I first heard of Aggy's Fish and chips shack right on the esplanade of Queenstown beach from a fellow tourist who asks Nathan the ever helpful Crowne Plaza Queenstown Concierge whether it's safe to eat there. He nods says that it indeed safe to eat there and the tourist breathes a sigh of relief as he's eager to have some freshly cooked New Zealand green lipped mussels. We walk past the little black painted shack and see the queues outside. Aggy the cook is inside busily taking orders and cooking them to order all within the confines of his tiny shack. We make a mental note to come back when we have a quick look a the menu. Not only is there fish and chips but there is also a Wild NZ menu full of unusual items, the most interesting being the muttonbird meal (or Titti bird as it's also known here or sooty Shearwater). Aggy has been here for 3 years and before that he had a stand in Wanaka and one in Cromwell but when he gets tired of his surroundings he moves. Aggy's son also works there. I later ask Nathan about this shack and he tells me that it had previously been an ice cream shop, and a sushi shop.
We come back one lunchtime. Aggy is friendly, one of those characters that you feel instantly resembles a Popeye cartoon character. I order a mutton bird meal $20NZD and the Green Lipped mussels $10NZD and a Sea Scallop fritter $2NZD (yes, $2!). I watch him make the orders, he's organised, well you have to be to make food in such a small surroundings, and I watch him steam the mussels by putting them in a metal mixing bowl and flipping it upside down onto the hot plate leaving the bowl on top to steam them in their juices.
Mutton Bird Meal $20NZD
After about 5-10 minutes we're given our food. He's a big fan of the mutton bird and tells us how rich in Omega 3's it is. We're fascinated by the dish, the mutton bird being incredibly fatty and tasting intriguingly of fish. He tells us that mutton birds need to learn how to feed very quickly and well as they need to pack on the fat to survive the South Atlantic ocean temperatures in which they survive. He tells us of a particularly bad year when they weren't able to do this and a whole lot of them washed ashore dead, unable to survive. When they're able to, he shows us with his hands how big they are when he receives them. The flesh is dark, darker than duck meat and softer than soft, very much like a confer and the fatty skin is plentiful all over the bird.
Biting into it is interesting. It tastes strongly of fish because that is what the birds themselves eat which explains why it is so high in Omega 3. Later my husband confesses to me that he was burping mutton bird burps which reminded him of cod liver oil (but don't let that put you off, it is quite nice indeed although I can imagine some might be wary given that description).
Green lipped mussels 14 for $10NZD
I try the green lipped mussels which are gorgeous especially with the sweet chili sauce.
Scallop fritter $1.80NZD each
And scallop fritter? A gorgeously soft scallop combined with a light batter. I couldn't ask for more than eating it in front of the Queenstown view.
Later we drive to "Paradise" an area past Glenorchy where some of the Lord of the Rings movie was shot (we see a LOTR tour showing fans the view). You can see why, the drive is gorgeously scenic although at times of rain and subsequent flooding not advised unless you have a 4WD. When you reach Paradise sadly there is no sign signifying "Welcome to Paradise" (how perfect would that sign be?). In fact Paradise is actually the start of a river.
Sheep, sheep and more sheep!
A stoic looking bull
On our way we drove past the deceptively unassuming looking entrance to Blanket Bay Lodge where international celebrities flock for privacy and luxury. The gate looks like a regular gate and when we stop we notice that it's an electronic gate where there is a woman in a car waiting for it to close. We assume that it's an employee ensuring that the gates close and that no stray interlopers enter. Let's save that for another holiday shall we?
Aggy's Fish & Chips Shack
Marine Parade, Queenstown, New Zealand
Open 7 days