The BREAKFAST BUFFET is really good: the muesli is high-grade and the pastries are freshly baked. I like to eat heartily after my run so I enjoyed farm-fresh eggs, pancakes, crispy bacon, ham and sausages: the works.
The atmosphere of the Loggia, with its natural light and fresh, country feel, is transformed by dinnertime. But early in the day, without the stiffly formal evening staff, it is much looser; young girls run it in the morning, which is more our speed. NZ seems to be on the circuit of Irish and UK kids taking their gap year to see the world. They can cross the planet to come somewhere beautiful in the Pacific, yet work in English and get paid well. You never know what accent you’ll hear when you see a new face; I respect their get up and go.
The Mediterranean climate and number of good vineyards here has helped Hawkes Bay become an internationally renowned wine region. And with so much arable land the raw produce in New Zealand just somehow tastes better. The lodge immerses you in this local gourmet culture, encouraging guests to try their full 3-course LUNCHES and FORMAL DINNERS. You’d be mad not to try the NZ lamb cutlets, which are the world’s best and get flown all the way to Manhattan, but the creativity here extends across the board to fresh seafood, beef, veal and chicken.
There are private spaces on request as well. New Zealanders seem to love beautiful stone wine cellars - you can book the subterranean, dining portion of the ‘snug,’ a round room in raw timber that is under the grand lounge. It’s all beautifully lit, with candles in the ceiling and little accent lights everywhere.
At Kidnappers all meals are important. There is a cocktail hour which is your chance to mingle with other guests over canapés - mostly couples. Dinner afterwards is served by waiters whose jackets are more on the conservative side. Proper jackets are required by gentlemen guests also. This is new for me because my resort/lodge uniform puts the casual in smart casual - but I had been a good boy and read the material beforehand so I had brought my own suede brown jacket along (me being me I still wore some quality runners. I can’t deal with lace up shoes in business meetings, let alone on holiday).
Do bring your own jacket. You may be quite surprised to find this rule in New Zealand but they obviously want the ambience to match the high standards of the cuisine, which at these prices I suppose is good to see.
The guy serving us dinner had that classic wealthy, grazier’s son look: the rosy cheeks, double chin and blazer. The stiff wait service and food was all too posh for us - we are all about the quick, cosy meal. The whole thing seemed out of character with the rest of the Kidnappers experience.
After a few courses, including an admittedly perfect lamb cutlet that you could slice with a spoon, with the inevitable gourmet herb drizzle, the courses kept inching along. It drags out degustation-style. We’re ageing here! I know this is sacrilegious but by the 3rd or 4th course we just bailed, saying we were tired (I told you I’d be honest on jonathansaid.com!)
But to be fair, the main clientele probably seek out the fine dining here. It is a foodie’s paradise. A private chef is available and the lodge constantly arranges SPECIAL TASTING EVENTS, flying in guest chefs like Guilliame Brahimi, the star behind Guillaume at Bennelong at the Sydney Opera House. Or holding challenges with top wine gurus, matching dueling wine lists with a visiting chef’s menu. I do love that the restaurant is never static. There’s always something interesting going on to put it on the foodie map.