When looking for restaurants that stand out in New Zealand, travelers will notice something interesting – restaurants that date back to the 1800s are most often part of a hotel. In the midst of World War I, a measure was passed in New Zealand to limit the sale of alcohol by mandating a 6 pm closing time. The move became permanent in 1919 and, along with a restriction on new licenses, many pubs found it difficult to stay open long term. A legal loophole, however, allowed New Zealand hotels to continue selling alcohol to guests after the 6 pm cut-off. Subsequently, most of the New Zealand restaurants that remain from before 1900 are those which were able to take advantage of this loophole. Here is a list of the top 8 most storied restaurants in New Zealand:
On the Crown Range Road between Queenstown and Wanaka, travelers will find one of New Zealand’s oldest and most iconic hotels. Rumored to be the most photographed building in New Zealand, the Cardrona Hotel has stood in the township of Cardrona since 1863. Built during the Cardrona Valley gold rush, the Cardrona is one of only two buildings that remains from that era. The hotel’s restaurant opened in 1983, and with it came the beginning of the hotel’s legendary Apres Ski experience. The hotel is also famous (and infamous) for their house-made mulled wine and boasts a beer garden to complement their award-winning restaurant.
In the center of Clyde, Olivers began its life in 1869 as the Victoria Store under Benjamin Naylor. Originally opened as a general store providing supplies for the miners rushing to the area’s gold fields, the next 140 years saw the buildings used as a grocery store, a drapery, a veterinarian clinic, a family residence, and a bed and breakfast accommodation, before entering its current chapter as a restaurant and brewery. The buildings are considered one of Central Otago’s most significant historic landmarks and boast a Category 1 Heritage New Zealand listing. Finishing careful restoration with the assistance of New Zealand Historic Places Trust, Olivers Restaurant and Bar opened in 2015 – but the exterior isn’t the only thing that remains of the original Victoria Store. Inside, guests will find a portion of the shop counter from the original store, and several historic exhibits, including a series of copper etchings from the 1830s, which were found in the ceiling during the recent restoration and now hang in front of the main bar.
Beer and brewing has played a big part of the Nelson-Tasman region’s history, dating back to the first New Zealand settlements in the 1840s. English settlers brought with them an extensive brewing tradition, and German immigrants founded hop farms in the Moutere region. Opened in 2006 in Nelson, the Sprig and Fern Tavern started with a simple idea – provide a bar that serves craft beers. Before the tavern opened, most taps in pubs across New Zealand were controlled by one of the two big breweries, leaving little room for independent breweries. The craft beer revolution had started, but the beers being served in pubs didn’t reflect that. The Sprig and Fern Tavern opened its doors just down the street from the Sprig and Fern Brewery in Richmond to meet that need. The Tavern now offers 18 taps of craft beers and ciders, plus a selection of local Nelson wines. The Tavern offers a range of popular pies, courtesy of Blink Catering, and they also encourage patrons who want to grab something from the fish and chip shop next door and bring it to the tavern to enjoy with a fresh beer. The Tavern has proved so popular that they have opened five more locations in Nelson and two in Wellington, but the original tavern has its doors open on Queen Street in Richmond.
Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu outside of Queenstown, Eichardt’s Private Hotel dates back to 1859, when William Gilbert Rees built a homestead and woolshed on the pastoral lands he had bought. When gold was discovered in the Shotover River nearby, however, Rees found his pastoral lands in the midst of a gold rush. Seizing the opportunity nearly dropped in his lap, Rees turned his property into a hotel called the Queen’s Arms, right in the middle of the growing community. In 1866, Rees went into business with Albert Eichardt, who eventually became sole proprietor. He renamed the hotel Eichardt’s Queen’s Arms Hotel, but it came to be known simply as Eichardt’s Private Hotel. Guests of the hotel morphed from minors to world travelers, and Eichardt’s remains open to this day, now listed as a Category 2 historic place by the Historic Places Trust. Eichardt’s Grille showcases a menu centered around locally-sourced produce from the Central Otago and Southland regions, while Eichardt’s Bar provides a warm and welcoming environment, with mouth-watering small plates and specialty cocktails on offer. Eichardt’s Bar is the only bar in Queenstown that serves Champagne Bollinger by the glass and also features a Pinot Noir made by Mt. Edward exclusively for Eichardt’s.
Also located in Queenstown, Amisfield Bistro and Winery may not boast Eichardt’s history, but it has proved a popular dining destination all the same. Nestled against the breathtaking Pisa Mountain Range and overlooking local vineyards, Amisfield boasts one of the largest single estate vineyards in Central Otago. What really sets Amisfield apart though is their famous “Trust the Chef” menu. Their signature since opening in 2005, the “Trust the Chef” menu is carefully curated by Executive Chef Vaughan Mabee, who works with an expert forager to hunt, gather, and source the freshest meats and produce the local region has to offer. The menu is crafted to complement Amisfield’s wines and the iconic vistas just outside their doors.
Located between the urban center of Auckland and the Waikato, the Kentish Hotel has stood at the center of Waiuku life since it was established in 1851. The founder, Edward Constable, applied for a Publican’s Special License in 1853, and the Kentish retains that license to this day, giving the Kentish the longest continuous liquor license in New Zealand. Throughout its history, the Kentish has hosted such dignitaries as Maori King Te Whero Whero, William Massey, Richard Seddon, Sir George Grey, and Sir Joseph Ward. It has survived a block fire in 1926 and the New Zealand Wars, and the Kentish has more than 450 photographs on display chronicling the history of the hotel, Waiuku, and New Zealand.
Established in 1827, the Duke of Marlborough started under the name “Johnny Johnston’s Grog Shop.” Johnny, the owner, was an ex-convict on good terms with the local Maori after he became fluent in Te Reo. Because of this relationship, Johnny was able to buy the site that would one day host his shop; the sale marked one of the first land sales to a European in New Zealand. Russell – or Kororareka, as it was then known – was the biggest whaling port in the Southern Hemisphere and effectively had no law enforcement. Hoping to lend his shop an air of respectability amongst the Russell lawlessness, Johnny changed the name to the Duke of Marlborough, then the world’s richest man. After the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, which Johnny helped the Maori to translate, the seat of New Zealand’s first government formed in a close town. Well respected in the area – and a close friend of the colonial treasurer – Johnny secured the very first license for his establishment. Having survived two fires, rebuilding, and renovation, the license now hangs in a gold frame in the bar.
The last restaurant on the list is not located on the North Island or the South Island. Rather, it is located on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf off the north end of the North Island, world famous for its viticulture. Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant offers breathtaking views of Hauraki Gulf all the way across to Auckland City – by day, the sun shines on sea and vineyards, and as night approached, Mudbrick looks out on stunning sunsets and the twinkle of city lights across the way. Now renowned for their winery and restaurant, Mudbrick began its life in 1992 as a bare plot of land, purchased by two accountants. Husband and wife, Nick and Robyn Jones spent two years planting and replanting trees and vines and shelterbelts, with only the help of Robyn’s mother. In 1995, they decided to open a restaurant to produce food that would complement their wines, the first vintage of which still had a year until it was expected to be ready. More than twenty years later, they have grown both their team and Mudbrick itself. Mudbrick now has two vineyard sites on Waiheke, complete with a fully operational winery, and a garden overlooking the vineyards. Paired with the garden is a series of greenhouses which boast vegetables, herbs, teas, and edible flowers, which ensure that Mudbrick’s dishes really are sourced with the absolute freshest produce possible.