Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Place to Stay

I don't know about anyone else but if I'm looking for a quiet, peaceful retreat, I go somewhere...well...quiet and peaceful. Braemar Lodge & Spa, tucked away on the brow of a hill, down a quiet, gravel road about ten minute's drive from Hanmer Springs, is such a place. You'd never know it was there if you hadn't been told.
There's been a lodge of some description on the site for years - at least a decade or more - but this latest incarnation opened 18 months ago after a $20-million upgrade. To my mind, the architecture is less than inspiring. It looks a little like a concrete block apartment block But the views across the Hanmer basin to the village are quite something and the huge rooms are priced for incredible value. The bathrooms alone are almost the size of some tiny hotel rooms. Each of the 24 suites also has its own hot tub on a private balcony; and the double Vichy shower and enormous, high-tech spa bath inside are luxuries to be reckoned with - in more ways than one. It took me ten minutes to figure out how to use the shower and only then courtesy of a blast of freezing cold water.
But when dinner the night before has been such a culinary triumph, I'm prepared to excuse a bit of high-tech mumbo-jumbo. After all, much of that probably comes down to my own technological ineptitude. Braemar has had the good sense to hire Michelin-trained, South African executive chef, Nikki Brown, who presented us with a meal fit for a king. Highly decorative and divine tasting, I'd go to Braemar again on the strength of it. Altitude Restaurant itself is a little cavernous and lacking in atmosphere but who cares when you're well fed? Overall Braemar Lodge is incredible value for money. What it lacks in imaginative architecture is more than compensated for by the size and quality of rooms, by its serene rural location and its first rate cuisine. It's a great spot for a weekend getaway.

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