It’s all very well foraging for your food.
But what’s a chef to do when the wild pikopiko is as popular with the deer roaming free across the property as it is with the guests?
At Rotorua’s Treetops Lodge, guests eat local – really local. It is set on grounds of more than 1000ha and almost everything you will eat at Treetops has come from the grounds. Here the philosophy of “estate to plate” is taken very seriously indeed.
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Getting to the lodge is an adventure in itself. Guests drive west of Rotorua, and past the immaculate Horohoro marae and school. A gravel road runs past the towering Horohoro Bluffs, and finally a grand stone gate lets you know you have arrived at the edge of the property. But this tree-lined avenue is just the beginning. From here the road snakes its way through a series of avenues, gates and finally a winding bush-lined road – tawa, miro, mamaku, rimu, punga and cabbage trees all knot together to form a thick canopy above it.
At the end of this drive, the lodge appears – it is hidden until the very last moment. Its hunting focus is apparent from the moment you arrive – two life-sized trout handles are attached to the huge entryway doors.
Hidden in plain sight
The Treetops estate sits in a huge natural amphitheatre, sheltered by the bluffs, and criss-crossed by seven streams and hundreds of kilometres of paths. The lodge is on a plateau overlooking the valley, and faces north to capture the winter sun, and the nature that surrounds it has been brought into the design of the building – a shallow river runs directly past, and there are giant stepping stones leading across it. Inside, the roof trusses are ancient rimu found on the property, and the chandeliers are made from some of the antlers shed by the estate deer each year. From the lodge library, guests have a view of the rata and rimu outside, or the trout swimming past.
Property manager Dave Goodman has been at Treetops for almost a decade. New Zealand-born, he honed his hunting and baiting skills on lodge estates in the UK, before settling back into life here.
Goodman manages the gardens and animals that live on the estate. He keeps an eye on the pigs, the deer, the partridges and the pear trees. In the orchard he manages plums, feijoas and sweet and sour cherries, and in the garden beds, we see kale, fennel, artichokes, rhubarb and herbs.
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