Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, winds down in New Zealand's wine country.
Birds sing in the background, a sheep bleats nearby, I hear the nearby quack of a duck and the deep moo of a cow. Is that traffic that I hear? No, absolutely not, that’s the last thing I expect to hear at Breckenridge Lodge, nestled in Hawke’s Bay adjacent to a vineyard. We’ve finally arrived in wine country, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand!
Owner Malcolm Redmond is a chef and we will be staying at the lodge tonight as well as having a cooking class and chef’s table experience. Malcolm is easygoing and a great host. It’s surprisingly hot and after a long driver we cool down with some Antipodes sparkling mineral water – I clearly overestimated the chill factor here in my outfit.
The lodge has five rooms, all named after foods. I’m originally given the Lavender room but the wifi doesn’t reach that far so I swap with Krissy for the Rose room. The room has a bath (oh joy!) and they have their own toiletries made for them using the Pacific Blue lavender that is grown on the grounds. There’s an orchard full of organically grown fruit and a kitchen garden. There is a common fridge and preparation area just outside the rooms where guests can help themselves to plenty of refreshments as well as tea and coffee.
We take a walk through the gardens where seven chickens roam and help out with egg supplies. For fruit, there are apricots, peaches, pears, apples, persimmons, strawberries, plums, feijoas, raspberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries. The chickens fertilise these and dig and aerate the ground.
…We walk to the kitchen area where we will be sitting at the chefs table while Malcolm cooks. Guests can also do cooking classes with Malcolm where he will teach techniques and recipes and these classes are open to non guests too who want to expand their cooking repertoire. Or if eating is more your forte, you can sit back and enjoy a perfectly cooked meal in the dining room. But who are we kidding?
Krissy and I plant ourselves where the action is in the kitchen overlooking the gardens. Malcolm has worked at Jean Georges and Le Bernardin as well as around the world. Every year he works at Jean Georges for quick stints during winter here when the season is quiet. He has also worked at Huka Lodge in Taupo and was the resident chef at the home of New Zealand’s governor-general in Wellington.
But first, what happened to that lovely trout that we caught earlier that day? Krissy and I have our fishing licenses ready to show Malcolm and we ask if we can have it as sashimi for an appetiser. No problems he says, taking the trout from the fridge. He runs a boning knife along the backbone of the fish removing a fillet and removes the skin from each trout fillet.
Slicing the trout thinly he serves it with soy, mirin and lemon juice and then some wasabi. Heaven! Before we know it our first fillet is gone…oops!
We take a quick peek into the dining room. There are four other guests this evening who will be dining together while Krissy and I sit at the chef’s table in the kitchen. Meanwhile we watch as Malcolm busily prepares our meals.
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A chef's table in Hawke's Bay
An intimate cooking class in New Zealand's wine region shows off the best of Hawke's Bay produce.
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