What could possibly top Rata? I was searching high and low on the internet of a resturant that could better our dinner that we had the previous week at Rata. I manage to find this great little gem of a restaurant ‘The Bunker’ that serves a la carte as well as a degustation.
The bunker is tucked away down a small laneway in the centre of Queenstown. a bar boasting the same name is upstairs while the restaurant is downstairs. The restaurant is not easy to find as the front door lies underneath a seat of stairs and if you just behind the stairs you will see logs of wood stacked against a wall that is used for the open air fireplace that lies inside the restaurant.
The Bunker is a small intimate restaurant with a handful of tables. The decor of the restaurant is rustic, and dark.
The Bunker specialises in game, red meats and local delicacies. It boasts a large open fire creating a wonderful intimate atmosphere along with the old fashion green library lamps hanging from the walls showcasing old pictures of Queenstown.
The Bunker attracts a slightly older clientele, so we were clearly the youngest ones there dining at the time. Perhaps this is due to patrons having a more refine palatte.
I had earlier made a reservation as the degustation had attracted me to this restaurant. The only time available was for a 9pm sitting. We decided to go with this, but arrived 30 minutes earlier in hope of being able to get a seat. However this was not the case and they were full when we arrived. They suggested we go upstairs and wait at the bar. Plus 1 was feeling a bit under the weather and was not drinking, so we decided to go for walk.
We came back at 9pm where our table was waiting for us. The waitress offered to take our jackets and came back to provide us with the drinks menu and food menu. The drinks menu contain an impressive list of wines and cocktails.
We ordered two ‘the Taste of the South’ degustation menus and I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir, as Otago is famous for their Pinot Noir.
Peregrine 2010 Pinot Noir, the 2009 Peregrine had won won the 2009 Air NZ trophy.
Amuse Bouche – Scallop and Pork Ragu with Watercress Pesto, Balsamic Onions, Truffle Oil and Seaweed was superb. definitely a large serving than a normal amuse boush but I was not complaining. the flavours worked well together combining the four main tastes – sweetness of the scallop, the Sour of the balsamic onions, the salty of the pork ragu, the emami from the truffle oil, the bitter of watercress pesto. The scallop was perfectly cooked and juicy. The pork ragu melted in your mouth. I would never have though that pork and shellfish would ever go well together.
First dish – Roasted Fiordland Crayfish with house made Lemon Gnocchi and Crayfish Bisque Beurre Blanc. The crayfish was perfectly cooked where it was still juicy when you bite into it and well seasoned. The bisque was rich but was not sickly sweet. If I could, I would have picked up my plate and licked it clean.
Second dish – Wild Southland venison strip loin with charred savoy cabbage and horopito jus. Was the star main dish of the evening. The venison was well cooked, as you can see it was still pink inside. The Horopito jus gave the venison a slight kick to it. The whole dish married well together.
Agnolloti of hand picked West Coast Paua (abalone) with confit garlic cream and shaved parmesan. Found the paua to be quite tough and the Agnolotti to be quite thick for my liking, however the confit garlic cream was delicious, rich and full of flavour. The presentation was quite interesting such that a paua shell was used to serve the agnolotti.
Palatte Cleanser – Central Otago stonefruit sorbet with beetroot and Gibbston Valley verjus. The addition of beetroot with the sorbet was interesting, generally sorbet is served by itself. I enjoyed it, however Plus1 who is not a fan of beetroot gave me his share of the beetroot.
Third dish – If two dishes were not enough, the Roasted French Rack and and Slow Roasted Shoulder of Otago Alpine Merino with kumara puree, roasted root vegetables, crisp sweetbreads and confit garlic jus arrived. This plate had everything going on. I love merino lamb as it has a more gamely flavour and less fat than normal lamb you get from the supermarket. I have never had sweetbreads but this was not too bad, perhaps because it was masked in batter that was deep fried. Lamb racks were again perfectly cooked and well seasoned. the bone was cleaned well, as you can see in the picture below. the slow roasted shoulder melted in my mouth. the only downside I could find with this dish is the lack of sauce. I was struggling to find enough sauce to eat my lamb with.
Fourth dish – Duo of Manuka honey and saffron crème brulee and Cromwell apple panna cotta. Two servings were served on one plate. The panna cotta was too thick, perhaps too much geletine had been added, we didnt really touch the panna cotta. One of the two cream brulee was nice, because it was cold while the other one was not, as it was warmer, which meant the two cream brulees identical in ingredients tasted different for this reason.
Fifth dish – Cheese platter – Whitestone cheese and kikorangi blue cheese, Fig, honey combe, quince. Definitely a lot of cheese and crackers for our last dish. Most of the items on the dish went untouch due to the fact at the time we were served this dish, it was well beyond midnight, and bloated from the previous dishes.
The degustation was defintely worth while and value for money. One of the better meals I have had in recent times. Service was excellent, atmosphere was intimate and food was great. The only downside to the entire evenings experience was the dessert, which perhaps went a bit downhill.
Two degustation menus a glass of wine and a customised mocktail set us back $230.
Location: 14 Cow Lane, Queenstown