Blanket Bay lodge
Now it’s a bit of trick locating New Zealand’s premier lodge. As I soon discovered its actually nuzzled quite literally into its surrounds. Being built back into a remote gently sloping hillside its arrived at after a windy 40 minute drive from Queenstown’s airport, up the shores of the magnificent Lake Wakatipu.
And With Peter Jackson choosing nearby locations for several Lord of the Rings scenes, I found myself quite literally in the middle of middle-earth.
In fact the big wizard Sir Ian McKellan himself once stayed here announcing it to be;
‘really the most splendid property, possibly the best in the world and everyone should stay there when visiting New Zealand’
And soon after stepping through its large deliberately aged timber doors it’s easy to understand why the white wizard twitched his staff in delight at what stretched out before him.
I mean if it wasn’t the giant deer antler chandelier swinging above the Great hall, or the lush private guest rooms with heated marble floors and wide shot mountain/lake vistas enjoyed from every window, that took his old man breath away. Then it may well have been The Den, – a room situated deep inside the lodge with an unrivalled collection of tipples for the even the most discerning of palates.
Now I can’t answer for the ‘Sir’, but I can tell you that this humble ‘Mr’ could easily have claimed any one of those outstanding features as ‘thee thing’ that makes this place stand apart from others, I could also easily have been swayed by any of a number of the other amazing features – including;
The helicopter that picked me off the front lawn for a days heliboarding in virgin knee deep powder on a glacier in Mt Aspiring national park.
Or how about the buildings incredible finish, including the purposely-aged timber interior and the 20,000 tonnes of hand laid stone found throughout, even wrapping itself around the outdoor pool and day spa.
But no I ignored these and other details such as ‘Brad and Jen’ once stayed here, to arrive simply at the one thing that I spent my whole stay in vane trying to fault, -the menu.
And what an ever-changing masterpiece it was – hand crafted from selected ingredients aimed at delivering the full spectrum of pleasurable emotions to your taste buds – be it breakfast, lunch, dinner – or perhaps even a meal that you happened to invent in between. They not only had it – but the very best of ‘it’ – in fact if they didn’t have ‘it’ – someone would be promptly sent to obtain ‘it.’
To demonstrate, one evening I tested ‘it’ with the following;
“Excuse me sir, -no Crayfish on the menu?”
“I’m really sorry sir, we’ll have some sent up from Kaikoura and have it ready for your dinner tomorrow evening, will that be alright?”
“oh yes that will be very alright thanks….’
Now I’m not much of a food snob, I’m not the type to sit there rubbing truffle on my top lip trying to guess from which hemisphere it was acquired – but in my humble ‘puts tomato sauce on everything’ opinion, this ever revolving menu was as good as it gets.
An opinion further cemented by the knowledge that the sous chef (second in command) was last years New Zealand chef of the year.
Very freaking classy.
To quantify the validity of such a superfluous statement, (and between you and me I don’t throw those at any old joint – oh no.) I need to point out that yes I’ve been spoilt in the past, with work putting me into places that I could never dream of affording to stay.
However with most of ‘those’ places it was as if every person and thing knew that fact from the moment you arrived, staff glaring at you like you would be lucky to even park cars there.
In fact I swear I once flushed a toilet in one such establishment only to hear it grumble ‘how dare you do that in me’
Blanket Bay on the other hand had none of this pomp and hoo-har about it, it oozed class in that confident ‘I know I’ve got it so I have nothing to prove’ sort of a way. Everyone in our group commenting on how instantly comfortable and at home we were made to feel from the moment we arrived.
Eric our host, was nothing but non-judgemental class and elegance as he explained tricky words on the menu to me, showed us how to play the strange game of sliders in the Den or amused my request for yet more tomato sauce. A true French gentleman, and as it turned out a huge rugby fan.
One evening post some 57 course meal extravaganza and aching from the days snowboarding, I found myself slumped in the quicksand like leather chairs facing a growling open fire. Gazing around at the craftsmanship of the interior before me, I found it nigh on impossible to comprehend that this building was a mere 10 years of age.
Everything looked and felt so deliciously worn and comfortable, even the building itself seemed as if it had relaxed back into the hillside, parking its rump firmly into the granite and tussock like grandad taking a rest on a mountain track.
This overwhelming sensation of relaxation that seemed to permeate from every facet in the place proved itself thus by quickly engulfing all who entered. Suddenly I found myself walking slower, speaking softer and lingering longer. In fact at one point while sitting alone I could have sworn I heard it whisper to me, ‘hey buddy if I can be this relaxed then so can you my friend’.
To learn more about Blanket Bay and its special mid season offers I’d encourage you to go direct to their website or to give them a call.
The staff are more than happy to answer any questions and their website gives excellent information about all it has to offer.
But be careful you may click through for ‘just a look’ but you’ll soon find yourself extending the limit on your credit card to taste its wares – consider yourselves warned.
Peak season is from December through to February -but with the falling New Zealand dollar this place is becoming ever more affordable all the time.
With only a small number of guest rooms and located in one of the most beautiful spots on earth it really is the perfect place for newlyweds looking for an unforgettable start to married life, or to anyone just looking for a bit of specialised peace and relaxation –even Wizards.
Here’s an edited down version of the story I covered for the travel show ~