Like anybody needed another reason to visit Queenstown. This beautiful show-off of a resort town, with its pristine lake and glorious mountain backdrop, has long been an adrenaline junkie’s playground. But for those who prefer a more gastonomical high, options are in no short supply. And now there’s another award-winning addition in the mix.
Bespoke Kitchen, winner of the NZ Café of the Year 2016, is a relative newcomer on the Otago food scene, having opened in the middle of last year. But its owners, Rae Ellis, Michelle Freeman and Chris Vile, are seasoned professionals – the trio also own popular eateries Vudu Café and Vudu Larder in the centre of Queenstown. So why another? “Bespoke grew out of a place to house new innovations and the overflow of our crowds,” says Rae. What resulted is a “foodie haven and a beautiful sanctuary”.
Nestled on the hill less than a five-minute walk from central Queenstown and overlooking the bay and the Remarkables, Bespoke Kitchen hits the location jackpot. But it’s the menu where Bespoke truly lives up to its name – a carefully crafted menu that speaks to health and wellbeing with no compromise on flavour. The food philosophy is simple: “We are fresh, unprocessed and local where possible. We pride ourselves on keeping things simple, real and beautifully presented. Food you would like to cook at home but are time and ingredient shy,” says Michelle.
Prepare to tuck into dishes such as Spiced Cauliflower Fritters, Red Rice and Puy Lentil Salad with Coriander Yoghurt and Mango Chutney – “an instant hit,” says Rae – or Ora King Smoked Salmon with Poached Egg, Beetroot & Herb Salad, Crème Fraiche, Cashew Dukkah & Rosti. Raw treats from the cabinets include Raspberry & Coconut Slice, Salted Caramel Truffles, and Lime & Cashew Cheesecakes.
It was the Miso & Rosemary Buckwheat Raw Pizza that caught the attention of Dish photographer Meredith Dyer and the taste-test didn’t disappoint. “It was a beautifully crafted combination of dried and fresh ingredients, including a rocket and olive salad on top with a delicious chewy base smothered in tangy tomato sauce and cashew
cheese,” she says. Meredith has plans to return to see what the fuss is all about over the Cinnamon Spiced Pancakes, served with raspberry chia jam, banana and whipped coconut. “One of the diners said they had been the day before and ordered them and they were so good they were having them again.”
Rae says this is the most satisfying part of working in the business – “making our customers happy” – and she loves creating a busy buzzing café.
One crucial part of that formula is service and staff interaction, which formed part of the judging criteria. Head judge of the Café of the Year awards Kerry Tyack says the whole judging team was impressed “by all aspects of the superb service”. Appearance too plays a big part in Bespoke’s welcoming atmosphere; much thought was put into the design. “We wanted the interior to be creative yet comfortable, with lots of detail but nothing that overpowers,” says Michelle. A purpose-built kitchen sits among semi-industrial and soft furnishings in the café, a mixture of old and new. A variety of seating types caters for individuals and larger groups and natural light streams in from one side of the building which is mostly made up of windows and doors that open out on to a small courtyard with an outdoor area. Kerry says it’s this “thoughtful and thoroughly user-friendly layout” that contributes to “a world-class experience”.
But it seems sacrilegious to have come this far in talking about judging a cafe without having mentioned the true Kiwi litmus test – how good is the coffee? Kerry Tyack believes it is “unmatched” and photographer Meredith also heaped high praise on her flat white, saying “that was some of the silkiest milk I’ve ever seen steamed”. Owner Rae’s favourite part of the day is her morning organic Allpress coffee.
Whether you’re after a cup of unparalleled coffee, a delicious, nutritious meal or a virtuous sweet treat, all washed down with switched-on staff and sigh-inducing views, Bespoke Kitchen should be high on the list.
9 Isle Street
Monday to Sunday: 7.30am–5pm