There are Famous Five books named ‘Five go to Smuggler’s Top’ and ‘Five go to Mystery Moor’, and I reckon ‘Five go to Cape Kidnappers’ would slip comfortably between them.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is a 5-star luxury lodge in Te Awanga, Hawke’s Bay. It’s breathtakingly pure New Zealand; a place to escape to for adventure or romance. The name ‘Kidnappers’ came from an incident during Captain Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand in which a group of Maori warriors attempted to kidnap a member of Cook’s crew, a Tahitian fellow whom the warriors mistakenly believed needed rescuing. Luckily, he was able to escape their clutches, but Captain Cook named the headland where this took place “Cape Kidnappers”.
As we drove through the property towards the main lodge I was awed and overwhelmed by all the beauty around me – the feathery pine forests, rolling green hills, picket fences and cream-coloured sheep. The storybook scene turned nature documentary as a hawk swooped in fast and low with talons out to catch a desperately unlucky rabbit.
I had so many fantastic experiences on this trip to Hawke’s Bay as a guest of Tourism New Zealand, but Cape Kidnappers was really special.
The attention to detail is wonderful and designed for your pleasure and comfort. The fireplace is easy to operate, ignited and extinguished by remote control. The television is hidden behind a picture on the wall (very ‘Five Go Adventuring Again’, where the Famous Five discover secret panels in the walls at old Kirrin farmhouse). All the light switches are labeled. There’s an enormous walk-in robe where my suitcase was placed, out of the way. My second-favourite feature of the suite, after the hidden television, was the heated bathroom floor – this has to have been my best ever experience stepping out of the shower! There were more towels than I could ever need. Free high-speed wireless internet is available in all guest suites as well as the main lodge. Instructions for how to operate everything are provided (including television, safe, coffee plunger).
Tea and coffee, homemade cookies and brownies, packets of potato crisps, and the chocolate bars, soft drinks and local beers in the mini bar are all complimentary. Wine and spirits cost extra. My ice bucket had been filled, so I got myself a drink – ginger beer, the Famous Five’s favourite.
I’d been booked in for a 50-minute massage session at the Cape Kidnappers spa. I’ve said this before – something I appreciate from my travels is the opportunity to try things that are out of my comfort zone, that I normally wouldn’t choose to do. This was my first ever massage and I don’t mind admitting I was secretly feeling apprehensive about it, but I was surprised by how comfortable and at-ease I soon felt, soothed and relaxed by a therapist with a gentle voice and expert hands. A variety of treatments are available at the spa, including different styles of massage, facials, reflexology, thermal scrubs, body wraps, manicures and pedicures.
After my massage, I made my way back to my suite to get ready for dinner. My dining companion tonight was Cape Kidnappers’ sommelier Jeremy, who turned up in a golf cart to pick me up from my door. It was a short but chilly ride to back the lodge and I was glad to sit by the crackling fire to enjoy canapes and a pre-dinner drink.
If this didn’t feel like a blind date before, it sure did we were shown to our table set for two in the Library! We shared a chuckle and talked about our partners, food and wine, work and home, Australia and New Zealand.
Dinner is served from 6pm to 9pm and the menus change daily. You can choose from a five-course tasting menu or a la carte – the pre-dinner canapes, dinner and full breakfast are included in the accommodation rates. The menu makes use of seasonal produce including vegetables straight from Cape Kidnappers’ garden. The kitchen prides itself on making as much as possible on site, including breads, jams, pastries, ice cream and all the desserts.
The first course of our tasting menu was roast beetroot with orange, Over the Moon goats cheese and fig vincotto vinaigrette. Regular readers will know I detest beetroot, but the orange marinade took the edge off the dirt taste of the beetroot. Combined with the goats cheese and curly lettuce, it wasn’t too bad. I finished my dish easily but no, I haven’t been converted – I’m still a beetroot hater!
Next, Hawke’s Bay beef tenderloin carpaccio with horseradish creme fraiche, pickled carrot and sherry vinegar. As I ate the delicate, wafer-thin slices of raw beef with sweet-sour pickled carrot, I couldn’t help thinking about my favourite raw beef fiend Jac back home. This was her dish.
The fish course was next. The local grouper yielded to the gentlest press of my fork. The candied yams and garden pumpkin with manuka honey and chilli dressing were unusual accompaniments for fish, but I was surprised by the sweet harmony in every mouthful.
The roasted corn-fed chicken was probably my favourite of the savoury courses – smooth, moist chicken breast, tender chicken tortellini, garden carrots and a rich, glossy poultry jus.
Dessert was a cracker: palm sugar mousse cake, coconut macaron, coconut sherbet and pistachio cookie. I couldn’t stop eating the palm sugar mousse cake once I tasted it, but the sherbet was superb – impossibly fine, smooth and light, a delightful contrast with the crunch of the pistachio cookie and the chewy macaron.
Jeremy told me about his favourite Cape Kidnappers ice cream flavour – Dutch spice, and although it wasn’t officially part of our menu, I got to have a taste. Think Dutch cinnamon cookies – comforting and delicious. And to finish, a cup of coffee with petit fours – limoncello chocolate truffles and cassis jubes.
Jeremy dropped me off at my suite after dinner. The turn-down service had been and my curtains were drawn, a card with tomorrow’s weather forecast left on the bed, a glass and jug of iced water with lemon slices placed on my bedside table. When I finally sank into the bed under the covers I was chuffed to find it was as comfortable as it looked.
I snuck a look at the heated infinity pool and Jacuzzi on my way to breakfast.
There are a number of dining spaces in the main lodge, each with its own unique character, and you are free to try them all.
I started off with fresh fruit, a soy flat white and feijoa juice.
I chose the baked egg breakfast special. The soft-cooked gooey egg was buried beneath ham, spinach, tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
After breakfast, I met up with Mark, who took me on a drive around the property. The Farm is a 6,000-acre working sheep and Angus beef farm, and the landscape is peppered with black and white.
There’s a par 71 golf course, pro shop and clubhouse at Cape Kidnappers. The Cape Kidnappers golf course is currently ranked 6th best golf course outside the United States by Golf Digest. Golf fees apply.
Other on-property activities include wine appreciation sessions, nature walks, horse riding, picnics, mountain biking, quad biking, fully guided rabbit shooting and bird tours. You can even request a tour of the Farm and the kitchen’s vegetable garden.
Cape Kidnappers is home to the largest, most accessible mainland gannet colony in the world. The gannets are seabirds, members of the booby family (yes, I chortled too). They are white birds with distinctive black eye markings and a pale gold crown. Unfortunately, I’d missed seeing the most of the birds; they’d migrated for this winter and only one or two remained. Mark told me when the colony is all here, it’s a spectacular sight that amazes even people who aren’t particularly interested in nature or bird-watching. I was in Hawke’s Bay in late May and had just missed the gannet colony; gannet safaris and private gannet tours are available from September to early May.
Out of all the places I’ve been to because of my blog, this is the one I’d most like to return to and experience with Jac by my side. Have you been somewhere special that you’d love to share with your partner?
I travelled to Hawke’s Bay and stayed at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers as a guest of Tourism New Zealand.
Check out The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Part 2.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
446 Clifton Road
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Telephone: +64 6 875 1900
Accommodation rates are quoted per person per night and include pre-dinner drinks with hors d’oeuvres, a la carte dinner, full breakfast, complimentary mini bar including domestic beers (excludes liquor and wine) and use of all lodge facilities (excluding golf and spa treatments).
F.A.W.C! Summer Series 2013
The Food and Wine Classic, referred to as F.A.W.C! (pronounced ‘fawk’, rhymes with hawk), will see over 50 food and wine experiences held over 10 days in Hawke’s Bay. It kicks off with a launch party at Craggy Range Winery on 1 November and finishes with the Carnivore Carnival at the Hawke’s Bay Races on 10 November.
Find out more about F.A.W.C! – pre-sale tickets on sale now, general sales from 26 August.
My Hawke’s Bay blog series
The posts so far:
- Welcome to Napier
- Pacifica Restaurant, Napier
- Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market, Hastings
- Te Mata Peak, Craggy Range and Terrôir Restaurant, Havelock North
- The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Part 1 – this post
There are more stories to come from the trip.