Land of the Lodge

To travel through New Zealand’s stun­ning South Is­land via its lux­ury lodges is to truly un­der­stand the Old meets New World hos­pi­tal­ity of the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Maxx-M - - COVER STORY - Text by Nick Wal­ton | Pho­tos by Nick Wal­ton and cour­tesy of each prop­erty

Stay­ing at New Zealand’s lux­ury lodges is slow travel at its very best. At each fas­ci­nat­ing prop­erty, guests delve into the per­son­al­i­ties and his­to­ries of the prop­er­ties and their hosts, kick their heels up amidst lav­ish ac­com­mo­da­tion, sam­ple the best of lo­cal pro­duce, and do so against some of the coun­try’s most stun­ning land­scapes. It’s an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar way to travel for a new gen­er­a­tion of jet set who want to look be­neath the skin of one of the world’s most sought-after des­ti­na­tions, es­pe­cially in the cooler months of May to Oc­to­ber when the South Is­land, decked out in the vi­brant colours of fall, of­fers a bril­liant respite from the heat of Southeast Asia. Our driv­ing hol­i­day starts at Otahuna Lodge, on the out­skirts of Christchurch, the largest city on the South Is­land. A his­toric Queen Anne-style home lov­ingly re­born, wreathed by 30 acres of stun­ning gar­dens, and staffed by hos­pi­tal­ity innovators, Amer­i­cans Hall Can­non and Miles Refo bought Otahuna in 2007 and re­vived the prop­erty. With the help of Kiwi man­ager and

ex­ec­u­tive chef Jimmy McIn­tyre, they have cre­ated a prop­erty that wel­comes vis­i­tors from across the globe. Its five sump­tu­ous gue­strooms, in­clud­ing the magnificent Rhodes Suite, are decked out in an­cient woods, be­spoke fur­nish­ings and sub­tle yet cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy. Chef McIn­tyre is renowned for his sim­plis­tic yet el­e­gant ap­proach to fine din­ing, a phi­los­o­phy that places lo­cally sourced in­gre­di­ents, in­clud­ing 130 va­ri­eties of veg­eta­bles, fruit and nuts grown in the lodge’s own gar­dens, front and cen­tre. Each evening his fare is show­cased with canapés in the leather-clad lounge, fol­lowed by a de­lec­ta­ble five-course din­ner in the main din­ing room, a space filled with an im­pos­ing dark tim­ber din­ing ta­ble that looks like it should be in a cas­tle. Sig­na­ture dishes in­clude chipo­tle prawns with tomato and roasted pep­per soup; lo­cally caught monk fish with lemon, vanilla and a saf­fron risotto; and Can­ter­bury duck breast with quince jus, ku­mara puree and au­tumn veg­eta­bles, all from the Otahuna gar­dens or from within 100 kilo­me­tres of the prop­erty. In re­mote Pi­geon Bay on the Banks Penin­sula, we visit New Zealand’s new­est lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion con­cept, An­nan­dale, a col­lec­tion of four unique houses, each vastly dif­fer­ent from the next, and each spaced a good 30-minute drive across a work­ing farm from the other, en­sur­ing the ul­ti­mate in pri­vacy. We ar­rive at Seas­cape, one of the most re­mote of the four homes, after a 45-minute drive by farm 4x4 along spec­tac­u­lar clifftops that plum­met to the mus­sel beds of Pi­geon Bay, the farm’s Black Angus cat­tle watch­ing our progress. A sim­ple farm track leads steeply down to a re­mote bay wreathed by a stony beach and rocky head­lands. Nes­tled into the hill­side, Seas­cape is stun­ning from first glance, a spa­cious, unashamedly mod­ern villa with a glass façade that makes the most of its stun­ning sur­round­ings. While there is plenty to do at An­nan­dale, from hik­ing and bik­ing to cook­ing classes, most guests come here for the lux­u­ri­ous soli­tude and the novel “we cre­ate, you serve” ap­proach of ex­ec­u­tive chef Paul Jobin, which means a gourmet din­ner and break­fast is cooked, vac­uum packed and de­liv­ered be­fore check-in, need­ing just min­i­mal

prepa­ra­tion. In our case it’s mar­i­nated green lip mus­sels from a farm across the bay; Can­ter val­ley black lac­quer dug leg with ba­nana ly­chee rel­ish and a scal­lion pan­cake; and lemon pas­sion­fruit curd and honey macadamia wafers with the farm’s own rasp­ber­ries. Ev­ery­thing ei­ther comes from An­nan­dale’s farm or from pro­duc­ers within 50 kilo­me­tres of the prop­erty. After din­ner my wife, Mag­gie, and I curl up on a pair of daybeds be­side the out­door fire­place and Jacuzzi, the wa­ters of the bay be­fore us cast in the lin­ger­ing light of a star­tling canopy of stars. It’s noth­ing short of mag­i­cal. Many trav­ellers visit Oa­maru, on the east coast of the South Is­land, for its colonies of seals and blue and yel­low-eyed pen­guins, but in­stead we head for the hills, to Pen-y-bryn, a cat­e­gory one his­toric home nes­tled in metic­u­lously land­scapes gar­dens over­look­ing the township. Built in 1889, Pen-y-bryn was bought by Amer­i­cans James Glucks­man and James Boussy in 2010. The his­toric Vic­to­rian home boasts five rather cosy gue­strooms, three of which will be­come suites in Septem­ber. Like some­thing out of a C.S. Lewis novel, Pen-y-bryn fea­tures a near-end­less line of beau­ti­fully pre­served liv­ing rooms, dens, lounges and snugs (in­clud­ing one fea­tur­ing a full-sized bil­liards ta­ble com­mis­sioned by the New Zealand houses of par­lia­ment). Filled with beau­ti­ful ob­jects d’art from the own­ers' many years spent in Asia, Pen-y-bryn is a more tra­di­tional lodge, where the lines be­tween pri­vate home and ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tion are bliss­fully fuzzy, and where the Old World hos­pi­tal­ity of the own­ers, mar­ried with fan­tas­tic lo­cal fare, is the ma­jor draw­ing card. A high­light of any stay is din­ner, which com­mences with com­mu­nal cock­tails and canapés by the fire, fol­lowed by a five-course din­ner in the grand old din­ing hall. Slow food lover James Glucks­man is an Of­ficier Mav tre Hôte­lier in the Con­frérie de la Chavne des Rôtis­seurs, the Paris-based gourmet so­ci­ety, and serves up dishes that are not only in­ven­tive and de­li­cious but are al­most en­tirely sourced from the lodge’s own gar­dens, home-made in its kitchens or bought from lo­cal sup­pli­ers. Com­bined with the fas­ci­nat­ing dé­cor of this his­toric home, Peny-bryn of­fers a homely inn open to trav­ellers the world over.

We travel south­west to Glenorchy and Blan­ket

Bay, the Grand Dame of New Zealand’s mod­ern lux­ury lodge era, hav­ing opened in 1999. Un­like Otahuna or Pen-y-bryn, Blan­ket Bay was built as a lux­ury lodge, one de­signed to at­tract the

well-heeled from the United States and Eu­rope, although to­day you’re as likely to hear Ara­bic or Chi­nese spo­ken in its tim­ber-clad Great Room as English or French. The lodge, flanked by the ex­panses of Lake Wakatipu on one side and by im­pos­ing peaks on the other, is a des­ti­na­tion in it­self. De­signed by US ar­chi­tect Jim McLaugh­lin and built us­ing lo­cally sourced schist rock and re­cy­cled tim­ber, Blan­ket Bay boasts just 12 lux­u­ri­ous gue­strooms and suites, in­clud­ing four lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed stand­alone Chalet Suites. In ad­di­tion, there are great liv­ing rooms with dou­ble-height pic­ture win­dows and tow­er­ing fire places, in­ti­mate bars and snugs, a mod­ern game room, wine caves (plu­ral), its own spa and fit­ness cen­tre, an out­door pool and an in­door spa that looks through French win­dows to the western tip of the lake. The lodge is the per­fect jump­ing-off point for trav­ellers look­ing to ex­plore Milford Sound and Fiord­land Na­tional Park, and when guests re­turn to the lodge, din­ner cooked by ex­ec­u­tive chef Corey Hume is wait­ing in the el­e­gant Lake View Din­ing Room. His culi­nary cre­ations range from Can­ter­bury quail with cele­riac puree and chorizo through to Port Ni­chol­son cray­fish tail with co­ral and miso emul­sion, seared scal­lop and roasted veg­eta­bles from the lodge gar­dens. As al­ways the fo­cus is on sim­plis­tic fine din­ing that lets the in­gre­di­ents – and the awe-in­spir­ing sur­rounds – speak for them­selves. The last stop on our itin­er­ary is lo­cated closer to Queen­stown and is fit­tingly more mod­ern.

Matakauri is the five-year-old sib­ling of ac­claimed North Is­land golf des­ti­na­tion lodges Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kid­nap­pers, and brings a much more con­tem­po­rary feel to the South Is­land scene. Po­si­tioned over­look­ing Lake Wakatipu and the tow­er­ing Tooth Peaks that form the bor­der with the prov­ince of South­land, Matakauri fea­tures just 12 gue­strooms, four clas­si­cally lo­cated within the main lodge build­ing, the rest stand­alone apart­ments with stun­ning views and clean, mod­ern dé­cor that takes its cues from au­tumn in Otago. The Owner’s Cot­tage, the lodge’s pent­house, ac­com­mo­dates eight in ab­so­lute lux­ury.

The warm colours of the suites are con­tin­ued in the main lodge build­ing, where break­fast and din­ner is served in the in­ti­mate din­ing room, on the out­door pa­tio or in the pri­vate li­brary. Head chef Jonathan Roger’s menus are in­spired by the pro­duce of New Zealand’s south­ern prov­inces and his à la carte menus change daily but in­clude the likes of roasted scal­lops with black pud­ding and beurre noisette, deep sea ter­ak­ihi with mus­sels and dill, and smoked Otago duck with beet­root, goat’s curd and blood or­ange. Matched with wines from Cen­tral Otago, it’s a fan­tas­tic way to fin­ish our New Zealand gas­tro­nomic jour­ney through the South Is­land’s top lux­ury re­treats.

Blan­ket Bay

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