|Braemar Bed & Breakfast, Auckland, NZ.
For my girlfriend’s recent birthday I wanted to surprise her with a night somewhere special. Though with “somewhere special” being such a terrific / terrible hospitality cliche, I opted instead for calling my chosen location the much more creative “the secret place”. In the couple of weeks before her birthday, I talked up “the secret place” without ever giving any details beyond the fact I believed she’d like it, that I thought it was awesome and that it was somewhere in Auckland. Which hardly narrows things.
The pressure was on. Would “the secret place” live up to the hype and truly be “somewhere special”? Unloading our bags at the front door of Braemar – a 4-star B&B on Parliament Street in central Auckland – the jury could’ve still been out. What we saw was a fairly unassuming-looking house sitting in between taller, equally historic apartment buildings from the early part of the 20th century.
Only calling Braemar a “house” is misleading, just as the street-view is also misleading. What initially appears as a modest two-storey home is in fact a four-storey residence with a compelling history and not inconsiderable luxury.
Managed and owned by John Sweetman – a gregarious, mustachioed storyteller who’s inclined to let his dear little toy poodle doggy perch inside his partially zipped jacket – Braemar is one surprise after another. From the enchantingly-lit main living room to the dining room, Braemar is a property where you’re always surprised to discover more rooms. “What’s behind this door? There’s another living room!?” Out the back is a lush, almost subtropical-looking garden and the basement level has quite possibly the largest map of the world I’ve ever seen in a private residence – a floor-to-ceiling colossus complete with pins placed on the home locations for all Braemar’s guests over the years.
|How the Braemar exterior looked 100 years ago –
almost exactly the same as today.
Those visitors are everyone from solo one night troubadours to honeymooners to families to celebrities wanting privacy to visiting academics who want to be close to Auckland University. Which brings us to Braemar’s A-list location. In a CBD not especially hailed as an example of architectural beauty and preservation of historical sites, Parliament Street and the surrounding little neighbourhood are a true exception.
Like a smaller version of Sydney’s gorgeous Elizabeth Bay where I find myself wanting to move into every quaint apartment building I walk past, Parliament Street is a leafy snapshot of Auckland in the early 1900s. Across the road from the High Court, Braemar is also right next to the gardens of the University as well as Albert Park. Queen Street is a less than 10-minute walk away, so too the edge of the Auckland Domain, not to mention Vector Arena if you’re in town for a concert. Or if the shops, galleries, restaurants and bars of upscale Parnell are more your thing, that’s also within walking distance.
“The Secret Place” comes with four bedrooms, the largest of which has its own separate living room as well as ensuite. Sweetman understands the importance of getting the right feel in an historic building like this and from the furniture to the bathroom tilings to the sheets on the bed, everything looks appropriate given Braemar’s backstory.
That backstory goes back to 1901, involves the building nearly being knocked down in the late 1980s, starring roles in movies like Goodbye Pork Pie (1981) and longtime residents as fascinating as the father of aviation pioneer Jean Batten. Fred Batten lived in what is now Braemar’s premier suite – the Batten Suite – for 40 years and it’s these nuggets of history that are all told with relish from Sweetman.
|The private ensuite in the Batten Suite.
As to whether Braemar lived up to its billing as “the secret place”, I feel safe in saying it was a very emphatic “yes!!!” Braemar is romantic, has more than a few yarns to tell and has an owner happy to share a bottle of wine with his guests who will also wake up no matter the time to prepare them breakfast, even if they’re departing on an early flight.
Speaking from experience, if you’re trying to impress a loved one with a night somewhere that’s luxurious with a difference, Braemar is a grand choice.
For more please visit aucklandbedandbreakfast.com
|Braemar’s owner / manager John Sweetman with his toy poodle.
|Braemar’s giant map of the world.
|Braemar’s dining room.
|Claw-footed baths are a Braemar feature.