Situated on New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown is well-known for being the ‘adventure capital of the world’. With so many opportunities to take part in throwing yourself off something high in one way or another, it’s definitely an adventure-seeker’s paradise. Add four ski fields, a bunch of bars and a tonne of hospo jobs into the mix and you can see why so many travellers never leave!
With so many bars, clubs and restaurants, it’s easy to gorge yourself on beer and fast food (I’m looking at you, $5 Dominoes). If you are feeling a little rough the morning after, there is one place in town that can be sure to reinvigorate you with some nutritional healing.
As I do with every new place, I researched what vegan options Queenstown had to offer. I found there were no 100% vegan or vegetarian places, but a couple of vegan-friendly restaurants that offered dairy and meat free choices. One place in particular caught my attention for offering the most vegan options and healthier alternatives, so one lunch time I headed down to Rehab.
Although not vegan or vegetarian due to offering meals containing eggs, chicken and salmon, Rehab undoubtedly understands veganism and clearly marks all choices with allergen labels. There was actually quite a large choice for me and I struggled to decide between a hot bowl of noodle soup and their popular kale Caesar salad. Despite being wrapped up in five layers to protect myself from Queenstown’s icy winter winds, I opted for the salad as I haven’t actually enjoyed a decent Caesar salad since becoming vegan 18 months ago! I also doubled up on greens, ordering a kale smoothie that was loaded with sweet fruits and spirulina.
The salad was fantastic; my only complaint is that it wasn’t big enough! It came topped with coconut bacon which was honestly UNREAL! The smokey, salty bursts mixed with the creamy Caesar dressing, juicy diced tomatoes and fresh baby kale worked perfectly. I could happily have munched my way through a whole bowlful of the bacon! My smoothie was also a hit; ice cold but not watery, thick, fruity and refreshing. My friend ordered a Mexican inspired salad, which was also great!
As I was deciding what to order, I got chatting with the guy behind the bar who turned out to be Richard, one of the founders of Rehab. It was instantly clear how incredibly passionate he is about sustainability, locally sourced organic produce and his dream of running a zero waste restaurant. He told me how he first opened a place in Frankton, just outside of Queenstown’s centre. Along with friend Alex, they embarked on a journey to create somewhere people could grab a healthy snack – originally selling smoothies and jacket potatoes! They have evolved massively since then, have moved to a central location and have increased their focus on working with local farmers. Richard explained how he always visits each farm and sees the produce from seed to harvest, ensuring all produce is of the best quality. They always use seasonal veggies and organic wherever possible.
It was the idea of a zero waste restaurant that really interested me. After working on a cherry orchard and witnessing the tonnes of perfectly good fruit being left to rot due to bruises or imperfect shape, Richard was determined to create somewhere that minimised waste as much as possible.
It was fascinating to hear how each little bit of food was able to be used in two or three processes after its main function. For example, the tomatoes are chopped to make the pico de gallo. The seeds are removed but are emulsified to create a tasty salad dressing. Oranges are used in juices and the peel used in their amazing chocolate orange truffles. Greens that are starting to wilt are dehydrated to create powders for the smoothies. Coffee granules are repurposed into beauty products… The list went on!
‘Grab and go’ items that don’t sell (and would otherwise go to waste) are donated to a local charity called Happiness House. Rehab’s vision for the future is to be able to help the charity with a bigger idea; using any leftover veggies etc to create nutritious frozen ready meals which can then be distributed to people who need a little extra support, through a food bank set-up. They also work with youth charity Youth Booth to educate local kids about nutrition and food sustainability.
Following my conversation with Richard, I was inspired to write this blog post. There is nothing in store to advertise anything relating to the zero waste policy or charitable donations, so I wanted to share more information about a place that is doing so much good in its community. They have also recently set up a website that allows parents or carers to select nutritional school lunches which are delivered to the school so that children can enjoy a healthy packed lunch. Like in the restaurant, there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options to choose from.
It’s tricky to know what’s best when it comes to dining at non-vegan restaurants as the vegan community is often very divided on this subject. Some people would rather avoid anywhere selling meat, whereas others will wholeheartedly support restaurants offering vegan alternatives in the hope that it will encourage further meat free options. I fall on the latter part of this spectrum and like to support places offering vegan choices. The more popular these choices are with diners, the more likely it is that a restaurant will increase them, ideally leading to a reduction in meaty meals.
Rehab is doing so much good in many other ways, that I definitely think it’s worth looking at the whole picture. This restaurant is sourcing organic, seasonal, local veggies and is almost at a point of being waste free – that’s incredible! With the reduce, reuse, recycle mentality, it’s amazing to hear what COULD be done in other restaurants to help create a more sustainable planet.
So if you are visiting Queenstown, go and show Rehab some love! Grab yourself a tasty vegan lunch or sweet treat, enjoy some local produce and feel good that you are putting your money towards a company that is doing so much for their local community 🙂