The terrain and weather patterns of Central Otago create excellent growing conditions for cherries and stone fruit. Award winning restaurants, cellar doors and food events means food lovers flock to the region.
Explore the flavours of Central Otago with these top food experiences.
As cliché as it sounds, one of the greatest things about Central Otago is the people. When you've spent the day cycling on the Otago Central Rail Trail(opens in new window), step inside any local eatery and you'll receive a good old-fashioned welcome. Established in 1869 and made from local stone, Olivers(opens in new window) has it all - a general store, café, restaurant, brewery and accommodation. Try their beetroot-cured salmon or perfectly seared steak. Also in the historic town of Clyde, Paulinas Restaurant(opens in new window) serve tasty tapas and gourmet pizzas. An inviting pub in a rural setting, the Waipiata Country Hotel(opens in new window) serves generous hearty pub meals, its a place where you can cook-your-own BBQ and share a beer with the locals.
No trip to "Central" (as it's fondly named by locals) is complete without visiting a few cellar door restaurants. Overlooking the mirrored waters of the Bannockburn Inlet, Carrick Winery and Restaurant(opens in new window) showcases the best locally sourced game meat, seafood and stunning desserts, all paired with the earthy tones of their organic pinot noir. With a roaring fire in winter and outdoor dining in summer, Cloudy Bay Shed(opens in new window) is a great place to share gourmet platters and cheese boards. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Cromwell basin to Lake Dunstan, Mt Difficulty winery(opens in new window) features fresh, sustainable fare. Try their Stewart Island smoked mussel pâté.
The Central Otago region experiences hot dry summers and harsh cold winters. The extremities of these seasons create perfect growing conditions for stone-fruit and wine grapes. A visit to Central Otago during the months of December to March is a colourful experience, with trees laden with cherries, apricots, nectarines and peaches and a chance to see harvesting in action. Not far from Kawarau Gorge, you'll find Mrs Jones Fruit Stall(opens in new window). Often named the best fruit stall in New Zealand, and open every day of the year, Mrs Jones Fruit Stall is a chance to taste many varieties of local fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts and honey products. Grab a real-fruit ice cream and book a tour around Mrs Jones Orchard(opens in new window).
Held in the Cromwell Heritage Precinct every Sunday morning, you'll find Cromwell Farmers & Craft Market(opens in new window). This unique gold mining era setting and live music provide a relaxing atmosphere. Locally made artisan cheeses, fresh produce, vegetable plants and sauces are just some of the great market stalls. Every Friday in the grounds of Pioneer Park, the Alexandra Friday Food & Produce Market(opens in new window) is a great place to try Dutch waffles, smoked salmon, fermented foods and good coffee.
Back in 2008, in a stroke of Kiwi ingenuity, two men cut open a used wine barrel and lit a fire inside to smoke salmon fillets and seafood for their guests. Soon after, the outdoor kitchen and "Barrel Cuisine" of The Stoaker Room(opens in new window) was born. Try the Stoaker Banquet - a sharing platter of gourmet game, meat and seafood. There's a special ambiance within the stone walls of the restaurant at Pitches Store(opens in new window) in the historic town of Ophir. Complete with New Zealand wine pairings, the menu consists of fine-dining comfort food, be sure to try the lamb with gooseberry chutney or the braised beef cheek.
Each year, an entire month is dedicated to EAT.TASTE.CENTRAL(opens in new window). This gourmet food and drink event is proudly hosted by Central Otago local cafes, restaurants and cellar doors who create exceptional dishes that take your taste buds to another level. Get your EAT.TASTE.CENTRAL passport(opens in new window) online to see which eateries are participating. Next, taste your way through the meal categories at each venue. As established chefs plate-up their new creations, you can vote for your favourites. A month of gourmet food, matched with Central Otago pinot noir and other New Zealand wines, is sure to be a 'foodies' heaven!
Established in 1876 and formally the Alexandra Courthouse, The Courthouse Cafe & Bar(opens in new window) is known for great coffee and excellent cafe food. Enjoy Central Otago's balmy weather in their outside dining area. In the old Bank of New Zealand building in Clyde, you'll find The Bank Cafe(opens in new window) - a great place to warm up in winter with a bowl of soup in front of the pot-belly stove. Named after the elusive Bannockburn black rabbit, the Black Rabbit Kitchen & Bar(opens in new window) serves hearty breakfasts, pizzas, pies and pastas.
Not far from Roxburgh, Wynyard Estate Saffron(opens in new window) grow crocus flowers which produce the crimson coloured threads we know as saffron. A free Saffron and Garden Tour can be booked in advance and dried saffron can be purchased on site or shipped internationally. From humble beginnings, Benjer Juice Co(opens in new window) have been a favourite for Kiwis - try feijoa and apple, cherry, nectarine flavours. Offering tours of their olives groves and hazelnut trees, Dunford Grove(opens in new window) produce a range of delicious olive oils, vinaigrette and hazelnut oil. Also, dont miss their wild thyme honey.