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Author: Nicholas Henare

Packing some punch


I asked Hemi Peek at Avon City Ford what he thought were the three top features of the Ford Endura Titanium; “A solid drive with a luxurious cabin, hands-free automatic power tailgate opening and easy interactive display”.

 

 

Well he wasn’t wrong. The 2-litre turbo diesel is also packing some punch in acceleration; with 140kW and 400Nm torque, it’s good off the mark. There’s plenty of room in the back and, coming in at $69,900 plus ORC, it’s competitive for like-minded models on the market.

I drove the hell out of it and hardly touched the full tank in a week. I did struggle with the dial gear change at first but soon got used to it. Its simple but elegant interior was a pleasure to sit in, as were its luxurious seats. I guess the catch phrase of ‘Affordable Luxury Awaits’ really says it all. It “feels” good; two-tonne towing capacity and a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty are added bonuses.

It might be my aggressive Christchurch driving, but the pre-collision assist and pedestrian detection work really well! The driver’s and passenger’s seats come with a rear seat entertainment screen for watching movies on the long drive for the kids and, as a family SUV, it fits the bill well. The week I had it was glorious and sunny, so I got to enjoy the sunroof for all that it is. |

The Ford Endura Titanium is everything it says it is; loaded with features you just don’t get on every SUV model, even the more expensive adversaries.

 


 

A dynamic set


It’s all about class with Mercedes and, with two of the brand’s top-line models getting major improvements, it makes me wonder how far you can take it, especially when the starting point is an already dynamic set of cars – the AMG A45 and CLA 45.

 

 

The CLA 45 is a stunning example of a coupe. New changes include a completely redesigned engine, four-cylinders with 310kW/500Nm; new cars are generally half that.

You’ll also find an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with launch control and a new, fully variable AMG Performance 4MATIC+ system featuring active torque vectoring at the rear axle; that’s a mouthful of change. You also have drift mode but why you would want to drift a beauty like this is beyond me.

Meanwhile, unique panels from the A-pillar forward, wider front guards to accommodate broader track wind tunnel-tested AMG Aerodynamic package increases downforce for high-speed stability. Revised suspension with AMG Ride Control adaptive dampers provides a smoother ride.

With new improvements to the drive, the classy interior and interactive systems haven’t needed to be touched. After all, as we’ve seen from the Mercs of the past year, they have everything pretty much sorted.

 


 

Happy Birthday Hilton!


There are some fantastic hotels in the Garden City – The George with its Pescatore and 50 Bistro, Rendezvous with its height, the Heritage Christchurch with OGB, Distinction Christchurch Hotel with Gumption Restaurant & Bar and Chateau on the Park – Christchurch, a DoubleTree by Hilton with its history.

 

 

I was at the Hilton recently, reminiscing about an interview I did with the late great Jon Gadsby. He had reflected on the Chateau’s glorious past and we both shared stories of mischief and mayhem.

This year Hilton is celebrating 100 years of history as the world’s first hotel chain. Hilton’s legacy began on 31 May 1919, when New Mexico-born Conrad Hilton travelled to Texas with plans to buy a bank. While that deal fell through, Hilton’s pioneering spirit did not falter – he instead bought the hotel where he had been staying.

Through the times, good and bad, Conrad continued adding new hotels to his collection, becoming the first hotelier to appear on the cover of TIME magazine. Soon, Hilton hotels would circle the globe, introducing and popularising innovations that in many ways created the modern hospitality industry. This includes now customary amenities such as room service, a central reservation system, airport hotels and the much-loved mini bar.

We’ve lost so much built heritage in Christchurch, so it’s nice to reflect on the history we do have.

I’m sure Chateau on the Park – Christchurch, a DoubleTree by Hilton has a few more good stories in her yet. Happy birthday Hilton!

 


 

What’s in the cellar?


There’s a gentleman at FreshChoice Merivale’s Wine Cellar, Andy Gutschlag, who has a real understanding and appreciation for finding the perfect partnership between food and beverages. We caught up with Andy about his top tips.

 

 

 

Can you tell us about yourself?
I have spent most of my life in Christchurch. After graduating as a primary school teacher, I lived in Taiwan for two years working for a New Zealand Export Company. Part of my role was based in Asia and Europe, where I developed a love of sharing wine and food. I really follow ‘when in Rome’.


How did the Cellar idea come about?
Craig, the store owner, has always dreamed of the day we could open the Cellar. He has been collecting wines for the last 15 years for the sole goal of sharing them with our customers. They have all been stored in an offsite cellar, under perfect conditions.


How do you choose what to purchase?
We taste a lot of wine and travel to different wine regions to find new products. Planning must be at least five years ahead to ensure we have the best wines to add to our cellar.


Tell us about the range. What are your favourites?
That’s a hard question! I am a big fan of shiraz, especially the Barrosa Australia, and the Rhône Valley in France. I’m also a bit of riesling freak. Now I’m enjoying chardonnay from around the world. I try to list wines that people can match with great food and share with friends. If I had to pick a favourite now it would be the Rockford Basket Press Shiraz.


What should laymen on the street know when buying a good wine?
Taste different wines and fine a style that you enjoy, then get out of your comfort zone and try something new every so often. Find a retailer that will listen to you, share what you like and give feedback on any suggestions they give you. Share your wines with friends, enjoy them with great food and create a few good stories!


What are your rules when buying wine?
Drink what you enjoy, not what someone tells you to enjoy. Share your wines surrounded with great friends and loads of foodie experiences. Every so often take a risk and try something new. Just enjoy the moment.

 


 

A New Player in Town


There’s a new 100 percent electric vehicle entering the market and Nicholas Henare has the inside scoop on the vehicle that is making ‘electric’ more accessible than ever before.

 

 

Competing with the BMW i3 and the Nissan Leaf which have already established themselves, we’re now seeing Renault coming into its own with an improvement to the Zoe – it is a more high-performing power player than ever, notably thanks to its increased power and radius of action.

Its assertive design gives it even more character. The new Zoe offers a wide range of high-tech equipment serving both the driving comfort and the on-board experience. Driving 100 percent electric takes on a new dimension and a noteworthy addition to Zoe is the 10-inch driver’s display – a unique feature available right from entry level. Zoe has a Z.E. 50 battery which takes its range up to 390 kilometres.

 

 

It now also offers fast direct current charging, an addition to the alternating current charging options already available at home or on the street. Zoe incorporates a more powerful 100 kW motor, perfectly suited to the fast lane and to the intrinsic charms of electric driving, as well as many driving aids designed for comfort and safety.

With Renault Easy Connect, Zoe responds to our ever-more connected lives. It combines the new Renault Easy Link multimedia system and the My Renault app, offering drivers a range of applications and services designed to accompany them throughout their daily activities. It’s a good competitor to consider and the range is getting better and better with each new brand. With Tesla’s new price point, electric is accessible now.

 


 

Master of Merivale


Aikmans Bar & Eatery has been joining hands with beverage companies to put on not just good but exquisite epicurean meals and tastings. I sought out the gentleman responsible for these offerings, Jeremy Stevens from Aikmans.

 

 

Jeremy, you have quite a history is hospitality, tell all!
I arrived in Queenstown in early 2009 with the original plan to ride out the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). I quickly realised it wasn’t going to be over quickly and I was running out of savings fast. Queenstown can do that to you! So, I got a trial in a late-night cocktail bar. With zero experience and only being able to recognise one or two brands, I was put to the pressure test – 10 mojitos, five CC & Drys, eight Tanq10 dirty Martinis! I didn’t even know what CC & Dry was! I somehow managed to survive the gruelling 9pm to 5am shift and never expected a call back but I got one and within six months pretty much self-taught myself as much as possible with the power of the internet and became Bar Manager.

Within the year I was nominated for Bartender of the Year and entering cocktail competitions. I made the move to Christchurch four years later to manage Aikmans which was then going through the post-earthquake boom. Within 18 months I was approached by Moët Hennessy for the Upper South Island Account Manager role. I enjoyed a great four years with Moët getting to meet some of the top hospitality operators, not only in New Zealand but Australia and beyond. Not ever planning to leave Moët, the opportunity came up to go back to Aikmans under new ownership with some skin in the game, which I decided to give my best shot.

 

 

What’s changed at Aikmans?
Almost a year on we have redesigned the interior and image of Aikmans, lifting the quality of service, attention to detail, range of food and offering to create a comfortable, fun environment for both drinkers and diners, with more improvements to come over the next few months to help weatherproof a part of the courtyard for winter.


You’ve been very proactive with great food and beverage events like ‘The Tuatara Night’. What’s inspiring you?
Consistent activity is key in hospitality. Simply opening the doors doesn’t cut it nowadays. You need to be planning months ahead and make sure your calendar is full to be successful. I think most people are passionate about food and drink so doing paired events with brands or styles of food is a fun way for our guests to try new things.


The beverage functions and whisky nights are a fond hangout for the aficionados, how do you keep such a high standard of events going?
I have been lucky to be able to partner with people like Andy and Craig from Fresh Choice and Hardeep from Big Daddies Whisky Club to host regular wine and whisky nights. These are always good fun and we have many more coming up.

 

 


 

Take a Seat


Bold and innovative, the SEAT (pronounced ‘see at’) is a compact crossover vehicle (CUV). Direct from Spanish automaker SEAT, I even had the marketing manager greet me with ‘Hola!’

 

 

The Ateca is a 140 kW 4Drive with a price tag of $50,900. You have extra options like dynamic chassis control and 19-inch machined alloys on the one I tried which take it to $54,400. It has very similar specifications to another brand in the market which is $20,000 more and, to be nice, I won’t mention them but let’s focus on what’s good about the Ateca. Space!

The cabin room is impressive with the room to house five family members and their weekend away gear stowed in the back. Handling: it’s got a great pick up and handling ability, proven when doing a U turn in peak hour traffic on Halswell Road – I was greatly impressed. The exterior is a bit generic, but you can get used to that when it comes to bang for buck on engine and performance.

Founded in Spain in 1950, this is our real taste of the car and Archibald’s on Tuam has brought them in to see what Christchurch thinks. I think they are worth taking a look at purely for the fact that they are a bloody good drive and there’s a space for that in this price range. Take a seat in a SEAT and you’ll see at what I mean… see what I did there?


 

Oasis for the body & soul: Maruia Hot Springs


Two and a half hours from Christchurch, amongst the beach forest and rivers of the serene Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve, is the wonderful Maruia Hot Springs.

 

 

Set in a lush bush-laden area, the facilities feature three thermally heated outdoor rock pools, one main indoor Japanese bath style thermal pool and discreet private pools which all overlook the meandering Maruia River. Overall, it is breathtakingly tranquil and little else could compare on a nationwide level. The heated pools and luxurious accommodation make for an exceptional mid-winter escape.

The hotel can accommodate up to 50 but generally floats around 40, giving it a very exclusive ambience that makes you feel it is yours and yours alone, although it is popular for work groups, with the team from ‘Trees and Bees Apiary’ there over Mother’s Day weekend when I visited.

The steam room was unique, and I couldn’t handle it for long, but the dry sauna was perfect followed by the biggest challenge… the ice cold ‘plunge pool’. Invigorating is an understatement as your body is instantly freezing, but it all adds to the fun.

Mark Williams and wife Nicky were celebrating Nicky’s birthday during Mother’s Day weekend and the couple captured what Maruia Springs is best for; “It’s a romantic getaway from the stress of family and Christchurch for us. Why would you come here? It’s a treat!”

 

 

You do feel special, that’s for sure. The dining and meals by the beautiful open fire are divine. I sampled some of Reefton’s finest gin, ‘The Little Biddy’, before tucking into one of the best Lamb Cutlets I’ve ever had, charred in Horopito leaves. Staff on hand that night, Doug and Steph, were southern hospitality at its finest, with exceptional local knowledge they were all too happy to share. Then it was off for another hot dip before heading to the exceptionally spacious room for a restful sleep.

With 24/7 access to the hot pools, I was up again at 5am to take another dip, then another delicious meal overlooking the stunning view of the valley from the dining area. If you prefer, there’s private bathing available, which includes access to the public sauna and bathing experience.

Then came what I consider the apex of my stay; a 1.5 hour full body massage at the talented hands of the thermal resort’s very own massage therapist Julia. The pampering and aromatherapy, as well as the great wafts of lavender and other essential oils, is a spiritual experience. You find the stress of your week just melting away to a point where you think you’re almost asleep. Aches and pains evaporate and are replaced by a warm, relaxing bliss.

 

 

As I meandered for a walk by the river, I thought about how I would sum up what Maruia is all about. Sitting by the fire, relaxing hot pools, food, service, Julia’s massage and isolated serenity make for a magical getaway for a couple wanting to reconnect or for a group to relax and have fun. It’s a true haven for the body and mind.

Maruia has everything you need and it’s evident how the redevelopment team is so deserving of winning two World Luxury Spa Awards – Best Luxury Eco Spa Australasian regional winner and Best Luxury Mineral Spring Spa New Zealand winner, both in 2018. New Zealand Tourism has also awarded Maruia Hot Springs the prestigious Qualmark Silver rating.

Find the Maruia Springs Thermal Resort at 1513 State Highway 7, Lewis Pass. Phone 03 523 8840 or visit www.maruiahotsprings.nz to find out more.


 

Beast Mode


I was at Mitsubishi in Moorhouse Avenue picking up the new Mitsubishi Triton VRX. As you would see in their marketing, it’s “In Beast Mode” and with a price point starting at $49,990.

 

 

With all the grunt of a great off-roader, the price point is quite exceptional. I had to ask Dave Boyce from Mitsubishi some pretty pointed questions. What are the four features that make it a stand out? “Just four?!,” he laughs. “Styling; it has a great look now, when it was polarising before. Ride quality; it is really quiet and smooth for a ute. Safety; it is class leading on things that count like safety and value for money. There are lots of little things as well; economy, turning circle, Apple Car Play and reverse camera in most models etc. Oh, and warranty. That’s a ‘salesman’s four’,” he laughs.

What’s next for David Boyce at Mitsubishi? “I have a few years left in me and have had the privilege of seeing the network and friendships I have built up consistently coming back and generationally getting smarter about vehicles and business decisions involving them.
“Personally, a focus on family, friends and company. Fishing; fishing is good. I am very lucky I have a dynamic and accomplished partner in life, talented kids and a busy work life.”

 

 

What’s coming from Mitsubishi that we can get excited about? “Our focus and effort is on our new Triton. It is a game-changer. But the big news I just learned is of a definite van return. Mitsubishi is part of a larger global alliance with Nissan and Renault. Expect value, safety and a big impact.

“Don’t ask me when because I don’t know. I suspect 2020. Mitsubishi is on the rise, Triton is match-winner; a new van is a game-changer. There are strong styling innovations as models constantly upgrade but is all in a background of one of Mitsubishi’s core principles – value. That isn’t to say just lowest price but it does mean the combination of features and benefits, particularly safety, economy and warranty delivered at excellent value. That is why we, for instance, can lease our Triton so well.”

The Triton handled exceptionally well and, even though David told me I could go up to 45 degrees using one of the four different differential modes, I managed not to damage it. With 3.5 towing capacity and massive cab space with a great tray for transporting anything, I can see it being a useful beast.


 

Bond is Back!


After the devastating events in Christchurch over the past few weeks, numerous events were understandably cancelled or postponed, including the acclaimed ‘The Music is Bond’, hosted and conducted by Tim Beveridge.

 

Tim Beveridge

 

We’re excited to announce that the The Music is Bond has been rescheduled to 8 May. “I am very excited to be returning to the Christchurch Town Hall,” Tim says. “It’s probably going to be a bit emotional to be back there after having had so many wonderful experiences performing there with the CSO. I’m just glad we can still bring the show to the people of Christchurch.”

Book now at www.ticketek.co.nz and have a few martinis, shaken not stirred, before you go. Let’s support the people behind such great productions in the Garden City by getting out and seeing these performances. They are worth it.
We’re giving away a double pass to ‘The Music is Bond’. Just head over to our Facebook page, find the post and tell us who your favourite Bond character is to be in to win. Entries will be drawn 3 May.