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The Manse is a former parson's house that has risen again as "a gentleman's farm". Gary Grootelaar won't mind me saying he looks less than a gentleman as he tramps into the paddocks in Swanndri and shorts, tosses me a pair of gumboots, and advises,"Don't step on that wire, it's live. We have to keep the pigs out of the garage."

First impressions can be deceiving. They will be, an hour later, when Gary dons his chef's whites in the kitchen-dining room of what's been described as "one of the finest luxury lodges" in the Bay.

Gary has one of those CVs that makes you think you might have coasted through life. A Kiwi of Dutch descent, he won a golf scholarship to Oklahoma University, represented New Zealand and Holland at international level, turned professional and was resident pro at the Royal Hague Golf Club for nine years.

He's also a talented chef who has cooked in some of our best restaurants and in Michelin-starred restaurants as well as gaining professional hospitality qualifications and working in multi-starred hotels.

Gary and wife, Dietske, have renovated the 1910 minister's home above Maraekakaho, 15 minutes from Hastings and Havelock North. This was once the country's largest sheep station; now it's known as the Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa vineyards.

Dietske has furnished the lodge in country­ house style with European antiques, designer fabrics. The two guest suites are surrounded by portraits and mementoes from her family
history. A tiny library accommodates two more of Gary's passions: fine whiskies and rare cigars.

While guests appreciate activities like golf (Gary sends players to courses near and far via helicopter, and passes on his expertise), clay bird shooting , winery tours, cookery masterclasses, fly-fishing or lazing by the pool, cuisine is at the heart of this experience.

Some 85 per cent of food comes from the farm's cattle, pigs, hens, scurrying guinea fowl, orchards and vegetable gardens; water from limestone springs. Gary is a perfectionist, passionate about the ocean, forest and field produce he puts on his table. Nor does he travel too far for his wines - Alpha Domus is next door; olives from the next property along.

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