Now Auckland is back at Level 1 today, we are excited to explore The Hunting Lodge, a wildly beautiful vineyard, restaurant and wedding venue on Auckland’s city fringe. With several different locations across the eighty acre estate – a custom-built Barn, an historic Hunting Lodge restaurant, and a modern cellar door with private meeting and tasting rooms – The Hunting Lodge caters for varying guest lists and all seasons.
Each aspect of The Hunting Lodge is fresh, relaxed and elegant and the grounds provide the perfect opportunity to unwind and connect with friends. Only 35 minutes from the CBD, it’s easily accessible and once you’re there, you’ll feel like you’ve escaped Auckland to a rural oasis.
We’re especially in love with the Barn – its black timber exterior, white tongue & groove interior timber walls, open ceilings and an exposed concrete floor, makes for a chic ‘blank canvas’ to style as you please. Through the barn doors, you’ll find yourself in front of picturesque west facing views that soak up the last of the sun, and a pristinely renovated seventies caravan serving drinks.
With its award winning wine and food, the consumable aspects are top tier and couldn’t be easier or more beautiful. Based on a shared menu and a pasture to plate philosophy, guests will be taken through an intimate eating experience with seasonal produce grown or sourced locally.
We talk to Anna to uncover the rich history of the lodge, the dreamy spaces available and how they’ve fared over the last twelve months.
Tell us about The Hunting Lodge and how it came to be the business it is today.
The history of The Hunting Lodge dates back to 1868 when the Kerr-Taylor family, one of the first early settlors in Auckland, set it up as their country retreat and hunting lodge. Descendants of the Kerr-Taylor family are still closely connected to the site today, including one member working in the winemaking team.
The history rich site is actually the home to New Zealand’s first commercially grown Sauvignon Blanc vines, and we still make wine from the vines today.
Now 100% family owned and operated, the current owners are proud to be able to share the beautiful site with the public. They are passionate in creating an offer for everyone for every occasion. Onsite today, The Hunting Lodge has an award-winning restaurant, dream-like event spaces and a lounge style lawn bar, not to mention 80 acres of vineyard to roam.
How has your business evolved in the last 12 months in the face on COVID-19?
We were lucky enough to be able to pivot some areas of the business go to online. Cellar Door wine sales turned digital, Restaurant and Lawn Bar dining turned takeaway… the list goes on. The events space however, did take a good rest while larger groups were not allowed. Now, we’re thrilled to watch regular weddings- they really do fill the site with joy. It has been a particularly busy time for us, with many weddings being delayed due to Covid and condensed into a smaller time frame. We’re just happy that these couples can finally seal the deal, and that they’ve chosen The Hunting Lodge as the destination to celebrate love.
We have heard amazing things about your food, what is your favourite item on the menu at the moment?
Our menu changes with the seasons so we update this regularly. Our events and wedding menu are a “build your own” style, with a large range of options. Not only can the couple choose their own dishes, they can also choose the style of the dining experience to suit their budget and occasion. From seafood grazing tables, to walk & fork and four-course sit down meals, the menu truly is flexible and customisable. Our current fave would have to be the seafood grazing table- It guarantees a “WOAH” from all guests… We’re talking oysters, clams, salmon, and ceviche.
You are very passionate about the “pasture to plate” philosophy, why is this important to you?
At The Hunting Lodge we believe “what grows together, goes together”. With the ability to offer fresh produce and wine from the same terroir, soil and climate, there’s an indisputable feeling of connection to the site. The style of food that we offer at the Restaurant is rustic and authentic, and we think locally sourced and fresh produce is critical to achieving this.
Tell us about the experience you offer to your clients?
We have an in-house wedding planner that works with the couple from A-Z to ensure their special day is seamless. From wedding planning, all the way through to holding the brides dress before she walks down the aisle – they provide a truly personalised experience. Available for on-going communication and support, our events teams’ focus is the couple’s comfort and control.
The Hunting Lodge feels like an off the beaten track oasis, even though we are only 35 minutes from Auckland CBD.
What is your favourite wedding you’ve held at your venue?
We don’t have a particular favourite as they are all very different and unique to the couple, however, we have been so privileged to host weddings where couples incorporate some cultural traditions. Anything from traditional colourful Indian sarees with beautiful Mandeps, to Greek weddings where it is tradition to smash plates, throw rice and serve candy coated almonds. And of course, amazingly choreographed Pacific Island performances and the traditional New Zealand Haka.
Talk us through a typical wedding day timeline at The Hunting Lodge
The bride and her bridesmaids are greeted by our wedding planner for final touches. Family & friends start arriving and the groom’s nerves have well and truly set in. We ensure the ladies make their way down the aisle in time with the music and the magic begins (plus lots of tears). After group and family photos are taken, the guests are left to mingle, play some lawn games, grab a drink from our caravan ‘Jerry’ and enjoy a beautiful antipasto grazing table with fresh charcuterie and cheeses. While the guests get merry, we have all the fun with the bridal party, escorting them in our golf carts around our 80-acre property for a picnic hamper and photos. The bridal party is then welcomed into The Barn for speeches and dinner. Plates are passed around the table with stories and memories as the night rolls on. The bride and the groom then take to the dance floor for their first dance, closely followed by the guests. After plenty of food, drinks and new memories made the evening ends by sending off the bride and groom with sparklers and best wishes.
We are excited to have The Hunting Lodge as part of our exclusive Wild Hearts Vendor Collection. For more information, check out this stunning venue here, and you can follow The Hunting Lodge on Instagram and Facebook.
I Do Photography(Jody Lidstone)
Words by Isabelle McKay.