I was away for the last ten days taking a high-profile journalist around the country and exploring some themes in more depth than is usual. The identity of the journalist and publication has to remain secret for the moment - until the article is published - but some of the places and themes do not.
Our focus was on currents of New Zealand - Maori/European, landholders/Dept of Conservation and others. She rode horses on a high country station while discussing tenure review; sat in a Maori elder's house and discussed negotiation with government versus continuing the fight; sat in a lovely luxury villa near Taupo and was filled in on Maori investment with reparation and other funds; sat in the front seat of a helicopter overflying Mount Aspiring National Park and came to grips with deer recovery and high country farming.
All of this was against a backdrop of some of the finest accommodation available in the country - and it's one of those I would like to talk about here - Otahuna Lodge.
A beautiful house in beautiful grounds. The best designers unlimited funds could find in the late Victoria era, including gardeners from Kew.
Add to that Hall Cannon and Miles Renfro who have poured what seem like unlimited funds into the restoration of the property and grounds, artwork and the finest staff.
That all sounds fairly good so far - but what makes it truly excellent is the subtlety and finesse which underpins every decision. The sure hand which guides the empowerment of the excellent staff. The respect for humanity which imbues the hosting.
What I so thoroughly enjoyed was the intelligence and sensitivity of the hosting - a grand house experience which was so focussed on the comfort of every individual without directing or judging in any way that one always felt relaxed, at home, cared for. A special thanks goes to Miles and his tour of the grounds, explaining what was originally created, how it lapsed and how it has been brought back. Being fairly well traveled I'm not used to being surprised, but I was surprised by the extensive vegetable gardens and the mushroom house. Now I want a mushroom house too!!!
The chef, Jimmy McIntyre, puts together his creations (and this is definitely not what has been termed 'standard lodge fare') based on what is growing at the time and how he feels on the day. (as well of course as client requirements and passions - my interest in artichokes on the garden tour developed into a beautiful pre-dinner canape).
In all, a delightful experience and something which will refresh at the same time. We recommend at least a day just enjoying this place as well as a couple of activity-filled days.
Did I mention the bathrooms were enormous?Well done Miles and Hall - you've got this one spot-on.