Like most alpine resort towns with an international airport, Queenstown comes with a plethora of boutique lodges, five star hotels, backpackers, flash packers and the usual big name hotel brands. But there’s one independent quiet achiever that has been setting the bar for lake front accommodation with understated elegance, relaxed style and authentic service.
The Rees Hotel and Apartments sit a little way out of town, a half hour walk along a lake front track into the hub of Queenstown or two minutes in a taxi or hotel shuttle. Trust me, this is a good thing. Queenstown is home to 150 licensed establishments in one square kilometre and while the series of back alleys and cobbled laneways play host to some serious apres action it is nice to leave that behind when it is time to lay the head to rest.
I was given the keys to the penthouse, clearly I must know the General Manager or at least the PR Agency that promotes the hotel. But who am I to hand the keys back?
You can choose from one of 60 hotel rooms or 90 apartments all with private balconies or go seriously upmarket and grab the keys to one of the exclusive Residences opening this year complete with butler service. Views from all the accommodations are truly spectacular and look across Lake Wakatipu to the impressive The Remarkables range.
There’s also a lake jetty if you feel so inclined to take a boat pick up from the airport down the lake to check in. I went old school with a curb side Audi pick up from one of the hotel team.
My apartment, sorry, penthouse, had two bedrooms and option for a third with a connecting door to a hotel room next door. The kitchen was fully stocked with all the mod cons, not that I used them with all the dining options on offer outside the front door and a room service menu direct from the True South Dining Room on site.
A large balcony provided lounge space to drink in the view but with the colder temperatures I preferred to recline on the sofa and watch through the floor to ceiling glass instead. Bathroom floors were heated and bath tubs deep for soaking weary walking, hiking, bungee jumping and ski muscles.
You can tell a lot about a hotel by the entrance. The lobby always sets the tone and The Rees reception area has high vaulted ceilings, a mammoth fire place and that omnipresent lake and mountain view. Tones are muted and neutral to reflect the nature outside. The overall ambience is one of exhalation, a safe haven from the crazy adrenaline fuelled antics in them there hills.
Let’s be honest. Food can make or break a stay in a hotel. There are a lot of people claiming big things in the food stakes in Queenstown and not all of them consistently deliver.
I am not traditionally a fan of hotel restaurants, unless of course you’re in Hong Kong where all the Michelin starred chefs seem to have their name attached to the dining room of all the big five star names and even then who can afford it.
True South Dining Room at The Rees is in the hands of Head Chef Ben Batterbury. The 30 year old Bristol born chef has worked in the kitchens of Michelin chefs Gary Jones and Simon Carnage and manned the stove at triple rosette award winning Lomonds Restaurant at Cameron House in Scotland.
His menu at True South features local providores and seasonal produce with monthly changes and is a mix of contemporary and classical dishes. The flipside of the hard copy menu presented in the restaurant features all the food suppliers from the local region featured in the cuisine. A nice touch.
Expect Ora King Salmon, Canterbury Duck Legs, Wakanui Beef, Central Otago honey and more. Whatever you do, do not miss the Southland Venison Tataki or the Raspberry Pavlova with rose wine jelly.
Perhaps the real winner, if you ask General Manager Mark Rose (who is also a trained chef), is the hotel wine cellar with a focus on the Bordeaux region of France. Local Central Otago wines mix it up with Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Gruard Larose, Malescot St Exupery and Lynch Bages. If you know your wines then you know this is impressive.
I don’t claim to be a wine connoisseur but I am a lover of hotels. It is, after all, a major part of my job. The Rees reflects the relaxed nature of Queenstown with an open armed embrace, akin to an old friend you haven’t seen in a while but feels like yesterday when you do.
For more information on The Rees visit www.therees.co.nz
Rachael Oakes-Ash was a guest of The Rees and Air New Zealand