By Jessica Podzebenko
By Jessica Podzebenko
Queenstown – a vibrant town, where the young and the young at heart are drawn by the lure of extreme sports and the natural beauty of southern New Zealand. It’s a marvelous hub for skiers, and the thrill-seekers, eschewing a caffeine hit in the morning, preferring rather a bridge-jumping, ravine-plummeting journey tied to the end of a rope, (which surely means an imminent death to me) love it here too.
But there is a quieter and far more relaxing side of Queenstown; picturesque views and exquisite culinary experiences which can be enjoyed without leaving your seat. It is one of those rare places where you can combine alpine sporting passion in the morning and in the afternoon check out one of many great restaurants. My pick for après ski dining is the new restaurant opened by popular Kiwi chef Josh Emett, Rata.
Emett, grew up on his family farm in Hamilton, where his relationship with fresh produce and fine food took root from an early age. Emett’s rise to fame during the past 11 years has seen him heading up some of the most famous and highly acclaimed restaurants. He was Gordon Ramsay’s top chef at both the Savoy and Claridge’s in London, and also The London, NYC and The London West Hollywood. And more recently he has proved his mettle as a judge on Masterchef New Zealand. With 4 Michelin stars under his belt he probably has nothing more to prove.
It was without doubt therefore, with the return of our local lad, I wanted to try Rata for myself. We spent the morning skiing at Cardrona, drove down to Queenstown, changed out of our ski gear in the car park, and then whiled away the afternoon savouring the most delicious lamb, grown locally on a farm in the Cardrona valley.
Co-owned by restaurateur Fleur Caulton, Rata offers the perfect combination of stunning, creative dishes which are both sophisticated and of a quality expected of a Michelin-star chef, yet the comfort level of the food took me right back home to my mother’s country kitchen.
Highlights for me were the goat cheese profiteroles with Rata blossom honey, squid with chorizo, a delicious chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream, and the piece de resistance – slow-cooked Cardrona lamb shoulder with cauliflower and anchovies. Drawing on local sources, the menu proudly features Central Otago’s amazing produce.
The interior of Rata is refined and contemporary in a relaxed, understated way, creating a warm and light space, which reflects New Zealand’s natural environment. The use of local stone, recycled timber and plants throughout, together with an impressive photographic wall of lush South Island beech forest, remind you exactly where you are in the world.
Rata is an inspired restaurant whose menu and interior alike are in perfect harmony with its location. It is an evocative restaurant – particularly for a New Zealander – but equally my well-travelled Australian husband found it to be a “right gem”.
43 Ballarat St, Otago 9300, New Zealand
+64 3-442 9393