Explore the flavours of Queenstown’s newest dining precinct

Opening its doors to the public in late 2023, Ayrburn is the newest edition to Queenstown’s food and wine scene.

Although a first-time traveller to New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown’s picturesque mountainsides and crisp, cool air welcome me like a long-time friend. After my three-hour flight from Sydney, the thought of a hearty feast paired with a nice glass of wine (or two) bodes well. As luck would have it, this fantasy shall soon be a reality. A short 15-minute drive from Queenstown Airport leads me to the region’s newest dining precinct, Ayrburn.

Opening its doors to the public in late 2023, Ayrburn is the newest edition to Queenstown’s food and wine scene. It boasts dynamic culinary experiences and scrapbook-worthy scenery, an ideal combination for any travelling foodie or wine connoisseur. The countryside hospitality precinct doubles as a vineyard, growing quality grapes for its signature wine selection. Ayrburn has invited me to explore all of this and more, encouraging me to savour every morsel, sip every drop and ask countless questions as I learn more about what makes Ayrburn so special. It’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it.

The history of Ayrburn

Dating back to 1864, Ayrburn is one of New Zealand’s first and most successful farmsteads. Set in a bucolic pasture just outside of Queenstown, it was purchased by Chris Meehan in 2015, whose plans for the farm far exceeded expectations. The space has since become a hospitality juggernaut, offering an exciting enticing range of new and upcoming culinary destinations on-site. As it currently stands, guests are invited to indulge at The Woolshed; The Burr Bar; The Manure Room; The Dairy; The Dell; and The Barrel Room – with each establishment offering distinctly different gastronomic experiences, from classy dinner parties and sophisticated wine tastings to hearty feasts and themed cocktails. Meehan emphasises that Ayrburn is “not just a destination; it’s an invitation to have fun and experience the best of New Zealand’s food, wine and hospitality.”

A full view of The Manure Room
A full view of The Manure Room on a crisp morning at Ayrburn

Stunning scenes of Ayrburn

The drive to Ayrburn from Queenstown Airport is short but sweet, travelling down wide roads sandwiched between hectares of farmland. Although seemingly remote, in reality, the precinct sits only 10 minutes from Arrowtown and 20 minutes from Queenstown. New Zealand’s ever-imposing mountain ranges are the backdrop to my drive, a sight that grants me countless photo opportunities as I cruise along.

As I approach the winding pathways of Ayrburn itself, I am greeted by freshly manicured lawns and cottage-style buildings. It’s set atop a flat, lush plantation where quality grapevines are nurtured and matured. The farm-turned-precinct uses these for its signature wine selection, a process its passionate team of wine specialists are immensely proud of. Showcasing the origins of its wine selections’ curation plays an important role in Ayrburn’s identity of craftsmanship.

The precinct draws inspiration from its surrounding farmlands, with open fields and stone pathways creating an organic, natural atmosphere. The restaurants and cellars add to this setting, with overgrown shrubbery covering some of the light-brick buildings scattered across the precinct. Ayrburn’s aura and design are derived from its 19th-century origins, delivering an authentic, farm-style experience with the elegance you’d expect from a modern dining precinct.

Vineyards at Ayrburn
The stunning scenery of Ayrburn

Tastes of Ayrburn

As we enter the Manure Room (nicer than it sounds), Ayrburn’s wine and beverage manager intends to showcase every drop in his arsenal. I’m treated to an exclusive wine tasting, with each sip explained by Henry and ‘The Wine Club’ booklet. Home-grown grape fills every bottle, however every drop varies in flavour and finish. From the refreshing acidity and dry finish of the Ayrburn Dry Riesling 2022 to the subtle hints of oak in the fruit-driven ‘Whimsy’ Pinot Noir 2022, each leaves a distinct imprint on my tongue. I am delighted to learn that all of Ayrburn’s signature wines are available to purchase online.

Ayrburn’s dynamic range of casual and fine dining ensures I’m in for a treat. Lunchtime at The Woolshed is a sharing menu, an opportunity for executive chef Richard Highnam to show off his ambitious (and delicious) creations. His creativity is explored through a combination of flavours you wouldn’t expect to mix, but do. I start with melt-in-your-mouth Southland venison tataki, ponzu, pear and coriander, offering splashes of sweet and savoury in the same bite. Following that are servings of rib-eye on the bone and fresh market fish, which are so juicy they taste marinated inside and out. And finally, just as I think I’m too full to go on, a fruity pavlova dances its way across the table. Needless to say, I found a little extra room in my belly for this sweet treat.

A group of peeople eating a meal at Ayrburn
A dynamic culinary experience awaits at Ayrburn

Something for everyone

A devotion to culinary excellence is weaved through every bite, sip and taste at Ayrburn. The hospitality precinct has been constructed to suit every palate, from the pickiest eater to the most adventurous foodie.

Before arriving at Ayrburn, I wasn’t sure of how kid-friendly a vineyard could be. However, the further I explore, the more my mind changes. With so many open pastures and shaded grass areas, the prospect of a family picnic immediately springs to mind. As I make my way down to the creek, I see folks dipping their toes in the crystal-clear waters, an activity I was close to partaking in myself. Only metres away from the shallow waters is a giant fish-themed playground, a favourite amongst the kids, according to Meehan.

“We wanted to create a destination where locals and visitors alike could spend the day with friends and family to simply enjoy being together over world-class food and wine,” says Meehan. He admits that his goal is for Ayrburn to be Queenstown’s most-visited location, a feat he believes to be within reach.

It’s thirsty work. So, after enjoying such a mouth-watering feast, it’s off to try more of the local tipples. A standout is the Burr Bar, where I satisfy my sweet tooth with a lamington-inspired cocktail. Unusual, perhaps, but better than it sounds. From creekside playgrounds to underground cellars, the possibilities here are endless.

A bartender pouring a drink
Indulge in a range of beverages curated by Ayrburn’s experts

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