A Surprise Attraction – Art Deco in New Zealand with Bonus Wine and Food Tours
Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand is Home of Napier’s Art Deco and is a Premier Food and Wine Region of the country of New Zealand.Story and Photos courtesy of Lenora A. Hayman
If you are interested in Art Deco style, you will find it in New Zealand’s Napier. The seaport city of Napier, New Zealand is on the east coast of the North Island. An easy Intercity Coach Line bus ride south of Auckland takes 6 hours 35 minutes to travel the 346 km (215 miles). Our Auckland to Napier bus route took us via the resort town of Taupo, on the shore of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. I am told the lake is well stocked with trout, that the late Queen Mother loved to catch! I loved the scenery from Taupo to Napier and the contrast of the craggy hills merging into the charming valleys and peaceful plains. What a pleasure it was to ride the public Intercity Coach Line that insists that all passengers fasten their seat belts. I wish our buses provided such safety!
On Feb.3, 1931, an earthquake, 7.8 on the Richter Scale, leveled the centre of Napier, creating fires and killing 261 people. During a two-year period around 1968, a renewal of Napier took place. It was reconstructed in Art Deco style, the decorative style of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Art Deco is marked by precise and boldly, delineated geometric shapes and strong colours. Other examples of the architectural style are to be found in Miami Beach and Santa Barbara in the United States. Napier is the only example of Art Deco in the Southern Hemisphere.
On my first morning, I joined a group at the Napier i-Site Visitor Centre, on Marine Parade, for an Art Deco Walk, with informative and bubbly, volunteer guide Christine Packer. The Masonic Lodge, where Queen Elizabeth stayed, has the green, zigzag symbols and the Halsbury Chambers, showed geometric lines. The Syrian arch of the National Tobacco Co. displayed stucco designs of roses and bull rushes. On Emerson St. a liberated Diva statue, called” A Wave in Time” is accompanied by a Greyhound dog, a popular breed at the time.
At the conclusion of the tour at the Art Deco Trust Store, I met Peter and Helen Ball and Robin Thompson, dressed in Art Deco Period clothing, standing by a cute 1937 Baby Austen Seven and a 1946 Vauxhall. They told me about an Geo Art Deco Weekend, held here each year. It has both ticketed and free events. It is held on the 3rd weekend of each February and includes a Gatsby picnic in the garden area of Marine Parade.
Also on Marine Parade, is the symbol of Napier, the famous Pania of the Reef statue. Pania, according to Maori legend, lived with sea sirens, and fell in love with Karitoki, a Maori chief’s son. She stayed each night with him but in order to survive, had to return to the sea each morning. Karitoki, secretly tried to give Pania cooked food, which would prevent her returning to the sea. Pania, knowing her life was in danger, fled, never to return. She was transformed into the reef beyond the Napier breakwater.
While strolling down Browning St. I heard beautiful singing from within the Waiapu Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and I was so pleased I walked in. The Hukarere Maori Anglican Girls’ College was having their high school Prize Giving Celebration and the girls in their freshly- pressed, red kilts and white blouses, were doing an action song. Hukarere is the sister school of Te Aute Boys College. It was a Hukarere student who modeled for the Pania of the Reef Statue, years ago!
I stayed at the Crown Hotel at Bridge St and Hardinge Rd in Ahuriri (the Maori for Napier) 3 km and 5 min by taxi from the city centre. The Crown Hotel has maintained its Art Deco exterior and interior with the mosaic foyer, restored mural, and heritage and contemporary suites.
Port Ahuriri was Napier’s main port until the 1931 earthquake, when the port services were relocated to the Port of Napier. I strolled over to the West Quay, alongside the fishing docks at the Ahuriiri Marina, where the industrial sheds are now cafés and bars with outdoor seating. I sat on the sun-deck of the Thirsty Whale at 32 West Quay and ate their NZ delicacy a whitebait fritter (juvenile, fresh-water galaxiid minnows) on toasted bread above a mesclun salad finished with hollandaise. Three girls, Robyn, Alda and Kelly were having a “girls night out” and invited me to join them, and try more NZ specialties, at Rebecca and Chef Jeremy Rameka’s Pacifica Restaurant in the blue beach bungalow at 209 Marine Parade, Napier. Amongst numerous awards Pacifica was the Restaurant of the Year Finalist (Cuisine Magazine) 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and Chef Jeremy Rameka, the Outstanding Chef of Hawkes Bay (Hawkes Bay Hospitality Awards) 2012, 2011 & 2009! I had the tasting plate of moist sesame-crusted swordfish, sautéed prawns and coconut creamed baby paua (abalone).
Mutton birds or Sooty Shearwater nest in burrows on the Titi or Mutton bird Islands near Stewart Island, the most southern island of NZ. The Rakiura (Stewart Island) Maori have the rights to gather, process the preservation in salt, and sell the mutton birds from the 36 islands from April 1-. May 31st. My roasted mutton bird, panko lamb brains and softened cabbage was a real treat . My glass of the Gisborne boutique, certified 2010 organic, Wrights Gewürztraminer, with a hint of burnt toffee, ginger and marmalade, paired well with the food. Do share their frozen chocolate milkshake slab. It’s wonderful too.
The following morning friends Moyra and Peter Cox, the former Deputy Mayor of Napier and both exuberant travelers, took me on a wine tasting tour, at the cellar doors, of some of the Hawkes Bay wineries. Hawkes Bay’s long sunshine hours allows the production of many styles of wine.
In Te Awanga, The Elephant Hill Winery and Restaurant with an elephant statue at the entrance and elephant hide type labels, produces both premium white and red wines. The 2009 Elephant Airavata Viognier white wine has a floral nose, lavender with apricot and peach flavour and the 2009 Elephant Hill Airavata Syrah had full bodied plum, cherry and bay leaf characters.
At the Clearview Estate Winery/Restaurant, in Te Awanga, Tim Turvey, founder, winemaker and owner, also offered homestead accommodation. The 2011 Reserve Chardonnay had lots of stone fruit character and caramel nose and the Clearview 2 010 Sea Red dessert wine had dense berry fruit and plum.
While at John Buck’s Te Mata Estate Winery in Havelock North, we tried the Awatea Cabernet/Merlot’10- a dark magenta colour with aromas of fresh blackberry and raspberry and their Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc’12 with aromas of lemongrass and coriander. Their bottle closure is the reinvented cork called a “diam” manufactured from natural, granulated cork particles, treated with CO² and reformed into the precise shape.
New Zealand’s oldest winery, the Mission Estate Winery in Taradale, was established in 1851 by French monks and the restaurant and cellar door are now housed in the seminary. The Mission Winery hosts weddings on the lawn overlooking the vineyard and the Annual Mission Concert, in their natural amphitheatre, hosting 25,000 fans is a huge summer success. Some of the artists who have performed there since 1993 are Barry Gibb, Rod Stewart, Ray Charles, Julio Iglesias and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa!
Our lunch began by dipping the Mission mini loaf into “Village Press” olive oil, coating with Hohepa herb quark (the European dairy product) and topping with 3 nut dukkah (an Egyptian side dish of a mixture of herbs, hazelnuts and spices). Our main course was moist, braised pork cheeks, crispy sushi cake, Asian greens, oyster mushrooms, chili, peanut and pineapple caramel paired with their Mission Estate Gewürztraminer whose nose was spicy with a rose petal bouquet. What lovely memories I have, imbibing Hawke’s Bay wines, in either heritage or modern surroundings.
Story and Pictures by Lenora A. Hayman
Last Updated February 22, 2021 by Matthew George – Webmaster