Good Honest Kiwi Fare and Waterside Dining key to Queenstown’s Newest Dining Establishment

Posted by Travel News in Travel News
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
an image Jackie Gay, Still Vision

In an enviable waterfront position at Steamer Wharf on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Public is located in the site previously occupied by Wai Restaurant and continues to be owned and operated by Alex Boyes, Jan Rae and Martin and Megan James.

Co-owner Jan Rae said Public would offer a unique alternative to fine dining and pub fare in the resort, filling a niche to provide “good, honest grass roots cooking” in a relaxed and informal style.

“Things have changed since we first opened Wai 12 years ago. People’s tastes have changed for one thing but also the type of visitor to Queenstown has changed, moving to a stronger Australian and domestic market,” said Ms Rae.

“Wai offered an exceptional dining experience and was well-lauded within the industry as being one of New Zealand’s best restaurants.

“However after years of chasing fine-dining perfection we wanted to come back to our Kiwi roots.

“Tired of sitting up straight, elbows off the table, subdued conversation and no laughter, we’ve come up with something more true to our own personal style of dining.

“The concept for Public came while eating a bag of Kiwi Pineapple Lumps. Honestly. It just dawned on us that people – no matter how much they love fine dining – still love the good old classic Kiwi favourites.

“Our mission with Public is to bring everyone together to enjoy great classic food in a fun, relaxed environment with a great ambience. Public is inclusive not exclusive.”

Using the best local produce in Southland and Central Otago, hunted in the hills or foraged from the farms around Queenstown, chef –owner Martin James and executive chef Stephen Clayton, have expertly crafted mouth-watering dishes which stay true to their natural environment.

Public Kitchen & Bar will be open daily from 12 noon to 11pm offering all day dining at “honest Kiwi prices”.

Whether it’s an after work beer at the bar and a groper slider from the snack menu to dinner in one of the wall booths with friends or outside dining soaking up the views, Public offers multiple dining options.

Chef James said his mother was the reason he decided to become a chef and it was she and other family members who helped shape the food concept for Public.

“My mother was a hopeless cook - it certainly wasn’t the reason everyone eagerly accepted invitations for dinner at our house. People came for the company, the hospitality, and finally it was the ingredients, he said.

“In fact Mum’s only really good dish was homemade trifle which is why I’ve included it on the Public menu – Mum’s Traditional Homemade Trifle –it’s amazing.”

The menu includes an array of dishes for all palettes including Southland pork loin with honey and mustard, apple and tarragon salsa, Matt’s spiced chicken nibbles and potted rabbit plum compote from Athol Valley Meats in Southland. There is also an extensive vegetarian and salad menu and other dietary requirements can be catered for.

Nana Marg’s Lemon and Thyme Chicken also made the menu along with Marty’s hand-made sausage, with smoked bacon and lentil sauce as well as the Blue Skin Bay Clams.

“We’ve all had a ball reminiscing about our old family recipes passed down through generations and sampling them to find the perfect mix and balance for the new menu.”

The restaurant has undergone a complete interior transformation over the last few weeks with the owners hunting for quirky and “very Kiwi” objects to adorn the venue.

From old warehouse lights sourced from  Invercargill to distressed wood bar leaners, old Kiwi advertising on the walls, and a large feature bird cage light suspended from the ceiling, the new decor very much reflects the heritage of Public’s Steamer Wharf location, harking back to its old boatyard days.

An original red Kiwi telephone box, rescued from Waihi Beach, now doubles as one of the doors into the restaurant and adds to the vibe. An original piece of wall art called ‘Milk & Honey’, by local artist Simon Morrison Deaker, is unique to Public and graces one of the walls, adding to the restaurant’s style and ambiance.

“It was important to us that the décor reflected perfectly the food and atmosphere concept we wanted to achieve. We’ve scoured the country for cool bits of furniture, props and wall and ceiling hangings,” said Ms Rae.

“We’re all just so excited with how it’s come along and can’t wait to showcase Public to the general public.

“We know it’s going to be a great summer and our lakefront location is the perfect spot to grab some food, a wine and watch the world go by.”

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