For a taste of classic French style in the City of Sails, check out the pop-up themed rooms at the Hilton.
One of Hilton Hotel & Resorts’ three New Zealand properties, Hilton Auckland sits 300 metres out to sea on Princes Wharf, taking in prime views of the Waitemata Harbour.
Shaped like a cruiseliner, Hilton Auckland looks like the biggest, fanciest vessel in a harbour full of big fancy vessels. Sitting on your balcony or in the bar or restaurant, drink in hand and watching the boats go by, it’s easy to imagine you’re one of the super-rich superyacht crew. As lovely as it is to lap up the luxury, it would be a shame not to get out. The stylish cafes, restaurants and bars of the Viaduct, Wynyard Quarter and Britomart are just a short walk away. As is the ferry terminal, where you can board a real boat to other parts of Auckland, one of the nearby islands or even the Coromandel.
Think low-key nautical luxe. Classy but casual. It’s the kind of place where, much like your local yacht club, you can enjoy the finer things in life without having to deck yourself out in your finery. After dumping my bags in my room and going for a quick walk around Wynyard Quarter, I joined the boat shoe-wearing Lions fans in Bellini bar for a cocktail. On warm summer evenings, it must be lovely to sit at one of the outdoor tables and take in the action on the harbour, but the floor-to-ceiling windows ensure you never have to miss out on the views. With just minutes until my dinner reservation I hastily ordered the bar’s signature Thyme of Your Life cocktail – a refreshing blend of muddled lychees, cucumber, Black Robin New Zealand Gin, lemon and thyme. It was so delicious that, sinking into a comfy chair near a suspended fireplace, I decided I’d have to return to work my way through at least some of the more than 130 cocktails on the list. Next up: Passion on Fire – a heady-sounding blend of passionfruit pulp, rum, passionfruit vodka, ginger liqueur, brandy, lime and apple juice and egg white.
The restaurant, Fish, exhibits the same clean modern design aspects as the rest of the hotel and, like the bar, takes full advantage of the harbour views. My mum and I watched the sun set behind the harbour bridge as we chowed down on Te Kouma oysters with a dash of lime. Presided over by former MasterChef NZ chef Gareth Stewart, the kitchen turns out classic dishes with a modern twist. Despite the name, there are plenty of meat and vegetarian options for those who’d prefer them. Mum ordered the slow-cooked pork belly with kimchi, coriander oil and schezwan crackling, telling me the meat melted in the mouth and the kimchi added just the right amount of oomph. I went with the Akaroa salmon – the perfectly crisp skin contrasting deliciously with the ultra-tender flesh – with celeriac puree, celery heart and pink peppercorn dressing. In a word: divine. We shared a bowl of glazed baby sweet potatoes – comfort food at its finest – and al dente steamed greens. We probably should have finished there but I couldn’t resist ordering the selection of locally made chocolates, also ordering mum to help me finish. The soft centres confused our tastebuds somewhat and were a bit sweet for our liking, but they didn’t spoil what had been an incredibly satisfying dining experience.
Named after the aristocratic French widow who created the Veuve Clicquot champagne brand in the late 1700s, the Madame Clicquot Room brings a touch of classic French style to the City of Sails. Hilton has partnered with the champagne house to transform one room in each of its New Zealand properties (the others are in Taupo and Queenstown) into pop-up French boudoirs inspired by Madame Clicquot’s former abode – the invitation-only Hotel du Marc in Reims. There’s only so much that can be done to make a room in a modern hotel in inner-city Auckland look like one in a chateau in rural France but interior stylist Michelle Halford has done an excellent job. The chaise lounge, modern French-style writing desk, painted portrait of Madame Clicquot and splashes of Clicquot yellow in the furnishings and accessories lend the room a certain je ne sais quois. Guests are treated to a welcome bottle of Veuve which I’m sure I would have enjoyed in the spacious bathtub if I hadn’t had to worry about getting up early for work the next day. As Madame Clicquot was an insomniac, the bedrooms in the Hotel du Marc implement a variety of sleep aids and it seems her namesake room in Auckland does too. The gloriously comfortable king size bed, thick curtains and dimmable lights are sure to send all but the most incurable insomniacs among us into the land of nod.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
Eat and drink your way around the surrounding dining precincts. Sky City, the Sky Tower, Auckland Art Gallery and the Civic Theatre are also within walking distance and you can get a shopping fix along Queen and High streets en route. Those looking to escape the city could head to nearby Parnell or Ponsonby or catch a ferry to one of the nearby islands such as Waiheke, Rotoroa or Tiri Tiri Matangi.
Like leading the high life on the high seas minus the inconvenience of not being able to step ashore whenever you choose.
Stay in the Madame Clicquot Room at Hilton Auckland, the Ponsardin Suite at Hilton Lake Taupo or La Grande Room at Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa from $350. Package includes accommodation for two adults, complimentary breakfast and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot on arrival. Book before August 25 for stays between now and August 27, when this specific room will no longer be available. See hiltonhonors.com/hoteldumarc
Those views and that dinner made for a pretty perfect evening. The valet parking was a bonus too.
Having to pay more than $15 to watch an in-room movie.
The hotel is 25km – about a 45 minute drive – from Auckland Airport. Expect to pay at least $90 for a taxi. You can also take the airport Super Shuttle or book a limousine.
The writer was a guest of the Hilton.