Luxury Adventures are doing a series of interviews with some of our key suppliers looking at the different aspects of their lives and how these influence the experiences they offer. The Rees Hotel is located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand.
Mark you’re the CEO at the hotel, can you tell me a little about your background and what you bring to The Rees?
I have spent my entire working life in the hospitality industry in the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand. Being a trained chef and a specialist in food and beverage services I have managed vineyard and winery operations in addition to hotel management duties. I came to The Rees Hotel Queenstown directly from an appointment as General Manager of the prestigious Cameron House on Loch Lomond, one of Scotland’s finest luxury hotels. It boasts two golf courses, five dining rooms, a marina, a spa (voted best spa in Scotland), a staff of 450 and a guest list that ranges from sport stars and celebrities to the King of Jordan.
Living in Queenstown must have its pluses Mark. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Biking, skiing, golfing at Jack’s Point and making the most of the great outdoors. This coupled with an ever-changing flow of visitors makes Queenstown the most cosmopolitan and exciting place to visit and live in New Zealand.
Where do most of your guests at The Rees originate from, do you have a large mix?
Australia is our largest market followed by New Zealand, the US, China, the UK, India and Germany.
The Rees’ name has an historic meaning, tell us more about that and how it is reflected in the hotel?
The Rees Hotel Queenstown is a fresh expression of the hospitality tradition established nearly 150 years ago by Queenstown’s pioneering explorer, first settler, farmer, ferryman, builder and first hotelier, William Gilbert Rees. At The Rees we are proud to continue the traditions of this father and founder of Queenstown. He was a man of extraordinary achievements – the explorer who literally put Queenstown on the map, the farmer whose merino grazed over more than 240,000 acres of Wakatipu basin land, a first-class international cricketer and all-round sportsman and an accomplished artist.
What sets The Rees apart from other hotels in Queenstown?
Absolute lakefront luxury in both hotel rooms and apartments with views looking over Lake Wakatipu to the Remarkables Mountain Range.
You must spend some time in Queenstown, what do you see as a “must do” experience for visitors?
Skippers Canyon Jet – a four wheel drive excursion into the wilds of Skippers Canyon with selected stops to take in its breathtaking beauty while learning a little of the history of the gold miners, followed by an adrenaline-pumping jet boat ride on the upper reaches of the Shotover River.
Your in-house restaurant True South Dining Room has won several awards, tell me which are you most proud of?
An invitation for our Executive Chef Ben Batterbury to cook at the legendary James Beard Foundation in New York. He designed and prepared seven courses of fresh New Zealand food matched with seven iconic Kiwi wines during a prestigious lunch for the US food media followed by a dinner for illustrious Institute members. And we are still fizzing at True South Dining Room being awarded the 2012 Award of Excellence by US wine and hospitality bible, Wine Spectator. We have invested $200,000 plus into our cellar programme so the recognition is fantastic.
What is Executive Chef Ben Batterbury’s signature dish?
Ben – “It is difficult to pick a single dish because True South’s cooking is so fresh and seasonal that our menu changes as regularly as the produce available at the time of year. However, it’s fair to say we have a ‘signature style’ – we are known for using Otago and Southland game meats and making use of all their various cuts. We have made some fantastic terrines that incorporate every part of a rabbit cooked in a different way, and of course venison is prominent here. We are currently home-smoking Southland venison and serving it with a salad of organic beetroot with horseradish, hazelnut sable and dark chocolate oil.”
Can you share a typical True South recipe with us?
Cardrona Merino Lamb “Tagine” with Falafel, Cauliflower Couscous and Black Olive
Serves approx 8
2 lamb topsides marinated in oil with cumin seeds, cinnamon, star anise and garlic. To serve just fry the meat in a pan until golden and roast in the oven, leave to rest for 10 minutes then carve and serve.
4 lamb short ribs marinated in brine (1ltr water, 100g salt, 20g sugar).
Add to the brine:
20g cumin powder
5g star anise
10g coriander powder
2 cloves garlic
15g fresh ginger
3g cinnamon powder
Leave the ribs overnight then drain, rinse and dry. Brown these in a pan and reserve.
In another pan fry one sliced onion until soft then add a tbsp of honey and caramelize this.
Add 200ml white wine and a litre of chicken or lamb stock.
Add a small amount of fresh spices used in the brine and simmer briefly.
Put this and the ribs into a braising dish, cover with tin foil and cook in a 150 degrees Celsius oven for about 1-1.5 hours until tender. Leave to cool.
Gently remove the ribs and chill. Pass the liquor and reduce until sauce consistency. Reserve.
When ready to serve brush the ribs with the sauce and bake in a hot oven (180 degrees Celsius) until glazed and heated through.
Dried Apricot and Cinnamon Puree
70g dried apricots
250 ml water
½ tsp cinnamon powder
2g cumin seeds
10ml grape seed oil
Boil all ingredients except the oil in a pan until the apricots are tender. Then blend adding more water if needed, then add the oil and pass through a fine sieve. Reserve.
Falafels (will make about 30)
250g dried chickpeas soaked overnight then rinsed and drained.
5g chopped garlic
100g chopped onion
1 tbsp butter
Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until soft and leave to cool.
12g cumin powder
12g coriander powder
Toast the spices in a dry pan.
½ bunch coriander, chopped
1g chill flakes
1 slice white bread, crusts removed
1 red chilli finely diced
Place all into a food processor until it becomes a paste then fry one to check the flavour. When happy shape the falafels and reserve until needed.
Dry a handful of pitted black olives in a low oven or dehydrator until dry then blend with a touch of olive oil to form a paste. Reserve.
200g cauliflower grated on a cheese grater
1 tbsp butter
In a hot frying pan add the butter until if foams then add the cauliflower and fry until golden brown. Add the coriander and a pinch of salt and it’s ready!
To plate and garnish, I use a few toasted sliced almonds, some cooked whole chickpeas, some buttered cavolo nero cabbage and some fried aubergine. Brush the plate with the olive paint, place the cavolo nero at one end and put the carved topside lamb onto this. At the other end spoon the cauliflower and place over the ribs. In the middle of the plate place the falafels. Sprinkle with almonds, spoon around a few chickpeas and the aubergine, then dot the apricot puree around the plate. Finish with a spoon of the rib sauce and enjoy!
Tell us more about your wine cellar; what Central Otago wine do you recommend?
Our cellar houses some of the greatest vintages from the Bordeaux region alongside some truly iconic New Zealand wines, many in multiple vintages. Our Central Otago collection is the most extensive in the district, if not New Zealand. Amongst the best ‘new’ pinots we have ‘put down’ are the fine pinot noirs from Surveyor Thompson, a single vineyard producer from Central Otago.
What “little extras” can guests expect to find at the hotel?
One of the finest wine programmes in New Zealand hotels, honest food that reflects the wonderful produce available in our district, a private wharf where both jet boats and water taxis ply their trade, a pillow menu to compliment our wonderful Rees beds and, best of all, a great team of people that I get to work with on a daily basis!
If you had 10 days to see as much of NZ as possible, where would you visit?
The tourist loop that runs from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo/Aoraki through to Queenstown. Base yourself in Queenstown for three days and include a trip to the wonders of Milford Sound (which still takes my breath away) before heading down the ‘Pig Route’ and catching a game of curling at Naseby, lunch at Fleur’s Place in Moeraki, dinner at Riverstone Kitchen north of Oamaru and then back to Christchurch. This route highlights the true unique beauty and spirit that is the South Island of New Zealand with some great food thrown in for good measure.
Mark Rose is the Chief Executive of the Rees Hotel in Queenstown. You can read more about Mark here.
Tony Townley is a luxury lifestyle specialist and owner of Luxury Adventures. Talk to us about planning your next visit to New Zealand, Australia or the South Pacific Islands.