Indulge at Nelson's Urban Eatery. © Nelson Tasman

Indulge: food and drink in Nelson

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1. Top of Trafalgar Street

The top of Trafalgar Street is well known for its bars, cafés and high-end restaurants. One of the newer kids on the block here is the Cod & Lobster Brasserie housed in a beautifully restored historic building and specialising in seafood and cocktails. Closest to the Cathedral steps, it’s a popular place to people watch from the pavement seating out front. 

Spoilt for choice in fine dining, just a few doors away is sophisticated, award-winning Hopgood’s & Co in a stylish heritage terrace, which boasts simple food, done well, and with a menu that changes often to best showcase Nelson’s seasonal produce. Kevin Hopgood is an English import who worked for many years in London, including with the legendary Roux brothers. 

2. On the waterfront 

The Boat Shed Café is something of an institution in Nelson – a fine-dining experience with an over-water location that was all but destroyed in the cyclones of 2018. Now back and better than ever with its polished wooden floors and big picture windows framing the sunsets and passing shipping. The Trust the Chef option is perfect for those finding it hard to choose – offering a selection of seven dishes to share from the day’s a la carte menu.  

3. Raw food and vegetarian

The Kitchen on Bridge Street doesn’t let a little thing like not using refined sugar get in the way of creating delicious food, including irresistible raw slices. Founders Sherilyn and Grant pride themselves on offering nutritional fare made from natural ingredients and wholefoods. The Paleo Burger oozes sauerkraut and avocado, and even the sugar on the tables is of the coconut variety. 

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Not to be confused by the name, East Street Café relocated a few years ago to Church Street. The menus in this retro-cool establishment are encased in vinyl record sleeves and make for sensational meals. Generous portions too ensure you’ll leave fully sated and on open-mic nights there’s a chance to belt out some of your favourite tunes. 

4. Hidden gems

Brunch at DeVille Café and Bar tucked away behind the greenery on New Street could set even the hungriest soul up for the day. The free-range poached eggs and hollandaise on sourdough with added bacon is a favourite here, and during summer music is also on the menu, with local bands featuring.

Microbrewery The Workshop Bar & Brewery is a stone’s throw away, concealed within an unassuming warehouse. Founders Nigel Jerard and Jackie Aislabie serve their own brews, as well as other craft beers, from a container converted into a bar, with a 1955 Ford Prefect perched on top. The cool industrial/retro fit-out has fermented into a popular eatery, with a menu of classic pub-style food with a pit stop theme, including Grand Prix Ribeye steak and Jaguar XK120 Crispy Chicken. 

5. To take away

There’s always a buzz at Milton Street Gourmet Takeaway where speciality burgers, hand-crafted pizzas, and fish and hand-cut chips are on the menu. Chef-owner Tony Carpenter used to crew on luxury yachts where he catered for, among others, Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter. Having formerly set up a restaurant in London’s Soho that received great reviews, he knows a thing or two about quality. The slow-cooked, pulled pork options are especially popular and gluten-free is easy here. Grab your grub and head to the Botanics playing fields, where the kids can let off steam or you can follow up with a hike to the Centre of New Zealand to work off the calories.   

6. Global flavours

The world’s your cosmopolitan oyster when it comes to the range of cuisines on offer in Hardy Street alone. Within a 500-metre stretch are eateries serving Korean, Vietnamese, Italian, Turkish, Thai, Indian, Filipino, Japanese and Chinese. 

Kaimoana is among the offering at the Urban Oysterbar towards the eastern end, where the founder Matt Bouterey is a Michelin-trained chef with a passion for all things food. The stylish joint is sleek yet unpretentious – a place you can dig in and savour the dishes without being afraid to put your elbows on the table.  

For a rev-up try Lambrettas, celebrating its 20th year, where the wall art and gourmet pizzas follow the same theme. Order a Moped here and you’ll end up with a delicious spinach, mushroom, olive and capsicum-topped delight, fresh from the pizza oven.  

And 50 metres off Hardy, tucked away on Church Street is popular Mexican, Nicola’s Cantina – a fun and lively venue where the owner Nicola Cantrick’s taste for the cuisine was inspired while living in LA. She even claims to have a Latin soul. The decorative surroundings make for a special venue in which to devour the tacos, fajitas quesadillas and burritos, enjoyed with a glass of sangria or a margarita. 

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