Sunday, 30 September 2007

South Island Tour Continued...

Queenstown. Like any other hub that sells itself mainly as a tourist mecca, it's not easy for casual blow-ins to stumble across eateries that are reasonably priced while also offering half-decent food. Not for a lack of places where one can change money for a meal of course, but more a scarcity of the subset of these venues where the squirelling of one's hard earned cash into a till isn't the sole objective for their existence. A myriad of retrofitted pubs, trendy cafes, Neon-flashy burger joints and overpriced restaurants jostle for prime positions and the beer-blurred attention of the après ski crowd along the the centre of Queenstown. On our first evening there however, it was too early to be blurred against crass distractions and so we were determined to find a nice place for dinner that wouldn't blow our ski-pass budget for the trip.

Indian restaurants tend to dominate the ethnic food scene in locales where the weather can get miserably cold, and Queenstown was no different. We must have walked past half a dozen subcontinental eateries within two or so blocks, which pretty much biased Indian as the choice for dinner. We chose a little place aspiringly called the Bombay Palace. Menus quickly browsed over tall glasses of Sweet Mango Lassi, we settled on trusty standards including a spicy Saag Gosht (lamb and spinach curry), a creamy Butter Chicken, and a to-die-for Potato and Chickpea Curry Masala, accompanied by steamed rice and two variations of naan. We'd discovered a gem. The curries presented in little quirky copper-coloured pails looked and tasted great! The Plain Naan offered perfect shreds to soak up the heady curry flavours but the Butter Naan we also ordered was delicious all on its own, extra crispy with a rich coating of aromatic butter. Our meal for three, along with a couple of beers totalled NZ$65.85, which was fair value in Queenstown.
Bombay Palace Indian Restaurant & Takeaways, 66 Shotover St, Queenstown, NZ (Spot Score: 17/20)

As contrast, a meal on another evening consisting of an unremarkable steak, two mains of fish of the day (monkfish) and a bowl of kumara (sweet potato) fries that we had at a popular example of an aforementioned retrofitted pub did NZ$102 worth of damage. And that was with a free round of drinks that was used to tempt us in from the street! I was told the monkfish were quite nicely done. Too bad I'd chosen the steak!
Chico's Restaurant & Bar, The Mall, Queenstown, NZ (Spot Score: 15/20)

A fashionably outfitted snowbunny, Queenstown New Zealand style!

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Through the South Island, and the Food We Found There

Christchurch - Queenstown. Hmm New Zealand...beautiful, peaceful and just the place to clear the harried mind if only for a week and a half. We saw out August and welcomed Spring on a road trip through the South Island. First priority was to find some snow and get a little skiing in before the season was well and truly done for the year so despite touching down at Christchurch in the afternoon, we collected a car and made a beeline towards Queenstown. A fair number of hours later and nightfall found us at the small junction township of Kurow in the middle of the Waitaki Valley. Time to find some nosh though choices were limited in what basically was no more than a one street town shutting up for the evening. A small diner, empty but for a local spied ordering takeaway fish and chips offered the most immediate option. Dinner for us however, was a serve of fries (NZ$3.50) and burgers all round (two chicken and one steak). The fries were thick-cut but curiously glowed with the distracting yellow pallor of Marge Simpson. Tastewise they weren't bad, suitably crispy exteriors and crumbly in the middle but not sure why they were a disconcerting canary yellow.

Not bad lighting; not photoshopping; not camera lens filtering, but true technicolor yellow fries...tuck in!

The burgers were by no means the mountainous stacks of Grilled-with-the-Lot goodness you sometimes get from decent country diners but were nonetheless okay for starving travellers. They arrived with lettuce, fried onions and cheese within warmed, soft white buns and that was about it. The steak in mine was a trifle fatty and sinewy with not much hope of biting through it handheld 'burger' style (NZ$8.50). The recalcitrant piece of meat came away from the rest of the burger from the first go and I had to finish the meal deconstructed. Don't you just hate that! The burgers of grilled chicken (NZ$6.50 each) that the others had were better.

Back outside the diner, the night air was sharp and crisp and the pitchblack sky was a stunning gallery with the wondrous swathe of the galaxy on exhibit. We stood and gazed spellbound until the shivering became noticeable. Then it was onwards to Queenstown!