Style: Lodge with an edge
Scene: Lakeside luxury
Seen in the lobby: The well-heeled and well-travelled
I woke up this morning to one of the world's most perfect views. Directly outside my window is the deep jade-green of Lake Wakatipu and beyond that, grand old Mount Cecil framed against a cobalt blue sky. Indeed the mountain is so close it is as if it has come right into my room and sat down for tea. All the mountains around Queenstown seem to have names like great uncles...Cecil, Walter... yes, they could all be my aging relatives. Except, frankly, they are a lot better looking, with snow-capped peaks and elegant silvery slopes.
I am not the only one entranced by this view. When Julian Robertson (US owner of uber-luxury Kauri Cliffs and Cape kidnappers) first saw the lake and the tiny steamship TSS Earnslaw puffing across it he was enchanted too.
It was the view that helped his son Jay (Julian Robertson III) persuade Robertson senior to consider creating another lodge to add to the family's venerable stable. Now, when you already own the much-awarded Kauri Cliffs anything else you attempt has to be pretty special.
Luckily the newly-opened Matakauri Lodge is just that - very special indeed.
The newest of the holy trinity is really the brainchild of Jay Robertson and his new wife Claire (the couple married last week) with just a
little help from Virginia Fisher, one of
TLTBs favourite interior designers.
Together they have created a lodge which is light, bright and stylish and brings the outside in at every turn. If you are looking for a New Zealand luxury lodge with a more contemporary edge then
The Luxury Travel Bible thinks Matakauri is the best you'll find.
This is Fisher's third project for the Robertsons; over drinks one evening she tells me she has deliberately used the colours she can see out of the window. Her words make me take a good long look at Uncle Cecil and his cronies. I do indeed spot all the colours as the light plays on the many-hued mountain: a hint of rose, a little rusty apricot, a gentle dove grey.
Indeed the mountain is so close it is as if it has come right into my room and sat down for tea.
"Pink is always the most difficult colour to get right", confides Fisher when I mention the rose, "that fabric there was ridiculously expensive'". She points dismissingly at the offending cushion. Centrepiece of the lounge is a sky high designer-rusted fireplace: It is spectacular. "I love rust," says the ever-elegant Fisher, "I have a house near Arrowtown and they call it the 'rusty box'." She dashes off up the stairs to show me some other favourite things; a driftwood mirror and several pieces of tsunami furniture, rough hewn and organic and made out of boats washed up after the tsunami."Good from bad" she says.
"It is wonderful to see something you have created with people in it", says Fisher. If guests slouch on the couch amid her carefully chosen cushions she knows her creation has worked. Well, I've slouched. I've lounged in front of the fire, curled up on the chaise in my room with the spectacular curtain of mountains as a back drop, dozed happily on designer bed linen and lingered long over lunch on the sunny terrace. So I think you can safely say the design of Matakauri is a success.
Later I wander round alone taking in the artwork; my favourite is a Callum Innes which hangs in the lobby and the two tiny Stephen Bambury brass panels above and almost industrial metal cabinet. Although possibly the best art work of all is outside the vast glass windows which frame the view at every turn. Yep, that nature sure is talented.
Matakauri Lodge can organize any number of excursions to help you appreciate the Great Outdoors. All in the best five star style of course. You can take a luxury yacht charter aboard the restored 1930s yacht MV Yalda, or those who prefer their water experiences with 'go-faster stripes' can try a canyon jet boat ride. if you are a rider you can 'paired with your mount' at the local stables for a hack in the high country through scenery that inspired Peter Jackson to film much of
Lord of the Rings here. Best of all the lodge can arrange helicopter tours in a sleek black beast (think James Bond meets Apocalypse Now) that will whip you up to Mt Cecil so you can look down on Matakauri from a dizzy height and see just how spectacular its location really is.
Jay Robertson on the other hand is someone with his feet firmly on the ground. For a man from a multi-billion dollar dynasty - and MD of all 3 lodges - he has a wonderfully down to earth approach. Behind the easy-going manner there is also a relentless devotion to excellence; an iron fist in a NZ lambskin glove. It is a winning combination which filters on down to the staff, who are warm and friendly but ultra-efficient at the same time.
Take Executive chef Dale Gartland for example (he of the mutton-chopped sideburns, and flying frying pan). Dale has created a modern menu that showcases the region in spectacular style. A daily tasting menu matches dishes with wines from nearby Central Otago.
Over at the small spa they don't like you to forget where you are either. The lake itself gets a mention in the 'Wakatipu Wrap' and how about the 'Glacial facial' in honour of the NZ Alps? I am a fan of the nearby ski slopes (Coronet Peak, The Remarkables) so I decide on the 'Snowflake Massage'. It sounds a little gentler than the icy facial and promises a dusting of aromatic powder "like the first snowfall" - I'm a sucker for a poetic spa description. Eighty blissed-out minutes later I do indeed feel I have sunk into a soft snowdrift and my planned mountain bike ride is sounding far too energetic an idea.
Tomorrow I've decided to go back and try a TSS Earnslaw scrub, massage and 'steamy shower' in honour of the little steamship that inspired it all.
Check in: Matakauri Lodge, 888 Glenorchy Queenstown Rd, Lake Wakatipu 9371, New Zealand
Ultimate Luxury: Every suite has a view
Most Indulgent Moment: Cocktails by the fire
Insider Secrets: Take an excursion to Arrowtown and eat at Saffron where Jay and Claire had their wedding rehearsal dinner
The Little Things: Staff make you feel like a friend, one they'll do anything for
Junior Luxies: Welcomed but remember it is a small lodge, you can't hide bad behaviour
Dress code: Relaxed but stylish
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Resorts Link: www.matakauri.co.nz www.relaischateaux.com
Hilary Doling 28/10/10