old oak signs
The Old Oak Inn has been around for a while.

Tea, history and the All Blacks-Ireland game.

The second and third rounds of tea on our Far North road trip aren’t hard to find – they’re in our hotel.

It’s called a hotel, and it’s in a fine old building, but it’s not the kind of hotel where they serve you tea on the verandah like they do at the Horeke Hotel, or by the fire like at The Prince’s Gate.

This hotel is strictly accommodation and no dining.

However, in the fine tradition of New Zealand hostelries, there is a kettle, milk and tea in our room, so we roll up our sleeves and set-to.

My marks out of 10:

Cup 2: A mug of indeterminate origin. Still, it’s not a coffee cup.

old oak sandy
Tea is on the way.

Tea 4: Dilmah English breakfast bag. We drink a lot of Dilmah; it’s the standard tea in our kitchen. I also drink a lot of English breakfast; it’s what I usually ask for in cafes. But for some reason Dilmah’s English breakfast just isn’t doing it for me lately (we buy the Dilmah Classic Ceylon tea, the green packets you see in the supermarket). The word that comes to mind is flat. As in, no body. It’s generally better when it’s made in a teapot and is able to draw properly. Still, it’s wet and it’s hot and it gives me the feeling I’m drinking tea.

The first cup is made by me, after dinner. The second is made the next morning by my beloved and drunk while we watch the All Blacks lose to Ireland at Aviva Stadium in Dublin (see here for for The Guardian’s minute-by-minute report. Even I find it exciting).

There is a chance that the tea might be better if we come again. When one of the new managers (they’re a couple and have been there three months) hears I blog about tea, she tells me a friend has just started working for Wellington tea blender T Leaf T, one of my favourites. This friend might be a good influence.

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The Mangonui waterfront hasn’t changed that much.

Setting 7: The Old Oak is in a 157-year-old building on the waterfront in Mangonui, an idyllic fishing village on the edge of stunning Doubtless Bay and just around the corner from Cooper’s Beach. Built by Scotsman John McIntosh back in the days when whaling, timber milling and flax milling were the local industries, it’s done service as a pub, a backpackers and a private home before its current incarnation as a private hotel.

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The Old Oak as it was…and is now.

It’s our kind of place – rich in history and beautiful old native timbers. The ceiling in our room is absurdly high, and the old building reverberates to the sound of children laughing in the room above us. The hotel has been modernised for comfort but has kept much of its old style.

old oak bathroom.jpg
Old features, like a fireplace in the bathroom, have been preserved.

Outside, there’s an old-style garden modeled on historic gardens in the nearby Bay of Island (those at Kemp House, the Pompellier Mission House and the Waitangi Treaty House) providing flowers for the rooms.

old oak cave
A cave where, apparently, publicans hide sailors who had jumped ship.

The Old Oak, 66 Waterfront Drive, Mangonui, Doubtless Bay, Northland.

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