A GREAT NEW ZEALAND GOURMET WEEKEND

By Cuisine11 Minutes
June 20, 2022By Cuisine

Cuisine editor Kelli Brett combines a little luxury with some outstanding Wairarapa flavour.

 

GOURMET TOURISM IS A THING

New Zealand is stepping up to become a serious player within this deliciously niche style of travel – niche because it’s designed especially for a new generation of discerning, well-travelled consumers.

So, I’m on a mission over the next few months to showcase a taste of our very best for you, and what better way to start than with a glorious weekend with the team at Wharekauhau Lodge, nestled beneath the stunning Remutaka Range on Wairarapa’s south coast? Back in the 1800s,
New Zealand farmers would bid ferociously to get their hands on a Wharekauhau stud ram for their flock. Today, the farm covers some 1,300 hectares and carries 300 head of beef cattle and 6,000 sheep, and the very first glimpse of this magnificent estate will fill you with a sense of arriving somewhere special. The property’s strong farming heritage translates all the way through to the lodge today, with everything made by hand and sourced from the land. Now owned by American businessman and vintner William (Bill) Foley and his wife Carol, it’s run by general manager Richard Rooney, who has been at the helm for more than 10 years. He’s no stranger to farm life, having grown up on a farm just outside Rotorua, and it is clear that he has mastered the art of creating personalised memories for a clientele that is used to experiencing the extraordinary. In 2018, Richard was named one of the top 20 luxury resort general managers in the world by Luxury Travel Advisor.

 

GOURMET TOURISM IS A THING

New Zealand is stepping up to become a serious player within this deliciously niche style of travel – niche because it’s designed especially for a new generation of discerning, well-travelled consumers.

So, I’m on a mission over the next few months to showcase a taste of our very best for you, and what better way to start than with a glorious weekend with the team at Wharekauhau Lodge, nestled beneath the stunning Remutaka Range on Wairarapa’s south coast? Back in the 1800s, New Zealand farmers would bid ferociously to get their hands on a Wharekauhau stud ram for their flock. Today, the farm covers some 1,300 hectares and carries 300 head of beef cattle and 6,000 sheep, and the very first glimpse of this magnificent estate will fill you with a sense of arriving somewhere special. The property’s strong farming heritage translates all the way through to the lodge today, with everything made by hand and sourced from the land. Now owned by American businessman and vintner William (Bill) Foley and his wife Carol, it’s run by general manager Richard Rooney, who has been at the helm for more than 10 years. He’s no stranger to farm life, having grown up on a farm just outside Rotorua, and it is clear that he has mastered the art of creating personalised memories for a clientele that is used to experiencing the extraordinary. In 2018, Richard was named one of the top 20 luxury resort general managers in the world by Luxury Travel Advisor.

CUISINE, CULTURE AND COMMUNITY

There is no getting around it, a meal at Wharekauhau is definitely a special occasion, but despite its incredible aura of exclusivity, there is that cosy and casual feeling of great Kiwi hospitality at this grand, luxury hideaway.

Executive chef Rob Cullen treats the entire estate as his pantry, and with extensive vegetable and herb gardens, premium coastal lamb and beef, and beach, valley and foothill foraging options at his fingertips, you can expect an ever-changing menu that will allow you to taste a wealth of flavours from some of the most outstanding artisan producers and growers of Aotearoa. From within the Wharekauhau kitchen, Rob curates and cultivates a community of suppliers that is as passionate about the creation of exceptional food – if not more – than he is. His inspiring ingredients list includes hand-speared butterfish, octopus and sea tulips from Ocean Speared, wild venison and fresh native honeycomb from Awatoru, crayfish and pāua from Tora Collective, farmed kingfish from Ruakākā Kingfish, hand-crafted salami and cured meats made from heritage pigs at Poaka, fresh truffles from Kings Truffles, hand-made cheese from Cranky Goat and Drunken Nanny, and the hugely innovative pāua saucisson and ocean mortadella from New Fish. The Foley family owns around 30 vineyards in New Zealand and the USA, so you can expect an opportunity to taste some of their best and rarest bottles along with some of the finest in the country.

YOUR PERFECTLY GOURMET DAY

If a full weekend is out of the question, the estate welcomes day visitors to experience a taste of their unrivalled Wairarapa hospitality. This includes ‘trust the chef’ dining; an adventurous ATV quad bike trail; and a competitive sporting clay target shoot. You might helicopter in from Wellington city, up and over the fabulous Remutaka Range and out over the dramatic Palliser Bay to touch down on the lawn, where you will be greeted with a glass of champers and a multi-course lunch before your flight back. Or you may prefer to relax in the Hauora Spa and experience a treatment that is exclusive to Wharekauhau – the Foley Vine Body and Soul – focussing on the natural skincare qualities of the humble grape. Who knew? But what a terrific idea. You’ll receive grapeseed exfoliation, followed by a crushed grape mask, facial and a full-body massage that will exceed your grape expectations.

However, an overnight stay at one of the 16 cottage suites or the three-bedroomed Foley Villa will deliver the ultimate Wharekauhau escape. Expect total relaxation, adventure, five-star pampering and delicious indulgence – and with the help of the remarkably talented lodge team you can orchestrate your own exclusive and unique experience.

WARNING!

Wharekauhau Lodge has one extreme element of danger. In your room you will find a jar of Mrs Eglington’s shortbread. In the 1930s, she would bake these for afternoon ‘smoko’ for the farmhands who were working the land. I’m not sure if anyone has ever documented the danger of being alone in a room with a jar of shortbread that is this good. You can find the recipe below – although, it’s probably not a good idea. wharekauhau.co.nz

View Mrs Eglington’s shortbread

THE BIG FINISH

A perfect way to round out your gourmet weekend would be to make the gorgeous 40-minute drive from Wharekauhau Lodge through to Martinborough, where you will find more than 20 premium wineries within biking distance of the village square. Cycling the vines is a tremendous way to sample the region’s best drops, or you might choose to let someone else plan your itinerary and take a half- or full-day guided tour with Martinborough Wine Tours. martinboroughwinetours.co.nz

A gourmet approach to a day in Martinborough should include an exploration of the village square and a visit to these three spectacular tastes of local flavour. Please note that booking ahead is advised. At Moy Hall you can taste homegrown pinot noir, syrah, pinot gris, viognier and sauvignon blanc wines from a little Scottish longhouse – owned and operated by Carolyn and Philip McArthur – where a view of the surrounding vineyard is an absolute delight. Lunch is relaxed, with a small and thoughtful menu that changes often, but if it is on, you must order the homemade gorgonzola and sage gnocchi. You will thank me for it. moyhall.nz

After lunch head to Olivo on Hinekura Road, where Helen and John Meehan are creating top-quality artisan olive oils at the oldest commercial olive grove in the Wairarapa. Helen gives tree-to-table tours and will take you through a tasting of her vibrant flavours. Make sure you grab a bottle of their now legendary porcini-infused olive oil – it’s superb on risottos, pasta or anything to do with eggs. olivo.co.nz

For dinner I suggest Karahui Wine Bar & Eatery, located in the historical old bank on Memorial Square, where you can experience the considerable talents of chef David Napier and an interesting selection of wines. The team is slick and offers superb hospitality. The house-made aubergine tortellini with Sichuan dressing alone is worth the drive… from anywhere. karahui.co.nz

Kelli travelled to the Wairarapa courtesy of 100% Pure New Zealand and wairarapanz.com For a constantly updated list of Wairarapa cellar doors and opening hours, go to wairarapanz.com.