March 13, 2014
Te Anau is the gateway to the Great Walks of Fiordland National Park, most notably the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Tracks. As such the town has tons of hotels and restaurants as well as shops for stocking up on food and other back country needs. Situated on Lake Te Anau, it’s not a bad place to chill for a day or two before or after your tramp.
Claire and Ina’s garden, located just 2.5K outside of Te Anau, is an enchanting setting. The guest bedroom has a private entrance that opens on to the wide lawn surrounded by perennial boarders.
The room is tastefully decorated. A pitcher of filtered water and a plate of homemade cookies wait for you on the bureau. The bed is dressed with extra soft sheets and the bathroom towels are sumptuously thick.
Breakfast includes the usual cold offerings – juice, yogurt, preserved apricots, homemade muesli, jams and toast. Porridge, made to order eggs and breakfast meats are also available.
While it is somewhat inconvenient to be outside of town – we generally like to walk to restaurants in the evening – the hospitality of the charming hosts and the lovely garden setting are well worth the minor inconvenience, especially for those interested in gardens.
Da Toni is a casual eatery with handmade wood fired pizza and homemade pasta. The plain dining room is brightened up with red and white checkered table cloths and wall posters of Vespas. The waitress takes your order in heavily Italian-accented albeit good English.
We ordered pasta with chicken, garlic, olive oil and a pinch of hot chili. Not a lot of chicken but the pasta was nicely done.
The seafood pizza would have been nicely done except for the soggy center of the pie. Looking around the dining room at other pizzas with different toppings, none looked as soggy as mine. Could be much better if you order something else. Despite the extra moisture, the pie was actually light on squid, shrimp and mussels. What was there, however, was nicely cooked.
Ming Garden – Entering the large open dining room with pale green walls and light colored wood tables are attention is immediately drawn to two tables of Chinese toasting each other – a scene we saw many times on our travels through China.
We, therefore, had high hopes for the food and were not disappointed. Started with the wonton soup – a rich stock with green onions, mushrooms and succulent wontons that were clearly hand made.
For mains we tasted the black pepper venison – large chunks of venison, tender, cooked medium rare and served sizzling in a sauce of sweet onions laced with black pepper.
The steamed whole blue cod was beautifully cooked and served with a light ginger and green onion sauce. Overall the experience was a real treat and some the best Chinese food we’ve had in a long time.
Café La Dolce Vita is a more upscale restaurant with white table cloths in a large sun filled dining room with a row of windows along the top of the exterior walls. The one-room cavernous space has an odd strip mall ambiance and looks like they are set up to host large busloads of tourists. They also have tables set up on the terrace in front of the restaurant.
Portions are generous and service is friendly and efficient. Again like at Da Toni, they are surprisingly Italian speaking. The pastas are house made and good.
We started with the bruschetta – fresh tomato, red onion, capers, basil and garlic on crusty bread – two smallish pieces.
For mains we each had one of the pasta dishes. Don the sea food marinara with beautifully cooked fish, scallops, small shrimp, prawns and mussels in light tomato sauce,
and I the pasta cozze – a heaping pile of green lipped mussels – just cooked and the most tender I’ve eaten in New Zealand – topped with fresh spaghetti lightly dressed with garlic, parsley and olive oil. Delightful and wonderfully filling after four days on the trail.