Marcia Paterson's memories at Hippopotamus

GOOD MEMORIES: Marcia Paterson at Hippopotamus Restaurant in the Musuem Hotel
GOOD MEMORIES: Marcia Paterson at Hippopotamus Restaurant in the Musuem Hotel

My mum, Sally, died quite suddenly three years ago and over the years this had been one of her favourite places to come. Mum had a form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, which is actually more common than we initially thought. Over the years, we've come here as a family a lot, always for special occasions. We always seem to drink champagne when we come here. Mum was a Bolly girl - she always had a glass of champagne or two when she came here. She liked Hippopotamus for a sense of occasion.

It's a place that feels indulgent -  the pinks, blues and green fabrics on the furniture, and the way that most of the staff are French, speaking in gorgeous French accents.

Do I feel sad when I come here because of Mum's love of it?  No. I try and think about the good memories. That's what she would want.

Mum, my dad, Ian, and my sisters, Kate and Jay, we've always loved this place. Since Mum passed away, we've still been coming here. We came here on the anniversary of her death. Our family firm, Just Paterson, is really close on Tory St, and Dad and Kate and I are shareholders and directors, all working as agents.

We were last here three weeks ago. My sister, Kate, is commuting from Singapore so we came here for dinner with Dad. We always do the whole Hippopotamus experience, grazing through the menu.

The food is delicious and the flavours are amazing, really different to anything I eat at home. I love the sashimi as an entree but try to sample new dishes from the menu.

Hippopotamus also does fantastic high teas and we've organised a couple of those for our staff. We had a surprise baby shower for one of our agents here. A high tea is a fun thing to do with a group of girlfriends.

I do love the French focus here and try to practise my schoolgirl French. I spent six weeks doing a language exchange in Tahiti some years ago when I was 15. It was quite a brave experience being that age and away in another country. 

To be honest, I didn't discover French cuisine over there or anything like that. But I am a bit of a foodie;  we all are in my family. One of my brother-in-laws always jokes that the Patersons are always planning the next meal. We're thinking about what we're going to do for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I think it's the Kiwi way.

I grew up in Taihape, Whanganui and Wellington, shifting here when I was 9. Mum and Dad set up a real estate firm with Ted and Sylvie Jewett, called Jewetts Paterson, and then they all went out on their own, so Mum and Dad's became Just Paterson. I studied PE and nutrition at Otago University and fought real estate for a long time but it's in my blood,  really.

I spent most of my teenage years living in Mt Victoria, and Capitol restaurant is also a family favourite. When Mum was ill, Rob, from Capitol, delivered a few restaurant meals to her and Dad. I can't go past Joe's Garage for coffee. It's a couple of doors down from my office, and it's so child-friendly, too, with pens and pencils and vintage trucks for the kids.

I'm a foodie but my husband, Kit, does most of the cooking. Since we've had kids  -  Charlie, 4, and Oscar, 7 - we entertain a lot more at our Northland home, doing family dinners, that kind of thing. Cooking is a great way to unwind.

Mum was a great cook and entertainer. Mum and Dad used to always say: ''There will always be enough peas in the pot for one more.'' They hosted a lot and I've inherited a love of that. I love nothing more than having friends sitting on our breakfast bar stools while I make something.

When Mum got this cancer, and after she passed away, we really wanted to do something as a family to help fight the disease. So we started supporting the Malaghan Institute as they're doing a clinical trial, trying to find a vaccine for this form of brain cancer. A portion of Just Paterson's fee goes to them. So far, in three years, we've raised $172,000 and we're hoping to make $200,000 by the end of the calendar year. Every Like we get on our Facebook page,  we also donate   $1.

After Mum died, we had to get back to work. We still had to go out and sell property. For a while there, you question everything and it puts everything into perspective when someone you love who is a huge part of your life passes away. This is a way of doing something positive in Mum's memory.

As told to Sarah Catherall

Hippopotamus Restaurant
Museum Hotel, 90 Cable St, Te Aro 6011.
Phone: (04)8028935.
Opening hours: Breakfast - Monday-Friday, 6.30am-10.30am; weekends and public holidays, 7am-11am. Lunch - Monday-Friday, 12pm-2pm. High tea - Wednesday-Sunday, 2pm-4.30pm. Dinner - daily, 6pm-10pm. Hippopotamus Cocktail Bar - daily,  2pm-midnight.

HB Country Scene