When one of New Zealand’s heritage hotels, in the country’s oldest wine region, undergoes a $4.3 million upgrade – the result is an intimate idyll that celebrates hospitality.
Surrounded by 20 acres of lush orchards, sprawling gardens, mature trees and lawns dotted with grazing sheep, Mangapapa Hotel in Hawke’s Bay lives up to its Maori name meaning fertile land. A winding driveway flanked by silver birch trees leads to the cream coloured two-storey colonial building dominated by columns and a wraparound balcony.
Originally built in 1885 as a homestead, it was most famously owned by Sir James Wattie whose canned food business was eventually sold to the H. J. Heinz Company. The region is known for its fruit farms, wineries, golf course and Art Deco capital of Napier and the boutique hotel is a tranquil oasis amidst all this activity.
DECOR & DESIGN
A recent refurbishment has resulted in each of the dozen guest suites now boasting exquisite bespoke details that play to the hotel’s past, hint at its Art Deco neighbours while also reflecting a modern aesthetic. Antique credenzas, chandeliers, the original staircase and chinoiserie wallpaper give opulence to common spaces. Suites, some of which take their names from European destinations (think Macon, Seefeld, Andorra, Bensheim and Veron), span the mezzanine of the homestead, and separate cottage buildings, with details like jade vanity, fireplace, cherry wood sleigh bed and marble tile.
The dining too has come of age with a wine cellar where choice bottles can fetch upward of $35 000, a daily degustation menu at Mangapapa restaurant and high tea served beside a work of Picasso. Breakfast is served in the conservatory overlooking the hotel’s grounds just past the bar, a gathering place for pre-dinner drinks, craft beer and light fare from the lounge menu.
Hawke’s Bay is the centre of a wine and food convergence that makes the fare at Mangapapa a rewarding (and tasty) showcase of the bounty from the kitchen garden and local producers.
One evening I enjoy the five course set menu which can be tailored to meet every dietary restriction. Beginning with appetizers of oysters with mignonette, and salmon croquettes the menu draws its inspiration from the differing landscape of the region: from a seafood trio and tuna Carpaccio highlighting the region’s coastal position to roast beef or blackened chicken that reference executive chef Paul Condron’s paddock to plate philosophy drawn from Hawke’s Bay’s fertile grazing land. The meal ends with a dessert of chocolate parfait with strawberry sorbet, a nod to one of the star fruits of the fruit bowl of New Zealand. Robust servings, finesse presentation and a delicious menu have earned the restaurant the 2017 Lamb & Beef Excellence Award.
While the spa, fitness centre, lawn tennis and meeting space provide worthwhile indulgences an upgrade to the pool area would elevate all the amenities to the same luxury standard.
WHAT CSL LIKED BEST
It didn’t take the latest 7.8 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand to convince us that Mangapapa Hotel was special. But, the dedicated attention of the staff assured us that this is more than just a hotel. Past midnight, Manager David Thompson personally drove guests to higher ground following tsunami warnings. Though this is an extraordinary circumstance, Thompson and his staff are also known for regularly aiding guests with a wide variety of requests that go beyond the norm. The entire staff is warm, conscientious and hospitable. The relaxed serene vibe that permeates the property is largely due to them.
CSL HOTEL GEMS
When staying at the hotel near Havelock North seek out these three unique experiences.
1/ Wine Cellar
A striking wall-to-ceiling wine library decorates the main foyer. Guests can even take an elevator down to the cellar to personally choose their own bottle.
2/ High Tea
Served every day of the week, this is a classic sweet and savoury offering decorated with flowers and presented on a tiered stand featuring white lattice work plates. Tea comes is served on traditional fine china.
3/ Art Collection
From a Tiffany lamp, Picasso painting and original stained glass, to gold-plated plumbing and original work by Marc Chagall there is something beautiful to see at every turn.
This original travel article first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.
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