New Zealand rock lobster are commonly called crayfish and are plentiful everywhere along the east coast of the South island. They have been abundant in the waters off the town of Kaikoura, and explain how the town got its name: kai, “to eat” and koura, “crayfish”. High overseas demand for the fish has led to over-fishing and the catching of crayfish is now strictly regulated. Nevertheless, locals are still permitted to catch one or two, which they do by diving in local tide pools or setting pots 100 meters or more off shore. Where you see small buoys floating on our sea’s surface there is a pot below. Just north of the Lodge there is also a great spot where one can dive for crayfish and a local guide will take anyone interested in trying their hand at catching a cray.
Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses sits within of an operating deer farm. Deer are not native to NZ. In fact no four legged animals are. But today New Zealand is the largest producer of venison (deer meat) in the world. English red deer were introduced to New Zealand in the mid-20th century for sport. Without predators, except the occasional hunter, the deer flourished and over the years did extensive damage to New Zealand’s native bush and forest. By the 1950s the country adopted a program to cull the herds and bring their number down to a less destructive level. From this program grew the idea that putting them behind fences and farming them could be profitable, both for their meat and for their antlers. Local lore has it that the first deer farm in the country was started in Kaikoura when two local “deer cowboys”, rather than shooting the deer from their helicopter for government bounties, would jump from the aircraft onto the backs of deer to capture them for their nascent farm. As a consequence, Kaikoura has become a significant deer breeding area. Although the focus of Hapuku Farm is the breeding of stags for their antlers, each year the farm ships about 300 yearling deer to the abattoir. We, however, reserve the finest, most flavorful meat from the farm for the Lodge’s kitchen for which Fiona has developed several original sauces to enhance the unique nature of this game meat.
The Lodge features the local award winning cheeses of Daniel and Sarah Jenkins. They farm goats from which they harvest milk and they gather the finest cows’ milk from local dairy farmers to make the very best cheeses. They are fully committed to sustainable practices and never compromise on quality. Their 'Tenara', for example, is a beautiful, ash coated soft goat cheese with a truly stunning taste that has won the honor of being New Zealand’s Champion New Cheese 2015. Then there’s 'The Harnett', also award-winning, which is full of flavor, creamy, and soft with seasonal complexity.
Hapuku Olive Oil
Fifteen to twenty years ago, New Zealand, as a budding ‘new world” wine producer, grew interested in a sister product, olive oil. As a result, in those areas of the country where vineyards were already in production, olive orchards blossomed. Hapuku Farm had a small 3-acre vineyard, so why not olives? In 2000 we planted approximately 800 trees, an orchard that can be seen in the field directly behind the Tree Houses.
Kaikoura it turns out is not an ideal area for the growing of grapes and the vineyard was recently replanted with a crop more adaptable to the local climate – grass, but we have persisted with the olives, with mixed results. The 2016 harvest was a good year. We pressed over 2 tons of olives and gained about 200 litres of oil. If it tastes as good as it looks, it will be on the table later in the year 2016.