Ali Metcalfe cooks Fish Dorothea for dinner on my first night at the award-winning luxury lodge she and husband Ian own near Nelson.

She fries onion in butter, adds orange roughy fillets, gently poaches them in white wine, and slips in some tomatoes. Her simple, fragrant fish dish reaches back into 1970s Hamilton culinary history: it was devised by chef Brian Anderson, of the long-gone Anderson’s Restaurant in London Street, later owned by Ian and Ali. Brian Anderson named Fish Dorothea after his wife Dorothy, and his timeless dish lives on, decades later, at the Metcalfes’ latest hospitality venture, Te Koi the Lodge at Bronte, on Nelson’s Bronte Peninsula.

Ali cooks with the seasons; when tomatoes are flush in her extensive vegetable garden she may make Fish Dorothea, or perhaps put together a summery soup of tomatoes, fresh basil and baby bocconcini from Nelson cheesemaker ViaVio. “People want real food,” she says. “I love honest flavours, local ingredients, nothing contrived, and over the years my fresh food ideology hasn’t changed.”

Ali is executive chef at Te Koi, Ian is the host and sommelier, and their elegant waterfront lodge is currently refocusing for the New Zealand market in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw its previously all-international clientele disappear from the booking sheets.

Tariffs have been reduced for Kiwi travellers and Te Koi now offers a series of luxury escape weekend packages that draw in other Nelson tourism operators. There will be culinary experiences, including hands-on sessions with Ali in the kitchen, as well as cycling and art packages, vineyard visits and more.

To show the true beauty of their area, Ali and Ian take me on a helicopter flight to nearby Abel Tasman National Park, which many Te Koi guests visit. Pilot Charlie Rowe, of Helicopters Nelson, is at the controls: he flies us out over the blue arc of Tasman Bay and up to the golden sands and beech forests of the national park. “You can always find a beach to yourself here,” Charlie says, as we look down on a landscape untouched by human footprints.

He brings us back to the lodge and from the air it truly embodies its Māori name, Te Koi, the headland: the 100-year-old homestead sits in park-like grounds on a point above the Waimea Estuary, and has its own story to expand on.

Last November, Te Koi took top honours in the prestigious Boutique Hotel Awards held in London. It won the World’s Best Newcomer Hotel title, and Australasian awards for Best New Hotel and Best Chic Elegance Hotel, beating competition from countries such as Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Thailand and Australia.

It was a golden moment in Ian and Ali’s hospitality career; followed just a few months later by the crushing blow of Covid and the loss of their international guests. They now bring their experience and complementary skills to the task of reinventing Te Koi for the New Zealand market. They know they’ll make it work.

Their polished partnership began with their first restaurant, the aforementioned Anderson’s, in Hamilton in the late 1970s and early 80s. They later opened fine-dining restaurant Harwoods in the city, then the Spanish-themed Rustici, and Ferrybank Reception Centre where they catered for untold weddings and other events.

Their three children, Rebecca, Stephanie and Anthony, all helped out, and in 2006 the family travelled to France and Italy for an 18-month sabbatical enjoying food, wine and travel. Says Ian: “The aim was to live like locals.”

Back in New Zealand, in 2008, Ian and Ali settled in Christchurch and created their Great Village Holidays business, taking small group tours to places they’d enjoyed on their European travels, and extending to Africa. When they moved to Nelson, and established Te Koi in 2017, the two businesses meshed neatly: in summer they hosted guests at the lodge, in winter they led Great Village tours abroad. (The tour company is now moth-balled due to the pandemic).

Te Koi, though, has truly won their hearts. Ian and Ali believe its success lies in their ability to listen to their guests, and to run the lodge as an extension of their home yet retain the required level of professionalism. To quote the Boutique Hotel Awards judges, “It is the ultimate Tasman retreat, a magical place you leave wishing you could stay forever.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself!


4 fillets of firm white-flesh fish (tarakihi, white warehau, orange roughy)
50g butter
1 white onion, thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
500ml dry white wine

Choose a skillet large enough to lay the fish easily, and slowly sauté the onions in butter until soft and sweet. Don’t let them brown.

Lightly dust the fish in flour seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and lay the fish on top of the onions.

Pour over the wine, just enough to allow the wine to create a shallow poaching liquid for the fish. Less wine may be required, depending on the size of your skillet.

Poach the fish very slowly for 2–3 minutes. Don’t cook entirely.

Turn the fillets and lay the tomato slices on top. Continue cooking until fish is just done and tomatoes are warmed through.

Remove the fish from the pan to the serving plates and carefully divide the tomatoes and onion between the four fillets.

Raise the temperature in the plan to reduce the wine sauce a little if required, before pouring over each fillet. It should be slightly thickened. Scatter with plenty of freshly snipped Italian parsley.

Note: in summer at Te Koi, Ali varies the above method by sautéing the onions in a fruity olive oil along with a handful of black olives. After adding the fish and wine, she adds a sprig of fresh basil and tosses in plenty of cherry tomatoes.

* For details on Te Koi luxury escape packages, and other options, see tekoithelodge.com

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