By Maggie Scardifield. Published in The Weekend Australia in September 2019.
A fallen 600-year-old totara tree is our footbridge across Spring Creek, which winds its way through the Marlborough Lodge estate, in the northeast of New Zealand’s South Island, and out to Cloudy Bay on Marlborough’s east coast. Sydney chef Christine Manfield, in her signature black-framed glasses, is wrapped up in a hooded black puffer jacker.
Maria, the onsite gardener, casually mentions there are eels in the creek. Manfield licks her lips and her eyes light up. She closed her two-hat Sydney restaurant, Universal, in 2013, but that hasn’t stopped her forging relationships with growers and producers. For the past 20 years, she’s hosted small-group “culinary safaris” everywhere from Cambodia to India, southern Italy to South America and many destinations between. Tastes of Marlborough is her first tour in New Zealand. And judging by her enthusiasm for the eels and wild rabbits that cross our path, we are in for an adventure.