[Pictures: Simon Farrell-Green]
We remember visiting Oamaru nearly a decade ago. Back then, despite that stunning main street – colonnaded limestone buildings completely out of proportion with the size of the town – there really was nowhere to eat. But things have changed: it’s now one of the finest places to eat in the South Island. You should go.
You’ll have heard of Fleur’s Place, of course. A reconstructed fishing shack on the waterfront at Moeraki, Fleur’s has become iconic, and for good reason: the food is really good. It’s breathtakingly simple – a seafood hot pot is just that, seafood, lots of it, packed with green-lipped mussels, clams, other mollucs and whatever white fish is fresh on the day, with a salty broth in the bottom of the bowl.
At The Old Jetty, Moeraki, ph (03) 439-4480. www.fleursplace.com
The Loan & Merc is Fleur’s Other Place, in a beautiful old grain warehouse built in the 1860s. The building is striking, the winelist excellent. You’d better like a roast, since it’s a carvery – at 7pm, a jolly fat chef brings out four roasts and carves them in front of you; portions are generous. The meat is beautifully cooked, the roasted beetroots are superb – but the plain steamed vegetables and green salad are a let-down. The bread and butter pudding is brilliant.
Harbour St, Oamaru, ph (03) 434-9905. www.loanandmerc.co.nz
Riverstone Kitchen won Cuisine magazine’s restaurant of the year award last year, and rightly so: it’s everything you want a rural restaurant to be. It’s a simple barn of a building, with white walls and bare tables. Service is friendly, enthusiastic even, but professional. The food takes good ingredients and treats them right: roasted Mt Cook salmon with spinach and roasted potatoes, say, or a tarte tatin made from local apples with house-made ice cream. The beer list puts most Auckland restaurants to shame.
1431 State Highway 1, ph (03) 431-3505. www.riverstonekitchen.co.nz
A very fine flat white and a cheese scone can be had at Steam, the only coffee roaster between Dunedin and Christchurch.
7 Thames St, Oamaru, ph (03) 434-3344.
You should also go to Whitestone Cheese for a tasting, where you can watch the cheesemakers cutting the curd.
3 Torridge St, Oamaru ph (03) 434-8098. www.whitestonecheese.com
And, if you have time, head up the Waitaki Valley to Kurow, where you’ll find The Vintner’s Drop in a cute former post office. It’s technically the cellar door for Ostler Wines – we recommend the dry riesling – but they also sell wine from all over the valley. Owner Jim Jerram is knowledgeable and friendly; be sure to ring ahead to make sure they’re open. SFG
Main St, Kurow, ph (03) 436-0545. www.vintnersdrop.co.nz