In the spring issue of Dish – on sale now – we talk to a Danish couple using wonderfully sustainable practices in their restaurant deep in a Swedish forest. But you don't need to head all the way to Europe – in our Eco Series we chat to New Zealand establishments also giving nature its due. Introducing Sherwood in Queenstown.
Set in the idyllic surrounds of Queenstown, on an alpine hillside overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, Sherwood is an accommodation choice with many strings to its bow. Seasonal food, much of which is collected from the kitchen gardens, orchards and surrounding farms, keep guests sustained while they choose from a range of activites – taking in the great outdoors or partaking of the yoga, pilates, meditation or live music and film programmes to name a few. Dish chats to Sam Chapman, Sherwood's director, about the ambitions of this unique establishment.
Tell us a bit about how your establishment got started.
We spent several years looking for an appropriate site – initially in urban centres. The first buildings that we looked at were closer to what you might imagine to be an archetypal boutique hotel site. Mid-century and heritage architecture – but due to our budget, they were all complicated in one way or another and none of them came off. The fact a run-down, mid-eighties, Mock-Tudor motor-inn would present the most pragmatic first step into establishing a hotel took a little getting our heads around. In the end, the greatest challenges presented by the site ie scale, location, physical state, have become its greatest strengths.
What is your business philosophy?
People and place are at the core of what we do: If we do what’s best for them, it's best for everyone.
What do you offer guests/patrons that sets you apart?
We hope it’s the fact that we offer our guests an authentic experience of place and time through our food, wine, entertainment and community programming.
Where do you source your ingredients for the restaurant and what’s important to you in doing so?
We endeavour to use 100 per cent New Zealand ingredients with a focus on as local as possible. During growing season our kitchen garden supplies approximately 40 per cent of the green produce for the restaurant with the balance coming from our fantastic local growers such as Julie from Nevis Gardens. This is further complemented by weekly foraging expeditions by the kitchen team. In addition to this, all our seafood is sustainably sourced and is either line caught or by-catch and the same sustainable sourcing approach is taken for our farmed and wild meats. We are very fortunate to have some strong family connections within the kitchen team to the southern coasts which has allowed us the privilege of accessing some exceptional kai moana.
In terms of the bar, we have just begun the move to 100 per cent Antipodean products. We’d love this to be 100 per cent New Zealand but the product depth isn’t quite there yet so we’ve expanded to include Australia as they have a longer history of artisan distillers. Like the kitchen, the bar programme is driven by the season and the garden so this spring we’re looking forward to fresh herbs for our house-made tonics and ferments.
Our wine programme is 100 per cent natural wine with almost 50 per cent of sales coming from our house bottled wine selection. This is made possible through partnerships with fantastic local natural producers such as Mt Edward, Aurum, Carrick soon to be joined by Rippon. This was first implemented as a waste reduction initiative when we discovered our wine was being bottled locally but then sent to Auckland and back. It has since become a dream scenario where local growers are making wine specifically to be drunk in this place and this moment – the wines are all natural, preservative free and only available here. It’s the purest expression of place possible and our guests love it. Plus, it reduces bottle waste and unnecessary transport as wines are driven straight here on the back of a truck from the winery.
What would you like your guests to feel on arriving and then on leaving your establishment?
That they have gained a genuine sense of this place and that they leave refreshed and nourished... without having felt like a tourist.
What special initiatives do you have running that fit the eco-model?
We’re powered by the sun courtesy of what was NZ’s largest private solar installation at the time of install. We have a focus on energy efficiency with LED lighting used throughout the site. We are striving to become ‘zero waste to landfill’ with the bar currently operating in this mode. We’ve established a partnership with NZ bin company ‘Method’ to drive recycling / waste reduction initiatives for the bar and accommodation operations. We have a bio-thermic digester and composting system which ensures all organic waste is returned to the garden as fertilizer. We grow as much of our own produce on site and this is complemented by our wider family of local, ethical and sustainable producers. We’ve used upcycled, recycled and renewable materials for the refurbishment. We have an ongoing planting program for re-establishing endemic native tree species throughout the site. We have free electric car charging facilities on-site for guests. We run weekly educational workshops, film nights, and markets during the growing season.
How have people responded to your initiatives?
Those guests that appreciate a sustainable approach love it, however we accept that not everyone places the same value on these things as we do. It’s got to be good businesses first and foremost. We’re mindful of not being too worthy with our sustainability messaging as we feel this can be a turn-off for guests especially if it’s not your first priority when choosing a place to sleep or eat. If anything -sustainability at Sherwood is a voyage of discovery. Our approach is that any initiative has got to deliver a better result than a non-sustainable one ie the wine or the food has to taste better, the energy efficiency measures have to deliver meaningful results, the building materials we use in the rooms or public spaces have to make them feel or perform better for the guest. Hopefully if we’re doing our job, our guests may discover a few ideas that they might be able to take with them and apply in their own lives. Possibly one of the greatest impacts has been on our staffing where it seems having a set of clear values has enabled us to develop a great team with aligned values and a far greater level of self-selection through the recruitment process.
What does nature mean to you?
What dish on your menu most exemplifies your philosophy to food and nature?
Pan-seared whole flounder with a simple salad of season leaves from the garden.
To read more about Sherwood Queenstown or to book a meal or room, head to sherwoodqueenstown.nz.