SOAR­ING COST OF BRUNCH

Move over smashed avo, Kiwi brunch has a new op­tion at an eye-wa­ter­ing $450-a-head, writes Lorna Thorn­ber.

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

FOR­GET av­o­cado toast, there’s a new brunch op­tion threat­en­ing to sep­a­rate Ki­wis from their sav­ings.

Aus­tralian de­mog­ra­pher Bernard Salt caused a furore so epic it was dubbed ‘‘avo-gate’’ when he sug­gested mil­len­ni­als were strug­gling to save for home de­posits be­cause they were wast­ing money din­ing out on av­o­ca­dos on toast.

But even or­der­ing a pimped up ver­sion of the brunch favourite – Salt claimed he’d seen ‘‘young peo­ple’’ feast­ing on ‘‘smashed av­o­cado with crum­bled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more’’ – can’t com­pare to drop­ping $450 on New Zealand’s new­est brunch­ing op­tion: the heli-brunch.

Mil­len­ni­als sav­ing for their first homes prob­a­bly aren’t the tar­get mar­ket for Hele­tranz, the Auck­land-based he­li­copter tourism com­pany that has just launched the brunches.

But Swede Sofia Am­bler, who co-owns the com­pany with Kiwi hus­band John, says their clients are a di­verse bunch: from fam­i­lies who’ve saved for three months so granny can tick off an item on her bucket list to for­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Hele­tranz also spe­cialises in aerial film­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy – its film cred­its in­clude the Lord of the Rings and Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia trilo­gies – but the he­li­brunch, which Am­bler says is a first in New Zealand, takes things to a whole new level.

As kids, my dad – a for­mer news pho­tog­ra­pher – would re­gale my sis­ter and I with tales of be­ing tossed about in a chop­per by Cy­clone Bola like a fly in a wash­ing ma­chine, so I was slightly pan­icked by the idea of get­ting into one my­self for the first time.

For­tu­nately, the rain-soaked night had given way to a fairly clear day and, seated in the mid­dle of the back row in the seven-seater Euro­copter EC130, I felt only ex­cite­ment as the pro­pel­lers be­gan to whir and we were sud­denly air­borne. Ac­tu­ally make that ex­cite­ment and smug sat­is­fac­tion – there’s noth­ing quite like look­ing down on the snarling traf­fic you’d been stuck in only min­utes ear­lier and tak­ing the aerial short­cut to your des­ti­na­tion.

It was fas­ci­nat­ing to have a bird’s-eye view of the sprawl­ing prop­er­ties, the patch­work green fields and burnt-orange vine­yards of West Auck­land wine coun­try – you see much more than from a com­mer­cial plane.

Within 15 min­utes, we were at the Hunt­ing Lodge, a fam­i­ly­owned restau­rant and win­ery on a 32-hectare es­tate in semi-ru­ral Waimauku.

The restau­rant is presided over by Des Har­ris, the mul­ti­award-win­ning for­mer ex­ec­u­tive chef at Auck­land’s Clooney, and is housed in a cute white villa rich with the smell of ba­con from the mo­ment we stepped in­side.

Har­ris ex­plained that the food is far more re­laxed than the fine­din­ing fare he pre­pared at Clooney; heartier and made LORNA THORN­BER / STUFF, HELITRANZ us­ing lo­cal and sea­sonal pro­duce. The restau­rant is de­vel­op­ing a per­ma­cul­ture gar­den to grow its own veg­eta­bles and lo­cal farm­ers have agreed to sup­ply it with meat ex­clu­sively.

The in­te­rior is cer­tainly in tune with the pas­ture-to-plate phi­los­o­phy.

The short brunch menu is com­fort food at its finest: clas­sic dishes with in­no­va­tive twists. Think potato rosti with house­cured duck pro­sciutto and duck heart sauce, and a di­vine-look­ing amal­gam of bread, fried egg, ham, melted cheese and mush­room sauce that looks like a cross be­tween a croque mon­sieur and a Kiwi cheese toastie.

Two of our group of seven or­dered the big break­fast and, clap­ping eyes on it, I im­me­di­ately wished I had too. The fat potato rosti, eggs fried in lardo (pork back fat that has been cured in herbs and salt), and black pud­ding, are

The Hunt­ing Lodge restau­rant – presided over by ex-Clooney ex­ec­u­tive chef, Des Har­ris – ex­udes a re­laxed coun­try vibe. While fly­ing there, you can you can fly past the Sky Tower, or over Auck­land’s west coast beaches for an ex­tra fee.

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