The sign reads, 'Opening Hours: Whenever to Whenever', which is the kind of relaxed attitude that has made owner operator Jarman Beattie's Peak Espresso (facebook.com/PeakEspresso) one of Queenstown's most respected coffee bars. Beattie, born and bred here, opened his coffee hut, on the edge of the main, drag 18 months ago. "I was working on music videos in Wellington and came home one weekend to snowboard," he says. "I kept driving past this abandoned car yard, which got me thinking about what I could do with it, it had been empty forever."
Having returned to Wellington, Beattie's mother called to say that a 'For Lease' sign had suddenly appeared on the property. "I decided to come home and set up an espresso bar," he says. "It took me three months to renovate. It was entirely blue with blue carpets, and blue walls." The interior is now fitted out with recycled timbers and up-cycled furniture. The blue walls, now white, display canvases by local artists, many of them friends. "I change the art all the time, anyone can exhibit here," Beattie says. The relaxed vibe, no food policy and Columbian beans roasted by a friend in Wellington attract locals and visitors alike. "There is a line out the door in ski season," he says.
Visitors also line up, 23½ hours a day, at Fergburger (fergburger.com), New Zealand's most famous burger shop. Closing for just 30-minutes each day, it has become a place of pilgrimage for backpackers, tourists and foodies, keen to see if the burgers live up to their now international reputation. "I was walking the Inca trail in Peru, and a fellow trekker from New York asked me where I lived," says Matakauri Cliffs lodge manager Stephen McAteer. "When I told him that I live in Queenstown, he said, 'Are the burgers at Fergburger really as terrific as everyone says?'" McAteer occasionally encounters guests keen to sample one. "I call ahead and place the order so that they don't have to queue, and we send someone to town to collect it," he says.
Around the corner from Fergburger, Vudu Cafe and Larder (vudu.co.nz) on Rees Street is similarly busy. The sister cafe to the original Vudu Cafe on Beach Street, this newer outpost has outdoor seating overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Customers place their order for fresh juices at the counter, which is lined with sweet treats including cherry-studded Bakewell tarts, towering Tunisian orange cakes, and gluten-free, sugar-free 'Bounty Bars'.
The breakfast menu uses premium local and New Zealand produce including Mount Cook salmon, cured in-house, served with potato and onion hash, a poached egg, spinach and beetroot relish. At lunchtime, a salad of quinoa with felafel is accompanied by a carrot relish, and a bowl of spaghetti is tossed with zucchini, pine nuts and lemon ricotta. Popular in the ski season, hearty homemade pies are stuffed with smoked salmon, spinach and peas, and bread rolls are piled with pulled pork and fried eggs.
Just over an hour's walk, or 45-minute cycle, around the edge of Lake Wakatipu, brings you to Frankton Marina, and the Boat Shed Cafe (boatshedqueenstown.com). With bike parking out the front, and a deck with views of the surrounding mountains, it is a popular choice for weekend breakfast, or one of the cafe's famous sticky buns, a knot of buttery pastry glazed with sugar and rolled in slivered almonds.
Provisions Bakery and Cafe (provisions.co.nz) in historic Arrowtown, a picturesque 20-minute drive from Queenstown, is responsible for the the sticky buns. Housed in a former miner's cottage, tables and chairs are dotted through the garden. Customers tend to take home a jar of home-made preserves - Greengage Plum Jam, Apricot and Ginger Marmalade or Roasted Cherry Chutney, made using fruit grown up the road in nearby Cromwell.
The Chop Shop (facebook.com/pages/The-Chop-Shop-Food-Merchants), also in Arrowtown, has a long open kitchen, a long menu, and a long bar, which holds a pile of their gourmet version of a local speciality - 'Southland sushi'. Resembling churros, these rolls have been fashioned from a slice of French toast, spread with peanut butter and jam, rolled, deep fried and rolled in sugar. The original 'Southland sushi' (also known in these parts as a 'cheese roll') sees a slice of white sandwich bread filled with a paste made from grated cheddar cheese combined with powdered French Onion Soup mix and water, which is then rolled and baked in the oven. Jonesy's Cafe and Bar in Arrowtown is a place of pilgrimage for those interested in sampling the original version.
Raeward Fresh Gourmet Food Store (raewardfresh.co.nz) on Robins Road does not serve 'Southland sushi'. They do serve coffee, chai, juices and salads in their cafe, and sell specialty ingredients from the South Island, including cheeses, chocolate and caviar, in the vast grocery section. Thanks to several checkouts aisles, and an absence of burger and cheese roll fanatics, there no lines.
The article brought to you in association with Destination Queenstown.