The Hunting Lodge
You know you’ve discovered a gem of a restaurant when your first visit has you planning your next. And that’s exactly what will happen when you visit The Hunting Lodge. The stunning destination restaurant, Cellar Door & Lawn Bar, and its incredible setting will woo your heart (and taste buds) time and time again.
A leisurely Sunday (or weekday) drive away, The Hunting Lodge sits pretty in Waimauku. Just around the corner from Kumeu, it’s surrounded by breathtaking vineyards, forest and farmland. You’ll feel a million miles away from the city, even though it’s just a 30-minute drive.
Owned and operated by the oh-so passionate Sutton family, the 80-acre estate offers it all. Satisfy your foodie desires by brunching or dining in the dreamy historic villa, or opt for the recently opened Cellar Door & Lawn Bar on warmer days.
At the helm of the kitchen, you’ll find head chef Ash Abramowitz alongside executive chef Des Harris (ex Clooney). They’ve crafted a seasonal menu showcasing a farm-to-table philosophy, or, as they call it, pasture to plate.
Both the kitchen team and resident permaculturist, Josh Mainwaring, have a strong connection to working with the land. Josh has created a lush garden where the restaurant sources more than 136 varieties of leafy greens, herbs and fruit. While the aim is to grow everything on-site, the rest is sourced locally, including fresh meat and fish.
On a summers day, head to the new Cellar Door & Lawn Bar—the brainchild of chief winemaker Pete Turner and Liberty Brew Co. founder, Joe Wood. Settle into the lawn area and enjoy vast views of the vineyard, fitted out with wooden pallets and festoon lighting.
Once again, Des Harris has nailed the casual eats menu. We suggest starting with the Grape vs. Grain tasting platter—a selection of prosciutto, brie and focaccia accompanied by four beer and wine tasters. The woodfired oven is roaring all weekend long, churning out staple smoky eats and a campfire favourite, s’mores. Think sticky spiced pork ribs or a slow cooked beef brisket roll—this is finger licking good.
Freshen up your tastebuds and choose from a simple side of coleslaw, or go all in with a summer salad. We’re craving the kale, beetroot and carrot salad from the garden, topped with buffalo cheese, orange and pomegranate. It’s perfection when paired with the new Blush Crush, a Sparkling Pink Sauv created by Pete and Joe.
Speaking of summer drinks, the new crowd-blended rosé—Summer Mojo—is a must. Fresh and fruity, you can pick up this limited, one-of-a-kind blend at the Cellar Door to take home (and drink, of course). But if you prefer a frothy brew instead, there are ten Liberty beers on tap to choose from too.
Enter the historic villa restaurant and you’ll find a mouth-watering all day menu. For weekend brunching, try the duck prosciutto with duck heart sauce (one of Des’ favourites) or the signature big breakfast—it comes with all the trimmings including thick-cut bacon, black pudding, potato rosti and perfectly gooey lardo fried eggs.
The deliciousness continues across the lunch and dinner menus—you’ll want to eat it ALL. Dig into venison pie, Kaipara lamb or a sizzling beef sirloin with pinot noir butter and shallots. We can’t go past the fresh Kaipara oysters with chorizo, pickled seeds and flora. And remember, the seasonal menu is ever-changing (giving you an excuse to visit on the regular).
One thing’s for certain: there’s a lot to love about The Hunting Lodge. It’s a stunning (and delicious) spot to wile away the hours. Book your table here and we’ll meet you there.
Image credit: Lydia Arnold