All-round grand find on a rainy day

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

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

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