Marlborough offers an extensive menu when it comes to lunching at vineyard restaurants. This is no surprise as it is New Zealand’s largest wine producing region. Lunches range from casual platters to share to a la carte sophistication, showcasing local products at their best.
Over the years I’ve followed award-winning chef Matt Gibson as he has demonstrated his talents at different winery restaurants. He has been happily ensconced now for a couple of years at Twelve Trees, (www.allanscott.com/restaurant) attached to Allan Scott Wines Cellar Door. Recently I enjoyed a dish he entered in the Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Annual Awards for the top beef, lamb or venison dish. (At the time of writing, the results have not been announced). His dish of Silver Fern Farms Cervena Venison Loin, Beetroot, Smoked Goat’s Cheese, Garlic Noir, Salted Cherries and Shiitake Cream was a knockout. Salted cherries were a first for me and now the cherry season has commenced I’ll be salting some down.
Across Jackson’s Road at Cloudy Bay (www.cloudybay.co.nz/Our-Place/Cellar-Door) summers start on December the first with the opening of Jack’s Raw Bar. Specialising in freshly shucked oysters, Jack’s also offers a simple selection of other fresh local produce. Summer ends on the 20th of April.
Highfield has joined forces with TerraVin wines (email: email@example.com) and their restaurant reopened under the guidance of one of the region’s best hostesses, Frenchwoman, Steph Armstrong. The Mediterranean-influenced menu is small but we were absolutely delighted with our generous tapas platter — local mussels and cheese, terrine, salmon mousse, chorizo and beans and chargrilled vegetables.
Brancott Heritage Estate Cellar Door & Restaurant (www.brancottestate.com/our-home/cellar-door) is renowned for it stunning vistas and its consistently excellent food. This four-year old architecturally-designed vineyard showcase has become one of Marlborough’s top tourist destinations and even the locals keep returning. A very special place for casual or formal dining.
My favourite double-baked blue cheese soufflé is served at Wairau River Wines Cellar Door and Restaurant (www.wairauriverwines.com/cellardoor-restaurant) with a delicious rocket, pear and walnut salad. The soufflé has been on the menu for years so obviously others enjoy it as much as I do. The restaurant has a casual, friendly feel and menu is simple and well priced.
Hans Herzog (www.herzog.co.nz) is one of the few Marlborough vineyard restaurants open for dinner. There is both a bistro (open for lunch as well) and a fine dining restaurant (open summers for dinner). The chefs are European and this influences the menu whether it be a casual mushroom risotto or a more haute cuisine 60-day aged ribeye. However, local products are showcased at their finest.
Up Rapaura Road from Wairau River Wines is the Giesen Cellar Door (www.giesen.co.nz/cellar-door-experience). It offers a limited but tasty, casual menu including superb, light pizzas from their outdoor oven. The dining area is in a cute courtyard built around a central fountain. Definitely worth experiencing.
Rock Ferry (www.rockferry.co.nz/eat/eat-home) is situated in an old villa/bungalow converted into a warm, inviting café. The chefs specialise in organic produce and the casual meals have that home-cooked touch. This is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.
Saint Clair’s Vineyard Kitchen (www.saintclair.co.nz/vineyard-kitchen) has just had a makeover and it’s gorgeous. The menu is inspired by local produce and I recently ravaged a Vine-wrapped Merino Lamb Loin served on Garlic Noir Whipped Mash with Chargrilled Baby Vegetables and hand-picked salad greens — an entry in the Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards.
The iconic Wither Hills Cellar Door and Restaurant (www.witherhills.co.nz/Restaurant-Tasting-Room/Restaurant) opened in March 2005 and is a few minutes drive from Blenhein central. Consisting of several storeys including an underground barrel hall that doubles as an atmospheric dining room, it has become a very popular venue for weddings and celebrations. Husband and wife team Dave and Sarah Anderson provide an imaginative lunchtime menu that changes regularly.
1 - Brancott Extensive views of Marlborough from the Brancott Estate Heritage Centre
2 - Twelve Trees @ Allan Scott
3 - Cloudy Bay Cellar Door
4 - Highfield Terravin
5 - Wairau River Double-baked Blue Cheese Souffly
6 - Giesen pizzas
7 - Herzog
8 - Saint Clair
10 - Wither Hills state-of-the-art winery and cellar door