Louies Café & Tapas Bar
Thursday5:30 pm – 1:00 am.
Friday5:30 pm – 1:00 am.
Saturday5:30 pm – 1:00 am.
142 Dee Street, Invercargill
03 214 2913
Louie’s is an Invercargill institution. Open for dinner only, it’s easy to miss. The windows are shaded and the signposting is unassuming. When you step off Invercargill’s busy main street and into this dimly lit enclave, you’ll understand pretty quickly why locals and visitors both make a point to eat here.
Housed in the historical Swan Hotel Building, Louie’s feels secluded in the same way that many of central London’s best eateries are tucked away yet bursting with personality. The wraparound bar sits underneath the stairs, a small fireplace emits warmth and light in winter, antiques from the old hotel add personality without overwhelming the space and a magical courtyard offers a nice venue for drinks on warm evenings.
Louie’s was founded by Mana Davis in 1997 after he’d successfully ran health food stores and restaurants in Invercargill and Queenstown respectively. If you happen to dine here on a night when he’s around, you’re in for a treat. He’s a classic kiwi bloke with a jolly laugh and more than a few good yarns up his sleeve. But when it comes to cooking Mana doesn't settle for anything even remotely similar to run-of-the-mill Kiwi kai. He’s a skilled hunter-gatherer as a result of a childhood spent outside in Southland learning about his Māori roots and the culinary traditions that came with them.
If Mana isn't around, the food can surely speak for itself. The menu is small and simple yet vast when it comes to the number of carefully curated flavours, foraged garnishes, locally sourced ingredients and artful presentations that each dish incorporates. Louie’s offers a multi-dimensional dining experience at every turn.
Blue cod is on almost every menu in Southland but at Louie’s it comes in a light, perfectly salted pinot gris, caper and lemon cream sauce on a bed of roast potatoes and spinach. Pickled ginger, fresh coriander and micro greens add colour and an interesting bite. Stewart Island salmon comes atop beetroot quinoa with spring greens, edamame, fennel, radish, orange, toasted almonds and citrus vinaigrette. The tapas menu offers smaller portions for a shared dining experience or lighter meal.
In terms of tipples, Louie’s extensive wine collection lives at the bar under the stairs. There’s a drop for every diner’s palate with bottles sourced from near and far.
Mana says his favourite evenings at Louie’s are when he sees three generations of long time regulars come in for dinner. After years of pushing the boundaries of Southland’s culinary scene, Mana and his family have created a restaurant worthy of a journey to its doorstep.
Words by Olivia Sisson & Photography by Nancy Zhou
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142 Dee Street, Invercargill
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