So I called it Bugger the Birds Cherry Jam
You won't find New Zealand's best cuisine in a flash city restaurant. But you will find it down on the farm at Riverstone Kitchen, Cuisine magazine's Restaurant of the Year for 2010.
After two rounds of secret sampling by 5 judges (including one international posh nosher) Riverstone was judged tops for taste, making it Cuisine's Number One through to September 2011. Not bad for a restaurant that served its first "modern bistro" meal 4 years ago.
"We grow as much as we can ourselves," says head Chef, Bevan Smith. "80 to 90% of the food is local. It helps create a positive vibe. We've got lamb, pork, venison and salmon sorted" - plus herbs and veggies grown on site ("it guarantees freshness") and home made produce - jams, pies, ice cream and bread. "They're all done here. It gives us total guarantee on the quality of the product."
Chief jam-maker, Dot Smith, (Bevan's mum) is famous for creating zany names; ‘Picked at night by car light Apricot Jam' and ‘Bugger the Birds Cherry Jam' - "well, the birds scoffed loads one year."
Jam sessions aside, Dot also runs Riverstone's Gift Shop, a great, rambling barnful of goodies the Smiths opened on their farm "in the 1980's when Rogernomics arrived and we had not a cent to our names." Thirty years on, they've got a gift shop, gardens, playgrounds and Cuisine's top restaurant.
"The day after we won the award, people just started pouring in the door," says Bevan. "We don't advertise. It's all word of mouth. Foodies talk, word gets out." Yes, it does. But why don't you be the judge?
RIVERSTONE KITCHEN: 1431 State Highway 1, 10k north of Oamaru
PHONE: 0064 3 431 3505
More info from the Oamaru i-SITE, Cnr Thames Highway and Itchen Street