All-round grand find on a rainy day
It was raining – the kind of rain that comes upwards at you as well as hard and fast from above – when we arrived in Wanaka and with two hungry children and a baby to feed, we needed to find some where to eat and fast.
The Wanaka Ale House sits on a prominent corner and must have exceptional lake views on a good day. On our miserable, wet day, we found it warm and inviting. Staff shuffled our party of nine to a large table at the back where we were pleased to find ourselves in a spacious setting, obviously enjoyed by other families judging by the steady stream of customers with prams. Given the large size of the establishment there is also lots of room for those who choose to keep their distance from the family brigade. Serving rustic-special Monteith’s beer, this restaurant and bar is themed in the traditional West Coast style, the three-star seats giving away its Speights origins.
Staff quickly attended to the children’s needs first, getting their meal orders and delivering gender specific “Smarty Packs” containing pictures, games, stickers and crayons – outright the best kids’ restaurant entertainment packs we have seen in a restaurant. The service continued to be great throughout our meal and comment was made on the cleanliness of bathrooms and helpfulness of staff.
We headed straight for the main course. The Pork Belly Burger ($19) cooked in an Asian style sauce was enjoyed, but Kevin’s bun remained uneaten and was probably unnecessary unless you were really hungry. The six Bacon Wrapped Scallops ($22.50) were as mouth-watering as they sounded and delighted Glenda. Barry’s Beef Burrito ($19.50) was filling and acceptable, though nothing to get excited about, and Karma thought the chicken in the Lemon Chicken Salad ($21.50) a little dry but the flavours interesting, in a good way. Karl struggled to finish the Monteith’s Radler-battered Blue Cod ($29), because of the large portion but couldn’t resist the fresh fish and forced the last bit down. Special mention must be made of my Seafood Chowder ($19). I love a good chowder but in my experience it is either great, but let down by small portions, or terrible with no flavour, too much flavour or miserable quantities of seafood. The Ale House’s chowder was perfect – creamy, lightly flavoured sauce, packed full of seafood including blue cod, prawns, mussels and salmon (which, while not from the sea, was a great addition). And it was a huge portion. Seafood chowder does not get much better. The children went for fish bites and chicken nuggets ($12.50 each, served with chips, salad and a drink) and again we have to recognise the excellent quality of the blue cod.
We ran into the nearest restaurant in soaking rain, entering with few expectations and rumbling bellies. We were pleasantly surprised. It was an agreeable space with efficient and friendly staff. The seafood meals were the best and while not cheap (excepting the chowder which was exceptional value) we accept that there is a cost in getting fabulous seafood to an alpine environment and we were more than happy to pay it. Highly recommended.
Good one: Wanaka Ale House