NZ cuisine - paddock to the plate

Sitting down to a meal of tender spring lamb, juicy beef steak, farm fresh eggs and fruit and vegetables straight out of the garden, is all part of the New Zealand ‘paddock to plate’ experience.

Many lodges, hotels and boutique accommodation providers throughout New Zealand offer gourmet meals made from ingredients that are not just fresh, but locally and sustainably produced for their visitors who are increasingly discerning about where their food comes from.

The Kiwi paddock to plate experience is unique because it not only offers great food and wine, but also an insight into New Zealand’s culinary tradition.

Sustainability and responsibility

Many Kiwi chefs value the paddock to plate experience because of its focus on sustainability and responsibility.

They believe in eating meat from happy, healthy animals that graze outdoors in fresh air and sunshine, and harvesting fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs from their own or local gardens.

Near Martinborough, in New Zealand’s premium Wairarapa wine-growing region, luxury lodge Wharekauhau Country Estate is famed for its home-reared texel lamb.

Wharekauhau texel lamb is farmed year-round on meadows of grass and flowering herbs, and destined exclusively for the lodge’s own kitchen. Texel lamb meat has marbling similar to that of Japan’s prized wagyu beef.

The Lodge at Tikana, in Southland, is part of a working 100-acre farm in a fertile valley with a running stream. Tikana has been raising wapiti stud deer for deer velvet - used in Oriental medicine - and meat since 1984, and the venison is used to prepare guest dinners.

Northland’s Carrington Resort, a hotel on a 3000-acre property on the Karikari Peninsula in New Zealand’s far north, has a working award-winning black angus beef farm on site.

The five-star Qualmark-rated hotel offers a daily black angus beef special in its restaurant. The hotel is also home to a vineyard and winery, 18-hole golf course and 900 acres of restored wetlands

Self-sufficient kitchens

Wharekauhau executive chef Robert Cullen says he sources the estate’s meals fresh from specialist suppliers every day, even if it means a four-hour drive to get the best fish.

Cullen’s specialities range from coffee-rubbed ‘texel’ lamb to home-made strawberry jam, crab-apple jelly and fresh bread.

"My menus are European contemporary, using simple techniques to bring out the clear, fresh flavours of the very best local ingredients," says Cullen.

The estate has pesticide-free gardens that grow a lot of the vegetables eaten by guests. Salad, herbs, tomatoes, asparagus, watercress, Pajaro strawberries and wild honey are all collected from the estate’s grounds.

At Otahuna Lodge near Christchurch, in the South Island’s Canterbury region, the focus is also on fresh seasonal produce, much of which is grown in a large potager garden.

Otahuna was built in 1895 for Sir Heaton Rhodes, a Victorian country gentleman and pioneer of the Canterbury region. The name Otahuna is derived from Māori - and means "little hill among the hills".

The lodge’s organic vegetable garden grows 95 different types of vegetables, herbs, nuts and fruit. The mushroom crypt has oyster and shiitake mushrooms, and porcini mushrooms grow in the shade of the lodge’s 100-year-old oak trees.

Abundant gardens

Otahuna Lodge’s abundant gardens are not the only onsite food source - the lodge also keeps free-range chickens for eggs and meat, sheep, cows and pigs that live off kitchen food scraps. Otahuna’s chefs make their own prosciutto, salami, chorizo, sausages, coppa, brasaola, pancetta and bacon.

Wild rabbit also features on the menu, and guests who go fishing can bring their catch back for chefs to cook. Otahuna’s executive chef Jimmy McIntyre says all the meat, wine, cheeses and even the olive oil used in cooking is sourced locally and can be traced to its origins.

"The chickens are from Westwood Organics, the Muscovy ducks are from Tai Tapu, both just down the road from the lodge. Local cheeses come from Karikaas and Barry’s Bay. We also serve wines from the local area including Cracroft Chase, Crater Rim and Kaituna Valley," says McIntyre.

Learning experiences

Visitors keen on a more interactive paddock to plate experience will enjoy the wild food safari cooking experience at Treetops Wilderness Lodge near Rotorua, which includes an indigenous food trail and cooking class.

Guests are driven through the lush grounds in a 4WD to see different types of fish and game, and told the best way to prepare and cook them. Then they are guided through Treetops’ pristine 800-year-old rainforest to pick traditional herbs such as kawakawa and horopito - before going back to the lodge kitchen for a cooking class.

At Otahuna Lodge, guests can follow the chef around as he picks produce from the potager garden to go on the evening’s dinner menu.

Greenhill Lodge in Hastings, in the sunny Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand, offers a 'Pasture to Plate’ interactive food experience - where visitors can participate first-hand in discovering ingredients from local suppliers, sample wine and food and meet the chef to discuss the day’s discoveries, and help prepare dinner.

More information

New Zealand's culinary culture

Kai - Maori food ingredients

NZ farmers' markets