The old truism not to leave town until you’ve seen the country, applies. And just a three-hour drive from Auckland, or a 40-minute flight to Kerikeri airport and a half hour drive, lies the pretty tourist town of Paihia.
No-one is quite sure how Paihia got its name – it doesn’t translate directly to anything in Maori. But a fairly logical version is that one of the missionaries, who could speak a bit of Maori, suggested to someone else that it was “pai” (meaning good) “here”. The town’s not shy about giving this version in brochures and posters so we’ll accept it.
Two Wenches on Adventures crossed over from Russell on the car ferry in the new Holden Trax so that was a good start. The navigator and the driver stayed overnight at the Paihia Beach Resort Hotel and Spa in a luxury apartment with unmatched views to Motorua Island and Purerua Peninsula, and dinner at the in-house Provenir Restaurant and cellar.
The overall ambience of the restaurant, the standard of food on offer, the plate presentation and the fact the knowledgeable waitresses don’t merely walk to the table but glide – equals anything on offer in New Zealand, if not numerous countries elsewhere. But don’t take my word for it.
The spontaneous and unsolicited comment came from an English couple dining at the adjacent table. Their sentiments were endorsed by an Australian couple one table further on. If that’s not matchless recommendation, what is?
The kitchen hosts chefs from Austria, France and Italy. The wait staff on this night were from Scotland and England. The wine waiter was genuine Kiwi, all of which proves you don’t need to leave the country – this eclectic international flavour is literally in the Far North.
The superb evening meal consisted, first, of scallops (and we forgave them for being Australian because the local scallops aren’t in season), followed by 30-day aged Angus tenderloin with parsley and truffle followed (whew!) by a wild flower honey brulee. After sensations like that, coffee was declined in case it mitigated the taste buds humming from the previous selections.
The apartment accommodation that includes a modern kitchen and separate bedroom is stylish, comfortable and thankfully simplistic. Given the views from the balcony beyond the ranch-slider who needs over-stuffed cushions and over-large tables?
This boutique hotel and elegant restaurant must not merely be ‘done’ but experienced. How proudly it serves the Bay of Islands and the entire country.