ANOTHER CUP, PLEASE
Sometimes a tired mum needs a break — and a butler
The need to escape my family had been creeping up on me for a while, thanks to their constant demands, especially the ever-changing bedtime call-outs usually ending with: “I’m very sorry to tell you this, Mummy, I really am, but I just can’t get to sleep.”
Instead of sympathy, increasingly I found myself sighing, “Give me a break!” And that’s just what I got, after accepting the challenge to be away from my family for a weekend at Cordis Auckland for butler service and pampering – my first solo trip from the family since my son Henry was born 12 years ago and his sister Georgina nine years ago.
On the first morning, instead of kids jumping on the bed, I was awoken by a civilised wake-up call, followed by a knock on the door by a very chipper butler delivering me a freshly brewed coffee. It’s nice to be on the receiving end for a change and I take my time before heading to the 10th-floor club lounge for breakfast.
It’s the perfect place for solo travellers, because most people are also on their own, such as a chirpy American businessman who is asking for “danishes to go”, but “definitely only if the napkin is recyclable”, as well as “a decaf with just a brush of milk”. Business travellers, it seems, aren’t shy about having their needs met and relying wholeheartedly on the butler service, which includes unpacking and packing your suitcase. But I’m far from familiar with having a butler at my beck and call, so I unpack my own bag – this time.
After breakfast, I head to our old neighbourhood on Auckland’s North Shore, where we lived when our children were born. Henry sends me a text wanting to see all the old sights, so I start snapping and sending from the beachfront path.
Back at the Cordis, I thoroughly make up for my morning run with a high tea tower spilling over with savoury beetroot and licorice-cured salmon on crumbly sable biscuit, egg and cress sandwiches and pork pies, as well as ricotta cheesecake with strawberry and Pimms jelly, with a glass of Louis Roederer champagne.
About halfway mark, Lobby Lounge supervisor Mali Jammanee brings out a selection of test tubes filled with 25 different teas from white, yellow, green, oolong, black, dark and herbal infusions, and an extra tray filled with buttermilk scones, jam and cream.
I choose a dark tea, Shou Puerh, which is a rare tea buried in a clay pot underground for seven years; the strongest tea in the world with a smooth, smoky taste. I FaceTime Georgie and she wishes she could reach into the phone and grab all the tiny cakes I can’t eat.
It feels a bit Monty Python-ish trying to fit one more into my mouth, so I’m given a “doggy bag” and head to the Chuan Spa, where I’m offered five tiny clay pots filled with essential oils based on the five elements of Chinese medicine – earth, water, fire, wood and metal. I decide on “metal”, which has frankincense, lime and mandarin and is meant to “loosen the feelings of sadness”. After a 45-minute massage, I’m led to the “dream room” as well as the chance to experience the rooftop pool, jacuzzi and tri-bathing ritual with sauna, steam room and ice bath.
Later that night at the in-house 8 restaurant, I Snapchat Georgie and show her around the eight kitchens – from sushi to Italian to Indian.
There’s also an American grill where more jovial chefs cook meat to order, including ostrich, kangaroo and Georgie’s favourite animal, the alpaca. It’s here she decides to end the Snapchat conversation in horror as I ask for it to be cooked medium-rare.
While I wait, the seafood catches my eye: great big bowls filled with the bounty of the sea and Croatian-born sous chef Patrick Jankovic talks enthusiastically about the little fishing companies he works with to source produce such as giant frog crabs, fat green-lipped mussels and rare turbot, “the king of the sea”. My turbot is undeniably good.
Patrick also slices me a piece of pork, which he says is from a farmer who raises free-range, milk-fed pigs especially for Cordis. It’s paired with an Urbanaut IPA beer, locally-crafted for Cordis, which I’m assured is “a little hoppier than other IPA beers”.
My bed is being made when I arrive back at my room and a Maori proverb has been left on my pillow: He hono tangata e kore e motu; ka pa he taura waka e motu, or Unlike a canoe rope, a human bond cannot be severed.
It reminds me, as the whole solo holiday has, that time passes, children grow, life is fleeting. And that being away from your family can somehow make you feel more connected to them. I make a mental note on my return to be more patient when I hear: “But, Mummy, I’m too hot/cold/thirsty/just can’t possibly get to sleep!”
HIGH TEA Relax, indulge, the choice is yours at Cordis Auckland where a high tea tower is hard to resist.