This weekend my best girlfriend is getting hitched (ps I'm achieving my life goal of being her bridesmaid - GO, LUCY, GO!).
So, as we've been friends since we were 14, it was important to have an intimate one-to-one catch up a few weekends ago to spend a night just on us in celebration of our friendship. Nowhere could be better for the occasion than Wellington Hotel, The Grand Mercure. I'd always dismissed this hotel, which has been here as long as I can remember in Wellington, as being a bit tired. Since experiencing it and what it's like after a $12 million refurbishment this year, I can eat my words - The Grand Mercure deserves all the hype it can get!
The beautiful Maria (my friend) and I arrived on a Saturday afternoon mid-October to a beautiful golden sunset over Wellington. After a busy week of wedding planning, she was keen just to relax and enjoy being somewhere a little different together. Immediately, we were struck by the stunning views from what I nicknamed 'The Treehouse'. Perched up on the top of the Terrace, towards the Aro Valley side, The Grand Mercure is indeed a little out of the way compared to many Wellington hotels. You wouldn't want to try and walk with all your luggage to get there (we drove and had our car parked in valet parking - a sensible move as the narrow street outside means your car is likely to get its wing-mirror pinged!). But the view it has over the city immediately makes up for any challenge. After seeing the view in full form from the Forage Kitchen, we turned to one another and agreed that we would rather like to move in.
We were warmly greeted by the hotel staff who were very accommodating and show up to our twin bedroom on the 6th floor. We didn't have a room with a view to look out across the city, instead of looking out over the forecourt, but it still felt intimate and cosy for us which we liked. The interior felt polished and modern, with beautiful fittings in the bathroom, and a huge shower. Maria and I were also treated to a memory of home with a large photo of the fountain at Oriental Parade on the wall. The air conditioning was neither too hot nor too cold, something that Maria, who has worked in hospitality and hotels in her time, noted with approval. She also commented on the seriously comfortable beds we were treated to. After a glass of Rose and a happy chat together, reminiscing about all the good times we've had, we were well ready to let down our hair and kick up our heels for the night (in a highly boring late twenties manner - eating ourselves silly). It was time to go down for dinner.
A Kiwi Theme That Isn't Cringe
The best thing about staying at The Grand Mercure was the little details which had been considered. It was only with some exploring, and explanation from the delightful manager, that we understood why. The hotel was remodelled to capture the themes of New Zealand, with everything from the stunning plates which are raw and natural looking to the beautiful wallpaper (which I seriously WANT) that is inspired by the botanical gardens. The Grand Mercure has successfully managed the interesting challenge of going for Kiwiana that isn't cringe. You remember - who else had to do a Kiwiana themed art project with pictures of buzzy bees and jandals. Well, luckily for you, while there may be delicious KawaKawa tea and delicious lamb on the menu, there isn't a jandal in sight at The Grand Mercure.
Forage Kitchen is the name of the restaurant at The Grand Mercure - which surely is Wellington's best-kept gem. The menu is fresh and inspired by the offerings of local New Zealand farmers. As much produce as possible is sourced locally and the result is a delightful selection of tasty plates, including a good selection of vegan and vegetarian choices which aren't boring. Again, those stunning view overwhelmed us, both as we watched some boy skaters below on the cul-de-sac play around with their skateboards together as the light dimmed, and the next morning where it felt like the panorama of Wellington had been turned into 'The Busy World of Richard Scary'. The little details of the view and the A++ people watching make being in Forage Kitchen an unparalleled experience.
"After seeing the view in full form from the Forage Kitchen, we turned to one another and agreed that we would rather like to move in"
The food at Forage is heaven, fresh, almost Mediterranian inspired in parts, and all beautifully presented. For dinner, we started with a Margerhita and bruschetta - an unusual mix but equally delicious. The bruschetta was light and oily and amazing with generous levels of buffalo mozzarella. For our entre, it was perfectly presented beetroot carpaccio for Maria and scallops for me - light and fresh fruits of the sea I just couldn't get enough of. For mains, I headed straight for the gorgeous pork belly and Maria the lamb which she deemed 'delicious'. We had a glass of Roaring Meg Pinot Noir to cut through our palate and we finished with a pannacotta to share (or, maybe fight over viciously with spoons would be a more accurate description). The breakfast buffet menu was equally delightful, if somewhat conventional, with fresh fruit and my favourite bircher museli a particular highlight. Forage Kitchen indeed has nailed plant-based + farm to plate for those wanting something exciting and scrumptious in their belly.
The Overall Experience
Maria and I had a wonderful weekend together, and The Grand Mercure was the perfect place to go for that secluded feeling we craved. It truly is not far from the city, and there is a lift if you don't fancy climbing the steep hill. In fact, you may prefer it to being on the main drag - as sometimes one just wants to be able to chill out and not feel like you're part of the rest of the world for a short time. I'd recommend leaving your cell phone turned off, grabbing a good book and sitting at a window seat at the bar end of Forage Kitchen. Bliss!
The Grand Mercure is elegant and thoughtfully decorated, with plenty of character. We honestly had the best stay a The Grand Mercure and have been raving about it to one another and friends since. It really felt like a private getaway from being in Wellington, where we were transported somewhere else just for an evening together, which is what we really wanted. The staff are helpful and attentive and have great uniforms. More people should know about how incredible The Grand Mercure is. If you're a local or hosting someone to the city, make sure you check out The Grand Mercure.
Shop The Look
Extra details: Eye from the Victoria Beckham x Estee Lauder Range - Reviewed here. Top from Twenty Seven Names - Similar here. Jeans Topshop - similar here or here. Boots from I Love Paris - Beau Coops - in Store Now and online here (these are grey but you can order other colours). Coat - Similar Here.