MABEY MEETS: Jade and Jay from Hulbert House, Queenstown
One of Queenstown’s original residences, Hulbert House is the personification of luxury. Hulbert House is a beautifully restored Victorian villa dating back to 1888. Jade and Jay manage this stunning boutique hotel and Nickie caught up with them during her recent stay.
Nickie: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about life in Queenstown. To get started, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about yourselves and your background.
Jade: We both have a long history of working in hospitality and travelling. Originally, we met when Jay moved to New Zealand on a working holiday visa to my hometown of Mount Maunganui (a beautiful beach town in the North Island), and long story short Jay fell head over heels in love and asked me to travel the UK with him 😉. Which we did, we landed our first couple role in the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
After spending the summer in Skye, we then had the opportunity to move to Bath to run a gorgeous Georgian 5-star property there. As my 2-year visa was coming to an end we started to plan our move back to NZ. We hadn’t initially thought of Queenstown, but when the position at Hulbert House came up we couldn’t possibly turn it down – it really was perfect.
Nickie: You’ve been working at Hulbert House since 2017. What is it about Queenstown that made you stay here?
Jay: It’s probably a mix of the natural beauty we have on our doorstep and the people we have met. In Queenstown you have the best of both worlds, our town is small and has soul, but because of the number of tourists it attracts, it can sometimes feel like a humming city where there’s always something to do. Not to mention we have beautiful hot summers, and then we have the mountains for skiing – win win!
Nickie: One of the things I love most about Hulbert House is the home-from-home feel you get the step into your room (shortly followed by a pot of tea and brownies…) What do you think makes Hulbert House so special?
Jade: What you have just said ‘home-away-from-home’ is exactly what we want our guests to feel. We want their experience with ourselves and our team to be authentic and for them to truly feel like they can relax. Neither Jay or I had any previous hotel experience before our role in Bath, so we have sort of written our own book of rules, which is to treat every guest as if they are friends or family coming to stay. We have had people who have arrived as guests and have left as friends – people we stay in touch with and hope one day to visit on their side of the globe.
Nickie: One of my favourite moments at Hulbert House was breakfast, with Jay asking how I wanted my manuka-honey coated bacon cooked – medium-crispy please (I really think every restaurant should ask this). How would you sum up the atmosphere and style of food and drink at Hulbert House?
Jade: We want to always celebrate our local people and their produce, so we buy local, fresh ingredients and celebrate our region that way. We also have our own vegetable and herb garden which we use when in season, and we always look forward to harvesting our wonderful fruit trees.
Jay is a perfectionist and his breakfasts are simple and tasty but always perfectly put together. We only choose to have wine and beer from our region, again celebrating our local people. Baked goods are recipes that remind me of being a child, classic NZ biscuits and cakes.
Nickie: As Queenstown locals now, you must have quite an impressive list of restaurant recommendations up your sleeve. What would be your go-to spot for Queenstown’s freshest ingredients?
Jay: We are so lucky to have such a good range of restaurants; for lunch I love Akarua Kitchen – wonderful food, great service and it’s the most beautiful setting, not far from Arrowtown. Akarua focuses on local fresh produce too.
For dinner I’m a massive fan of Rātā. It’s stayed at the top of our list since the day we arrived, and we recommend it to all of our guests. Rātā celebrates classic Southern New Zealand dishes, but with a modern flare.
Nickie: If you were celebrating a special occasion, where would you go or what would you do? Do you have any out-of-this-world dining experiences that can’t be found in your typical restaurant guide?
Jay: Amisfield winery – Amisfield’s philosophy has been to serve what is local and what is in season. Their ‘Trust the Chef’ degustation menu is a 3 to 9-course gastronomic lunch or dinner experience designed to be matched with a selection of their famous wines. Inventive dishes with classic technique and creative twist. They have just won Executive Chef, Vaughan Mabee 3 hats at the 2019 Good Food Awards.
Nickie: If you have friends from out of town visiting, what is the one thing they cannot leave Queenstown without experiencing?
Jade: Milford Sound! Milford Sound truly is the most incredible experience, summer or winter. Take a helicopter over the Southern Alps, into the fiordland, where you then take a boat up the sound. On your return helicopter home, you can choose to land on a glacier looking out over the Tasman Sea – really out of this world!
Nickie: What I love most about winter in New Zealand is the abundance of activities and foodie experiences available off the mountain too. For any non-riders or guests looking to explore further afield, what would you suggest should be at the top of their list?
Jade: Aside from Milford Sound it would be a trip to our beautiful wineries, the Otago region is so well known for our stunning Pinot Noirs. You can hire a bike and cycle your way through Gibbston Valley visiting the different wineries and stop off to watch someone do a bungy above the Kawarau river (or join in and do one yourself!)
Nickie: And finally, last question. What is your favourite part of running a hotel in Queenstown?
Jade: The people. We have met so many amazing people and made so many wonderful friends. We feel very privileged to be apart of our guests’ NZ journey – for a lot of our guests this is their once-in-a-lifetime trip and we get the opportunity to be a part of it. We love advising people on where to go and what to do, and there is no better feeling then knowing they have been here and left with some of the most amazing memories.
Nickie: Thank you both so much for taking the time to share your awesome insider Queenstown tips with us.
Mabey Ski’s adventure designers have travelled and skied all over the world to find those hidden gem properties, run by the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable locals around. At Mabey Ski, we don’t believe in conventional – we collaborate and dream with small, local partners across the globe to create experiences beyond the norm, that can’t be found anywhere else.