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The Luxury Lodges of New Zealand regularly invite and welcome respected domestic & international luxury lifestyle & travel media to showcase our gastronomy, experiences and destinations to readers in print and online.

 

NZ Herald visits Solitaire Lodge, Winter 2021

A generosity of spirit and an abundance of luxury are ingredients that make for perfect getaway

I don't think there's anywhere I'd rather be in the middle of winter than holed up in a luxury retreat surrounded by native bush while the rain pelts down. Aotearoa in the wet and cold and pressing damp is the most beautiful Aotearoa I know; the green foliage becomes luminous, the grey skies feel close and moody. Perched on a private peninsula above Lake Tarawera, Solitaire Lodge is a welcome escape from the grind of the bleak mid-winter. Nestled among dense native bush, the tūī dripping from the branches alongside the rain, the lodge — built in 1980 and one of the country's first luxury stays — oozes an old-world kind of charm, and an old-fashioned sensibility that brings comfort and a sense of wellbeing.

 

Solitaire: everything you need to spend a weekend in supreme comfort. Photo / Michelle LangstoneSolitaire: everything you need to spend a weekend in supreme comfort. Photo / Michelle Langstone

The owner and operator, Wayne Tomlinson, comes out to greet us when we arrive, and introduces us to our surroundings, taking our bags and helping us settle in with a generous warmth that typifies the service at Solitaire Lodge. Usually the playground of international guests keen on trout fishing and luxury escapes, the lodge, like much of the tourism industry, has been hit hard by Covid-19's closed borders. Tomlinson says it's heartening to see more Kiwis coming to stay and making the most of our special locations. Although not the most modern of establishments — the decor at times feels like it hasn't been touched since the 80s — Solitaire Lodge makes up for it in comfort, and the best personal service I have ever experienced in this country. The small staff address us by name with a friendliness and lack of pretension that is welcome — they're helpful and caring without being overbearing, and nothing is too much trouble. The gentleness of approach is calming, and the lodge instantly feels like a luxury wing of your own home.

 

Solitaire's true peace and quiet, should be top of your list. Photo / Michelle LangstoneSolitaire's true peace and quiet, should be top of your list. Photo / Michelle Langstone

We stay in one of the signature Executive suites, which looks across a canopy of trees shimmering in the pouring rain, to the deep lake beyond. It rains for the entire time we stay at the lodge, but rather than feel oppressive, it gives us a chance to truly unwind, to curl up in our generous room with books and movies, and watch the weather move. Tucked into an alcove on our balcony, a deep bath awaits, with candles, bath products and huge soft towels ready. For this heavily-expectant mother-to-be, soaking weightless in a deep tub while spying on the karearea and tūī that brave the weather is a kind of heaven you can only dream of. The room is stocked with a complimentary mini-bar with local wine, and an assortment of tea, coffee, biscuits and snacks, all refreshed daily. There are plush robes and an even plusher bed; in short, everything you need to spend a weekend in supreme comfort.

Solitaire Lodge's tariff comes inclusive of meals, and we spend much of the weekend in a well-fed stupor. At seven in the evening we are invited to the lounge in the main lodge for pre-dinner drinks and canapes, the former washing down the latter, which come in tiny bites of deep-fried goats cheese with honey, or baked olives, or tiny spoonfuls of artichoke soup. The lounge is warmed by a glorious fire, tucked in beside the bar, and there are deep couches to curl up on, as well as tables and soft chairs, and a library corner with books, chess, and backgammon to hand. In daylight, the lounge boasts wraparound views of the lake and the mountains. In fact, there are stunning views from every single room in the lodge.

The entrance to Solitaire Lodge on Lake Tarawera. Photo / Supplied, Hotel De BrettThe entrance to Solitaire Lodge on Lake Tarawera. 

In the dining room, the five-course dinner begins as every good dinner should, with baskets of warm bread, and local olive oil and dukkah and butter. The bespoke menu changes daily, each guest's name printed at the top, and includes the most outrageously fresh and remarkable beetroot soup I've ever laid eyes on, grilled winter salads with truffled cheese, delicately treated vegetables with light butter sauces, and zingy sorbets to cleanse the palate. The menu lends towards traditional French fare, and like the decor, feels like a nod to another era. Each course is small but perfectly formed, and by the end of the evening we are full and nurtured and ready to collapse into bed.

In good weather, there are many outdoor opportunities to engage in, from private excursions in the lodge's boat to visit the Tarawera thermal springs on the lake, to being dropped with a picnic lunch to a spot for a nature hike, where you can take in the Tarawera Falls and native birdlife, to the trout fishing the lodge is famous for. If you're lucky enough to come home with a catch, the kitchen will cook it for you that very evening. The lodge staff can even rustle up a helicopter trip for you with a private guide, delivering you to the summit of Mount Tarawera, and taking in the crater lakes and geothermal areas as you fly. There are dinghies and kayaks to take out on the lake, too, something we wished the rain would ease for, but if you're stuck indoors you can also indulge in spa treatments provided by an experienced spa therapist. Solitaire Lodge is close to the Buried Village of Te Wairoa if you want to engage with the fascinating history of the region, and a stone's throw to Rotorua for more sightseeing if you fancy it.

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Actor Sam Neill invites you to enjoy his favourite dining rooms

New Zealand food is going through something of a revolution, says actor and winemaker Sam Neill

Best places to eat and drink in New Zealand: Actor Sam Neill names his favourite places

 

New Zealand food is going through something of a revolution, says actor and winemaker Sam Neill 

Sam Neill wants to invite you to dinner across the ditch, and he's not the only one. New Zealand's chefs and winemakers are throwing out the black and white, silver fern-emblazoned welcome mat for Australians, whenever and wherever the trans-Tasman bubble allows.

"They've been without visitors for far too long, they're all ripping to go," says the actor, star of such films as Jurassic Park, The Piano and My Brilliant Career, winemaker, and one of the most popular and high-profile Kiwis among Australians.

Hungry diners will find plenty of top-notch dining experiences not only in major cities like Auckland and Wellington but right across the North and South, says Neill, who owns Two Paddock, a winery in the pinot noir-rich Central Otago region, about 75 minutes' south-east of Queenstown.

"New Zealand's food scene has never been more vibrant. New Zealand food is going through something of a revolution," he says. "A lot of the best chefs are using distinctively New Zealand products to produce Pacific food that could only be imagined here. It's some of the most interesting food in the world at the moment."

We asked Neill to share some of his favourite Kiwi food and wine destinations with us. From casual pubs and laidback wineries to fine diners, you will find his complete hit list below, (with a little help from his friends).

Oh, and while Two Paddocks winery doesn't have a cellar door from which to greet visitors, do pencil in a trip across the ditch for early 2022. "We've done a pop-up cellar door before, and we're looking at doing it again in January or February," he says. "It will be somewhere in Central Otago, a casual lunch in a paddock somewhere. They're always great fun."

FAVOURITE NEW RESTAURANT DISCOVERY

AHI, AUCKLAND, NORTH ISLAND

AHI menu with Ben Bayly satjul10cover cover story new zealand nz food and wine with sam neill ; text by Ute Junker ; HANDOUT photo SUPPLIED via journalist ; Ahi Restaurant Commercial Bay Auckland

Ahi, Ben Bayly's new restaurant. Photo: Manja Wachsmuth

SAM SAYS

"I was in quarantine in Auckland for a while and was fortunate enough to be able to order in from Ahi, Ben Bayly's new restaurant. I strongly recommend it. I also like Kika in Wanaka and, more casually, Depot Eatery by Al Brown in Auckland."

TRAVELLER SAYS

If you want a crash course in Indigenous ingredients in New Zealand, Ahi is the place to go. In his latest restaurant Bayly – one of New Zealand's most-awarded chefs - applies his refined technique to ingredients such as charcoaled crayfish served with a lemon-sorrel salad, and wild fallow deer with parsnip and brussels sprouts.

DON'T MISS

The award for the most eye-catching dish has to go to Bayly's butterfish wrapped in bull kelp, looking like a carefully carved piece of pounamu or greenstone.

ESSENTIALS

ahirestaurant.co.nzdepoteatery.co.nz

FAVOURITE CLASSIC WINERY RESTAURANT

AMISFIELD BISTRO, QUEENSTOWN, SOUTH ISLAND

 
satjul10cover cover story new zealand nz food and wine with sam neill ; text by Ute Junker ; HANDOUT photo SUPPLIED via journalist ; Amisfield - Winter Menu - Kiwi Lamington

Amisfield's Kiwi Lamington.

SAM SAYS

"This is a lovely place for lunch. The food is very impressive. Vaughan Mabee is a serious chef."

TRAVELLER SAYS

In summer, take a seat in the courtyard. In winter, cosy up in front of the fire. Whatever the season, Mabee's menu of small plates, and especially his degustation meals, make for a memorable experience. Mabee, who works closely with local hunters, foragers and fishers, is acknowledged as one of the country's best chefs; last year, he was crowned the respected Cuisine magazine's chef of the year.

DON'T MISS

The menu changes with the seasons but if it's on the menu, don't go past the paua (abalone) pie. While you are here, pick up a couple of bottles of Amisfield's pinot noir.

ESSENTIALS

amisfield.co.nz

FAVOURITE FINE DINING RESTAURANT

RATA, QUEENSTOWN, SOUTH ISLAND

satjul10cover cover story new zealand nz food and wine with sam neill ; text by Ute Junker ; HANDOUT photo SUPPLIED via journalist ; Rata Rātā Restaurant Queenstown - Rata's (rather famous) Kiwi dip Southland cheese roll, Speight’s mustard, cornichon jam, fried yeast

Rata's Kiwi dip Southland cheese roll.

SAM SAYS

"I don't like fine dining that much, but there are certain restaurants I have great enthusiasm for. Rata never disappoints."

TRAVELLER SAYS

Founded by star chef Josh Emett, Rata was envisaged as a love letter to New Zealand. A sense of place still shines through in every detail, from the urban forest that surrounds the restaurant to the rough-sawn timber ceiling to the restaurant's name, inspired by a native tree known for its crimson flowers. And of course it's there in the ingredients on your plate, from crayfish to native plants such as kawakawa.

DON'T MISS

Rata's menus are updated regularly but two dishes that seem to have won a permanent place are the Cloudy Bay clams with seaweed butter and chives and the goats cheese profiteroles with honey.

ESSENTIALS

ratadining.co.nz

FAVOURITE LUXURY LODGE CUISINE

MINARET STATION, WANAKA, SOUTH ISLAND

satjul10cover cover story new zealand nz food and wine with sam neill ; text by Ute Junker ; HANDOUT photo SUPPLIED https://visuals.newzealand.com ; 
Licence: WorldWide Licence - Worldwide usage in unpaid digital and print media to promote New Zealand as a visitor destination.Usage: Worldwide usage in unpaid digital and print media to promote New Zealand as a visitor destination.Expiry: Does not expireMinaret Station, Lake Wanaka
Credit: Matt Crawford

Minaret Station. Photo: Matt Crawford

SAM SAYS

"New Zealand has some amazing luxury lodges with amazing food. Minaret Station is accessible only by helicopter [via heliports in Queenstown or Wanaka]; this is glamping with the emphasis on 'glam'. To have a meal up there among the peaks is really special."

TRAVELLER SAYS

Given that the only way to reach this Southern Alps lodge, set at an altitude of 915 metres, is via helicopter, any stay here starts big. The food lives up to the rest of the experience, with seasonal dishes ranging from blue cod ceviche with coriander, lime, coconut and chilli to Te Mana lamb with eggplant and masala paste. Even the breakfasts make an impression, thanks to dishes such as creamy mushrooms with truffle, porchetta, sourdough and rocket.

DON'T MISS

Let one of the lodge helicopters drop you at a scenic spot for the ultimate South Island alpine picnic.

ESSENTIALS

minaretstation.com

FAVOURITE SEASONAL KIWI MUST-TRY DELICACY

BLUFF OYSTERS, SOUTH ISLANDS

SAM SAYS

"In my view, they are the greatest oysters in the world. They are only in season for a couple of months of the year, but at that time any good restaurant will have them on the menu."

WE SAY

These deep water oysters grow naturally in the Foveaux Strait, which separates the South Island and, sitting below it, Stewart Island, New Zealand's third biggest land mass. Bluff oysters are known for their succulence and their distinctive flavour with crayfish, paua (abalone), scallops, salmon, blue cod and whitebait also abundant in these far-flung parts.

DON'T MISS

The oysters' eponymous port town, Bluff, which is about half-an-hour south of Invercargill, the South Island's southernmost city, hosts an oyster festival each year. The Bluff Oyster and Food Festival 2022 festival is set to take place on May 21.

ESSENTIALS

bluffoysterfest.co.nz

FAVOURITE PUB GRUB IN A SEASIDE SETTING

DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH HOTEL, RUSSELL, BAY OF ISLANDS

satjul10cover cover story new zealand nz food and wine with sam neill ; text by Ute Junker ; HANDOUT photo SUPPLIED via journalist ; The Duke

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell, Bay of lsands.

SAM SAYS

"This upscale North Island pub makes a great stop if you are visiting the nearby Waitangi Treaty Grounds [where New Zealand's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed in 1840]."

TRAVELLER SAYS

This elegant and historic waterfront pub started life as a grog shop in the 1820s, when the immensely charming village of Russell was the largest whaling port in the southern hemisphere. It was later issued the first liquor licence in New Zealand.

DON'T MISS

The local Waikare Inlet oysters are a highlight but the slow roasted lamb shoulder is another favourite. The Duke of Marlborough wine list is outstanding.

ESSENTIALS

theduke.co.nzwaitangi.org.nz

FAVOURITE MUST-VISIT SOUTH ISLAND WINERY

FELTON ROAD, CENTRAL OTAGO

Felton Road biodynamic winery, Central Otago, New Zealand satjul10cover cover story new zealand nz food and wine with sam neill ; text by Ute Junker ; HANDOUT photo SUPPLIED wines@feltonroad.com ; https://feltonroad.com/handy-information - Felton Road Winery

Felton Road biodynamic winery, Central Otago. Photo: Andrea Johnson

SAM SAYS

"For my favourite South Island winery, I'm going to say Felton Road, our neighbours here at Two Paddocks. They're friends of ours and make terrific wines."

TRAVELLER SAYS

Felton Road Wines has some of the oldest vines in the Central Otago region, and makes its wines using grapes that are farmed biodynamically on its three vineyards. Winemaker Blair Walter uses minimal intervention methods, avoiding fining and filtration and using only wild yeast. The cellar door is open by appointment only.

DON'T MISS

Try the Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 or the Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5.

ESSENTIALS

feltonroad.com

FAVOURITE 'ON MY MUST-VISIT LIST' NORTH ISLAND WINERY

URBAN WINERY, NAPIER

SAM SAYS

"I get to Hawke's Bay at least once a year and always enjoy finding a new winery. The one that's on my list to visit is Urban Winery in Napier – I haven't been there yet but I'm interested to take a look."

TRAVELLER SAYS

Housed in the National Tobacco Company, one of Napier's beautiful art deco buildings, Tony Bish's Urban Winery is known for doing things differently. Bish, formerly the winemaker for Sacred Hill Wines, focuses solely on chardonnays, and guests to his sleek cellar door can admire his egg-shaped fermenters made of concrete and French oak, as well as tasting his wines.

DON'T MISS

The Zen chardonnay has rich layers of flavour over a citrus core.

ESSENTIALS

theurbanwinery.co.nz

FAVOURITE CASUAL DINING SPOT

AMANO BAKERY, AUCKLAND, NORTH ISLAND

SAM SAYS

"You can really put on a few pounds here – I could quite happily eat my way through their range of cakes. Just try saying no to their chocolate tart – you'll never manage it."

TRAVELLER SAYS

Occupying the ground floor of a heritage building in the fashionable CBD Britomart precinct, this high-ceilinged bakery-restaurant is packed with atmosphere and amazing sweet treats. Whether you opt for something slightly unusual like the Basque cheese cake or the vanilla and rhubarb cake, or keep it traditional with a magnificent lemon meringue pie, there's plenty to tempt you here.

DON'T MISS

We're not going to argue with Sam Neill. Go the chocolate tart.

ESSENTIALS

www.amano.nz

FAVOURITE NEW EATERY ON MY 'MUST DINE AT' LIST

HOMELAND, AUCKLAND

satjul10cover cover story new zealand nz food and wine with sam neill ; text by Ute Junker ; HANDOUT photo SUPPLIED hello@homelandnz.com ; Homeland restaurant Auckland ; mandatory credit : Liz Clarkson ;

Homeland, Auckland. Photo: Liz Clarkson

SAM SAYS

"My old friend Peter Gordon has opened a new restaurant called Homeland. I haven't been lucky to get there yet but everything Peter Gordon does is interesting."

TRAVELLER SAYS

Homeland isn't just a restaurant. Gordon, perhaps New Zealand's most internationally-known chef describes it as a "food embassy", and as well as an all-day eatery, it includes a cooking school, a film studio and a community space.

DON'T MISS

Every six weeks or so, the menu changes to highlight a new group of local suppliers. Dishes may include miso-braised beef cheek with kumara gnocchi and mascarpone, or clams with silverbeet and quinoa in a coconut ginger miso broth.

ESSENTIALS

homelandnz.com

FIVE MORE TOP KIWI TABLES

Not content with only Sam Neill's choices, we asked some of New Zealand's top chefs for their own don't-miss dining options.

WBC, WELLINGTON, NORTH ISLAND

CHOSEN BY SHAUN CLOUSTON, HEAD CHEF, LOGAN BROWN WELLINGTON

"This little place [WBC stands for 'Wholesale Boot Company] is a great choice for lunch. They have a fresh seafood bar where they shuck oysters and clams, and they do a great Goan raw fish curry, a bit like a ceviche. The wine list and the cocktails are also really well done." See wbcrestaurant.co.nzloganbrown.co.nz

FLEURS PLACE MOERAKI, SOUTH ISLAND

CHOSEN BY KATE FAY, HEAD CHEF, CIBO, AUCKLAND

Kate Fay

Head chef Cibo Auckland Kate Fay.

"I absolutely love this rustic restaurant. Moeraki is a small fishing community north of Dunedin, and the restaurant overlooks the whole bay. It has warm friendly service and generous portions of the freshest fish. Have the skate wings or the blue cod." See fleursplace.comcibo.co.nz

CRAGGY RANGE, HAWKE'S BAY, NORTH ISLAND

CHOSEN BY JOSH EMMETT, OWNER, ONSLOW, AUCKLAND, AND THE OYSTER INN, WAIHEKE ISLAND

"Craggy Range is one of Aotearoa's best winery restaurant experiences in the heart of New Zealand's most exciting wine regions. The chef has his unfair share of incredible local produce to showcase seasonally that's matched effortlessly with Craggy Range's delicious wines." See craggyrange.comonslow.nztheoysterinn.co.nz

TASTE OF INDIA, WELLINGTON, NORTH ISLAND

CHOSEN BY LAURA GREENFIELD, CHEF, WELLINGTON'S FIELD AND GREEN, WELLINGTON

"I head to Taste of India at least once a week. There's a queue every day when they open at 5.30. It's takeaway only, no eat in, no Uber eats, but the food is unbelievable. Their tandoor chicken is sensational, the naan is made to order, and it's amazing value." See fieldandgreen.co.nz

MR MORRIS, AUCKLAND, NORTH ISLAND

CHOSEN BY JONATHAN ROGERS, HEAD CHEF, MATAKAURI LODGE, QUEENSTOWN, SOUTH ISLAND

"Michael Meredith, a stalwart of the Auckland hospitality scene, has returned after a couple of years' hiatus with this modern Pacifica cuisine venue. The paua, ginger and seaweed and the octopus, chipotle and mole sauce were my highlight dishes." See mrmorris.nzrobertsonlodges.com

FIVE MORE NEW ZEALAND TASTE SENSATIONS

GREEN-LIPPED MUSSELS

Much bigger than our blue mussels and best enjoyed steamed.

VENISON

New Zealand is the world's largest producer of farmed venison, and local chefs excel at preparing it.

WHITEBAIT

You will find whitebait fritters on almost every menu between August and November.

FEIJOAS

Originally from Brazil, this Vitamin C-rich fruit is grown in many gardens.

HANGI

The traditional Maori method of cooking using an underground pit.

FIVE KIWI COMFORT FOOD CLASSICS

HOKEY POKEY ICE CREAM

New Zealand's contribution to the ice cream world.

AFGHAN BISCUITS

Chocolate and cornflake biscuits topped with walnuts.

L&P

Short for Lemon & Paeroa, this soft drink is advertised with the slogan, "World Famous in New Zealand".

CHOCOLATE FISH

Pink marshmallow with a chocolate coating is a favourite treat for kids.

MARMITE AND CHIP SANDWICHES

A beloved schoolyard treat and hangover food. Best made with salt and vinegar chips.

 

See twopaddocks.com

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Australian Gourmet Traveller April 2021

Perfect timing as New Zealand welcomes back our wonderful Australian neighbours from next week, this months issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller features the very best of New Zealand, cuisine, wine, road trips and our very own Falcon Brae Villa in the Abel Tasman.  Located high on a ridge above Stonefly Lodge, this fully serviced all inclusive three bedroom private villa is the newest addition to the Luxury Lodges of New Zealand collection.  Journalist Nicola Edmonds follows Chef Michael McMeeken and explores the myriad of experiences in one of the countries most spectacular locations that guests can enjoy.  Perfect for the entire family, small group celebrations for up to 12 or an indulgent retreat, Falcon Brae is under an hour from Nelson Airport or better still a short heli flight straight into their landing pad from Wellington or anywhere in the South Island.  

Gourmet Traveller Falcon Brae feature April 2021 Page 19Gourmet Traveller Falcon Brae feature April 2021 Page 18

Gourmet Traveller Falcon Brae feature April 2021 Page 17Gourmet Traveller Falcon Brae feature April 2021 Page 14Gourmet Traveller Falcon Brae feature April 2021 Page 13Gourmet Traveller Falcon Brae feature April 2021 Page 16

Gourmet Traveller Falcon Brae feature April 2021 Page 20

 

 

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The Lap of Luxury screening on TVNZ1 from 16th Feb 2021

If you have ever wondered what life is like at New Zealand's most luxurious properties, make a date with TVNZ1 at 8.30pm every Tuesday from the 16th February 2021.  Lap of Luxury, a 10 episode series will take you behind the scenes of luxury lodges across New Zealand and Australia to hear the very down to earth stories about what makes them, their people and the experiences so memorable.  To air later in 2021 in Australia and globally in due course.  For further information please contact emma@luxurylodgesofnz.co.nz.  Also available to view on TVNZ On Demand in New Zealand.

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