The restaurant is located just behind the church on the hill overlooking Halfmoon Bay rather than actually in the church as I had first imagined. For us it was a short stroll from our accommodation at Pilgrim Cottage so no need to worry about transport, we only needed to remember to take a torch to see our way back!
On the advice of our hosts we had reserved a table since it is a popular restaurant.
When we arrived Chris, the joint owner and host for the night, was running around a little (they had experienced a bit of a rush with several tables arriving at the same time). He was relieved to hear we weren’t in a hurry.
The interior is nicely done and features some solid looking wooden furnishings, a log fire and the conservatory style entrance adds to a bright and relaxed setting. There’s a garden porch however on the night we were there no one was brave enough to sit out - the log fire was lit inside. As with many places in New Zealand we found there isn’t a dress code with most people just being “smart but casual“ when dining out.
We ordered a bottle of Villa Maria Cellar Select Sauvignon Blanc and sat back to have a look at the menu. There was a choice of around 7 or 8 items per course including a few specials on the board with starters ranging from $13 to $25 (paua ravioli); mains from $32 to $48 (oysters); and desserts from $14 to $19 (cheeseboard) which all provided a good choice. The wine list also had a small attractive selection. (The restaurant is fully licensed and also stocks a variety of speciality beers and whisky along with other favourites).
We ordered Tomato & Basil Soup and Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli with walnut sauce for starters, to be followed by oven baked Blue Cod with brown butter sage sauce, potato & kumara rosti and seasonal vegetables and herbs; and Lamb Rack served with potato gratin, roasted vegetables with herbs and a Pinot Noir drizzle.
I’m normally not a huge pasta fan however the ravioli was superb and just a nice sized portion for an entrée. My wife who is partial to soup cleared the plate. In the past she was not overly keen on fish however this trip to New Zealand and other trips abroad have been opening her eyes to the fantastic fresh selection available and she found this dish cooked to perfection. Likewise the lamb was deliciously tender and full of flavours to melt in the mouth and everything was well presented. You will have gathered by now that we were enjoying the meal!
To finish we decided to share the Sticky Fig & Pear pudding with toffee sauce and ice cream and the cheeseboard - a selection of three New Zealand cheeses served with homemade bread and preserves. By this time the wine was finished and my wife had a glass of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc and I had a Pinot Noir. The desserts were not surprisingly very good as was the wine.
Chris was pleasant, chatty when appropriate and the chef and joint owner, Deanne, joined us for short while too when the rush in the kitchen had subsided. Some remaining guests were taking the opportunity to get a courtesy lift home however with torch in hand we set off into the night fully satisfied.
Food was $138, drinks $60 and whilst some on TA have reported that this is the best restaurant in Stewart Island (which it is) it amongst the best we’ve come upon on our travels anywhere. It's a bit out of the way however if you venture to Stewart Island I'd recommend a visit, or two.
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