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. Otahuna Lodge is located in Tai Tapu, 30 mins drive south of Christchurch, New Zealand.
Tell me what brought you to New Zealand and particularly to Christchurch and Otahuna? We first came to New Zealand on a two-week holiday. We then came back a few years later after having quit our jobs in New York and spent an amazing three months driving from the bottom of the South Island to the top of the North Island. It was an incredible trip and led us to understand that we wanted to live here. We were blown away of course by the beauty of New Zealand but also by the great Kiwi characters we met along the way. And, then when we found Otahuna it was all over. There, really isn’t anything like it in terms of the property’s fabled history, its amazing grounds and also its close proximity to a major city.
Probably not your favourite topic but the Earthquakes in Christchurch have undoubtedly affected yourself and Otahuna immeasurably – tell me about the extensive re-restoration that has ensued as a result and the effect its had on you? The 2010 and 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes have indeed impacted Christchurch and Otahuna. However, several important points are to be remembered. One, Otahuna has been entirely restored following two exhaustive restoration efforts and has been operating normally since July 2011. Two, the damage to the city—while of course significant—is largely contained to a 16-block area of the central business district. Third, we have an extensive array of activity options available for our guests that are entirely unaffected by the earthquakes such as: Akaroa, heli-touring, championship golfing, visits to Arthur’s Pass National Park, and many award-winning local vineyards. Moreover, most of our guests are surprised that in driving from the Christchurch airport to us they didn’t even see any signs of earthquake-related damage.
Having visited and stayed at Othauna there are many highlights; but one that stands out for me is the extensive gardens (both aestic and edible!) and the ‘potager to plate’ ethos there – Is everything you serve the guests at Otahuna grown or sourced from the property? Indeed, our “potager to plate” philosophy is a very big part of what we offer here at the Lodge. This season alone we will harvest more than 120 different varieties of organic fruits, mushrooms, nuts and vegetables. Additionally, we raise our own chickens, pigs and sheep for Otahuna’s kitchens. We very much want Otahuna to stand as a modern interpretation of what it was historically: a self-sustaining, British country estate.
The Otahuna wine cellar (which happens to be my favourite place there) is extensive; tell me what are a couple of your personal favourites? The wine cellar is one of my favourite places too! At Otahuna we exclusively stock New Zealand wines and as a result of our close relationship with vintners we are well positioned to get before anyone else prized allocations from the country’s most unique and celebrated vineyards. We especially try to highlight small, artisanal providers with an emphasis on our local Waipara wine region. Personal favourites include:
· Johanneshof Gewürztraminer
· Clearview “Basketpress” Cabernet Merlot
· Bell Hill Pinot Noir
For our guests staying at Otahuna what do you recommend doing and exploring around the region? A lot! Canterbury is New Zealand’s largest and most diverse province with an incredible array of touring opportunities. With a few days at the Lodge I would of course recommend a visit to the Banks Peninsula and a cruise on Akaroa Harbour to see the famous Hector’s dolphins, the world’s rarest and smallest. Next, you need to head to the high country and visit an iconic sheep station such as the one at Double Hill. (Make sure to take a helicopter tour and enjoy an incredible mountaintop picnic lunch once there.) You might also consider teeing off at one of the region’s top courses like Clearwater or taking one of the world’s most stunning train journeys, the TranzAlpine, which runs from Christchurch into the heart of Arthur’s Pass National Park. And, don’t forget to save time for the Lodge itself and include a garden tour of the Lodge’s grounds with our Head Gardener Steve Marcham or a demonstration cooking lesson with Executive Chef Jimmy McIntyre.
For those interested in visiting wineries do they have to head to North Canterbury or are there options in your local area? We do have some opportunities close at hand here near Otahuna but for me a trip to the Waipara region is a must do for our guests. It is New Zealand’s hottest wine growing area with spectacular Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noirs on offer. Another must while there is lunch at Pegasus Bay Winery which has been consistently voted New Zealand’s best vineyard restaurant. And, keep in mind while the Waipara is roughly a 60 minute drive from the Lodge, we can also coordinate a “heli-tasting tour” which makes for a quick, memorable trip in superb style.
You have toured New Zealand reasonably extensively and I think its always interesting to hear from someone not originating from our fair shores where their favourite places are. Where are yours Hall? Well, I am obviously a bit biased in favour of Otahuna and Canterbury. However, I have a lot of favourites spots here in New Zealand. I love the areas at the top of the South Island and the incomparable Wharariki Beach on the Tasman Sea. You can’t go wrong with a day around Wanaka and a hike up to the Rob Roy Glacier. Or, for a piece of undisturbed New Zealand bush head south to Stewart Island (our third largest island in the country) and a visit to Ulva Island where you come up close with amazing, indigenous bird species.
Whats happening for Otahuna and yourselves going forward? Onwards and upwards! We are working hard to develop further our botanic grounds, A New Zealand Garden of National Significance, which were planted in the late 1800s. We continue to introduce new produce items to be grown in our fantastic gardens and orchard. And, we are always on the hunt for even more authentic Kiwi experiences for our guests to understand the soul of this amazing place.
Can you share with the readers a few interesting facts about Otahuna and its history? Sure. Otahuna is New Zealand’s largest private historic estate. The property, founded in 1895, has welcomed a number of notable guests including the Duke of York (later King George VI) who stayed in what is now our Verandah Suite. And, interestingly, the estate has served as a private house, a Christian monastery, a commune in the 1970s and most recently a private hotel as it does today.
Your head chef Jimmy is an integral part of the tapestry at Otahuna and his culinary creations are something that need to be experienced, share with me one of his special recipes using local ingredients? Jimmy is indeed a legend! One of my favourites is his recipe for Salmon Ceviche. You can make it here… or even better check in for a first-hand taste of it with him in person:
Salmon Ceviche: This is a wonderful dish that will brighten any menu or dull winter. It’s full of lots of refreshing flavours and textures. Serve it as a first course, canapé or in a colourful bowl as a great addition to any pot luck or BBQ.
800gr Salmon fillet, skinless & pin bones removed, cut into 3 or 4 strips down the length of the fillet, then slice each strip into 1cm wide pieces 2 Tablespoons salted capers 2 Tablespoons currants 1 Tablespoon pickled Ginger, shredded, with a little juice 2 Tablespoons each of roasted almonds and pine nuts Segments zest and juice of 1 lime 1 lemon and 2 oranges 3 Tablespoons each of roughly chopped Italian Parsley, Coriander, basil Flaky Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste micro herbs as above 5 Mls avocado oil Gently fold all ingredients together and marinate for two hours stirring occasionally.
Hall Cannon is the Owner and Managing Director of Otahuna Lodge in Christchurch.
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.