Outdoor heated luxury at the new DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka hotel. Photo/Provided
Kim Knight is staying at the new (and delicious) DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka and insists you try the éclairs.
Location: A stone’s throw from the southern highway exit to Karaka; a brisk walk on a manicured lawn from the New Zealand Bloodstock sales centre.
Style: 50 neutral shades with a touch of equestrian luxury.
Perfect for: Horse dealers and vacationers. Obviously a no-brainer if you have thoroughbred business in Karaka, but also conveniently located for quick trips to lesser-known beaches, better-known farmers markets and Auckland airport.
First impressions: A hotel on the edge of a highway? Resist the urge to keep driving because once you show up at the entrance it’s all green grass and well established trees with a ton of onsite parking and maybe the welcome friendliest I’ve ever had at reception (helped and encouraged by a warm chocolate nut cookie).
Rooms: We stayed in a deluxe king suite (from $445 a night) with an autumnal view of the oak trees around the bend. Think muted monochromatic tartan rug and furniture in varying degrees of soft tweed. Sounds a lot, but ignore your Barbour and pass me a Chivas, honey. If this piece was a member of the royal family, it would be Kate Middleton during a photoshoot in the Lake District. The “suite dream” bed is by Serta but bonus points for the couch that’s long enough to accommodate the 3 a.m. decampments of a snoring partner and the wardrobe that’s long enough to accommodate long dresses ( and/or riding boots). The TVs are bigger than my dining table at home and will remind you of how great the screen quality has come – even if there’s still nothing you want to watch on the Freeview/Sky selection (channels course included, of course).
Bathroom: Our suite had two toilets, a lovely rain shower, and a sleek, curvy freestanding tub. Nothing smells more expensive “hotel” than the lemon verbena lotions and potions from Crabtree & Evelyn and the towels were so huge and fluffy that one was redeployed as a couch blanket at 3am.
Food and drink: The hotel’s Ethereal Artisan Kitchen is named after a Melbourne Cup winner, and it’s also a serious contender. Hotel guests are advised to book in advance as locals have filled the place since it opened. Executive chef Mark Southon (ex-O’Connell St Bistro) succeeds with a menu that looks familiar on the page but pushes the envelope on the plate. The tuna ceviche with rice sorbet was the most inventive take on raw fish I’ve had in forever; the duck croquettes were crunchy and crunchy and a smoked venison loin came with adult grace notes of bitter chicory and juniper. The eclairs were so good we had them twice – salty and salmon to start; sweet and coffee at the end. It’s food worth traveling to, but stay the night and you can enjoy the very extensive bottle list as well. One small complaint – my bubbly was served in a white wine glass instead of a flute. Oh the pain.
Facilities: Honestly, take another eclair. There’s a well-equipped on-site gym (with a bowl of fresh fruit) and a large heated outdoor pool.
In the neighborhood: Send the kids to find the life-size driftwood horse art at the sales entrance for Karaka’s ultimate winter photo op, but come summer, I bet all Instagrammable roads will lead to the purple glory of CTC Lavender Farm. Also pretty close: Rainbow’s End and Spookers (I’ve never been to the latter horror-themed – on our long weekend out of town, the traffic was already nightmarish enough).
Accessibility: Go to the website in fine print for a full list of all 37 accessibility features, including Braille lifts, strobe alarms, lowered light switches, a pool winch, and a minimum width of 32 inches on decks. bedroom doors.
DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka, 8 Hinau Rd, Karaka, tel. 09 296 2002, hilton.com