Chefs cook up a new mix at Dartington Barn

We’re happy to have had the Marlborough Express out to visit recently to see the range of leisure activities on offer here at Dartington Barn, so it was lovely to see the article about us in a recent edition.

We particularly love the explanation that a “visit to Grovetown for some group entertainment has the potential to arm one with the skills to correctly use a knife in the kitchen, or to just throw one at a wall”!

You can see the full article online here:

Hamish Beard at Dartington Barn (Photo Credit Derek Flynn)Photo credit: Derek Flynn


A Little of What You Fancy

Did you spot Dartington Barn’s Florentines in the latest issue of Cuisine magazine?

“The superlative florentines produced by Blenheim’s Dartington Barn – studded with zingy ginger, mixed peel, glace cherries and sultanas, they surely almost count towards our five-a-day”.

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves – thanks Cuisine!

If your mouth’s watering and you’re ready to try them for yourself, head on over to our online store.

Hooked on Marlborough

On Marlborough’s back doorstep lies the picturesque Wairau River. This magnificent Marlborough river is a braided river with 140 kilometres of excellent fishing waters, with high fish numbers, and about 65 kilometres of readily fishable waters.

The river flows through a range of native bush, farmland and vineyards – offering some of the region’s best scenery. What could be a bigger catch than that you ask? Great fishing!

The Wairau River is home to mainly brown trout (with the occasional large silvery, sea-run brown trout), good numbers of sizable salmon, and a small population of rainbow trout. Salmon season is basically from late January to April. The lower region of the Wairau River (about 50 kilometres) is open year-round for trout – while the upper region is open between October and April. The Wairau River caters to all types of angling methods and preferences – both fly fishing and spinning – dependent on the section of the river being fished. The daily limit is generally two trout, but it’s always best practice to check regulations specific to the area you are going to fish.

Apparently the ‘average’ brown trout weighs in at around 3 – 4lbs here. However it’s not uncommon to bring home an 8lb trout from the Wairau River and to see plenty of trophy-sized fish – especially in the upper region. Fish stocks are good with, for example, 530 trout being counted in one drift dive over 1 mile of the river near Renwick. In terms of salmon – well a trophy-sized salmon (22lb) was reportedly landed in early 2012 – need we say more?!

Fishing here is suitable for novices through to experienced anglers. It’s also conducive for bringing along a spectator, so if your travelling partner is less keen on fishing, you can easily find them a peaceful, serene spot on the river bank. There are plentiful swimming spots, grassy banks, and plenty of direct access to the water. That means you will have lots more room to lay the picnic blanket, as well as having a cast. You can be fishing within minutes in the stretches closer to town, or you can go tramping to access the more remote sites.

What else do you need to know? All freshwater sport fishing in New Zealand requires a licence. These can be purchased from your local hunting or fishing store, or online – and you can buy one valid for either a 24-hour period, or an entire season. Also advisable are polarised sunglasses, which will not only protect your eyes from that bright sun, but also assist with spotting fish.

Braided rivers can pose certain unique challenges, so you have to know where the fish are, how to fish to them, and which flies or lures do well in this specific location. For instance there are locations where the fish are not always readily visible, so you may wish to fish the riffle sections thoroughly, blind nymphing your way up the river. This is where having local insight really helps. Dartington Barn comes with its own built-in assistance in the form of Hamish. Hamish is a keen trout angler, and knows the Wairau River well. If you’re staying with us, Hamish may even be persuaded to share with you the location of some of his favourite spots!

So come and see what our stunning region has to offer in terms of crystal clear waters, with some of the best trout fishing opportunities in the world. You never know. You might just be hooked…


Inside Cuisine at Dartington Barn

We were delighted to host Rebecca Varidel, renowned food blogger and editor, on her recent trip to Marlborough.

For this visit we showcased Marlborough saffron-infused salmon, finished off with pavlova with a Pinot Noir and berry sauce. It was a real honour to have her seal of approval on our new cooking classes.

You can read Rebecca’s article about her visit to Dartington Barn on the Inside Cuisine blog, here:

A Magical Month in Marlborough ~ June 2013

Dartington Barn’s Top Six Picks For Things To Do in Marlborough in June

The days are shorter and the air is crisp, but there are still plenty of wonderful ways to enjoy the warmth of Marlborough hospitality. The month of June has some great activities and events to share with family and friends, whether you’re a long time local or a first time visitor to the region. And of course, we’d be delighted if you’d like to make Dartington Barn B&B your base to explore the best of what Marlborough has to offer. Even if the days are cooler, you can be assured of a warm welcome at Dartington Barn. Here are our ‘Top Picks’ of what to see and do in Marlborough during June:

Bay of Many Coves: Opera at the Bay 

Friday 14 – Sunday 16 June, Bay of Many Coves Resort, Marlborough Sounds

Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to experience the talent of three of NZ Opera’s international stars in one of the country’s most beautiful settings. Bay of Many Coves resort in the Marlborough Sounds has orchestrated a weekend that will be a feast for the senses. Highlights include a cocktail party on the jetty on arrival, a sumptuous dinner Friday night, and a traditional ‘long lunch’ on Saturday. The weekend of fine Italian-inspired cuisine will be accompanied by the stirring, passionate music of some of the world’s best operatic composers such as Puccini, Verdi, Handle, Gounod and Rossini. Morag McDowell (soprano), Emma Roxburgh (soprano) and Robert Tucker (baritone) will perform for guests throughout the weekend, combining all 3 talents as well as featuring outstanding solos and duets. Whether you are a long time lover of opera or only just discovering the delights of the operatic masters, this is sure to be an unforgettable, magical experience.

Mid Winter Swim 

Sunday 23 June, Picton Foreshore 

Take the family and take the plunge! You can enter from midday at the Picton Foreshore in time for a 1pm dunking to mark the passing of the shortest day at the annual More FM Mid Winter Swim.  There are plenty of ‘hot’ prizes to be won, including a Toshiba heat pump complete with installation for one lucky Marlborough home courtesy of Cuddon Ltd.

Marlborough Winter Winery Experience

With vintage done for another year, it is time to sit back and relax with a glass of world-famous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir – while savouring some of the region’s local produce at one of the many vineyard cafes.

Marlborough now boasts more than 140 wineries, as well as 40 cellar doors and restaurants, so as well as enjoying some of the biggest names in New Zealand wine, you’re also bound to discover a new boutique favourite.  Find a cosy spot in front a roaring fire and settle in for an afternoon complete with good food, good wine and good company.

The local vineyard restaurants pride themselves on using only the best of regional produce to dish up some wonderful culinary treats often featuring local seafood, beef and lamb, seasonal vegetables and hand-made cheeses. And of course, there’s always coffee and dessert to mark the perfect end to another wonderful day in Marlborough.

We can help you choose from one of the many knowledgeable and friendly specialist wine tour companies, self drive, or make the most of the Marlborough sunshine and hire a bike. Many cellar doors and restaurants operate winter hours, so it is wise to check ahead.

Marlborough Farmers’ Market 

During the winter months the Market is held every Sunday from 10am – 12.30pm, at Liz Davidson Place, corner of Charles and Queen Streets in the Blenheim CBD. 

Whether you’re doing your weekly shop or in search of a local delicacy, the Marlborough Farmers’ Market has something to tempt every palate. Chat with stallholders selling their range of local produce including olive oil, seasonal vegetables, fruit, berries and nuts, jams, chutneys and preserves, herbs, fish, wild game and cheeses. You can get your caffeine fix while you explore the delights of the various stalls and make sure you sample the locally made traditional empanadas – Spanish style stuffed bread. The Market has a wonderful festive atmosphere often featuring local musicians, storytellers and entertainers – making it the ideal place to catch up with friends while stocking the fridge and pantry!

Art Exhibitions

Marlborough has several galleries that regularly feature exhibitions by local and national artists as well visiting international exhibitions. In June you can experience some wonderful art at the following galleries:

The Yealands Estate Marlborough Gallery at the Marlborough Art Society, 204 High St, Blenheim. Open daily 10.30am – 4.30pm.
21 – 30 June The Winning Trifectas.
This exhibit showcases six local award-winning artists from the recent Peters Doig Art Awards with work on display from three 2012 winners and three 2013 winners.

The Diversion Gallery, 10 London Quay, Picton Waterfront
Open Wednesday to Saturday midday – 5pm, or by arrangement.
9 May – 9 June Ala Lua, Two Paths by Fatu Feu’u and Josh Bashford .
Fatu Feu’u is considered the founding father of contemporary Samoan art and is one of NZ’s most collectible Pacific artists. This exhibit features a complete new body of work exploring the concept of duality and the balance of the spiritual and physical. Works include modern interpretations of traditional Samoan masks as well as new paintings. The exhibit also includes work from Fatu Feu’u’s protégé Josh Bashford. An up and coming artist, Bashford’s recent works are influenced by Canterbury landscapes.

The Millennium Public Art Gallery, Seymour Square, Blenheim

03 May – 16 June, Kobi Bosshard – An Exhibition from the Objectspace Masters of Craft
The Millennium Art Gallery is privileged to be one of only three public art galleries to be showing this touring retrospective exhibition of the jewellery of Kobi Bosshard. The exhibition includes works loaned from leading public and private collections around New Zealand and overseas, including Auckland Museum, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and The Dowse Art Museum.

Live Theatre

Boathouse Theatre, 12 Horton Street, Blenheim.

26 June – 6 July, 7.30pm A Shortcut To Happiness

This new romantic comedy from Roger Hall and directed by Bruce Weston promises a fun night out with lots of laughs and toe tapping as Natasha, a Russian immigrant trying to improve her English and fit into Kiwi culture, teaches folk dancing in a local church hall. Follow the lives, loves and misadventures as the characters learn more about themselves and each other than they bargained for.


And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So, don’t succumb to cabin fever – come to Marlborough this month for magical winter holiday.

Hope to see you at Dartington Barn soon…


Hamish & Angie

Florentine Fairy Tales?

Dartington Barn Florentine Decadence

Ever wondered why a Florentine is called a Florentine? Or where it came from?

Well, you wouldn’t be alone. The topic has been the subject of debate and disagreement – think the ‘Pavlova debate’ between Australia and New Zealand. It’s the stuff of story and legend…

It is widely believed that the Florentine biscuit originated in Florence, Italy, simply because that is what its name suggests. However, in spite of what Wikipedia says, they’re quite probably not. This mouth-watering biscuit (or cookie, for our American friends) is odds-on to have originated from France, or so the legend tells us.

The first written mention of Florentines is to be found in a recipe book dating back to 1891: Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, written by Pellegrino Artusi. However this recipe refers to a dessert that has much more in common with an English-style “Bread and Butter Pudding” – a far cry from what the world considers to be a Florentine biscuit today.

These days Florentine biscuits are generally made from such ingredients as butter, sugar, cream, almonds, candied fruit, and a decadent chocolate layer on one-side. (Dartington Barn Florentines actually have two different types of chocolate for double decadence!) In short, they are a delicacy that is completely different to the dessert described by Artusi.

There are many different stories which all claim to know where the Florentine as we know it today originated from – some continue to say Florence, while still others credit Austrian bakers. The most well-known legend however, claims that the Florentine was first made in France at the Palace of Versailles for King Louis XIV. The biscuit was thought to have been created by the king’s top pastry chefs for visiting in-laws, the Medici family of Florence – whose Tuscan relative, Catherine de’ Medici had been Queen Consort of France in the 16th Century. Due to these close ties to Florence, it is not surprising that the French would have thus named the delicacy. King Louis XIV lived at the Palace of Versailles from 1682 till 1715 so, if the legend is true, the likely time of creation was during this period.

There is also another little piece of evidence (albeit a little unscientific) that supports this story of the Florentine’s origin. Many of the main ingredients of the Florentine are typically French, but perhaps the most concrete piece of evidence comes from the base of these biscuits. The base is known as a ‘roux’, which is a French cooking technique, and perhaps alludes to the fact that the Florentine is a French delicacy, that simply took the name of a place that was admired or was deemed to be important at the time of its creation.

However, regardless of its origins, the Florentine has evolved to become a mouth-watering delicacy. And (unless any new evidence comes to light) we feel pretty safe in calling our Dartington Barn Florentines: “A Taste of Europe”.

Bon appétit!

Former wedding venue opens doors as stunning B&B

Dartington Barn, the beautiful venue in Marlborough (New Zealand’s largest wine growing region)  in which many happy couples were married has re-opened it’s doors as a Bed and Breakfast amongst the vines.

Trained Chef owners Hamish and Angie Beard converted the Jimma Dillon designed Barn to their home, about 2 years ago. They now want to host food orientated guests in the single en-suite room that boasts it’s own private entrance. Stunning views of the silver and white garden, the hop garden and the pond greet guests.

Guests are welcome to have a go at archery, axe and knife throwing and petanque in the carefully manicured grounds. Hamish is a level 1 archery coach and can show guests the correct methods to get the most out of target archery. Never had a go at throwing an axe or a knife? Talk about stress relief –  this is the ultimate cure and a lot of fun!