Welcome to 2020, I sincerely hope the holiday season has treated you kindly so far and that you have been enjoying some wonderful Nelson foods and beverages, and if you enjoyed a little too much of the latter last night then the next few days should be all about great food and alcohol in moderation.
The Nelson region is treasure trove of exceptional artisan food producers and if you are lucky enough to live in this beautiful region then you will know I have been hunting them out so I can tell you about them.
If you are a visitor then, firstly, welcome and secondly, you should check out a few websites (see below) so you know where to go to find many of these fantastic producers.
But a good place to start are the markets held at various times each week. The most well-known is without doubt the Nelson Market held every Saturday in the inner city. This market is one of the most successful in New Zealand and is the place many household names first sold their products; think Pic’s Peanut Butter, Hogarth’s Craft Chocolate and The Smoke House smoked seafood products.
It’s the place you will find some exceptionally talented people who handcraft delicious treats that you will only find in Nelson while they refine their products before growing into much larger producers. One to watch is Craft French Pate, these guys produce a range of beautiful products that are so popular you will need to visit them at the market before they sell out at around 11.30am.
Another producer on the rise is Thorvald Cheese and the sister brand Little River Cheese. Thorvald produce sheep milk cheese while Little River cheeses are made from A2 cow’s milk. You may have seen these cheeses in supermarkets around the country, but the Nelson Market is where you get to talk with the producers.
Then there’s the Nelson Farmers Market, held each Wednesday in Kirby lane in the CBD, where you will find a number of smaller producers who have a focus on artisan and organic production.
Each Thursday evening the Isel Twilight Market in Stoke is packed with food carts selling a huge range of foods as well as many local producers. One of my favourite food carts is Viva La Vaca who serve Argentinian slow-cooked meats, think slow cooked pork belly with crispy crackling served in a bun with sauce as mild or hot as you like, delicious! Just search for them on facebook to find out more.
Further afield is the Motueka Sunday Market held in the Deck’s Reserve car park. Some of the producers and food sellers go to multiple markets so if you can’t get to one then just choose another.
The latest spectacular visitor experience in the region is Pic’s Peanut Butter World, not only has Pic Picot created a range of nut butter products that simply dominate the peanut butter market but his Peanut Butter World is the place to go to see how it’s made and to enjoy some great food in the café. If you want to go on a tour of the factory make sure you book in advance.
While the markets are a great place to find locally produced foods, beverages and crafts it is worth getting in your car and visiting some of the excellent cafes and wineries in the region. If wine is your thing then go to the Wine Nelson website, download the Winery Guide so you have it ready to access on your mobile then choose a sober driver (you need to buy that person lunch) and visit three or four wineries in a day, more than that and you won’t have time to really appreciate the wines you will taste, and buy to take home of course.
The Nelson wine region is quite conveniently divided into sub-regions so you can pick one sub-region each day and learn about how location really does impact on the wines.
If you are feeling brave enough to go to go with the crowd head to the Mapua Wharf area, I say ‘brave’ because this destination has become one of the most popular in the region. Located right on the wharf at Mapua you will find Golden Bear Brewing that has recently been expanded to include an outstanding restaurant serving Southern California/Mexican style food to go with their great beers. They also have a range of ciders and wines on tap.
As well as gift, craft and homeware stores you will find a coffee roaster, ice cream shop and two more restaurants set right on the water’s edge while at Rimu Wine Bar they have at least one wine from every winery in the region, so when you have filled up on great food then stop in for a guided tasting of regional wines or simply enjoy a glass of deliciousness while you watch the people go by.
When the sun has gone down and it’s time to relax for the evening it’s hard to resist Nelson City and the range of restaurants and bars you will find there. The top of Trafalgar St has now been closed to vehicles so it has become a real focus for outdoor dining options and is also home to one of New Zealand’s finest restaurants, Hopgood’s and Co were not only awarded Two Chefs Hats in the 2019 Cuisine Fine Food Awards but head chef Aaron Ballantyne was named a Silver Fern Farms Ambassador after winning the best dish and best chef awards with a venison dish.
At the very end of the street by the Church Steps is the Cod & Lobster Brasserie where you will find New Zealand’s largest selection of Gins and bar tenders who are passionate bout crafting the very best cocktails going.
But dining in the city isn’t just about Trafalgar St, Just around the corner in Church St are Nicola’s Mexican Cantina for authentic Mexican food and the vegetarian haven East St Café. At the west end of Hardy Street you will find lots of Asian options as well as the family favourite Lone Star while at the eastern end you will find a number of bars serving great food, in particular Urban Eatery and Oyster Bar.
Tucked away in a side street (New Street) is a hidden gem. Workshop Bar & Brewery may be in an old warehouse but they have a range of craft beers on tap as well as those they make on-site to go with typical bar food available, bar food that is great quality and particularly tasty. They also have a two-for-one pizza night every Wednesday.
These are just a few of the delights you will find in the region and if you want to read a few reviews about producers and venues here then check out my website – toptastes.co.nz/new-zealand/nelson/
And here are a few links to help you find your way around the region