Onekaka, Golden Bay
I hadn’t been to the Nelson region since I was a child. So, before heading that way for a long weekend, I asked around for recommendations of ‘must do’ dining experiences. This was one of the suggestions that we explored.
With a warm cosy wooden interior, and loads of memorabilia, the Mussel Inn has plenty of character. With outside tables, a huge deck and even a tree swing, it’s a laid back setting. The locals obviously have a sense of humour, and aren’t too keen on cellphones, given the tree covered in various models of mobile phones literally nailed to the trunk.
The food is honest, wholesome and filling. I was impressed that such a remote, rustic restaurant/bar could easily feed a hungry and pregnant vegetarian. I ordered a ‘small’ portion of their hearty nachos dish. It was huge, and very tasty. When in Rome … the husband ordered the Mussel Chowder. It was accompanied by the most scrumptious garlic bread, littered in mustard seeds.
The Mussel Inn is also famous for their boutique brewed beer and cider. We ordered the tasting tray (5 x 200ml glasses for $15) to sample. The line up included; the Golden Goose (4% lager), the light and honey flavours of their hallmark ‘Captain Cooker’ Manuka Beer (4%), a Dark Horse Black Beer (4%), the smoky Red Herring Autumn Ale (5.8%), and finished on their Apple Roughy (4% apple cider). Given my limited tasting ability (the downfall of pregnancy), while the husband savoured the tasting tray, I took pleasure in a glass of Mussel Inn Ginger Beer ($3.50), which having a hint of mint was delightfully refreshing.
You have to visit the loo while visiting. The composting toilets can be a bit scary for first time users, but the unique decoration of the toilet complex is a must see experience.
Onekaka is a two hour leisurely drive from Nelson, over the stomach churning Takaka Hill towards Golden Bay. If you have the time, stop off at the Ngarua Caves at the top of the hill for a coffee and breathtaking views.
In a nutshell: A rewarding day trip destination for anyone visiting the Nelson region.