My friends and I didn’t choose to ride a garishly green and purple Jucy camper-van (reminiscent of Scooby Do’s Mystery Machine) to turn heads, in fact, these vans do scream “BACKPACKER’S-BELONGINGS-INSIDE!” and did result in ALL of our possessions being emptied out of our locked and curtained vehicle in Napier, one dull and depressing day (pathetic fallacy at its best).To add further insult to injury our van’s twin sat adjacent with its insides on display for every man and his dog to see, shortly after which, the owners merrily drove away with their van stilled filled to the brim. But alas, that’s another long and boring story for another day.
We did however have a more sensible intention for renting our somewhat vulgar vehicle. It was our accommodation, transport and dining-room rolled into one. We could save on eating out by rustling up all our meals on the van’s tiny hob and dine on the flip out table connected to the van’s exterior, or as we liked to see it, our dining room with an ever-changing backdrop.
Cooking in a shoe-box kitchen where you’re constantly having to make three-sixty-degree turns to the point that your head is spinning when you sit down to dinner and aiming for your plate with a knife and fork becomes a challenge, combined with the fact that one is cooking in the same quarters as their bedroom/living-room, does make one feel entitled to a break from meals-on-wheels. There were only a handful of times that we did decide to venture out for a meal, as to not defeat the purpose of our choice of travel. So we only ate out if we felt we could truly justify it.
So here are the eating experiences I believe are worth abandoning a mobile home for…
Auckland’s sky-tower is the opportunity to experience a literal ‘High Tea’ with it being 190 metres above ground, on the tower’s top floor. This won’t cure your dizziness from cooking in your Van’s kitchen though, as the floor slowly revolves, meaning you’ll enjoy a 360 degree of Auckland without you having to leave your seat and, God forbid, your food.
For 30 NZD per person, including your entry into the Sky Tower, you’ll enjoy a generous offering of Scones, Feta and onion tarts, finger sandwiches (salmon, egg and cress and Champagne ham with mustard), macaroons, chocolate coffee cake, Kiwi and custard tarts, and coconut tarts. These are washed down with your choice of herbal or breakfast tea, disappointingly though, they didn’t use real tea leaves!
Nestled between Takaka Hill and no-where town Collingwood, The Mussel Inn is a convenient journey stop-off to break up those long travelling hours and, more importantly, to warm up your toes. New Zealand can get numbingly cold in the South Island, even after piling on several layers, unfortunately they’re yet to invent central heating inside a camper van so we were in desperate need of a toasty fire. Thankfully, a traditional wood-burning fire soothingly crackles away as you sip at a warming beverage amongst a plethora of homely paraphernalia in The Mussel Inn, including an antique piano which is used for the live-bands that often take stage here.
We simply enjoyed hot chocolates and home-made carrot cakes but I did notice someone chowing-down on a mussel chowder, which smelt beautifully. Furthermore, some unique brews were on display from their micro-brewery including a Manuka Honey Beer and if you really fancy warming your insides, a chilli beer.
A must-do for salmon eaters with no animal concerns. A fishing and eating experience combined. The fresh lake lies amongst the beautiful bush of the Anatoki rife with farmed Salmon, so that once you’ve got the knack of your fishing rod it shouldn’t take too long for you to find a catch, attempt the murder, choose how you’d like it seasoned and relax with any accompanying sides on a picnic table.
The nearest I’ve come to cold-blooded murder. I still feel riddled with guilt when I remember that small convulsing fish-head with its innocent eyes gazing up at me. I’d never been fishing before and the only advice we were offered when we were given the cork-screw like weapon was “stab next to the eye”, well this could have included a number of places so I ended up trying them all and inflicted three erratic stabbings in the attempt of giving the salmon a quick send-off. After a few more attempts which still didn’t put a stop to the jerking, we thought it best to just hand him to the chef.
Although I may have made this sound like a regretful and somewhat savage experience, this is undoubtedly dining with a difference and it’s always good to know exactly where your food has been sourced.
Free Entry and Free Rod Rental. You’ll only be charged for the weight of your catch.
You haven’t visited Queenstown until you’ve had a Fergberger, who’s original intention was to help the needy- incredibly drunk backpackers. But don’t cheat your tastebuds out of a good burger by having these intoxicated, you’ll want to remember this. They are colossal sized burgers which will fill you for lunch and dinner, but it’s what’s inside that counts. I had the ‘Holier Than Thou’ with tempura fried tofu, spicy satay, coconut and coriander, snow pea shoots and alioli, stuffed with all the usual salad counterparts. It was a messy thing, but we ate them on ‘the beach’ – the small sand patch on Lake Wakatipu- away from other diners, so we could conquer our burgers in the most undignified ‘man vs food’ manner.
Other burgers are filled with a hefty patty of prime New Zealand beef and are complimented with flavours of the world, such as those burgers which conjure up the tastes of a Bombay Curry, or a Sunday Roast.
Average price: $12
Know of any other New Zealand eating spots worth dropping a kitchen knife for?? Let me know in the comment box below!