New Zealand’s Invercargill

Award-winning Flannagan’s is worth the trip

by Freddy Santamaria

Dear Web Readers,

With this edition of Elektronik i Norden begins a new column: ”The Gourmet Corner.”

The aim is to inform and let you know about, restaurants, hotels, and destinations that perhaps you wouldn’t think of – or dare to think of. Such locations, although out of the tourist track, are very interesting places to visit.

This first ”Gourmet Corner” introduces you to one part of the world where not many foreign visitors pass by. The place is Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city, which along with Ushuaia in Argentina, is one of the nearest cities to the South Pole.

(On a note of humor, when I visited the United Airlines Central Office in Paris to buy my air ticket, in 2004, no one at the counter knew where Invercargill was, nor did they know the Airport Code. It was only thanks to the help of a World Map that they finally they found the location.)

Air New Zealand has several flights a day to Invercargill from Auckland via Christchurch. Once you arrive, Invercargill Airport is just a five-minute drive west from the city center. The best way to reach the city center is by taxi (a free call from the Airport Service Counter). ”Blue Star Taxis” is one of the best. Ask for cab N° 38 – Russel Molloy – ”Great Service!”

Invercargill, the once swampy site that initially attracted European settlers eager to set up a flax-milling industry, was surveyed for the first time in 1856. Part of that survey consisted of laying out the main streets at 40 meters in width – sorry, New Zealand uses the metric system – a width considered generous even by today’s standards and one which, along with the streetscapes of richly embellished buildings, gives Invercargill its distinctive character.

Among the best and most interesting buildings to see: The Water Tower (1889), The Provincial Council Buildings on Kelvin Street (1864), The Invercargill Club on Don Street (1892), The Former Porter’s Lodge on Dee Street (1866), and The Former Dee Street Hospital on Dee Street (1876 – 1879). The layout of the city is similar to Manhattan with a beautiful park. In fact, Queens Park can be compared to Central Park in New York City, only a smaller scale.

Invercargill has many motels, lodges, and motor inns, as well as two major hotels:

The Kelvin Hotel, located in the heart of the city
** 18 Kelvin Street, Invercargill
** Phone: (64) 3 218 28 29
** Fax: (64) 3 218 2287
** E-mail: kelvin@ilt.co.nz
** Rooms: 100.00-150.00 NZ$ – Suite 170.00 NZ$

The Ascot Park Hotel/Motel
** Corner Racecourse Road & Tay Street, Invercargill – located outside of the center of town facing the Ascot Park Raceway
** Phone: (64) 3 217 6195
** Fax: (64) 3 217 7002
** E-mail: ascot@ilt.co.nz
** Rooms: 100.00- 150.00 NZ$
** Facilities include: Indoor heated swimming pool – spa & saunas

For further Invercargill Information contact:
The Invercargill Visitor Information Center
– E-mail: tourismandtravel@thenet.net.nz
– or visit: www.invercargill.org.nz

Having introduced Invercargill, now let’s get on with
”The Gourmet Corner” …

Invercargill is home to one of the most famous restaurants in New Zealand. In last May’s issue of Cuisine – New Zealand’s Food Magazine – Flannagan’s seafood restaurant and its chef and owner, Graham Hawkes, was awarded as one of the top restaurants in New Zealand.

Flannagan’s is located on an old house built in 1912. The restaurant has several dining rooms all interconnected with a central hallway. All the rooms have old fireplaces and the layout of tables is well arranged.

But, if you are two and you don’t get a table in a corner of one of the dining rooms, you may find yourself in the middle of the restaurant in line with other ”tables for two.” If that happens, you can always ask the host, Glenise Hawkes, to have a ”table for four” for just the two of you, and she will be very happy to help you.

On the food side, follow their slogan:
Southland’s Freshest Seafood ”Just the way you like it”

For starters you must try:

– Baby Scallops (Fresh of course) Grilled with bacon & Worcestershire sauce or plain steamed
– Fresh Local Green Lipped Mussels (Steamed in cider, fennel, saffron, tomato & fresh basil)
– Fresh Local Oysters
– Crumbed King Prawn Cutlets
– Flannagan’s Gourmet Seafood Pizza

The green lipped mussels and the oysters are from Bluff, the harbor town of Invercargill, and one of the earliest settlements in New Zealand (1824). Oysters from Bluff are the best in New Zealand and Bluff is considered the oyster capital of New Zealand.

The prices for the starters range from 13.50 NZ$ for the pizza, to 16.00-17.50 NZ$ for the scallops, mussels, or king prawns, and 24.00 NZ$ for a dozen oysters.

For the main course, you must try:

”The Fresh Selection of the Day Catch” at 19.95 NZ$

The fish can be prepared to your choice of cooking: grilled, steamed, fried, etc. Avoid the normal salad or fries with it (only to please the local customers) and go for the ”Roast Vegetable Salad” for only 5.50 NZ$. You’ll never regret it.

Of course if you want to go New Zealand style, you can have the ”Flannagan’s Seafood Sensation” at: 50.00 NZ$ for two – ”A Big Big Plate”

If you dislike fish, then don’t go to Flannagan’s in the first place – although, you can always have:

– Grilled Prime Sirloin of Beef
– Grilled Lamb Rump
– Roast Chicken Breast or
– Roasted Loin of Pork
– from: 21.95 to 23.95 NZ$

Desserts:

– Seriously Good Mississippi Mud Cake
– Fresh Fruits Salad with Ice
– Baked New York Style Lemon Cheesecake (8.50 NZ$), or try the
– Special Dessert (9.50 NZ$) – Warm Gingerbread with Kikorangi Cheese Poached Pear & Spiced Figs with Fig Syrup

Flannagan’s has a great selection of New Zealand wines with very honest prices. If you order fish, you must try the ”2003 Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.”

Flannagan’s is located on:
– Queens Drive / Bainfield Roundabout
– (North of Invercargill)
– Hosts: Glenise and Graham Hawkes
– Phone (64) 3 215 8156
– E-mail: hawksy@xtra.co.nz
– The best way to go is by Taxi

(Note – Conversion Rate: 1 NZ$ varies from 50 to 75% of 1 US$)

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Here’s some additional information about the area around Invercargill:

Bluff, the harbor for Invercargill, is located at 22 Km from downtown, by car or taxi. There is only very limited public transportation. Two places of interest to visit in Bluff include:

The Old Radar Station on the top of Flagstaff Road, the highest point in Bluff where you can admire the entire city, the Foveaux Strait, and Stewart Island.

The Stirling Point at the end of the road on Ward Parade, named after Captain William Stirling. The area was originally home to a whaling station established in 1836. The Stirling Point signpost was built circa 1960 with six direction arms to: Dog Island, Ruapuke Island, South Pole, Wellington, Sydney & London. Today’s version gives directions to twelve locations, including Invercargill’s sister city Kumagaya in Japan.

From Bluff, you can cross the Foveaux Strait by ferry (one hour, whether permitting) to Stewart Island and the Rakiura National Park, (wilderness at a top level!).

The Island has a population of only 390 people and 28 Km of roads, both paved and unpaved. In the Rakiura National Park, you’ll find 245 Km of walking tracks. It can take 12 to 14 days to be complete the entire hike – a great experience! You can rent personal locator beacons there, if you feel you’ll need them. For lodging on the island there are: two motels, plus hostels – self-catering & budget accommodation – with 3 cafes, bars & restaurants.

The Climate:

Sometimes all four seasons in the area can be experienced in a single day! Bring adequate waterproof clothing and walking shoes. And remember: there’s no full banking service, only limited credit card services, and some businesses only accept cash!

For a one day visit, I recommend you take the Southland Air Services for 290.00 NZ$ for two persons, round trip on a 20 min. ride each way, then you can admire the wilderness from the air.

For Information and inquiries:

stewartislandfc@doc.govt.nz
promotion@stewartisland.co.nz
www.stewartisland.co.nz

Invercargill also is the main gateway to visiting:

The New Zealand Southern Alps

– Te Anau & ”Milford Sound” (274 Km.)
– Queenstown (181 Km.) is the ”In place” (read, ”tourist trap”) for ski resorts in New Zealand (similar to Aspen, St Moritz, Megeve or Gstaad). It’s a place to avoid if you can.

If you must go to Queenstown, the best hotel there is the Copthorne Hotel & Resort facing Lake Wakatipu, with rooms priced from 150 NZ$ & Suites at 195 NZ$.

– E-mail at copthorne.lakefront@mckhotels.co.nz
– or the web: www.copthornelakefront.co.nz

For dining, the best restaurant in Queenstown is the @Thai located on the 2nd Floor of the Air New Zealand building on the harbor. This is one of the best Thai restaurants outside of Thailand that I ever been to – great value for your money & great service!

The other restaurants in Queenstown are for the tourist pack and not for a ”Gourmet Corner!”

If you can avoid Queenstown, go to visit Lake Wanaka via Cardrona Road (one of the most dangerous & beautiful routes on the area).

In Wanaka, the Lakeside Service Apartments has the best view & the best hotel:

– E-mail at info@lakesidewanaka.co.nz
– or www.lakesidewanaka.co.nz
– Apartments are in the range of: 345 NZ$ to 395 NZ$ (minimum 4 month reservation in advance)

Other good value – The Edgewater Resort, which also faces the lake.

www.edgewater.co.nz

And if you like a more wild retreat, drive 15 Km. to Lake Havea Motor Inn facing Lake Havea, far from the tourist crowds, with prices from: 95 NZ$

– lakehavea@xtra.co.nz

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One Final Hint for your trip:

If you rent a car be sure it is has 4WD. The weather can be very unpredictable: winter & summer!

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Freddy Santamaria ”The Smooth Operator” – Paris, France

Travels to New Zealand in

July 2004 – July 2005 – June 2006 – July 2008 – June 2009
Copyright (c) 2009, Freddy Santamaria. All rights reserved.

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