New Zealand farmer Angie Meredith isn’t surprised this year’s Wellington on a Plate walk and dine event at Orui Station is selling out fast.
Wellington on a Plate is New Zealand’s annual mid-winter food and wine festival held within the Wellington and Wairarapa region over two weeks in August. Every year it features an eclectic range of food and wine events hosted in restaurants, cafés, laneways, carparks, as well as rural churches, art galleries and Wairarapa farms.
Orui Station is an historic coastal farm station located in the Wairarapa two hours’ drive from Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.
Angie, station co-owner, says: “This is our third year with Wellington on a Plate, running a walk and dine event in collaboration with local chef Adam Newell. Ours is not a cheap event to attend by any means, but people seem to love it. We even see some of the same faces year-on-year,” she says.
The $US205 ($NZ299) tickets went on sale a couple of weeks ago, with the first session of three quickly selling out.
Called Riversdale Coastal Walk and Dine, the event takes ticket holders on a five-hour hike across two farm stations – Orui Station (belonging to Angie and husband Glen Meredith) and Pohatu Station (owned by Sarah and Roger Broughton).
Hikers access private farmland and coastal views rarely seen by the public, enjoy a menu designed by one of Wellington’s best chefs and stay overnight at Orui Station.
“It’s a winning combination. But it’s really chef Adam’s brainchild,” says Angie. “He’s an extraordinary chef who lives nearby at Riversdale Beach and now runs Martinborough’s Union Square Bar and Bistro with his wife, Nicola. Most people know Adam as the Michelin-star chef from Wellington’s successful Zibibbo restaurant. When he approached us to collaborate a few years back, we jumped at the chance. And, now, every year he comes up with a stunning menu of locally-sourced produce paired with Wairarapa wines.”
The Wairarapa is one of New Zealand’s premium pinot noir regions known for exceptional, high quality, low volume production.
Angie says: “We’ve had paua, crayfish, truffles, whitebait, hare – you name it. It’s essentially one big rustic dinner party.” Angie admits she’s pretty familiar with the ‘walk and dine’ idea, having run a coastal walk and dine business, with two neighbours, for nearly five years.
“We decided to open up our farm station to hikers in the warmer months as a way to make a bit of extra money. We run beef and sheep on what, I think, is an impressive, coastal property. Not only is it one of the region’s original stations – my husband’s family arrived here in the 1860s – it has amazing views out to Castlepoint and a beautiful, unspoilt river valley.”
Every year, the Merediths host around 130 well-heeled trampers. Generally, says Angie, they’re people who like the idea of a two-or-three-day walk through the Wairarapa’s picturesque landscape and at the same time want to enjoy the region’s best food and wine.
Orui Coastal Walk feeds guests breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as plenty of homebaking made by Angie’s cordon bleu-trained business partner, Sarah Broughton, and Annabel Porter, another business partner. Guests are invited to pick up a bottle or two of Wairarapa pinot noir from the Riversdale store.
“I’m aware we’re still a small player in what’s possibly a growing ‘walk and dine’ market,” says Angie. “Partly it’s because we do very little advertising and focus more on word-of-mouth. Partly it’s because the walk is just a small part of our overall farming business.”
Other better known walk and dine experiences include the Hollyford Track in Fiordland and guided tours of the Milford Track. An operator called Southern Wilderness offers ‘gourmet guided tours’ on the Heaphy Track and throughout Nelson Lakes and Abel Tasman Park. Meanwhile, Nature and Nosh, a market newbie, offers hiking and eating tours in Auckland, Waikato and Coromandel.
Angie says: “I just think the idea of getting a group together to catch up, go walking, eat the very best local produce and enjoy great, award-winning wine is catching on. Not everyone wants their experience to be a tough slog.”
Your Guide on Where to Eat, Sip and Hike in the Wairarapa
Orui Coastal Walk – a two-or-three-day, self-guided walk across farmland, a river valley and along the beach. Located at Riversdale Beach, an hour’s drive from Masterton on the Wairarapa coast.
Tora Coastal Walk – a three-day, self-guided walk across farmland, native bush, river valleys and the rugged Tora coastline. Located in the Southern Wairarapa, a short drive from Martinborough.
Whareama Coastal Walk – a two-or-three-day, self-guided walk across farmland and the isolated coast between Castlepoint and Riversdale. Located at Whareama, about a hour’s drive from Masterton.