Flexible, friendly, fun evening out
Vknow is a Fernhill institution. Danny Carson runs the front of house and espouses information on all things wine-related while wife Lizzie is tucked away in the kitchen churning out fabulous dishes. The couple has been looking after locals and those in the know for almost ten years. It has a well earned excellent reputation and I had a hankering to return after many years absence but with a new challenge. Kids.
I was conscious that there was no children’s menu and the divine sounding pizzas were a bit too sophisticated for the pip squeaks’ palates. However, Danny preempted my concerns (read my mind?) by almost immediately offering a ham and pineapple or Margherita pizza. The kids happy, we ordered garlic pizza bread ($7) and a pizza bread with caramelised onions and blue cheese ($12) to get us started along with a round of drinks. The boys perused the boutique beers but were pleased to be able to stick with their Speights while my request for a Chardonnay saw Danny ask me what kind I liked. I opted for something full of flavour and he delivered a fruity Forrest Estate ($10) and I later tried the other offering – a Sleeping Dogs ($10). At the other end of the table Glenda was enjoying sampling the Pinot Noirs. All of our mains involved the blue cod: seafood bowl of mussels, king prawns and blue cod in a creamy chowder sauce with Vknow toasted garlic bread ($36) – delicious with a fresh broth made up of the groper heads and other fishy bits Danny had returned from a recent trip to Fiordland with – the pan seared blue cod of the day ($35), which was served on a potato rosti with amesculin salad and was the most visually spectacular dish of the evening, the Stewart Island blue cod in a Thai green curry with broccoli on basmati rice ($33) – an oldie but a goodie - and a large chilli prawn and blue cod with lemon pizza ($30). We loved our mains and were having such an enjoyable time that we could not go past ordering some desserts to share. Again, the helpful staff looked after the kids by putting a scoop of ice cream in a bowl with some topping (pink, instead of chocolate thanks). The adults shared delicious three berry parfait which was reminiscent of the boysenberry parfaits of my childhood but with a bit more style ($12) and strawberry and raspberry sorbet with meringues ($10) – that was enjoyed by all.
Danny had already exceeded our expectations by offering some thought out dishes for the kids, so when Lizzie popped her head through the servery to offer the kids some pizza dough to create their own dough creatures we knew we were in family-friendly heaven. The kids couldn’t have been happier and were delighted to finish the night with their extremely abstract looking rabbit creations cooked and wrapped into a tinfoil hand bag to take home. Who needs colouring books and crayons? Danny enjoys discussing the finer points of wine and having a yarn about what is happening in the neighbourhood. He was relaxed but attentive, friendly and helpful.
Vknow is a bit of an everyman’s place. Sitting unremarkably in a row of shops at suburban Fernhill, the inside is a mix of rustic but tidy tables and chairs alongside some more comfy sofas and bar stools in the bar area. A quirky mix of pictures and paintings grace the walls and dim lighting ensures a cosy atmosphere. Tables can be configured to cater for any size group and the owners are certainly adaptable. The kitchen is almost part of the action and it is small enough for the omnipresent Danny to swoop between bar and tables, rarely missing a beat.
Travelling from Frankton to Fernhill for ameal out can feel a little like a trip to another city. Actually, it isn’t. Only another five minutes past town Vknow is a wee gem away from the madness of Queenstown and well worth a visit. The menu hasn’t changed very much over the years but why would you change a winning formula? The Carsons are slick operators who know their food and wine, and who appear to enjoy a chin wag with the locals gracing the bar as well as looking after everyone through the door. We were as impressed with their flexibility as their blue cod. We enjoyed a memorable family meal and will ensure it is not so long until we return next time.
HOURS: From 4pm, seven days a week.
RATING: SERVICE: 4/4, Food: 4/4
REVIEWED BY: Debbie Jamieson
The bar at Vknow is a popular hangout for the locals.
Delish: Three berry parfait from Vknow.
Vino within: Vknow, at Fernhill, appears unremarkable outside.