Larissa Fuller
Sydney, Australia

In Conversation with Queenstown's Culinary Icon Behind Restaurant Rātā

The Local Legend. The New Zealand town that continues to dish up more than just fine dining.

For those yet to visit Queenstown on New Zealand's South Island, this is a town built on quality. Quality landscapes, quality ski slopes, and quality dining.
Queenstown tastes as good as it looks, and it's thanks to local dining institutions such as 'Rātā' that are well seasoned in giving this picturesque town its many culinary accolades.

In uncovering some of the best local tips in this buzzing alipne-style town, we managed to track down the driving maestro of our most memorable local restaurant. Not only does this famed female restaurateur have an authentic taste that encapsulates the essence of the region, but she also possesses an arsenal of local tips for navigating Queenstown's dynamic landscape.

Locay took a moment with Fleur to capture her local insight to ensure your upcoming local adventure serves up a refreshing dose of lakeside living.

Rātā – tell us a little about who, when and how this iconic dining establishment was created.

Rātā was opened in 2012 by passionate locals who wanted to create an experience that was uniquely Queenstown and the southern region, a reflection of the environment and abundance of produce surrounding us. Rātā’s food is not what you get anywhere else; it has a slight edge to it and is an adventure.

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Can you tell us more about the service and experience ethos behind Rata?

We want all our guests to have a genuine but adventurous culinary experience. It is all about the ingredients we can source from around us. It will be generous and fun, and you will feel looked after by our skilled team.

Who designed the space? Any notes on the aesthetic of the interior and menu guests can expect?

A modern, light-filled eatery tucked away in the centre of bustling Queenstown, surrounded by an urban forest of native trees with a backdrop of some of the region's oldest historic buildings. It is the essence of New Zealand. Designed by two very talented local designers, Michelle Freeman and Nikki Wilson from Polish Design.

Most signature item on the menu right now?

Our menu changes on any given day, but right now there are a couple of my favourite snacks: potato and burnt butter rosti with kiwi dip and chives. The “kiwi dip" is every Kiwi childhood memory, from our starters Fiordland crayfish, heirloom tomato, preserved yuzu, nashi, and from our mains Royal Burn lamb (less than 15km from the restaurant), white asparagus, whipped feta, fenugreek, and mint.

Do you have any must try local culinary favourites in town for Summer?

Kappa Japanese has been and still is my favourite eating establishment for 25 years—small and amazing traditional Japanese food.

How about Winter?

The Cow has been there since 1977. With big fires, their own brand of pizza, and a little bit of old Queenstown, nothing has changed, and it is good!

Favourite Bakery?

Definitely the French Patisserie in Remarkables Park, Ma Boulangerie.

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Don't make too many plans; see how the weather is looking and get into it. On a beautiful windless day, you may want to fly in a fixed wing or a helicopter to Milford Sound, or, if a bit inclement, get out to the many wineries surrounding central Queenstown.

With friends in town do you have any top recommendations for great boutique hotel experiences?

Eichardt's and Matakauri Lodge at the luxury end are winners; Arrowtown Lodge and Hidden Lodge are really gorgeous with the local personal touch.

If you had to pick three words to describe the experience in Queenstown, what would they be?

Breathtaking, Exciting and Adventurous.

What would you consider the best times of the year to visit Queenstown?

Queenstown has four very distinct seasons, and they all have reasons to be here. Try them all; you won't be disappointed.

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Best day time adventure?

Mountain biking anywhere... Queenstown is a mecca and has world-class trails at all levels—something for everyone, die-hard or beginner; get an e-bike and go exploring; stop for lunch; climb a mountain.

Anything inspiring, fun or insiders’ info you can share with Locay’s community?

Bring your walking shoes. Some of your most memorable moments will be spent outside, enjoying the environment. There is so much to see and so many places to go, and as I have said, it is simply breathtaking.

Queenstown Airport, just 15 mins from downtown, serves as the ultimate entry point to Queenstown and the vibrant lower South Island. Boasting daily flights from New Zealand's major hubs and connectivity to four east coast Australian ports, Queenstown is access all areas for both short and extended holidays.

And with that, a small word of advice: book your next local experience in Queenstown in advance. With boutique hotels and popular restaurants servicing much of the snow season, availability does sell out. Be sure to check out the Locay Hotel Collection to discover our handpicked selection of Queenstown's best boutique accommodation and compare deals among 100's of Locay's travel partners!

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