I’d heard so much about the award winning True South Dining Room at The Rees in Queenstown, which made me a little worried, because sometimes these places just don’t live up to expectation. I needn’t have worried because True South Dining Room is everything it’s cracked up to be and so much more.
During the day the restaurant overlooks Lake Wakatipu and by night is all moody lighting, toasty fireplaces and just the right mix of upmarket and laid back. And Executive Chef, Ben Batterbury is not only a genius cook, he’s one of the nicest guys ever! But more on him later.
The open kitchen is dangerous though, because I could see all the incredible dishes come out for other diners and I got a severe case of foodie FOMO. In fact, the menu is so insanely good, I practically had a mid-tween crisis trying to choose. The starters alone had me in a fit of indecision.
Thankfully, I was given a little extra decision-making time as our waiter brought out a big chunk of sourdough with local olive oil, churned butter and salt. New Zealanders are confusingly nice at the best of times, but the staff here are extra! Our waiter even stopped for a chat (and by chat, I mean interrogation). I asked him about just about every dish and he patiently walked me through every little detail, making my decision that much easier.
I’ll just make mum order the dishes I don’t. And then I’ll eat them too. Why didn’t I just think of that in the first place?
While we’re waiting for our starters, an amuse bouche of crayfish bisque magically appears. It also magically disappears… down my neck.
It’s delicate, creamy and topped with a light, airy froth – like a crayfish cappuccino. It tastes intensely of crayfish and the ocean and is like nothing I’ve tried before. I wonder if they’d consider serving it by the bucket?
Then came the starters. My dish of seared scallops with pork belly gyoza was off the charts. It came with a soft creamy parsnip puree, crispy kale chips, apple dashi tender, seared scallops and shiitake mushrooms, which gave the whole dish a punch of umami goodness.
But it is the gyoza themselves, stuffed full of unbelievable pork belly filling that were totally kick ass (yeah mum, I know I’m not allowed to swear but they just were, OK).
Mum’s “edible compost heap” was utterly genius.
A huge slab of Ora King Salmon was buried under layers of quinoa and oats, soft pureed carrot, orange segments, pickled cucumber, almonds, sesame seeds and dry veggie crumbs. Every mouthful of this dish was an explosion of textures and flavour and had me utterly excited over what would come next.
I chose the slow-cooked Wakanui beef cheek for main, and it was the bomb. So meltingly tender and served with a creamy real truffle mashed potato and a fresh and zingy yuzu yoghurt that cut through all the richness. It was all topped off with toasted breadcrumbs flavoured with bone marrow butter which added an extra level of flavour and texture.
Mum’s venison was perfectly pink, super flavourful and served on a bed of spinach and Jerusalem artichokes two ways, both pureed as well as roasted, plus honey glazed tamarillo and a tamarillo and red wine puree. It looked and tasted spectacular.
I should mention that Sugarpuff also got to indulge! She gobbled down some amazing dishes off the kid’s menu, including jamon and melon, moist and juicy roast chicken and a delectable berry Sunday that had her grinning from ear to ear.
Speaking of desserts, True South’s were showstoppers. My vanilla and passion fruit cheesecake came with a tangy and acidic kiwi fruit sorbet that perfectly complemented the fruity sweetness of the cheesecake.
Sweet, tangy, rich and altogether incredible, Mum’s Hogarth 70% chocolate mousse with mandarin cremaux and mandarin sorbet was so pretty, it kind of looked like a seahorse in an underwater garden – at least it did until we demolished it. Both desserts left us wide-eyed and wowed.
But then our entire meal was surprise after tantalisingly tasty surprise and the dishes were so creative and exciting I left happy, but intent on eating and knowing more.
So, imagine how happy I was to find out that Executive Chef Ben Batterbury himself was coming over to our apartment the next night to teach me how to cook like him! It really doesn’t get better than this. Check out our video below with all his cool cheffy tips to make the BEST ravioli.
Reviewed by Raffles – Aged 11
True South Dining Room Queenstown
377 Frankton Rd,
Queenstown, New Zealand
PH: +64 3-450 1100