Queenstown is famously known for being a thrill seeker’s playground. In this small town, travelers can skydive for breakfast, hang-glide for lunch, and then end their day by throwing themselves off a cliff with a bungee cord. However, if you’d rather keep your feet on the ground and explore a subtler side of Queenstown, look to the food scene.
I am far from an acclaimed food critic, but I know a good restaurant when I eat at one. The first thing to know about food in Queenstown is that it will be expensive compared to other places in New Zealand. This is due to the high tourist population and the town basically being a rich person’s “playground.” I found myself cooking more in the hostel and cringing a bit each time I enjoyed a meal out downtown. Nevertheless, Queenstown does have some great food and a charming restaurant atmosphere. The three restaurants that I fell in love with during my short time in Queenstown are Atlas Beer Café, Madam Woo, and Fergburger.
Photo credit: atlasbeercafe.com
Atlas Beer Café
This small restaurant is located in a perfect situation to enjoy the magnificent outdoor scenery of Queenstown. Atlas Beer Café is situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and faces the Remarkables. I love a good beer bar, and I first visited Atlas to experience their delicious selection of craft brews. Without even eating anything, I quickly fell in love with the spot. On my final day in Queenstown, I stopped back in to get a taste of their brunch menu. I ordered the Big Breakfast, which is essentially a full English breakfast with eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomato, hash brown, sausage, and toast. I was in a hurry, so sadly I do not have a picture of this glorious meal. Everything was fantastic and it took me back to my days studying in Lancaster, England. The best part is Atlas serves breakfast until 2 P.M., so it is acceptable to enjoy a beer with this Big Breakfast.
Madam Woo serves authentic Malaysian hawker food. It is situated close to Lake Wakatipu, on Mall St., tucked between fashionable clothing stores. The graffiti mural (cover photo) and the colorful pillows that line cushioned seats make this restaurant feel trendy, but also comfortable. I was not familiar with Malaysian hawker food, so the menu was a bit overwhelming. Luckily, the staff were knowledgeable about the different items and were capable of helping me choose the right dish. As a starter, I ordered the pork and prawn siu mai. The pieces were large, savory, and absolutely delicious. Madam Woo served house chili oil with the siu mai that complemented the meat well. The chili oil was made from a sesame oil base infused with chilis. It was spicy, but not overpowering. For my main course I ordered the shredded duck and cabbage salad (below). I always feel obligated to order menu items that contain duck, and I am almost never disappointed. Madam Woo was no exception. The duck was perfectly tender and expertly seasoned. The lime dressing helped bring all of the flavors of the salad together. The other components of the salad were cucumber, white cabbage, peanuts, and chili peppers. All the flavors complimented each other well, except I had trouble getting around the enormous amount of peanuts. However, don’t let that stop you from trying this mouth-watering salad or any of the other items on the Madam Woo menu.
Shredded duck and cabbage salad
Fergburger is a household name in Queenstown and probably throughout New Zealand. It is a staple of the Queenstown food scene. Fergburger is one of those restaurants that is good for any meal, from breakfast to a midnight snack. They serve a wide variety of burgers and sandwiches from 8:30 A.M. to 5:30 A.M. daily. Due to the popularity, there is almost always a queue, sometimes down the block. Fergburger operates as a counter pick-up restaurant and the cooks work quickly to prepare your order. They do have some seating, but it is limited, so you are better off planning on getting your sandwich to take away. I had their classic burger, and it was middle of the road in taste. Many people may feel that Five Guys, In and Out, and Swenson’s are better than Fergburger’s classic. The sandwiches, however, are superb; the one pictured below is called the Chief Wiggum. It is made with slow roasted New Zealand pork belly, lettuce, tomato, red onion, hash brown, aioli, and apricot seeded mustard. I wish I could eat one of these weekly. The pork belly was perfectly crispy on the outside and surprisingly tender on the inside. It was delightfully sweet with a tart aftertaste. The mustard helped bring the savory and greasy flavors of the hash brown and pork belly together. One last thing, the Fergburger fries are to die for. So make sure you don’t miss out on those!