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  • Writer's pictureJulie Prusak

Fine Dining at New Zealand’s Luxury Lodges

There is nothing fresher than food grown on the doorstep, and for New Zealand’s luxury lodges, it’s all part of the hospitality experience. New Zealand’s green hills are dotted with sheep and cows, its valleys furrowed by rows of grapevines. It makes little sense to look beyond the borders for produce – and for some lodges, it doesn’t even make sense to look beyond their own fence.

Enjoy local and sustainable fine cuisine fresh from the land and sea at these five luxury lodges in New Zealand:

NELSON: The Garden of Edenhouse

For Bobbie Martin, co-owner of Edenhouse, a small luxury lodge in the stunning Nelson / Abel Tasman region, recreating the experience of her childhood – “all the wonderful fresh produce we grew up with and took for granted” – lies at the heart of the food experience her guests can expect.

“Every weekend we’d go to my grandparents. They had beautiful gardens and you’d anticipate your grandmother’s freshly baked Granny Smith apple pie or raspberry jam. What I wanted to do here was create the same thing for our guests.”

Doing so involves harnessing the produce from the lodge’s extensive gardens and sourcing other delicacies from local artisan producers to create daily-changing menus bursting with goodness. Bobbie says she gets her reward when they say: “‘Gosh, our food never tastes like this.’ That’s because it’s straight from the garden to the table, the flavors here are so rich.”

Travel Tips: Nestled in the verdant Orinoco Valley, Edenhouse is an hour’s drive from Nelson, close to Abel Tasman National Park, where hiking and kayaking opportunities abound. Spring and autumn are beautiful seasons, and summer is the best time to take advantage of the gorgeous beaches.

CHRISTCHURCH: Otahuna Lodge -- Season’s Greetings

Picture this: hazelnut and walnut trees, wild porcinis under soaring oaks, oyster and shiitake mushrooms growing in an old apple house, a restored shed filled with melons, cucumbers, and microgreens in the off-season, hives buzzing with bees; in all, 140 varieties of fruit and vegetable and nuts are grown on the 30 acres surrounding the grand Victorian-era Otahuna.

Executive chef Jimmy McIntyre is constantly inspired by the seasonal bounty: “I can go down to the garden and get a zucchini that has just been picked or a carrot fresh out of the earth, or cut some herbs in the early evening so the flavor is just phenomenal. It’s quite magical when you pick a strawberry or a tomato and it’s still warm from the sun. That is really quite special.”

Added to all the goodness on the property, the immediate region, with its many artisan producers – supplying organic Muscovy ducks here and free-range eggs there – is what McIntyre sees as the real star. “I’ve got a fantastic canvas to work with here at Otahuna, and it really is unique and special.”

Travel Tips: Christchurch is the gateway to the spectacular Southern Alps, with world-class hiking and skiing, and Otahuna Lodge is a mere 30-minute drive from the city’s airport. Any time of the year is good to explore the picturesque coves of Banks Peninsula, the vineyards of the Waipara / North Canterbury wine region, or the marine life on the Kaikoura Coast (a 2.5-hour drive north).

HAWKE’S BAY: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers -- Food from the Farm

James Honore, head chef at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, says honoring local Hawke’s Bay produce with farm-to-plate dining – grown on the property and from the wider region – gives guests a deeper understanding of that beautiful part of the country.

“For us it’s about giving a sense of place and it gives us a story behind each dish as well,” he says. “It’s nice when you can say, ‘I know we’ve grown this on property,’ or ‘This has come from this local supplier.’ It just gives extra layers to our service.” The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is very well positioned as Hawke’s Bay is a treasure trove of culinary goodness. Honore relies on stone fruit from a few miles down the road, and almost all the cheese and meat served is from local cows and sheep.

The farm-to-plate movement is becoming an increasingly important part of the luxury lodge experience: “It’s something a little bit extra, something a little bit out of the ordinary – there seems to be a growing culture of it. It is a growing movement within New Zealand.”

Travel Tips: Thirty minutes from Napier (four hours from Wellington), The Farm at Cape Kidnappers perches over the Pacific. That same coast is home to two large gannet colonies, with spectacular cliff formations rising from the sea. The region is stunning all year round, summer is busiest and warmest, while spring and autumn are both likely to produce gorgeous blue-sky days.

NORTHLAND: The Landing Residences - Freshness Guaranteed

The Landing Residences puts farm-to-table dining at the very center of the guest experience. All guests have the luxury of personal chefs and their menus are very much dictated by what’s available and what’s in season. With as much as 80 percent of all herbs and vegetables served grown in the property’s extensive gardens, guests can enjoy the entire farm-to-table process, from taking a walking tour through the gardens and orchards to see where the produce comes from to dining sumptuously.

There are no chemicals, there’s no packaging, it’s out of the garden and into the kitchen where the guiding philosophy is about letting the produce shine, alongside the beautiful wines produced from the onsite vineyards.

Travel Tips: Overlooking sparkling Wairoa Bay, three hours north of Auckland, The Landing enjoys the year-round warmth of Northland’s subtropical climate. The area also has a fascinating history: it was at the nearby Waitangi Treaty Grounds that the historic agreement between Maori and Europeans was signed in 1840.

Nothing says “New Zealand” quite like a working sheep farm, and all over the Wairarapa’s Wharekauhau Lodge, you’ll find 2500 Romney sheep dotting the historic estate’s 5500 acres - guests can see their meat literally growing on the land.

The daily menu is always seasonal and based on what chef Shane Gravatt has on hand: “First and foremost it’s ‘What have we got on the estate?’, ‘What are we growing?’, ‘What can we forage for?’ and then we build it off that.”

Fortunately for the guests, that’s a very long list which might include wildflowers, watercress and eels from the creeks, crab apples and plums for jellies and jams, figs, native kawakawa leaves. Not surprisingly, guests are continually delighted by such abundance, and frequently blown away by the high quality of the cuisine showcasing what New Zealand’s food is about.

Travel Tips: The Wairarapa, separated from Wellington by the Rimutaka Ranges, is one of the country’s finest wine-producing regions, with many boutique vineyards and cellar doors. Wharekauhau Lodge is located on the coast and very close to Lake Wairarapa, the third largest in the North Island.

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