If you are a visitor to Nelson then this column is for you, other than a bit of rain at night last week the weather this summer holiday season has been stunning and I am sure you have been making the most of everything the region has to offer.
Every food and beverage producer in this region wants you to enjoy your visit to this wonderful region and enjoy tastes of Nelson deliciousness while you are here; while the official holiday period ended last week the tourist season lasts a lot longer than just a few days off over Christmas and New Year.
When it is time for you to think about heading home it is time to think about taking some of those delicious treats home with you.
One of the things that makes it difficult to define the products that make Nelson a special region is that we produce so many things to an exceptional standard, be it wine, beer, cider, fruit, cheeses, potato crisps, peanut butter, chocolate, seafood and even spirits you will find beautiful examples in the Nelson Tasman region.
Just as importantly the many restaurants and cafes in the region are proud to serve many locally produced products but if you are still here on any Saturday morning then a visit to the Nelson Market in Montgomery Square is an absolute must.
The market is where you will find a huge number of artisan producers peddling their wares, some of them started as very small businesses but have grown into well-known national and international brands, Pic’s Peanut Butter being the most famous.
Many of these businesses have remained true to their roots and still have a stall at the market, it is the place they trial new products before adding them to the range they offer the rest of the world.
As well as buying something to eat from one of the many food carts you can buy products that aren’t too big to carry home and will travel well, products like wonderful craft cheeses, smoked fish and hand-crafted cured meats will be fine as long as you keep them cool in a chilly bin or chill bag.
When it comes to wine the Nelson region may produce only a mere 2.5% of the total New Zealand production but boy do they punch above their weight, and they are a lot more than a one-trick pony.
Nelson wineries regularly win more than their fair share of gold medals and trophies at various competitions both here and overseas with those awards covering a range of varieties.
Rather than just being great at producing one or two varieties local wineries have won trophies for sparkling wine, pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, albarino, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, dessert wines and syrah in recent years.
The best advice I can give you is go to the Wine Nelson website – www.winenelson.co.nz – read about the various wineries, awards and accolades for different wineries, download the wine trail map and then spend a couple of days visiting wineries in the region. Every winery can arrange to have your purchases delivered to your home to save you having to carry them in a hot car or on a plane.
The wine region is quite conveniently broken down into sub-regions, the Waimea Plains, Moutere Hills and Tasman so I recommend spending a day visiting wineries in each sub-region.
There are a couple of vineyard restaurants and cafes so plan to stop at one of those or one of the other fantastic cafes you will find in your travels for lunch.
One place you should visit is the Mapua wharf area, recently redeveloped by Tasman District Council this area absolutely hums with activity and choices, from a wine bar that has wines from almost every winery in the region for tasting and to take home to a craft brewery serving great Mexican style food to outstanding café’s, smoked fish shop, coffee shops and even an ice cream parlour.
Wellington may claim to be the Craft Beer Capital, because it is the country’s capital city, but Nelson is the Craft Brewing Capital because we have more than a dozen brewers hand-crafting beautiful beers.
One of the oldest is Townshend Brewery and they have recently relocated from their ‘down a country gravel road’ location to a sparkling new brewery behind Toad Hall in Motueka where you can enjoy Townshend beers with lunch and buy some to takeaway with you from their new Tap Room.
They don’t have a cellar door outlet but Peckham’s produce the finest ciders in New Zealand, as evidenced by them winning five of the seven trophies awarded at the recent New Zealand Cider Awards, and you will find them in most supermarkets and liquor outlets in the region.
Cider trophy number six from the seven awarded went to Stoke Brewery for their Rochdale Cider, you will probably know Stoke as the craft beer brand produced by the next generation of the McCashin family and you can visit their brewery in Stoke where you can enjoy some wonderful food, try some limited edition beers and buy a few beers and a drop or two of cider to take home with you.
If you don’t have the space capacity to take Nelson deliciousness home with you then make sure you spend some time (and money of course) enjoying them while you are here; have lunch at a waterfront or beach café and then head to one of the fantastic bars, cafes or restaurants for dinner.
While you are driving in the countryside you will find The Jester House to be an incredibly popular spot, with tame eels, plenty to keep the kids occupied and excellent food it should be on your must-visit list.
The Old Post Office Store at Upper Moutere has a small but delightful selection of local food treat, many made on site and others from local premium producers, they also have a small art gallery and a Saturday market where you will find all sorts of treats from Moutere artisans.
If it is fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere you are after then you can’t go past either Hopgood’s & Co in Trafalgar St or Harbour Light Bistro on Wakefield Quay but if you want excellent food in a bar setting then it has to be Urban Oyster Bar & Eatery or Harry’s Bar.
The go-to place for great cocktails is Cod & Lobster Brasserie in Trafalgar St where they share an outdoor area with Harry’s Bar and have live entertainment outdoors; they also have the largest selection of New Zealand made gins in the world and New Zealand’s largest selection of gin, products their incredibly knowledgeable staff use to build some exceptional cocktails.
For Asian flavours head to the western end of Hardy Street where you will find everything from Thai food to Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese foods while the region’s pre-eminent vegetarian restaurant, East St Café, is just around the corner in Church St beside Nicola’s Mexican Cantina where you will find authentic and delicious Mexican street food.
Just a few doors down the road you can buy wonderfully refreshing gelato at Roma Gelato before you pop over the road to Volume to buy your next favourite book to read while you are relaxing in the Nelson sunshine before you need to pack your bags and head home.
I have only mentioned a few of the wonderful places to visit in the region but as you travel around the region visiting wineries, cafes and beaches just take your time, relax and enjoy the journey safely.