VIEW TO A THRILL

KELLI BRETT TALKS TO AUS­TRALIAN CHEF NEIL PERRY OVER A SEN­SA­TIONAL DIN­NER AT THE LODGE AT KAURI CLIFFS.

Cuisine - - CONTENTS -

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.

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