The 1964 guide to binge eating your way around the South Island without ending up in debtors’ prison.
WINTON – THE MIDDLE PUB
You would think a place like Winton would lead the way when it comes to the Southland delicacy that is the cheese roll, and you would be right. Winton’s Middle Pub−yes, it’s between the Top and Bottom Pubs−are the masters of the cheese roll universe. The “foot long” Chub’s Cheese Roll is, well, long. Our local spy put it like this: “They must cut the loaf of bread lengthways – that bad boy spills over both edges of a plate.” Bonus: The pub itself is a category 2 listed historic building and a celebrity haunt. Both former PM Bill English and Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins have been spotted getting half-wellied at the bar.
TE ANAU – BAO NOW
Thanks to the genius in third century China who realised that steaming dough and stuffing it full of whatever food you had handy was a good idea, Bao have spread to all the far corners of fast food world, including, finally, the far corners of Fiordland. Yay. The Bao Now food truck in Te Anau serves up all manner of these handy meals-in-a-bun for 13 bucks a pop. Enjoy a spot of Asian-infused kaimoana
in the Krusty (fried soft-shelled crab with chilli mayo) or go regional flavours with the Bambi Bao (wild Fiordland venison and pickled beetroot).
“BAO HAVE SPREAD TO ALL THE FAR CORNERS OF FAST FOOD WORLD, INCLUDING, FINALLY, THE FAR CORNERS OF FIORDLAND. YAY.”
HAAST – THE HARD ANTLER
To simply call the Hard Antler’s Cod Burger a burger is misleading—this is the greatest calorific value on the South Island, if not the world. The cooks build this masterpiece using what appears to be an entire fresh cod, and having these delicious fish living a stone’s throw from your bar gives new meaning to “eating local”. You’ll need alligator jaws to get around the hubcap-sized buns. Throw in some chips, and you’re feeding a small family for the price of two snooty coffees. If you’re on a fad diet that prevents you from enjoying this delicacy, we have bad news for you: You’re not on a diet, you’re in a cult.
“THIS IS THE GREATEST CALORIFIC VALUE ON THE SOUTH ISLAND, IF NOT THE WORLD. THE COOKS BUILD THIS MASTERPIECE USING WHAT APPEARS TO BE AN ENTIRE FRESH COD…”
GERALDINE – CENTRAL CAFÉ AND GRILL
There is a lot not to love about the USA these days, but credit where credit is due, they did invent Rock‘n’Roll and the greasy spoon diner. The Central Café and Grill is tidier than your average greaser (it is in Geraldine after all), but the menu is straight outta Philly. There’s your proper cheese steak sandwich (with both cheddar and American cheeses!) loaded potato skins, and onion rings with the most Yankee of dressings, ranch. Pull over for the ‘Cop Special’, a paltry $7 for a coffee and a donut. Note the American spelling.
OAMARU – JUMBOS
Jumbos in Oamaru lives up to its name, and the well-fed elephant that graces its cinder-block outer wall. Their biggest burger goes for $10.20, but frankly the “small” $7.20 size is going to defeat most mortals. If on the off chance you are still hungry after consuming a beef patty the size of your head, Jumbos will cook you up just about anything that will fit in a deep fryer, including oysters, pineapple rings, battered sausages and, of course, lasagne toppers. Get in early on a Friday; Jumbo’s
is a hit with the tradies, and the line at the counter turns into high-vis vest mosh pit.
RACEWAY CARVERY – GREYMOUTH
The Raceway Carvery at the Union Hotel in Greymouth is nuts. The first thing you see upon entering−a vintage arcade game for which you use a plastic rifle to shoot digital deer−sets the tone. What they have not spent on upgrading the décor since the 1970s, they have spent on portion sizes, with buffet-style steak, fish, roast and chicken dinners served on those oval plates you use when round just won’t do it, radius-wise. All mains come with free soup, lashings of gravy, and the kind of life-affirming West Coast hospitality that calls everybody darling. Insider tip: If you order the large size steak dinner, they give you two steaks. Two!
NOSH – MAKIKIHI
Speaking of diners, Nosh takes the filthy roadside feed and levels up about a million. Surreally located at the Waimate (hometown of Norman Kirk) and Kurow (hometown of Richie McCaw) turnoff on State Highway 1, Nosh is so remote there’s no mobile reception inside. Prepare to have your life changed by Edesian delights like the baked potatoes stuffed with blue cheese and chilli, and an extraordinary raspberry chocolate-caramel slice. Even better, the Makikihi Fries chip factory is just up the road.