New lease on old site: The Dishery executive chef Ainsley Thompson, elft, with owner and co-developer Scott Stevens


It’s been a three-year ‘‘labour of love’’ but the doors to a new addition in an historic part of Arrowtown finally opened last week.

Developers Scott Stevens and John Guthrie started physical work on a new development behind Dudley’s Cottage, which dates back to 1870, last November.

Despite the Covid-induced interruptions, completion of The Barn, which houses Stevens’ new restaurant, The Dishery, on the ground floor and an expansion of shared office space provider The Coop, above, was only about two months behind schedule.

‘‘It’s taken a long time,’’ Stevens says.

‘‘It’s been a bit of a labour of love … but it’s important to get the right result.

‘‘It’s a sensitive area down here with a lot of history, and I guess what we were trying to do is complement that history, but also make it a working, functional part of modern-day Arrowtown as well.’’

The Barn, designed by local architect Maurice Orr and built by Lakeside Design & Build, provides the missing ‘‘book end’’ to Arrowtown’s commercial hub, while physically it’s a subtle addition, he says.

Once landscaping’s settled, the corrugate building will appear to be ‘‘half-buried’’.

Initially planned to future-proof Dudley’s Cottage and its ‘‘identical twin sister’’ built around 1895 — home to Better By Bike — which had driven more traffic to that end of the town, Stevens says Covid’s changed the game.

‘‘The visitors to Arrowtown have probably gone from what would have been in excess of a million a year to probably back down to about where it was in 2010, 300,000 to 400,000.

‘‘It’s still a heck of a lot of visitors, so if you do the right thing, there’s still a place for good, quality offerings which are designed and angled towards a local market.

‘‘What we’re trying to achieve here is something which is approachable, friendly, generous and high-quality local produce.

‘‘We’ve just got to settle in to what we’re doing, almost a throwback to that 2010 model and the first wee cafe, doing it for ourselves, and we’ll see how many other people like it.’’

The Dishery’s designed as a family-friendly option for breakfast, lunch or ‘‘afternoon grazing’’, open daily from 8am till 7pm, with a secure area for kids to play while their parents or caregivers chill.

The name itself’s an historical throwback to when goldminers had one dish they used to pan with, cook on and eat from.

After a day’s toil they’d head to the area where the new restaurant now sits, and trade whatever they found for creature comforts.

‘‘The Dishery, I guess, would be their ideal port-of-call … like that utopia that a miner back from the 1860s would have craved.’’

“Special twists” to Ainsley’s menu

Six years ago, almost to the day, talented Queenstown chef Ainsley Thompson was getting ready to launch Sherwood’s food offering.

Last Wednesday she launched The Dishery’s.

Special place: The Dishery’s doors were opened to the public for the first time last Wednesday

The mum-of-two, who’s previously worked in Wellington at Floriditas Cafe and Restaurant and Matterhorn, moved to the resort to work in Sherwood’s kitchen after being shoulder-tapped by its owner Sam Chapman.

She hung up her apron just before she had her eldest son, Lachie, now four, and welcomed Fox to the family about 18 months ago.

Thompson says she met Dudley’s Cottage owner Scott Stevens’ wife, Emily, and their two children — both almost the same age — through Mainly Music in Arrowtown.

When The Dishery was in the planning, Emily asked if she’d be interested in helping set it up.

‘‘Then as we got to know each other they were like, ‘you can’t go!’’’

Thompson’s one of 14, all Kiwi, staff employed at The Dishery and has taken charge of the menu, which uses ingredients sourced as much as possible from Central Otago, and entirely from the South Island, at a good price, with a few special twists.

‘‘I wanted to work with the aesthetic of the building and the area …. I wanted it a bit strong and masculine with a few delicate touches through the

“It’s how I make food — I have a feeling that I’m trying to evoke.’’

A Traeger wood-fired smoker’s also been hard at work — ‘‘we can put big chunks of meat on there and make really bad-ass stuff we can have on the menu all the time’’.