Shumpty on tour: the best meal of my life and Stephen Fry

Today was my last full day in Queenstown and was another lazy one with the only items on the agenda eating more good food, watching the cricket from the Basin Reserve and trying to keep warm. Lunch again was at Eichardts: I have already waxed lyrical about the food and the service and again they did not let me down. Top notch again! Travellers to Queenstown would be well advised to check this little dining room out: try the Chicken Risotto.

Followers of my twitter feed (@shumpty77) will already attest to my excitement at seeing some snow on the peaks around Queenstown and that snow was only added to throughout the day as the mercury dropped (according to my iPhone) to a maximum of 8 degrees during the day. I love this weather and found myself often gazing out to the peaks from the apartment window.

Earlier in this part of the trip I spent the day in Arrowtown and tested out the well regarded Saffron Restaurant. At that time I rebooked for 7pm tonight. What followed was the best meal of my life. Some context on that statement first: I am not a gourmet, I have a very limited palate and I hate seafood. That said I like what I like so I regularly order similar dishes because I know what will be served up will satisfy my limited palate. I should also declare now that I do not drink wine (anymore) so I have no interest at all in the wine list at restaurants in which I eat.

So the scene set I repeat the statement in the title: tonight I had the best meal of my life. So what did I have? At this point you should all add to your favourites the site for the restaurant My menu for tonight was as follows:

Entree: Spicy Lentil, Tomato and Coconut Soup
Main: Chargilled Hereford fillet of Beef
Desert: Deep fried Ginger Bread icecream

The soup, as described to me by my waiter (“you are going to love this mate”) I simply loved. I normally would need a gun pointed to my head to even try lentils but I am now a convert. The soup was smooth, the coconut clearly evident in the mix and the raita accompaniment just spot on.

I had the beef medium rare and it came out perfectly medium rare. The rib, smoked with Oak leaves, was like nothing I have ever tasted before and the Pumpkin and Whisky Pie was again spot on as an accompaniment.

Readers who know me will tell you I abhor deserts normally but to tonight the urge took me and I was not disappointed. The overwhelming taste of ginger was the mainstay of the desert which was just what I needed to top off the meal.

Let me declare now that with the first bite of my desert I was ready to declare this the best meal I had ever had. Then, 3 bites later, Stephen Fry walks in the front door with Sam Neill following shortly after.

I have read all of Mr Fry’s books and watched nearly all of his tv shows and movies (pivotal role in A Civil Action among my favourites) save for his role in Bones because I dislike the show. He would be one of the six people I would invite to my ideal dinner party (the others: my dad, my mum, Bradman, Lloyd George and an English archer at the battle of Agincourt). 20 metres away from one of my idols and what did I do: nothing. I repeat: nothing! Let me explain … On this occasion I followed my head and respected that he was just another guy out having a meal with his friends and did not wish to be disturbed rather than my heart which screamed: get over there! I immediately regretted the decision.

That said: what a bottler of a last night in Queenstown: the best meal I have ever had and I was within 20 metres of an idol. Will remember this night for a long time!

Till tomorrow.

Shumpty on tour: Arrowtown

You are going to get sick of me saying this, but today was another perfect day on tour. The sky was again clear and the weather crisp. A short road trip today to Arrowtown was on the agenda. Arrowtown had been recommended to me by two different people for the food: one recommendation was for the local bakery and the other was for the restaurant Saffron. More about them later.

Arrowtown is about more than just the food. It was, in 1862, a settlement set up to take advantage of the burgeoning gold rush in the Arrow River which runs past the town. Much of the old town remains or has been restored with the main street still cobble stone in some parts and the trees which dominate the towns skyline, sycamore and oak trees, a legacy of the early settlers in the town.

One of the high lights for me was exploring the Chinese Settlement. This was a settlement just outside the town in which immigrant Chinese miners resided from 1869 to take advantage of the gold rush. The story of their segregation from the town and the fact that some original artefacts and buildings remain from the original settlement make visiting the settlement a must for anyone visiting Arrowtown and more than a bit moving to boot!

The shopping is said to be good in Arrowtown but it must be said that is true only if you are looking for Merino wool products, the art of locals or generic souvenirs of New Zealand. The wallet stayed firmly in the pocket of this traveller save for the purchase of food.

Now, back to food, first up in Arrowtown was a visit to the bakery. The pies on offer all looked good and I decided to try the mince bolognese pie which is billed as the “best hangover cure”. Whilst I was not hungover I definitely did enjoy it.

By the time lunch time rolled around I was really looking forward to sitting down at Saffron. The wraps on the place are huge and to be honest … Totally justified!!!! Service 10 out of 10, food 10 out of 10 and the price more than reasonable! I went for the green chicken curry and it was a delight. Not so overpowering as to render the eater a mute but hot enough to leave a sting in the mouth. I liked it so much I am going back on Sunday night for dinner on my last night in Queenstown.

The afternoon was again a lazy one: TV, a few work emails and more reading of Anthony Summers’ excellent book on J. Edgar Hoover. Is a brilliant read.

The weather looks like it is turning a bit nasty tomorrow which may mean another road trip is on the cards. No plans as yet but will ponder overnight.

Till tomorrow.