The story behind Berhampore's sunny new eatery, Goose Shack, goes back to a time when Haydn Turner was unemployed in London. While his partner, Laura Nicholls, was designing interiors for wealthy clients, Turner began experimenting with a wood fire oven in a home they were housesitting. For three months, the former Rembrandt product designer spent his days cooking. "It was at a time when the whole local produce and market thing was taking off in England, and I was blown away by what delicious produce you could get too and what you could do with that. We were on a budget, so I'd be cooking day and night," he says.
Turner had already worked in hospitality but was always out the front, greeting customers. After he left school, he managed Boulcott Street Bistro and also the Martinborough Hotel. Aged 22, he went to university, but he always returned to hospitality, and while in London, he worked on the floor at London's River Cafe, where Jamie Oliver once cooked.
When the couple returned to Wellington in 2012, Turner says he was shocked to find that the creative industries they had worked in just a few years before had "bottomed out". They had come home via Shanghai, where Nicholls worked, and travelled substantially through Spain and Portugal.
Turner wanted to do his own thing, to launch a business, and considered a fashion label. "But I was enjoying cooking, and being back in the hospitality industry," he says.
All these experiences fed the birth of the couple's eatery, Goose Shack HQ, which is opening this week and will run day and night. Parked out the front is a Morris Minor mobile food truck that has been serving charcoal-cooked meats, fish and sandwiches at the City and Newtown markets and catered events – the first step in the couple's food business, it's been operating since 17-month-old Claude was one month old.
It's been a hectic few months since the couple took over the building lease on December 27, and Turner wipes his brow, explaining he hasn't had a day off. It's difficult to imagine what this open plan eatery with full-length windows looked like, in its former life as a Chinese restaurant. Turner and his staff gutted the room and completely refitted it.
Taking pride of place in the room, behind the bar, is the woodfire oven, where the 37-year-old and his cooks will whip up rotisserie chicken and potatoes, they'll wood-fire pork chops, market fish, and scotch fillets, along with haloumi, braised duck and flat breads. But Turner doesn't want it likened to an American diner, and won't serve burgers or pizzas for that reason. "We'll have chicken and pork and fish that will go straight on the skillet so you'll get these beautiful flavours."
Even though the couple have temporarily given up their dream of owning their first home to fund this venture, they're aware of their market and sympathetic to the budgets of a typical young couple with child like them. For that reason, Turner says prices are being kept as low as possible: "We want it to be accessible. There are a lot of young families around here and if they get a babysitter to go out, they don't want to spend too much. They just can't."
"We don't want to be the next best place. We want to get the best price for the product through to the customer. We want to serve good, wholesome food."
While Nicholls, 31, is a talented interior architect, she describes the Goose Shack interior as "resourceful". Many of the pieces in the space have been collected or found. The gorgeous rimu bar had a former life as shelves in the old BNZ chambers, in the days when clients' documents were filed away. Tabletops were recycled from the roof of Newtown School. A filing cabinet serves as a cutlery drawer, while floral place mats dotted on a wall function as art works. The couple plan to have a kitchen garden along the fence outside.
Turner is also naturally resourceful. When he bought the Morris Minor truck, he rebuilt it himself. The couple imported a charcoal oven from Kenya, the only one in Australasia, adding a grill, rotisserie, and two hobs. They'll keep running the food truck at weekend markets and they're planning to open their Adelaide Road eatery tonight. Says Nicholls: "It's still quite hard to believe its ours."
- The Dominion Post
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