Ayrburn‘s doors officially opened last weekend, and thanks to its impeccable setting and exceptional venues, the sprawling precinct is already making its mark on New Zealand’s dining scene. Last week, we reported on the delights of The Woolshed, a casual, bistro-style eatery promising day-to-night fare that the whole family can enjoy. Now, it’s The Manure Room that we turn our attention to — an atmospheric wine bar and tasting room where guests are invited to immerse themselves in the enchanting world of Ayrburn wine.
At The Manure Room, you can soak up a sense of incredible history as you sip your way through some of the region’s very best wines in a setting that’s like nothing you’ve seen before.
In fact, the history of The Manure Room dates back to 1918. Ayrburn occupies the site that was once home to one of the South Island’s oldest sheep farms, and in the farmhouse, now sitting pretty as the destination’s wine bar and tasting room, a manure store once existed. In the early 1900s Australia banned manure exportation at around the same time New Zealand was in the throes of an alcohol prohibition — but Ayrburn’s original owner William Paterson was a resourceful character, quickly transforming a spare barn into a place to stockpile manure, then using that undesirable space to hide banned alcohol — knowing full well that the aroma would turn away even the most diligent inspector faster than you could say ‘hidden speakeasy’.
Over a century later, you’ll still find an impressive libation collection (sans the secrecy and scent of manure) housed in a space perfectly suited to enjoying a leisurely afternoon with friends over a flight of wine, exceptional cocktails and a spread of delectable fare.
Inside, The Manure Room’s cosy, sumptuous space is enveloped in local materials that pay homage to the site’s historical roots. Stacked schist lines the walls, original exposed timber ceilings sit overhead, and sleek, minimalist steel shelving adorns the walls — housing an incredible selection of wine. Perch on one of the comfy stools at the marble-topped bar to get in on the action, settle in for an evening with friends in one of the sumptuous booths, or grab a spot at the dimly-lit communal table. On a summer’s day, there’s nowhere else to be but on the sprawling deck out front, perfectly positioned to take in the site’s stunning surrounds.
When it comes to the wine offering, guests are invited to explore the nuanced flavours, aromas, and complexities of Ayrburn’s own vintages alongside a handpicked selection of local and international drops. Opt for a hosted tasting and you’ll be guided through the Central Otago sub-regions, experiencing a curated flight of exceptional wines that act as a comment on the local landscape. Grab a bottle or two each on your way out the door, and the tasting fee is waived. Or, for those with more particular tastes, you can do your own thing, picking and choosing from the impressive selection on offer.
As for the all-important food, The Manure Room’s inventive tapas menu couldn’t be more perfectly suited to the vibe and location. Here, you’ll find tasting plates and boards of cured meats available alongside delectable morsels such as oysters with Ayrburn rosé jelly, chicken liver pâté on brioche served with caramelised onion and chive, and classic beef tartare with bloody Mary dressing and crisp potato. Or, if you want to keep things casual, grab a glass or cocktail and one of The Manure Room’s picnic bags and make for the The Dell — Ayrbun’s communal lawn set in the centre of the precinct.
The Manure Room, like all of Ayrburn’s dwellings, is designed to transport you to a different time entirely. Here, the drink selection, food and vibe are as impressive as the spectacular setting itself — a place we plan to while away many a leisurely afternoon at this summer.