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OZ - Cairns, Sydney and NZ - Queenstown, Rotorua, Auckland - Suggestions?

Hello from California!

My wife and I will be traveling to your neck of the woods next week for a fun 2 and a half week adventure. We'd like to accompany that with some tasty eating.

I've read plenty of postings about Sydney, so I have a few places in mind (Harry's for a meat pie I hear is something to try, and a Mod Oz style restaurant, for example), plus, we'll be staying with some relatives in Sydney who love food, so I don't think I'll be needing many recommendations. We'll be in town for about 5 nights.

However, for the other cities... Cairns, Q-town, Rotorua, and Auckland. The postings are pretty slim and/or old. We'll be in Cairns for 2 nights, Queenstown for 3, Rotorua for 1, and Auckland for 1 night.

The only food limitations are that my wife won't eat pork and I'm probably allergic to eggplant (aubergine).

While we'll probably try some some touristy "bush tucker" at some point (since some meats like emu and 'roo you just can't find all that often in the states....and you don't see slipper lobsters on menus out here... aka those moreton bay bugs), I'd be happy with some good suggestions in any food category (simply grilled fish place, french, chinese, filipino, indian, italian, etc.). Pricewise, I'd like to spend less than $40-50 AU on a meal (or $55-65 NZ) for 2 people (no alcohol), and, more if it's very high end.. I'm not sure if this is a realistic budget (so please give me an idea what is realistic to spend). The suggestions don't have to be high end, fine dining. Also, for a more formal dining type restaurant, what's the acceptable dress code (in California, you can pretty much wear jeans and a polo shirt, but in New York, you should be wearing a coat/tie)?

And, since we'll be on-the-go quite a bit, if there are any regional (or Australia/NZ only) fast-food sandwich type shops we can hit up that you like (not Subway though)... or, if there are any grocery stores that you would recommend (or avoid). For example, in Cairns, we probably will hit up Rusty's (we'll be there on a weekend) to get some local, fresh fruit.

Oh, and what is the tipping/gratuity etiquette in each country for standard service at restaurants? I've read that you really don't tip in either country unless perhaps you're in a huge group or at a finer dining establishment and you loooved the service (and, then, maybe consider 10%).

Lastly, I love Chowhound (but, the postings are kinda few and far between)... So, if there is another popular food review website for Aussies or Kiwis that you could recommend for me to take a look at... that'd be appreciative. For example, a lot of people in the States use Yelp.com.

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  1. Auckland is fabulous and you could eat for a month there, the board recs at the top end are still on the money and it really depends what you want to eat.

    Queenstown is patchy (its important to find the good places) but worth a trip out of town as the best food is at wineries. Rotorua is bad so it may be a good time to arrange a hangi (Maori traditional feast).

    I hope this isn't out of place, but there are plenty of websites - but most suffer from single poster phenomenon of all 10s for a burger place (OMG, that must be the best meal in the world!!!)

    The most credible one for NZ is dineout.co.nz and a number of posters here post there. (Well, I do....). It will definitely help you in NZ.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      Thank you, Mr. Gimlet!

      It turns out we did arrange for a Hangi in Rotorua and, oddly enough, we also have a winery tour scheduled out of Queenstown. I was told there is a good place in Arrowtown (which is sort of a ghost town not too far from Queenstown).

      I'll check out dineout.co.nz.

      1. re: DrBruin

        Best tip for NZ is to buy the latest Cuisine, easily best food magazine I have read. AM sure there'll be some tips in there for newer places, not sure if the Wine and Country will be out there or not, but that is definitely worth a look.

        One of the best meals I had was at Amisfiled outside Queenstown, very good indeed, as for Auclkand Mr G is correct, top end tips usually deliver, a stroll around Ponsonby for coffee and atmosphere always good, was recommended Sidart at Three Lamps (nearr Ponsonby) never made it there but website makes it looks pretty nice.

        If have opportunity Waiheke worth a look, Te Whau is excellent for food and wine was probably best we got to taste on Island

          1. re: DrBruin

            Hi,

            we've just come back from a brief stop in New Zealand. Loved it.

            We stayed a bit in Queenstown and did our research beforehand.

            In terms of simple food we'd recommend Fergburger - a good & very popular burger bar. My wife thought it the best burger she'd ever had, but we're not American... It was good. I can also recommend Aggys fish & chips on marine parade. Try the scallops!

            In terms of good dining - the best in town seems to be Botswana Butchery. But it is a steak restaurant of sorts.

            We'd recommend heading out of town to Saffron in Arrowtown - a good french style restaurant. Also only about 10 mins outside of Queenstown is Amisfield WInery. Which has a renowned bistro. We didn't try, but have heard good things.

            Enjoy!

            1. re: fergal76

              Thank you Fergal.... yes, we're quite the burger connoisseurs in America but we don't hold the patent on burgers. ;) I thank you again for all the rec's. Yes, I've read about Botswana Butchery (that name would not go well in America) and Saffron.

    2. I haven't been to Oz in long enough that I am not sure my specific recommendations will help, but on the general theme of eating 'bush tucker': I strongly recommend that if you want to try Kangaroo that you consider trying it at a high end place. Kangaroo is a delicious meat, that I found similar to (beef) tri-tip, but like tri-tip, I found that the quality of the ingredient and preparation made a huge difference in taste and enjoyability. I'd try it in Sidney at your Mod Oz restaurant choice if on the menu. Place I first had it was in the Rocks, and I thought it had Red in the name, but google and Chow searches aren't turning up anything so it could gone by now..

      In Sydney I found casual wear, similar to what you'd wear in California, to be fine anywhere. As for Cairns: you won't find people too dressed up there, anywhere. OTOH, I did notice that at least one or two places it was easier to get in to a full place without reservations if I made it casual resort wear rather than just shorts and a t-shirt....

      8 Replies
      1. re: susancinsf

        Hahaha... google ... yes, the occasional non-helpful search.

        Thank you on the dress code tips. I'm very happy to leave my garment bag (and suits) back at home.

        I have had kangaroo before once at a Brazilian churasceria in NY.... thought it was gamey but that was years ago and my tastes have changed....and, I figure "I'm at the source, gotta try it."

        I'm more interested in trying some emu or witchetty grub .... or, Kentucky-Fried Cassowary (kidding... I know it's on the endangered species list... and it's probably better pan sauteed than fried anyway... haha.).

        1. re: susancinsf

          "Red" in the Rocks disappeared some years ago, as did "Edna's Table" another bush tucker stalwart. I am struggling to think of any others in Sydney, it seems to be a food style that has really gone out of fashion with those that used indigenous food as a USP falling by the wayside. Thus you my find it easier to try in Cairns rather than Sydney, it will probably be touristy but you could be lucky, we did a walk a few years ago in Port Douglas and tried some of the indigenous foods like green ants - a good citrus kick...!

          1. re: PhilD

            thanks for the update...though I will admit, even with a google, not sure what you mean by
            "USP" ?

            Any thoughts for that style of food in Melbourne, since I will be there for a few days at the end of the year?

            1. re: susancinsf

              USP = unique selling point (sorry marketing acronym)

              1. re: susancinsf

                Charcoal Lane in Fitzroy. The bush tucker place in Fed Square has recently closed.

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  Where is Fitzroy? Is that a suburb of Sydney?

                  1. re: DrBruin

                    I thought I replied to this, Fitzroy is a suburb adjoining the Melbourne city centre

                    1. re: mr_gimlet

                      Oh, sorry. I won't be going to Melbourne.

          2. We're Californians (son is a Bruin) who have traveled to Australia and New Zealand several times in recent years. Our favorite on-the-road lunch is to drive into any small town, find Main Street and then look for a local, non-chain bakery. Chances are they'll have a variety of homemade meat pies that are yummy.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jjw

              Thank you. Recall any names of these bakeries in any of the cities I've mentioned?

              I know it may be touristy, but we'll do Harry's Meat Pies in Sydney.

              1. re: jjw

                Is this a bit of an urban myth i.e. head for the country for great home made meat pies? We find them every now and then but often even the non-chain bakers simply stock mass produced pies, although even these are better than McDo's or Hungry Jacks. My advice is to look for a "road house" (usually next to a petrol station) and grab a home-made burger with the lot.

              2. We recently returned from Rotorua and had some terrific dinners and breakfast at the Regent which is also a wonderful boutique hotel. Best lamb I have ever had and wonferful service.

                1. Hello from San Francisco.

                  My wife and I have visited New Zealand three times in the last year or two, and Australia once, so have some fairly current recommendations.

                  For Queenstown (area) I second fergal76's recommendation of Saffron, in Arrowtown. We like it so much we came back the next night. Food is as good as the better CA restaurants, and when you remember the discount for NZ dollars and that you don't have to tip, the value is unbeatable.

                  I assume you'll be going to Milford Sound, since you're staying in Queentown 3 days. We flew in, and it was a marvelous trip over the snow-covered mountains. I'm sure that taking the Milford Track or driving would also be great, but don't discount the added value of the flight; it is specular.

                  In Auckland, best meal was had was at Soul, in the Viaduct area. Really excellent. They consistently win food awards, and it is pleasant to sit outside and look over the marina. Euro in the Viaduct was also good, but I thought not as good as Soul.

                  In Cairns, there is a string of restaurants in the Pier Marketplace, on Wharf Street, right downtown on the waterfront (ok, that's obvious). We ate at Donnini's Ciao Italia, which was quite good but not spectacular. Excellent and charming service. Love the Cairns waterfront at evening; beautiful views, people enjoying them, lots of young people, just a very likable place. My strong advice for Cairns would be to stay on the Front, walk to the Pier, and pick whatever restaurant appeals.

                  In both NZ and Australia we got used to eating outside for every meal.

                  I didn't have a hamburger I liked in either country, but I expect that's just because they weren't like the ones we have here. They were more like sausage, ground finely and sometimes with spices, and cooked well done. I expect it's like Sicilians claiming that we don't have real pizza in CA; it's just different, not necessarily bad.

                  I notice one commenter mentioned the "roadhouses" in Australia; they are rural gas stations that have counter-service restaurants attached. I didn't think they were any better than what one would expect from a similar place in the states, i.e., not very. But when there's nothing else, and there usually isn't anything else, they'll do.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: wodtke

                    Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't go out of my way for a roadhouse but when travelling I find they are often better than the big chains, although best to choose a busy one so the food is fresh and burgers are often made to order complete with cheese, egg, pineapple and beetroot.