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A grand old lady of Queenstown’s cafe scene has had a makeover worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – and had a wine thrust into her hand.

Walnut Cottage, situated between Lake Hayes and Arrowtown and built in 1870, was snapped up by prominent Central Otago winery Akarua this year.

On Saturday, it reopened to the public as Akarua Wines & Kitchen By Artisan, thanks to a partnership between the Skeggs family-owned winery and Queenstown’s Artisan Catering.

It completes a new triangle of cellar doors near Lake Hayes, with Amisfield and Wet Jacket nearby, along the main highway.

Fresh from the oven: Akarua Wines and Kitchen by Artisan cook Jay Sherwood hard at work  PICTURE: OTAGO DAILY TIMES
Fresh from the oven: Akarua Wines and Kitchen by Artisan cook Jay Sherwood hard at work PICTURE: OTAGO DAILY TIMES

Akarua general manager Kathryn Pettit says the decor has been modernised for a more contemporary restaurant feel and the building is now surrounded by a 160sq m deck.

The extensive decking was a huge undertaking, she says, leading to its original budget being doubled, for a total cost in the hundreds of thousands.

“What we wanted to do is retain the character of the cottage and the beautiful garden setting that it had and I think we’ve done that.

“The comments have been amazing so far,” Pettit says.

Great feedback: Kathryn Pettit
Great feedback: Kathryn Pettit

While Akarua will retain its cellar door in Bannockburn, having a cellar door near Queenstown was vital, she says.

“To get tourists to Bannockburn is hard and it’s getting a lot harder because of the limited time that people have on their itineraries. It was a way for us to have a shop window for our brand as a destination.”

The Lake Hayes venue, which takes limited bookings, operates between 9am and 5pm, with a licence to operate until 11pm two nights a week.

Day-to-day operations are handled by Artisan Catering owners Debbie and John Pickens.

It has been a big year for Akarua, after it bought two Central Otago vineyards – 25 Steps and Kawarau Estate – taking its total vineyard holdings to more than 130ha.

Akarua, which markets itself as the largest family-owned winery in Central Otago, picked up the champion pinot noir title for the third consecutive year at the NZ International Wine Show awards in October.

Otago Daily Times