Mixed bag, but oh, the view!
We called Skyline Gondola and Restaurant and booked in advance. The cost of $76 per adult or $36 for a child aged between 5 and 12 covered the gondola and buffet, free for children under five. There are usually two sittings each night and we chose the earlier (starting at 5.45pm with tables vacated by 7.45) and were advised to arrive with plenty of time as it was busy. They got that right. It was manic with people, mostly international tourists, cramming the base building to buy tickets. When we eventually made it to the front of the queue we were told that our booking could not be found. Two staff members later and we were on the gondola. At Skyline we were again greeted by a mass of people as tour groups were sorted on to tables. We grabbed a drink and were soon ushered to a table in the middle of the expansive restaurant where one of our group found himself sitting on a tray that had not been removed from a seat. It was all quite flustering and overwhelming and it was with relief we welcomed the arrival of Niall – our friendly waiter for the evening.
We skipped the soup and buns and headed for the deli and seafood starter selections including green and pasta salads, deli meats and antipasto. We had to try a bit of everything and Glenda gave the pasta salad thumbs up while the three-year-old ate five servings of deli ham – the only thing she ate all night beside dessert. Most of us headed for the seafood where the selection was overwhelming. The beautiful whole steamed salmon looked incredible and though Karl’s early chunk was pink and tasty, a new pale salmon had been delivered by the time I grabbed mine and it could only be described as tasteless and watery. The tiger prawns, poached mussels, and queen scallops all looked divine but were in amixed bag in quality, including overcooked and undercooked. The mains seemed to touch on every continent with choices including pasta, Chinese, salads (caesar with help-yourself anchovies!) and, of course, the traditional New Zealand roast. It was a little disheartening contemplating the long queue for the roast meals but we joined it in shifts. The roast lamb received mixed responses. Kevin was given a plate of gristle but I received soft, medium-cooked slices. Vegetables never do particularly well under lights but the greens and roasties were passable considering their environment, while many of the roast potatoes (which were possibly deep fried) were a perfect example of crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. Others were just crispy. One mouthful was enough of the hoki/salmon in pastry, and the chicken Parmegian was the most consistently acceptable of the mains. The dessert table and the cheese selection were fabulous. The
All the seafood you can eat. individual chocolate mousses were my favourite and I may have had more than one. The children were delighted with jelly and ice cream and the luscious pink layer cake which really only attracted attention due to its colour. There were cheesecakes, pavlova, tiramisu and it was all pretty good. Tea and coffee are also offered in the package.
Skyline restaurant is big and busy with all the bustle of a Tokyo train station combined with a teenage rock concert (there were large school groups on the night we visited). It was packed and there must be hundreds of seats. While there was an unpleasant number of queues to stand in, I did admire the ability of staff to look after so many people in such an intense period. However, one look at the amazing view of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the superb mountain ranges from this spectacular spot justifies everything. Even on amiserable rainy day it is something special.
Anyone wanting to see Queenstown through the eyes of a package tourist or have ameal with the best view in town. It may be the only buffet in town so if eating all you can in a short space of time is your thing, this is the place to be. It was not the easiest place to be with children. We did our best to keep the nearby dessert table under wraps as long as possible.
The food and the dining experience at Skyline was a mixed bag. The hustle of hundreds of people all eating within a two-hour period mixed with minding children meant there was always someone coming and going from the table and we really didn’t eat together. In terms of the food, next time I think I’ll head straight for desserts and top up with a few savoury items if I feel inclined. But the view is unbeatable and worth almost every penny just to hang out at 300m above our favourite lakeside town.
Skyline Gondola and Restaurant Address: Brecon St, Queenstown Phone: 03 441 0085 Licensed: Yes Hours: Sitting times and costs vary according to season. See skyline.co.nz for up-to-date information.