The name “The Hunting Lodge” brings forward thoughts of a rural retreat, where pasture to plate is a way of life and you can settle in fireside with a glass of red as you relax the day away. And that’s exactly what you’ll find if you take a scenic drive just West of Auckland’s glittering harbours. You’ll have wandered deep into a picturesque countryside locale that will make you feel as though you’re touring the rustic vineyards of Tuscany….or the rolling hills of Spain. The vineyards out West are some of the best hidden gems in Auckland’s dining scene, with everything from incredible wine lists (obviously) and fine-dining food to match, to impeccable scenery and ambience to boot.
While The Hunting Lodge might be widely known as a popular wedding venue, it may have been underestimated in its appeal as a destination for a luxury ‘Ladies Lunch’, or even a laidback picnic soiree on the lush slopes of Waimauku. The Lawn Bar at The Hunting Lodge is everything you need and more when it comes to a lazy afternoon lunch setting. You can reserve a table, or if you’re feeling casual, you can throw down a picnic blanket, surround yourself with cheese (heaven) and take in the view of the vines.
While it can be tempting to book your favourite city haunt for a weekend lunch session, if you throw caution to the wind, pile the girls into an uber and venture into the wild west, you just might find a little slice of paradise. The Hunting Lodge takes all the hassle out of ensuring an amazing experience for you and your friends so you’ll find that the hardest part of your perfect day is figuring out what to wear; the casual yet refined feel of The Lawn Bar had me throwing outfits around my bedroom for longer than I care to admit.
Greeted by warm staff, and a welcoming cold glass of wine the second we were seated, The Hunting Lodge service is second to none. With a choice of dining in The Restaurant or outside in the sunshine, we opted for a more relaxed dining experience where we were spoilt for choice with a sharing style menu that is curated to showcase a pasture-to-plate ethos.
The Hunting Lodge is first and foremost a Vineyard, and man is that obvious when you taste their selection of carefully crafted wines. The winemaker at The Hunting Lodge believes that every wine should be made to taste both expressive and interesting, but never too challenging. My brave girlfriends decided on trying something new with the selection of the Albarino, a white wine varietal that I had ashamedly never heard of. Despite the many years of Mum trying to add a buttery chard into my repertoire, I never venture into the white wine side of the menu. As someone who is obsessed with the full character and spicy flavour profile of a warm red, I never thought I would find myself enjoying a light and citrusy Albarino but hey, when out West…
But the unanimous hero of the day was the Blush Crush. We found that it was both fun to say and even more fun to drink. The Blush Crush is The Hunting Lodge’s own unique creation of single serve bottles of Sauvignon with a dash of juice from a big-sister red grape to add a touch of colour, flavour and an air of finesse. It’s rose but not like you know it. It’s a lighter style, lower alcohol but high in fruity taste.
What goes great with wine you ask? (everyone together now) CHEESE. We had ours served in all its glorious forms – with cold meats, smothered in honey and lovingly wrapped around a cracker and grilled to perfection on a woodfired pizza.
The aptly named ‘Fromage’ is a selection of cheeses paired with fresh condiments, including honey, relish, pickled onions and breads. We were treated to a creamy blue, a flavourful cheddar and a smooth brie. Surrounded by six women with a few wines on board, this cheese didn’t stand a chance!
The Charcuterie selection is delicate, easy to eat, and optimal for a picnic blanket serving setting. Cold cuts, preserves and fresh mustard all add to the international flair of the setting.
The Antipasto platter combines hummus, cheese, cold cuts, olives and pickles with freshly baked bread (just enough to soak up a few Blush Crushs!)
Woodfired Oven Pizza
The hero of any wine and lunch pairing, the woodfired pizzas were everything we wanted and more. Despite being Pizza fanatics, we were also feeling a bit posh which called for the ‘Rustic’ pizza; Blue cheese, pear, balsamic reduction, rocket leaves and walnuts. It was a bit fancy and a whole lot of delicious. Because when it comes to pizza, one will never do, we shipped in a few more. The ‘Glam Ham’ was chosen based on its name alone and it didn’t disappoint with lashings of glazed Champagne ham and garlic roasted portobello mushroom. And finally, how can you go wrong with a classic Margarita? Ours was served with Massimo mozzarella and prosciutto. The bases were chewy and soft with that woodfired, smokey flavour that you can only hope for!
Address: 305/307 Waikoukou Valley Road, Waimauku