“Oh, that’s cute,” was the first thing I said when I got into the passenger seat of the Mini Cooper S Paceman at the Queenstown Airport car park. It told the Mini PR team more than they needed to know about my technical knowledge of motor vehicles.
So what in the world was I doing in Queenstown as part of a group of motorsport journalists as a guest of Mini? Beats me too. But there was the promise of Fergburger and if there’s one thing I know is that you should never pass on an invite to a free burger.
Mini sent a group of journalists down there for a fun weekend of driving cars around a racetrack, as part of its sponsorship of the Burton High Fives snowboarding championship.
We weren’t racing cars around for no reason. Well, we were. But others with us weren’t. Mini and Burton invited the world’s top snowboarders to join us, ahead of their Burton Open competition. Their performance on the track actually influenced how many points them went into the snowboarding Open with.
I can’t really give you a technical car review (oh but look at the pretty spec sheet I found for you), but it’s safe to say that, if I didn’t crash the car under those circumstances, it has to be a pretty robust machine.
Luckily, we also did a number of other things that didn’t involve racing around a track. If, like me, you hear the word “Queenstown” and think “skiing holiday”, then read on.
A day at Highlands Motorsport Park
Okay, technically not Queenstown but Cromwell. The track is almost brand new, having only opened six months ago. It includes a motorsport museum that will make any petrolhead drool with excitement - a personal favourite was Anne Thompson's 1906 Darracq but the whole room is filled with interesting cars - and it has a number of different activities you can book: hot laps, mini golf, balance bikes, skid pan, go karting, etc. Highlands Park also has the claim of being New Zealand’s longest track at 4.5 km and the only one that runs clockwise and then anti-clockwise.
I could tell you a bit more about my performance on the slalom and skid pan but it wouldn’t do me any favours. I’ll just link you to this instead.
More info: http://www.highlands.co.nz
Dinner at Rata Restaurant
Rata is owned by Josh Emmett, who you may know as one of NZ Masterchef judges. The prestigious Kiwi chef spent years taking in Gordon Ramsay’s teachings back in the UK and is now putting it all into practise in New Zealand (minus all the swearing).
Go for the fancy cheese roll entree (or the duck tongue, if you’re feeling adventurous), stay for the beef wellington. The best part of the evening wasn’t even the meat inside pastry though - it was convincing the other journalists to try the octopus (a common meal in my homeland, Portugal). They even admitted to liking it so, if you’re on the fence when it comes to the octopus issue, get off it, it’s delicious!
More info: http://www.ratadining.co.nz/
Cocktails at The Bunker
The Bunker is one of those you-hardly-notice-it’s-there places. But then you notice...and you go in and you drink all their cocktails because you can’t bring yourself to choose. The problem is that the bartenders are pretty talented folk who don’t stick to the menu. Try asking them to make something up and you’ll probably end up with a drink that tastes like the most delicious dessert you’ve ever had in your life.
More info: http://www.thebunker.co.nz/
The pork belly pie at Fergbaker
Everybody talks about Fergburger (and I will too, just wait a few lines) but Fergbaker, right next to it, deserves a mention too. It’s open late (really late). The sweet selection looked incredible. I can only comment on the pork belly pie, though, which rated up there with some of the best pies I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a few). Now if only they could solve the whole issue with keeping the pork belly crispy inside the pie...
Any burger at Fergburger
No, really: any burger on the menu. I tried Mr Big Stuff the first night (½ lb of New Zealand prime beef topped with melted cheddar cheese, American streaky bacon and barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion and aioli), then went back less than twelve hours later to try Sweet Bambi (wild Fiordland deer with Thai plum chutney, lettuce, tomato, red onion and aioli). It took me a while to get over my childhood memories of Bambi but, once I did, it was pretty tasty.
More info: http://www.fergburger.com/
I realise that the luge has been in Queenstown for a while but I hadn’t tried it before and had no idea it was that much fun. Not only that, it’s one of those examples of Kiwi businesses doing great overseas (and we love those here at Idealog).
Visiting the luge means more than just racing down a track (something I was, once again, not terribly good at). The cafe/restaurant at the top has been completely remodelled and is well worth a visit, even if all you want is to have a coffee while staring at the best view of Queenstown.
Your visit can also include Maori cultural performances and a stargazing tour. If you’re really keen on getting the adrenaline going, you can hook your mountain bike onto the chairlift and ride down the trails around the area.
More info: http://www.skyline.co.nz/queenstown/
Vera Alves travelled to Queenstown as a guest of Mini. No cars were harmed in the making of this article. Bambi, however…