THE SHEER QUANTITY of attractive offers is The Farm's central value proposition: Do you want a sparkling water, wine or beer while you're shown around? Something to eat first? A light snack? A full meal? Food, drink, entertainment, comfort: any and all were available from the moment of my arrival and the duration of my stay.
Maybe you are not interested in the endless offers. Maybe you just want to go to your room, fetch a fancy beer and bag of New Zealand's best chips from the complimentary minibar and to sit outside on the porch, in your undies, in utter privacy and peace, taking in the enormous sweep of the farm, with views out to the coastline and beyond. But, of course, such an act is also the taking up of an offer. So many of the offers at The Farm are like this - not explicitly but rather woven into the design of the place in such a way that you often realise you desire something only after you're indulging in it. This is true luxury: unburdening you of the need to even consider what might make you happiest.
On the way to my hilltop suite, the lodge manager walked me past the infinity pool, heated to 29 degrees, sculpted into the hillside and offering the same sort of absurd views available across the rest of the property. Possibly because I felt the need to pretend I was not overawed by the delight of the circumstances in which I found myself, I said: "Is it okay if I eat lunch in the pool?"
"Of course", he replied.
"I was just joking," I said. "You can't eat lunch in a pool."
"There are no rules here," he replied.
THE ETHOS OF THE FARM is not the provision of hedonic experiences so much as it is the communication of care. An example: Almost as soon as I thought: "Where's the ironing board?" I found it exactly where I thought it would be, hanging on its own custom-designed, thematically integrated hook at the rear of a wardrobe the size of a bedroom. I'm not a farmer, so I can't say for sure, but that hook looked exactly like some sort of useful farm implement: hefty, dark, thick, asymmetrical, unconventional, non-standard, maybe handmade, possibly farm-forged. Just to be clear: I am talking here about a hook used solely to support an ironing board, tucked behind wall-mounted shelves, at the back of a wardrobe.
Another example: inside the front door was an intricately knotted length of thick rope the size of a small dog. I think it was a doorstop, but it was also more than that - an indication of care beyond reason. Would anyone have noticed or cared if the door-restraint mechanism was a wedge or hook? Of course not. That's the point. Everywhere, these touches: the intricate, twisting latch on the heavy sash window next to the bath, the heavy, sensual wood used in the sash window next to the bath, the enormous depth of the bath, next to the heavy sash window with the intricate twisting latch. And underlying all this rustic romanticism - mostly invisibly - high technology and comfort: the underfloor heating, the fireplace that turns on with the push of a button, the television that swings out from behind a huge black and white landscape of the local coast. The air conditioning makes no sound; nor do you ever feel it. You push some buttons and then you realise you're warm, or cool, or whatever else you want to feel, including very, very happy. The place's offerings merge seamlessly with your desires, allowing your brain sweet release from its otherwise incessant need to communicate with your body.
I cannot speak too highly, nor expansively, of the bath. So capacious, so rustic, so welcoming. Too welcoming! After getting in, I hardly got out, except for snacks and drinks from the complimentary minibar, and for cocktails, canapes, meals, massage, golf, multiple swims, relaxing walks, enormously long and deep sleeps, and a nighttime tour of the native bird sanctuary, during which we looked for wild kiwi using an incredible piece of apparatus that looked like a portable TV antenna.
I first entered that bath, with a selection of excellent books, in the late afternoon of my first day. Arrayed around me on that bath at various times over the next two days, from either the lodge's kitchen or the complimentary minibar, were Four Stroke Pacific Pale Ale, Proper Potato Crisps, sparkling mineral water, sweet and salty popcorn, homemade fresh baked cookies, petit fours, croissants, Whittaker's chocolate sante bars (milk and dark) and a flat white made by the lodge's profoundly gifted German barista. Sometimes I would have three or four of these items lined up simultaneously, allowing me to choose between sweet, salt, savoury or booze, like an introverted Roman emperor.
When the sun shone, I threw open the sash window and allowed the wind to blow in coolingly, through the wild grasses and elegant plantings, over which I could see all the way to the benevolence of Hawke's Bay's coastal cliffs, and the Pacific Ocean beyond. When the weather was wet, on Sunday morning, I allowed my "Rainy Day Jazz" Spotify playlist to merge seamlessly with the in-room Yamaha amplifier, which delivered rich and resonant sound through the suite's multiple roof-mounted speakers, including one directly over the bath. The wind blew the rain against the window; I sipped my flat white; I read The Lonely City, by Olivia Laing. I thought: "For what more could I want?" and I knew there was nothing, because if there had been, The Farm would have already delivered it.
I PLAYED GOLF; I didn't just play golf. The golf course, which has consistently rated among the world's best in lists compiled by the world-leading golf publications (#22 in this year's Golf Digest "World's 100 Greatest Courses") leads you out to the sea and back - again and again - in a series of spectacular ridge top holes. Its fairways are generous in width, but every hole is a masterpiece of thought-provoking design. I hacked my way around but felt, with every step, the sense of reverence for the landscape and the care with which the place had been put together - every blade of grass cared for, every gully, rise, tee box and green placed with precision. The sensation was not so much of playing golf but of being manipulated into a sense of deep wellbeing.
I got a massage; I didn't just get a massage. To reach the spa involves a short ascent from the lodge, through beautiful, rising gardens, to an elegant little cottage on a hill with a thrilling view. The pre- and post-massage periods were long and unhurried. There was no sense of being required to vacate the space for incoming customers. This was a place not just to linger, but in which lingering was compulsory. An infinity after the wonder of my massage, I rose from the table, dressed, debriefed with my therapist and exited into the afternoon sunshine. I looked across the breadth of the landscape, out over the cliffs and into forever. The Farm, as it always seemed to be, was quiet, bar the bird song, as if I was the only one there, although I knew that to not be the case. The sense of solitude, the beauty of the flowers and plant life, the lack of timidity of the multitudinous native birds, the opening up of the opulent lodge before me. It was so nice as to be offensive.
CANAPES WERE SERVED in the lodge from 6pm. I found an ideal spot in the library, which was heavy with wood and books, deep, soft furnishings and general opulence. Shortly after I had sunk, presumably never to return, into the preposterousness of the couch and, before I was able to even have the thought the evening was verging on chilly, one of the waitstaff appeared from behind me and said: "Would you like me to light the fire?"
I thought about the question for a bit, in spite of its simplicity. I prevaricated - this being my natural decision-making state, and while I prevaricated she stood patiently, showing not the slightest sign of being bored, in spite of how boring I was being. I outlined to her my difficulty with decision-making . "I know what you mean," she said, as I went boringly on, apparently unable to stop myself. This is what the staff here do, provoke you to be your worst self, their kind acceptance and generosity convincing you you're better than you are. Never did I get the feeling she wanted to be anywhere other than standing before me, listening to my crap.
Eventually, I must have stopped to take a breath, because she said: "It's no problem - I just have to push a button." I allowed her to turn it on, which obviously was the right decision. Had she suggested leaving it off, that would also have been the right decision.
She returned with a glass of premium Hawke's Bay chardonnay and a selection of premium canapes. I picked up the library's fresh copy of the Weekend Herald, and turned to the country's premium lifestyle magazine title, Canvas. It was the books issue, and I was reading it in the library. On the surface, that might look like coincidence, but at The Farm, nothing is left to chance.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers and The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs have a summer special starting from $825 +GST per person, per night, based on a two-night minimum stay, plus a $400 resort credit for all stays of four nights or more.
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