Over 150 years ago weary miners made their way from the Arrow River goldfields to Arrowtown in search of food, drink and entertainment cementing the town’s early reputation as a significant hospitality outlet.
Today the Dudley’s Cottage Precinct, alongside the Arrow River reserve and the restored Chinese Settlement, takes its inspiration from the town “born of gold” with its enduring legacy left by the district’s early pioneers.
The Precinct, owned and developed by Arrowtown businessmen John Guthrie and Scott Stevens and designed by architect Maurice Orr, is an appealing contemporary complex incorporating Dudley’s Cottage, one of the area’s oldest stone houses.
“The old and the new buildings blend comfortably on the site and a key business is The Dishery Bistro which my wife Emily and I launched in November last year,” says Scott.
With work on the restaurant already underway when the Covid-19 pandemic struck it was a daunting time.
“We did wonder do we need to do this right now but then we came back to our long-term vision to open a bistro catering to local people, families and visitors. The response is evidence we made the right decision.”
The Dishery takes its name from the pan or dish used by miners for cooking, eating and gold panning.
“The dish was a miner’s most treasured possession and The Dishery means ‘a place of many dishes’,” says Scott. “The bistro is a modernistic, industrial design, light, airy and spacious. Emily was responsible for the interior design and large sliding doors opening to the popular outdoor area effectively bringing the environment inside.”
The menu is created by well-known Queenstown executive chef Ainsley Thompson.
“It is designed for likeminded people to us,” he says. “The philosophy is to use locally sourced fresh food where possible and there is good consistency of supply particularly from our main sources such as the Nevis Gardens in Gibbston Valley and the Rocket Man in Hogans Gully Road near Arrowtown.”
The innovative breakfast, lunch and early dinner menu ranges from smashed avocado, southern fried cheese roll or chorizo hash to gurnard fillets, Havoc pork belly, the signature steak sando and Bloody Mary salad.
Arrowtown brewed beers from the Arrowtown Brewing Company and Lake & Wood Brew Company are on tap along with a Bannockburn and Gibbston dominated wine list underlining the Stevens’ loyalty to local producers.
“While our main focus is our daily menu available from 8.00am until 8.00pm we welcome people to drop in for a coffee or a scone, particularly walkers and cyclists on the nearby trails and young families who can relax in our secure fenced outdoor area.”
Scott says it was important to get The Dishery right from the outset.
“This site will always be a hospitality business and we needed to ensure we delivered what we promised. We feel we have definitely achieved that.”
Heritage Lives On
Dudley’s Cottage was built around 1880 by Irishman William Butler, one of the first to arrive at the Arrow River at the onset of the goldrush in 1862.
The cottage comprises two buildings, built 17 years apart, and was sold to George Dudley around 1911 and subsequently owned by the Dudley and Garbutt families until 2004.
“In 2009 as new owners we saw the potential to transform the rundown property and celebrate Arrowtown’s gold mining past,” says co-owner Scott Stevens. “We extensively renovated the cottage and luckily found the original building materials were still in good shape and we were able to retain them.”
A café and gift shop operated in Dudley’s Cottage before closing to make way for the development of the Precinct, which consists of two new buildings.
The Shed, to the south of the cottage, opened in 2018 providing space for artist Jenny Mehrtens’ private studio and A Little Something gift shop. The Barn, located behind the cottage, was completed in late 2020 and houses The Dishery Bistro on the ground floor with The Coop shared office space above while Better By Bike offers bike hire and tours from the original cottage premises.