The Sherwood

Those who know me (Josie, Undone Editor) know one of my absolute favourite things in all the world is hotel rooms. Big, small, luxe, shabby, with or without views, as long as there’s clean sheets on the bed, there’s nothing I love more than locking the door on the world and settling in. Only those who know me best also know about my penchant for an alternative lifestyle that involves a lot of gardening, walks, fresh air, big skies, quiet nights, foraged food and fauna and the like. So when murmurs started coming through at the end of last winter that a commune/hotel/retreat/restaurant was being set up in Queenstown, going by the name The Sherwood, to put it mildly, I was interested…

Feasting on anecdotes of lucky friends who’ve already stayed or dined there but too busy to do so myself, I’ve been hassling Sherwood’s director Sam Chapman for more information and images to share with you. If you get down there, send us a postcard or drop me an email, would love to hear about it!

Here’s a little of what The Sherwood is all about, following by a Q&A with Sam, and a rather lovely video created by the very talented super babe Veronica Crockford-Pound…

Our rooms are cosy and dark and a little bit moody. There’s a commissioned poster artwork in each room, by New Zealand artist Joel Kefali. There are blankets made from New Zealand merino wool, along with recycled kilim rugs turned into cushions, and curtains made from Italian wool army blankets. The beds are made from macrocarpa – a sustainable local timber originally planted for windbreaks on New Zealand farms.

There are industrial light fittings and chunky recycled metal furniture custom made for the rooms – everything is on wheels or movable, so the rooms can change around as needed. And in the bathrooms, there is shampoo and body wash made for Sherwood by Sans Ceuticals, in flavours of manuka honey and myrtle.

We forage for produce from all over Central Otago – wild thyme and rosemary, highly fragrant and full of flavour from the craggy hills of the Kawarau Gorge, mushrooms from a secret spot somewhere above Lake Wakatipu, fruit from apple trees that grow wild around Queenstown, planted by early settlers in a bid to give themselves something to eat.

When we can’t grow it or forage it, we buy it locally. We’ve persuaded local apiarists to sell us their honey in bulk, and in season we go picking cherries from just near Cromwell. Apricots from up the road; free-range pork and lamb from the South Island. Our bread comes from The People’s Bread in Wanaka – stone ground fresh for each baking, it is dense and dark, and it goes beautifully with our low-sugar apricot jam.

All that combines beautifully on the menu, which is designed for sharing – pick a protein, add a seasonal salad or two. Head chef Ainsley Rose Thompson has what you might call a 1970s wholefoods cooking style: she makes kombucha and her own kim chi; there are pickles and preserves and jams. She dislikes sugar, and goes through litres of Central Otago honey at a time instead. Meat, meanwhile, is grilled to order over a Big Green Egg – the finest of charcoal barbecues.

Hey Sam, how did The Sherwood come about?
Essentially we were a group of friends that had talked about the idea of doing a hotel for a while – and due to the fact that it was so out of fashion, the unloved, mid-eighties, mock Tudor motor inn that was Sherwood presented a unique opportunity to occupy a pretty amazing piece of land and begin our hotel journey.

What’s special about it?
It’s quite a different approach to running a hotel – in many ways Sherwood feels more like a community than it does a hotel. It’s a place for locals and travellers alike, and this definitely grounds the place. We can offer an experience and comforts that are often the preserve of the luxury hotel, but in a laid-back and authentic manner – without the price tag. Plus you get great music, art, food, wine and a level of attitude and soulfulness that most hotels just don’t have.

How is it different from a standard hotel?
We’re probably a little more eco-friendly, ie we’re are producing all our own electricity by solar power, most of the vegetables and fruit we use in the restaurant are handpicked daily from our own gardens and fruit trees, we’ve used recycled and up-cycled materials for many of the room refurbishments, we have a bio-compacter that breaks down all our kitchen waste to feed the gardens and we’re replanting the site in native beach forest. Good culture is also pretty damn important to us, so we’re booking a great range of touring local and international bands, DJs and artists, we host workshops, film nights, performances, and have a full yoga and massage studio plus a bike track on site… We serve great Supreme coffee, have an all-natural wine list, you can drink fine wine and sleep in a bunk bed, listen to rock ’n’ roll and do yoga…

The interiors are beautiful, who was responsible for that?
Thanks! There was a range of contributors – architect Allistar Cox who has worked with us on our earlier businesses, such as Matterhorn and Mighty Mighty in Wellington and Golden Dawn in Auckland, worked with us on the restaurant, bar, workshop and courtyard and we worked on the rooms.

And the menu/food?
Again we’re lucky enough to work with a range of great people – a number of whom we’ve worked with when we had Matterhorn in Wellington. Ainsley Thompson and Rob Essenburg head up the kitchen and we’re also lucky to work with one of the world’s most interesting wine minds in Stephen Wong.

Anything else you’d love people to know?
We’re looking mighty forward to seeing y’all you folks soon!

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