When we planned to visit Queenstown, I knew we had to visit Rata. One of MasterChef judge Josh Emett’s various Queenstown establishments, the restaurant’s reputation preceded it.
Their website says that a vegetarian menu is available on request, so I booked us in for a vegan dinner for two.
The restaurant was a welcoming retreat from the crisp, Queenstown evening; the staff were endearingly warm and attentive. The maître d’ talked us through options that the chef would be able to prepare for us, then we enjoyed a beer at the bar before being seated.
First up was a complementary amuse bouche of heirloom tomatoes with slivers of pickled onion and crispy bread:
I ordered the open ravioli with oyster mushrooms. It was sensational. The oyster mushrooms were meaty indeed, some left whole and more were finely minced and layered between three sheets of slippery, al dente ravioli, all drizzled with intense truffle oil.
The butter crunch lettuce side was an unexpected delight. You can’t beat fresh, crispy lettuce with a creamy dressing and peppery sprouts. You just can’t.
My other half ordered the gnocchi, which looked gorgeous on the plate. I snuck a taste, and it was fresh, subtle and delicious. Fortunately, I preferred mine.
I can’t resist French beans. These as well as the butter crunch salad are standard items on Rata’s menu (subject to seasonal change), but the beans usually come with feta. They were salty, crunchy, vibrantly green and occasionally offered a burst of sweetness from the raisin, caper coating.
There was even a vegan dessert option: coconut sorbet! It sounded and looked pretty unassuming, but again was a fine dish indeed. It had a twist of lime and the merest hint of chilli. Genius.
The portion sizes were perfect. You can gleefully munch (we did!) your way through course after course with barely a delay between each and leave satisfied not stuffed. It didn’t bust the budget either; We ordered three beers, two mains and a (kid’s) dessert and it came to just over $100.
I’d highly recommend a visit to Rata if you’re in Queenstown and looking for a memorable vegan dining experience. Just make sure you let them know in advance, they’ll take care of the rest.