up the Remarkables Market to get them all in one place. It’s on every Saturday during the warmer months. Otherwise get out for a forage. You’ll find miners lettuce in spring, mushrooms in autumn, rosehips in winter and watercress most of the year. There’s also plenty of other goodies to be found if you know what you’re looking for. For wild shot meat you’ll want to get in touch with Calum from Fare Game - he’s a great guy and we rely on him for first class wild rabbit and venison.
Feeling adventurous? Where’s an off-the-beaten path spot?
MR: I love to go to the Motatapu Gorge in the summer with my dog.
AG: We’re spoiled for choice around here. Ben Lomond is the obvious pick, you can start from town or you can skip the first part by catching the gondola up and go from there. It’s pretty popular so not really off the beaten track but it’s still well worth the effort. Lake Alta up the Remarkables is a great spot just to sit and relax or maybe have a dip in the lake if you’re feeling brave, or there’s a ton of great day walks around Arrowtown, it’s really just a case of take your pick.
Alright, finally, let’s talk about fine dining. Other than your own Gibbston Valley and Bistro Gentil, what’s another fine dining location that you love to visit?
MR: I love to go to Kika on my days off.
AG: I’m a big fan of Rata, it ticks all the boxes for me, the food is always good, the service is friendly, it’s a cool dining room and it’s not stuffy or pretentious which is really important for me. The other place I am really enjoying at the moment for all the same reasons is Aosta in Arrowtown. I would definitely put both places on your to-do list.