Never good at limiting myself when it comes to gourmet fare, I indulged by trying at least six items on the menu, including marinated black tiger prawns with artichoke and lemon oil vinaigrette, char-grilled filet of herb-cured beef and seasoned fries with roasted lime aioli. I ended on a sweet note with a rich chocolate dessert accompanied by orange and cardamom ice cream. This vineyard-style lunch was as good as any I've had in Napa Valley or the south of France.
Although you'll find a plethora of places to stroll in Napier, you can do the town in a day. The nearby hamlet of Havelock, with its farmers market and wineries, and the famous colony of gannets (web-footed birds) and golf course at Cape Kidnappers make it an overnight trip for many visitors. Although there are no shortages of places to stay in the area, a few stand out.
The Dome, run by local businesswoman Ailne Bradley, is on the Marine Parade and is an easy walk to shops and restaurants. The property is set up with three luxury apartments with ocean views on the top two floors of the iconic Art Deco T&G building (1937).
For those seeking the quiet of the countryside, the Black Barn Retreats, set amid the vineyards of the Black Barn Winery, offers 14 houses for rent. From a beachfront cottage to an eight-bedroom luxury retreat overlooking the Tukituki River in the heart of the vineyard, each is self-contained and appointed with high-end furnishings and amenities.
That's where we stayed during the conference, which was held at the winery. We were so comfortably settled in within the first hour of arriving that we canceled plans to go out that night. Instead, we took advantage of the upscale country house, complete with gourmet kitchen, to invite local friends to a home-cooked meal and share a bottle of Black Barn's premium Bordeaux-style Cabernet Franc.
If B&Bs are more to your liking, Napier has a host, including the popular Maison Béarnaise Bed & Breakfast, with two guest bedrooms, and the five-star McHardy Lodge, with a library and billiards room.
Last February, Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand, suffered a devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake that left 184 people dead and its downtown area destroyed, leaving many Napier residents contemplating how history repeats itself.
"I'm hearing the people of Christchurch use the same language when discussing the volatility of the brick and stone buildings that fell as did the residents of 1931 Napier," said Art Deco Trust volunteer guide Kathy Hill. "It was forward-thinking and brave of Napier to choose such a modern architectural style. They had the courage to rebuild, and I see that same strength in the citizens of Christchurch today."