Kees and Kay from Knapdale lodge invited us to experience their take on country living eco style. As Carole and I were traveling with our young children again we opted to fly from Auckland into Gisborne, better to avoid the long drive this time we thought. Kees picked us up from Gisborne airport and gave us a brief summary of the area on route to Knapdale Lodge located only 10 mins away. Gisborne is not dissimilar to the Hawkes Bay wine country, after all its only 200kms south, excepting of course for the spectacular beaches north of Gisborne (Wainui, Makorori & Pouawa etc), which are famous for their white sand and surf. There is a definite beach scene felling here and I can imagine in summer it would be the perfect place to spend some time.
My first impressions of Knapdale luxury lodge are they’ve spent a lot of time on this property and the lodge, I wouldn’t be proven wrong here. Kees has a love for trees and happens to be quite an expert in the specialist science of tree growth and statistics using computer models to precisely make predictions about growth and characteristics of total forest population. He is sought by forestry around New Zealand and in the past internationally to collect and analyze forestry related data. His passion of all things tress has definitely crossed over into Knapdale lodge with some 12-14,000 thousand exotic and indigenous trees being planted on the property starting back in 1991! No small feat and one that can be easily appreciated by the eyes some 20 years on. In fact Knapdale were awarded with the much coveted title of ‘North Island Farm Forester of the Year Award’, in 2006 by the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association for their efforts with a particular forest loctaed in front of the lodge. Kees passion for the land, animals and tress is evident with the knowledge he imparts and the care thats been taken all over Knapdale farm. Its all about sustainability at Knapdale Eco Lodge with some of the buildings constructed from timber grown on the farm and water is heated from the fire that chugs away with wood from the property. Waste is treated on the property and converted back to water for irrigation.
Kays passion on the other hand lies in the kitchen and she is equally as talented with her love of food. While in London Kay attended the culinary school ‘Petite Cuisine’ – this is where she began her journey into the love of food… I should have realised this prior to tasting her delicious creations by the commercial grade kitchen thats used to prepare all of the produce that comes off the farm. When staying at Knapdale expect to eat organically grown vegetables and meat of many varieties. A quick tour of the near by orchard consisted of a large vegetable patch, avocados, oranges, limes, lemons, mandarins, banana trees, garlic, capsicum peppers, artichokes and asparagus, and then theres the herb garden and another vegetable garden behind the lodge… I think you get the picture. It was a nice thought knowing that alot of what we were eating came from the property. Only a handful of logdes can lay claim to this and usually in my experience in the higher bracket of luxury lodges such as Otahuna Lodge in Canterbury.
Eggs had to be on the menu after collecting them ourselves (purely optional of course) and Kees is the sous chef for breakfast. Its a relaxed affair served at no particular time and was always tasty. Kees has his own bees and produces honey also which incidentally he sells at the local farmers market along with venison salami and a few home grown products, so make sure you taste the honey.
Evening meals were elaborate but not contrived – we still felt we were down on the farm even whilst eating Salmon & Mint Crushed Broad Beans on Ricotta and Grilled Bread canapés with a mint oil dressing (recipe below), home made prawn and pumpkin ravioli and a pomme tarte tatin which my french partner Carole thought was as good as the real thing. Evening meals are different almost every night as a result of Kays creativity and experimentation. When dining at Knapdale Eco Lodge Kay and Kees like to serve local wines and we enjoyed quite a few of these – of particular mention was the Gruner Veltliner, produced by Spade Oak a relatively unknown variety in New Zealand and better know to the Austrians than the kiwis.
The rooms are located up stairs and are well appointed with the bathroom the highlight – spacious with an over sized spa bath and quality New Zealand made soaps, shampoos and bath salts. The often overlooked and critically important (to me anyway) wifi is included, additionally the cell phone coverage is good for you business travelers. We had an excellent time at Knapdale and would like to return someday to explore the area further. It was excellent for the kids with plenty to keep them occupied on the farm and equally for the adults. Kay and Kees are fantastic hosts and even nicer people – you wont find more genuine and friendly people than these two which is what I like to think New Zealand is renowned for other than the spectacular scenery!
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.
Salmon & Mint Crushed Broad Beans on Ricotta and Grilled Bread:
300 gr hot smoked salmon
500 gr packet frozen broad beans
200 gr ricotta
finely grated zest 1 Knapdale lemon
8 slices ciabatta
1 clove of Knapdale garlic
small handful of rocket
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
1/4 cup olive oil
1 table spoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Mint oil: combine the ingredients in a bowl and season
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and drop in the broad beans.
Cook for 2 minutes after the water has returned to the boil. Drain and refresh in cold water.
Peel, discarding the skins, and place the beans in a bowl. Lightly crush half the beans with a fork,
leaving the rest whole then stir through half the mint oil.
Combine the ricotta and lemon zest in a bowl and season.
Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and grill until golden and crisp. Rub one side of the bread with the cut side of a clove of garlic.
To assemble: Spread the grilled bread with ricotta and place on serving plates. Spoon over the broad beans and top with pieces of salmon. Drizzle with the remaining mint oil and garnish with rocket.. Serves four.
recipy by: Dish, Issue 36, June-July 2011, page 87