Indulge in the Bay’s food and wine can be tiring work. Here are some of the best places to rest a weary head.
The Manse is a former parson’s house that has risen again as “a gentleman’s farm”. Gary Grootelaar won’t mind me saying he looks less than a gentleman as he tramps into the paddocks in Swandri and shorts, tosses me a pair of gumboots, and advises, “Don’t step on that wire, it’s live> We have to keep the pigs out of the garage.”
First impressions can be deceiving. They will be, an hour later, when Gary dons his chef’s whites in the kitchen-dining room of what’s been described as “one of the finest luxury lodges” in the Bay.
Gary has one of those CVs that makes you think you might have coasted through life. A Kiwi of Dutch descent, he won a golf scholarship to Oklahoma University, represented New Zealand and Holland at international level, turned professional and was resident pro at Royal Hague Golf Club for nine years.
He’s also a talented chef who has cooked in some of our best restaurants and in Michelin-starred restaurants as well as gaining professional hospitality qualifications and working in multi-starred hotels.
Gary and wife, Dietske, have renovated the 1910 minister’s home above Maraekakaho, 15 minutes from Hastings and Havelock North. This was once the country’s largest sheep stations; now it’s known as the Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa vineyards.
Dietske has furnished the lodge in country-house style with European antiques, designer fabrics. The two guest suites are surrounded by portraits and mementoes from her family history. A tiny library accommodates two more of Gary’s passions: fine whiskies and rare cigars.
While guests appreciate activities like golf (Gary sends players to courses near and far via helicopter, and passes on his expertise), claybird shooting, winery tours, cookery classes, fly-fishing or lazing by the pool, cuisine is at the heart of this experience. Some 85 per cent of food comes from the farm’s cattle, pigs, hens, scurrying guinea fowl, orchards, and vegetable gardens; water from limestone springs. Gary is a perfectionist, passionate about the ocean, forest and field produce he puts on his table. Nor does he travel too far for his wines – Alpha Domus is next door; olives from the next property along.
Black Barn checks most of the boxes. Vineyard, winery – tick. Gourmet kitchen, artisan produce – tick. Bistro – tick. Summer concerts – tick. Farmers’ Market – tick. But many may not be aware of its most low-key yet most stylish offering: the Black Barn Retreats. Over the past 20 years the property around Te Mata Peak and Tukituki Valley has evolved from one cottage into a wine, food and luxury accommdaiton destination, guided by owner Kim Thorp and Andy Coltart.
Black Barn now has 16 rental properties, all family owned (not by Black Barn) and designed for their owners by Coltart.
Each is self-contained; living in its location and expressing its owners’ style. Nestled in the vineyards, river valleys, hillsides and beaches, all are luxuriously furnished.
Napier is (sorry, Charles Dickens) a tale of two cities – the colonial outpost prior to the 1931 earthquake and the art deco spirit that rose after that terrible event. Nowhere is that spirit better represented that at the Art Deco Masonic Hotel.
Over the past six years, the Queen Mother of the foreshore has transformed into one of the country’s finest and most individual hotels, recognised at the Hospitality NZ Awards.
Hard to believe that a few years ago the place had descended into a sports bar and backpackers. Two farsighted locals, Neil Barber and Craig Hay – one a financial wizard; one a décor expert – resuscitated the gorgeous palace as a place that royalty would be (and have been) enchanted to stay in.
Each room, the architecture and furnishings and 1930s cups and saucers, is unique. Barber and Hay committed to a no-expense-sparred mission to retain the hotel’s boutique look and feel. Each of the 42 rooms explodes with colour, feature walls, soft headboards and furnishings. Three suites are named for famous guests – satirist Mark Twain, pioneer flyer Jean Batten and the hedonistic dancer Anna Pavlova. And, like every good historic hotel since Agatha Christie days, the Masonic has a ghost.
Havelock North village is perfectly placed for visitors wanting to explore the Bay’s wineries, golf courses and activities without having to travel back to Napier after a hard day’s tasting.
Local businessmen David Mackersey and Andy Lowe saw a gap in the market and created Porters Boutique Hotel, with 32 luxury rooms and 10 suites. It’s no stretch to say that no other kiwi town of this size has this level of hotel, shopping precinct, and as award-winning bar-restaurant in Malo.
Looking for more Winter inspiration?
- The Gourmet Life - published by MiNDFOOD magazine
- Read your way around Napier with 'Words on Walls'
Words by Ewan MacDonald
Published by MiNDFOOD Magazine
While you are here
Fit for a King
At Ahuriri Crown Hotel choose from heritage suites and modern rooms and apartments.
Step Back in time
In central Napier, rest in style at Dome Apartments in the 1937 T & G Building.
On the Land
Mangarara Eco Lodge is country farm where visitors can connect with a simpler life.