VIEW TO A THRILL
KELLI BRETT TALKS TO AUSTRALIAN CHEF NEIL PERRY OVER A SENSATIONAL DINNER AT THE LODGE AT KAURI CLIFFS.
Kelli Brett chats to chef Neil Perry over dinner at The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
As I emerged from my cottage to take the short walk to dinner in the main lodge at Kauri Cliffs, a kūkupa (local Northern dialect for kererū, New Zealand’s magnificent native pigeon) swooped across my path and back into the thick stand of bush. The bird’s presence exemplifies the lengths to which the owner of The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Julian Robertson of New York, has gone to preserve the land he purchased five years ago as an investment for his children’s future. (cuisine, 2001)
IN MARCH 2001, Lauraine Jacobs (then Cuisine food editor) visited a stunning lodge in the Far North. Fifteen years later I am taking that same short walk to dinner through lush green ferns, native trees and shrubs towards the impressive main lodge, overlooking some of the most beautiful ocean views I have ever seen. The difference is that tonight’s dinner exemplifies the shift in focus from what was then widely known as a luxury golf experience with all the trimmings, including superb accommodation, tennis, heated pool, fitness centre and private beaches, to an event where world-class food and wine become the main ingredients.
Earlier in the afternoon, we were treated to a master class with one of Australia’s leading, most influential and philanthropic chefs, Neil Perry. It was an intimate affair where Perry shared his secret for achieving that irresistible crunchy, crispy-skinned fish, and a technique for baking fish in herbs and the fresh flavours of citrus and ginger. Yes, there were a few partners tapping their toes and looking longingly out the window at that glorious fairway, but for the most part the guests were in it for the love of good food.
Food and wine are only just starting to compete with New Zealand’s inclination to promote the great outdoors, sport and Hobbits to lure the tourist dollar. Venues around the country are realising the advantage that offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a famous chef, highlighting premium ingredients and beautiful produce and wines, can give them. Especially during the off-peak season.
And so despite my lack of golf prowess, I settle in for what promises to be an amazing night of exceptional food, outstanding Dry River wines from Martinborough, and great conversation with chef Neil Perry.
Here are the dishes we enjoyed, with highlights from my chat with Neil.