Tour Your Tastebuds Around Wānaka's Flourishing Food and Drink Scene
Wānaka is full of local food and drink entrepreneurs ready to bring you the region’s bounty.
Words by: Sophie Morris
Photography by: Nancy Zhou & Supplied
Wānaka is home to some of the most rugged landscapes in the world. Not only that, it is a land of extremes - being both the coldest, driest place in New Zealand in winter and one of the hottest spots in summer. This might sound challenging to most, but have you ever heard of a Southern can-do attitude?
Wānaka is also home to an array of clever and innovative individuals and businesses growing and producing some seriously good stuff. From honey mead and single-malt gin to flaky French pastry and preserved Central Otago fruit, here’s our guide to help you happily eat and drink your way through wonderful Wānaka.
Augustines of Central
Augustines of Central is a boutique preserving company based in Central Otago. Started in grassroots style by owner Gus, Augustines takes the best fruit from the region and cooks it in small batches to create delicious preserves. The delectable range includes black Doris plums in pinot noir (designed for a lovely insta-dessert or addition to baking) and rhubarb in rose (perfect for a boujee crumble), as well as favourites such as quince paste (crafted from spray-free Central Otago quince) and tasty chutneys.
Breweries – b.social, Rhyme & Reason and Ground Up
The small town of Wānaka is home to a thriving craft beer scene with a number of great breweries serving up the best of all things hop-related. Here are three notable drinking holes worth a visit.
B.Social is a neighbourly bar, restaurant and brewery, serving up delicious craft beer with a great outdoor area for a deep and meaningful with a mate, Rhyme & Reason is a small brewery and bar with a low-key buzz and delicious tasting paddles, and just a stone’s throw away you will find Ground Up - a brewery on a mission to make beer for the bold with their booming brewery and taproom. All with good vibes and good drinks all around, they’re your go-tos for a locally-made and refreshing brew.
Borage & Bee Meadery
Born out of Wānaka entrepreneurial spirit, Borage & Bee is a drink that combines the wisdom of the past with the innovation of the future. The sparkling wine-like drink is infused with honey from featured regions and fermented with yeast over time to make a delicious and thirst-quenching drop. Currently, they have two flavours – a sparkling dry and a semi-sweet mead. Sustainability is at the heart of the brand - everything is NZ sourced, seconds fruits are used to reduce food waste and there is great awareness of carbon footprint reduction in their processes. Stocked in selected New World across the country and a range of other stores, it’s the Central Otago nectar of the gods.
Photo credit: Borage & Bee
20 Alison Avenue, Albert Town
Tucked into the little township of Albert Town is Pembroke Pâtisserie - a pastry lover’s paradise serving up freshly baked treats and top-notch coffee. The cabinet is stocked daily with sweet and savoury treats including their famous ham and cheese croissants, almonds croissants, custard squares and homemade Belgium and Shrewsbury biscuits, among much, much more. The patisserie supports other local producers - you will even find Augustines of Central’s apricots in their apricot danishes. Grab a seat outside in the sun and enjoy an Allpress coffee served with a sweet little meringue on the side, or stock up your lunchbox before heading off on a Wānaka adventure.
What started as a hobby, Pirate Pickles, turned into a welcome escape from the corporate grind and eventually the strong foundation of a Central Otago life for Lorne Knight and Cherilyn Walthew. Since establishing an organic vegetable garden in Hawea in 2010, the pair now produce handmade pickles, chutneys, relishes, jams, preserves and curds that contain ingredients your grandmother would recognise, and nothing else. Fan favourites include a spicy lime chutney (hailed as the tequila slammer of pickles) and a zingy lemon butter. They also offer a range of seasonal fruit and vegetables direct from their garden, as well as seedlings. Order online or head into Mediterranean Market, Florences Foodstore & Café, or Hawea Store & Kitchen to grab something delicious.
Frog Song Farm
Pukerangi Drive, Queensberry, Wānaka
Just five minutes out of Wānaka is Frog Song Farm, an organic market garden named after the resident frogs of the farm pond. With an underpinning vision of regeneration and revegetation, the garden is run by Lisa Johnston, Greg Inwood and their family using organic bio-intensive principles - meaning what you eat is nutrient-dense and delicious. Great care is taken for the environment and all products are packaged in reusable or compostable containers. If you want to get a behind-the-scenes look at their beautiful grounds, tours can be taken with Forage & Feast and Beautiful Gardens of Wānaka. To stock up on their delicious produce you can order online, or shop in-store at Freshlink or Organic Wholefoods. And be sure to keep an eye out for their Village Nuts cart out and about roasting chestnuts during the winter months.
2125 Cardrona Valley Road, Wanaka, Wānaka
Nestled into the Cardrona Valley is a special kind of watering hole. Established in 2015, Cardrona Distillery is a family-owned single malt distillery creating exquisite spirits with pure Alpine water sourced from Mount Cardrona, flavoured with seasonal and locally foraged ingredients. Their range boasts the award-winning Source gin, Cardrona Single Malt whisky, and Rose Rabbit liqueurs (orange, elderflower and butterscotch), so be sure to pop in for an informative tasting tour & tour and try before you buy. You can even purchase a private barrel that can be stored and aged on-site for you. With a restaurant serving up contemporary and seasonal produce, and outdoors grounds with sprawling views across the valley, Cardrona Distillery is certainly worth a visit.
If you’re in need of some daily bread, look no further than People’s Bread. The brainchild of Ruth and Jeremy Heath, People’s Bread focuses on honest and nutritional food with their freshly milled, and spray-free 100% whole grain creations that are made lovingly by hand. Their range includes signature loaves such as a multigrain sourdough superloaf and a tasty buckwheat, brown rice and corn loaf. You can sign up for a subscription for Wānaka and Hawea delivery, and courier is available for other Central Otago areas. If you want to pick up something in store head on into Mediterranean Market, the Hawea Store & Kitchen or Freshlink Grocer.
Herbal Culture (NZ)
Herbal Culture (NZ) was built on the basis that every plant has a story. After meeting on a herbal course in Queensberry, owners Ashley and Loran (both with backgrounds in horticulture) combined forces to celebrate and share the power of plants. Based in Wānaka, they create unique blends from plants that can be sustainably homegrown in Wānaka and also foraged in the wild. Their range includes boutique batches of loose leaf tea, herb salts, herbal tonics and topical plant medicine products. Get in touch with the ladies directly or pick up a treat for yourself or someone else from Freshlink and iSite. You can also drink their teas at Velo and Dripping Bowl.
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In true Untouched World style, the Wānaka branch of the fashion brand with a non-negotiable stance on sustainability and ethics is nothing short of spectacular.
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Stop by for a tour and tasting session at Cardrona Distillery, and set your eyes on the magnificent copper stills that are responsible for turning grain into spirits.