Having worked in the beauty industry for over two decades, Wendy Nowell-Usticke is no stranger to what makes a successful product and brand. After years spent living abroad in the US and Japan, Wendy returned to Hawke’s Bay about three years ago to reconnect with her family. Here she launched her slow beauty venture, Corbin Road - named after “the dusty country road” she grew up on, “surrounded by rolling hills, busy birdlife and free-ranging animals”.
Wendy now lives in a pre-earthquake building in Napier’s CBD with her husband. “There’s a lot to love about being here but my favourite thing is that I’m able to walk everywhere and barely use a car.” She shares a few of her favourite spots.
Favourite place for a drink?
Actually, my most favourite place is my parents’ house. They have a lovely ritual of a sherry with lunch and a cocktail at the end of the day. Mine is a gin and tonic made with Hendricks & Fever Tree elderflower tonic. It’s sitting by my chair at their place when I walk in the door and if I’m late I’ll get a text to say the ice is melting with an accompanying emoji. Yep at 85, Jasper, my father, has mastered all things iphone.
To go out, we love the Hastings Distillers tasting room. They’re New Zealand’s first producer of certified organic artisan spirits. I’ll always have their L’Opera spritz - a botanical version of a bitter orange aperitif. I guarantee you’ll have bought yourself an orange dehydrator and bottle of L’Opera before you go. When I’m not drinking alcohol, I quite like the Seedlip Grove & Tonic or sparkling Arepa.
Best place for breakfast?
The creamy mushroom omelette at Hapi in Napier. Owner and chef Gretta only uses the best organic and quality produce, so no matter what you eat there’s that little dopamine hit of knowing you’ve done something kind for your body.
Where do you get your morning coffee - and what’s your order?
I make coffee at home. We bought a Delonghi Magnifica years ago, our choice of beans is the Allpress Browns Mill Organic or the L’Affare Gusto for the perfect long black. When I’m going out for a treat, a vienna or cold brew at Georgia on Tennyson in Napier.
The restaurant you’ve been going to for years?
When we first arrived here we acclimatised by eating at every restaurant in Hawke’s Bay to work out our favourite dishes across all categories. Now, we part with most of our cash at Bistronomy or Mister D. Speaking of Misters, we would love to see a Mr Morris or Café Hanoi down here. Just putting it out there.
Favourite restaurant to visit with friends?
Sazio, the perfect little pasta bar in Hastings.
For something fancy?
Best ‘cheap eat’?
Kilim in Napier. One Mezze plate is enough for two and being BYO is a bonus.
Brunch on a Sunday: where would we find you?
Smiths in Napier – it’s a vibrant, airy café that serves brilliant seasonal dishes. The courtyard is bustling on the weekends, and it’s lovely to be surrounded by their raised vege beds that feed the dishes being ferried to your table.
Your local bar or pub?
Monica Loves - a quaint little cocktail bar down an alleyway – it’s a little bit Melbourne but also very Napier. We love a laneway here.
Favourite place for date night?
Your regular supermarket?
A plea – Farro, please come to Hawke’s Bay. I miss you! I had to fly to Auckland to bring back a turducken for Christmas last year. I walk to Chantel’s Organic Store to get most of my produce, or the Napier Urban Farmers’ Market on Saturday. Otherwise I wait until I visit my parents in the suburb of Greenmeadows to go to the very good New World there.
Where do you go for ‘special’, non-supermarket food or drink?
Vetro in Ahuriri.
Favourite place for live music?
We are absolutely blessed to have Jamie MacPhail living here in Hawke’s Bay. This year, with Covid having forced so many gig cancellations, he organised a series called The Small Hall Sessions, with a raft of extraordinary New Zealand musicians ‘touring’ the small rural halls of Hawke’s Bay for a week at a time. Reb Fountain, Delaney Davidson – we were so lucky to have them.
Where do you go for some relaxation or a beauty treatment?
I have been seeing Kelly at Isla Skin Therapies for her enzyme facial. It’s a weird sensation, but with great results and you get your feet massaged for the duration of the treatment - amazing! Kelly is beloved by Hawke's Bay locals - even if I didn’t want a facial I’d go just to have a chat with this absolute fountain of knowledge.
I also recommend the treatment space Urban Wellness on the ground floor of our historic 1928 Louis Hay building at 58 Dalton Street, Napier. We’ll be introducing New Zealand’s first “superhuman protocol” space using De Vinci Medical “bio-hacking” protocols - a new approach to holistic health. This is a three-step protocol using Magnetic Induction, Oxygen and Red/Near Infrared Therapies. It takes 45 minutes, is completely non-invasive and contactless, and it works by recharging your cellular activity which in turn restores your health, targeting inflammation, injury, sleep, skin, anxiety, pain and so much more. We’ll also be using the Laneway boutique accommodation upstairs for urban retreats. It’s super exciting to get this off the ground!
Best kept shopping secret?
Kindred Road in Hastings – they’re about to open a new showroom of absolutely beautiful furniture and homewares in the Tribune building. Owner Alice has a keen eye for interesting shapes and small run items that become centrepieces.
Favourite clothing store that never lets you down?
Because I keep growing out of my clothes, I’m still shopping. (I will have the most magnificent wardrobe when I’ve hit 80 and shrunk a bit as I can’t bear to throw my favourites out.) I mostly shop for statement items online and buy New Zealand designers and preferably from the mindful fashion list. I love Ruby, Caroline Sills, Kate Sylvester, Wynn Hamlyn and Knuefermann. Degas in Napier has a great supply of local brands and for basics and essentials, I’ll go to Max because of their sustainable stance on recycling fibre and transparency on production manufacturing.
Where do you go for a workout?
Moove Studio in Havelock North. It’s a 30 minute drive away (that’s about as long a commute as you can do in Hawke’s Bay) once a week to see Danielle because she knows her stuff. She’s the only person who’s identified my postural issues and used gyrotonics to correct what could later become a problem for me as I age. I swear I’m an inch taller when I hop back in my car. Otherwise, I’ll take a stroll along the waterfront in Napier – there is public workout equipment built in along the way.
Where do you go when you’re after local art or design?
Gow Langsford. I’m very grateful to John Gow for introducing me to New Zealand’s finest. He has transformed our house over the years with the likes of Judy Miller, Max Gimblett and John Pule.
If someone was visiting your neighbourhood/city for the first time, what’s the one place you would recommend they visit?
I would say Te Mata Peak. Grab a coffee or smoothie from Pixie in Havelock North before taking the drive up to the top to get a breathtaking vista of the Heretaunga Plains. Or rent a bike and tackle a bike trail. The iWay cycle path network is absolutely magnificent and mostly well groomed and very flat. And with electric bikes making it easier than ever, it’s a lovely way to see the area.