Picture the scene: it’s the 1870s and with the southern gold rush in full flood, Dunedin is roiling with life. Amid the prospectors, ne’er-do-wells and respected business owners, the city’s literati, journalists, publishers, editors and writers established a press club and library in a suite at Wains Hotel to meet, discuss and debate, and possibly a drink was taken.

Today, the hotel is in the throes of refurbishment (as part of the newly minted Fable brand) to create a modern, boutique five-star hotel offering full-on luxury. Opening in late October, the hotel restaurant – named The Press Club in tribute to those early patrons – boasts original Victorian-era heritage features, and while marble table tops, dark wooden floors and plush fabrics nod to times past, it’s all brought thoroughly up-to-date with a contemporary light touch and lots of luxe.

Ronnie Ronalde, CPG Hotels/Fable Group Operations Manager says, “In creating The Press Room we’ve captured the local region and folded that into the heritage of the building and the history of the area to make a locals’ destination that is welcoming at all times.”

The regional influence flows through the menu, too, with an approach that Group Executive Chef Jinu Abraham describes as “hearty food taken in our own direction – simply good food to eat.” So he offers a slow braise of Provenance lamb shoulder served with miso-glazed pickles, or Otago wild fallow sourced from the Merchants of Venison, alongside venison boudin noir, carrot purée and a chocolate jus and Havoc Farm pork belly matched with scallops. And with head chef Darren Smith hailing from Mosgiel you can bet they’ve nailed the cheese rolls, too.

The Fable brand has a clutch of other properties in Auckland, Picton and Christchurch in the pipeline. Ronnie Ronalde says, “People say we’re mad to launch Fable as a new brand right now [with New Zealand’s borders closed]. But we’re creating this for Kiwis.” fablehotelsandresorts.com