On 2nd April 2017, Black Label Experience’s Founder Tania Stoyanof was privileged to host AnaTracey Hawkins, contributor from The Hedonist Magazine, a luxury online and print magazine that operates from Barcelona and New York.
Their focus is on inspiring people through the interviews and personal stories of success that they publish online monthly. Moreover, those stories are accompanied by exclusive features and luxury lifestyle news covering areas such as gastronomy, fashion, well-being, art and design, business affairs and international events.
Luxury Travel in New Zealand
Tania welcomed AnaTracey to the luxury insider experience available in Auckland with exquisite gastronomy and wonderful sightseeing that all Black Label Experience clientele are accustomed to.
St Mary’s Residence
Their day started with a site visit to a location of total urban luxury, the wonderful St Marys Residence where they were warmly welcomed by the owners Michael Coutts and Manjit Kaur. St Marys Residence is one of Auckland’s best secrets, accredited as a stand-alone ‘Urban Luxury Lodge’ by Qualmark, New Zealand’s official mark of quality and tucked away in a desirable suburb on the fringe of the city but close enough to venture to all amenities if you so desire.
The property is an exclusive hire whereby they have single party use, so guests are not sharing the property with any other guests at the time of their stay, guaranteeing privacy and seclusion. Michael and Manjit have left no detail out and provide exceptional high-end service for any needs of their discerning clientele.
A private chef prepares breakfast and is available for lunch and dinner service – however due to the proximity of the property to all the best dining in the city, Britomart, the Viaduct, SkyCity and of course Ponsonby Road, many guests like to dine out. Of course, the cupboards and fridges are stocked with the best produce that is complimentary with the tariff so guests can make themselves at home if they feel peckish or in need of a late-night snack.
The property has multi-functional spaces so you can escape for some privacy away from the other members in your party – in front of the open fire enjoying a glass of something, or the top rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Auckland’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Westhaven from it’s high perch in St Mary’s Bay. Or, immerse yourself in the plunge pool at the end of the garden.
St Mary’s Residence is the ultimate destination for a luxury stay with discreet service and a setting that offers a home away from home.
Transfer to Waiheke Island
After visiting St Mary’s Bay Residence, it was time to take the ferry over to Waiheke Island. Waiheke Island is perfect for a day trip with stunning beaches, artisan galleries and exceptional vineyards to explore at your own pace.
For a first-time visitor to Auckland, a quick heli transfer or the 35-minute ferry trip offers a lovely introduction to Auckland landmarks seen from the sky or sea; the glistening Waitemata Harbour, North Head and Mt Victoria, Auckland Museum in the distance, Rangitoto, Rakino Island and the city skyline.
Tania and AnaTracey’s first stop on Waiheke Island was Tantalus Estate for a site visit and chef’s tasting lunch. Tantalus Estate is nestled in the heart of Onetangi Valley and is a welcome addition to the Waiheke vineyard scene offering a classy fit out with a nod to the rustic environment that is Waiheke with some funky design elements such as old vine branches used as fixtures for the ceiling lighting.
The Estate has been named after the Tantalus – an intricate antique display box crafted to house decanters. The defining feature of a Tantalus is neither the decanters nor their stoppers can be removed unless the top of the box is unlocked with a key. The cherished contents kept inside are therefore extremely tempting though ultimately out of reach.
For a luxury experience, Tantalus Estate’s heli landing area is conveniently nearby to the outdoor dining area that looks out onto their vineyard which is a tranquil view, ideal for a long lunch! The property backs onto Te Motu Vineyard which is the family owned and run vineyard of Tantalus’ sommelier, Clare Dunleavy.
The newly opened 120-seat restaurant designed by Cheshire Architects is an expansive light-filled environment. Indoors, you’ll find a tastefully designed private function room with wine library and one long table running the length of the room – it would be the ideal venue for an intimate special occasion or product launch (seating 22 for meals and 50 for a cocktail function) – and the room opens out onto it’s own private courtyard.
Small touches elevate the décor but allude to a cosy factor – the use of local stone, the bathrooms are stunning and lined with feature wallpaper reminiscent of Florence Broadhurst, antique silverware is displayed openly on shelving.
The Chef, Paul Jobin, has gastronomy credit worth noting. He is an ex-chef from luxury properties Annandale Lodge and Kauri Cliffs, has cooked for Richard Branson at Makepeace Island in Australia and was Executive Chef in charge of SkyCity’s restaurants including Depot, The Sugar Club, Orbit and Masu.
The menu was spectacular; and the selection of ingredients and freshness was exemplary:
- Starting with a dozen ocean-fresh Te Matuku oysters, followed by the Chef’s selection of 90-degree seared tiger prawns served on a bed of wasabi mole, charred corn, popped muesli, shaved radish and black garlic (his own favourite dish)
- Cambridge pan seared Duck breast, miso eggplant, sushi egg rice, choy sum, pickled funghi, green tea crumb
- Free range Pork belly with chicory salad, Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, chili and soy caramel and duo of melons
- Heirloom tomato with Il Casaro Fiordolatte mozzarella, Estate olive oil and fresh basil
- Fresh seared kingfish with smoked yoghurt, broccolini, mango kasundi, sumac and toasted almonds
- Garlic truffle and herb fries
- Sadly, they skipped dessert as there was no room left to indulge!
There is an additional bar area available for private hire, themed in a Prohibition-inspired vibe. Their own onsite boutique brewery, Alibi Brewing Company is due to open in the future.
Destiny Bay Wines
After an exceptional lunch at Tantalus Estate, Tania and AnaTracey headed to Destiny Bay Wines to meet the owner Michael Spratt and enjoy a wine tasting whilst hearing the inspiration behind Destiny Bay Wines.
Michael, previously an international business consultant, came to New Zealand seventeen years ago on holiday, fell in love and decided to settle on Waiheke with his biochemist wife. They found the land where Destiny Bay is located and recognised the prime conditions of sun and sea breezes to grow Bordeaux-style grapes outside of Bordeaux and the rest is history.
Their wines are handcrafted liquid jewels and produced in very limited qualities which are snapped up by overseas buyers, even being referred to as the ‘Lafite of NZ’. Their son Sean moved to New Zealand and is their winemaker so it is a family-run venture and dream.
The vineyard tour was fabulously engaging whether you were a novice or connoisseur and had Tania and AnaTracey riveted from the start on the highest point overlooking the vineyard and the bay.
They were privileged to taste all three blends (the favourite for Tania was Mystae), as well as tour the processing and barrel storage areas. The piece de resistance was Michael had a small beaker of the extracted grape juice that day to test the level of the bricks. The juice was so sweet and only measured 22 bricks – 24 is the perfect number to be ripe for picking, so the harvest was put on hold. Fortuitous timing on Tania and AnaTracey’s part to indulge in this sweet nectar pre-harvest!
The Sugar Club
After returning to Auckland city on the ferry, it was off to The Sugar Club for a site visit and to enjoy a tasting menu and enjoy the surroundings and views.
Located on level 53 of Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower, The Sugar Club is undeniably in the best location to impress guests with its stunning views over Auckland. As one of Auckland’s fine dining restaurants by New Zealand’s Michelin star Chef, Peter Gordon, the menu is crafted of interesting and innovative plates of the freshest Kiwi produce with a Peter Gordon twist – think of the cuisine as Asian-Kiwi-Pacific fusion.
The first dish was mackerel with crumbed and fried egg, the yolk was perfectly runny. Dotted around the plate were delicious miso-flavoured egg yolk with smoked beetroot, apple, dill and all merged seamlessly in the mouth to create a burst of exquisite flavour. The other choices of five-spiced quail with duck liver parfait and goji, and seared venison with chili lime dressing were well received and just as expertly made. This is what sets The Sugar Club apart.
Their restaurant visit was during a weather bomb that was due to hit Auckland, so on arrival in the restaurant the floor to ceiling windows were obscured by heavy cloud, however it turned into an amazing display by Mother Nature. The windows filled with clouds then would gently swirl away to reveal the city lights below, Auckland’s picturesque harbour and the lights of the traffic inching towards the North Shore. It turned into a stunning show of cloud cover opening up to reveal clear and magnificent views. Very dramatic and an unexpected highlight.
Black Label Experience would like to thank all of the exceptional locations we visited as we thoroughly enjoyed the day. We will be appearing in the June 2017 issue of The Hedonist Magazine as the first travel feature about luxury New Zealand.