A trip to the South Island of NZ is a great short holiday but what impressed me on this trip was how well food intolerances were managed. It’s obviously easier with a common language to discuss menus but consistently I saw staff who were across the issues and could advise on alternatives.
One of the good things around the Canterbury region of NZ was that menu’s were often marked gluten free (or dairy free or vegetarian). Even in fairly small towns with two or three cafes there was often at least one cafe with allergens marked.
The first night we landed in Christchurch around 11pm so we were happy to eat breakfast in the hotel restaurant and I was thrilled to see a gluten free vegetarian slice on the menu. I ordered it with a side of bacon and it was very tasty. They also had a water urn with fresh citrus which was such a good idea when you are dehydrated after a flight.
We stayed at the Commodore Hotel near the airport and I can highly recommend this option for travellers. From the shuttle driver who picked us up late at night with a string of helpful instructions to the staff on the front desk who basically insisted on driving us to the car rental the next day and the restaurant staff who went out of their way to organise tea for me at midnight. It was a well run hotel with a great team!
The next day we travelled via a little town called Springfield to Arthur’s Pass where we had booked in at a wilderness lodge for New Year. Trip Advisor had flagged a gluten free cafe there but it had shut for the holidays which was disappointing. The Yello Shack cafe, which sat next to Springfield’s major attraction (a big donut) did offer a range of gluten free treats, including a gluten free caramel slice that was almost as good as my brother’s.
The lodge at Arthur’s Pass was a bit of a treat for our anniversary and provided all our meals for a few days. They catered well to allergens for entree’s and mains but were not quite as comprehensive on desserts. They also had a nice gluten free sourdough the first night with olive oil which I really appreciated. The packed lunch with sandwhiches made with a seeded Vogel loaf were also excellent.
My favourite entree was a Salmon and Potato Fish Cakes which was made with mashed potato and was fresh and flavourful. We also enjoyed fresh venison and other local specialities. Must remember to send them some gluten free muesli slice , quinoa choc chip cookie recipes and a few dessert options to round out their offerings.
From Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge which had included guided walks we repaired to Hanmer Springs to soak our tired limbs. On the drive we stopped at the Red Post Cafe in Culverden which had a sign up inviting you to ask about their gluten free options. We both enjoyed a Smoked Chicken salad with a cranberry style dressing, sweet but tasty.
Hanmer Springs is a popular tourist spot with lots of dining options including our hotel which had quite a formal restaurant. The Braemar Lodge was a recommendation from my youngest sister from her last trip to NZ and its a luxurious spot if you want to indulge. They have very large rooms, spas on the balcony’s and their own Beauty Spa, which was largely priced better than the one at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools. The only downside is its about 3km of dirt road to get there and it really isn’t easy walking distance to the Springs.
The standout meal for us whilst we were there was at Malabar, which is advertised as Asian Fusion. The menu was clearly marked with gluten and dairy free options and when queried staff could easily explain when a dish wasn’t marked gluten free. We started with onion and spinach bhaji which was in a chickpea batter and followed it with caramelised pork belly (gluten containing ingredient was soy sauce) and wok fried fish with some poppadoms. It was all delicious and we would happily have eaten there again.
There were a lot of other options for gluten free dining in Hanmer Springs with options such as salads, nachos and the option of gluten free bread for sandwhiches and our hotel also provided gluten free cookies and gluten free bread at meals which were really appreciated. The major surprise for me was that when I walked into the cafe at the thermal springs they had quite a range of gluten and dairy free items, including a delicious ginger slice which went very well with my cup of green tea.
A day trip to Akaroa, which is a lovely little French town about 100km’s from Christchurch brought us to the Trading Room restaurant with a very reasonably priced seafood platter served with gluten free bread and salad. It included generous quantities of prawns, calamari, two types of fish and the local specialty Green Lipped mussels.
We did a little bit of shopping for picnics and generally found the best gluten free options in the New World Supermarkets. We did try Pak n Save once but never again!!
My advice to people travelling in this region is to do a little bit of research on gluten free options online before you travel however Trip Advisor turned out to be the most useful app giving reviews for local restaurants and I was glad that I taken up Vodafone on their $5 a day NZ plan to access my usual data as Trip Advisor and Google Maps really made the trip a lot easier.