Chocolate Fish cafe comeback a sizzler

01:12, Sep 16 2009
John Pennington
KIWIANA REVIVAL: John Pennington is reopening the Chocolate Fish Cafe with a seafood menu.
Submarine Mining Depot Barracks
FLYING FISH: The cafe, a Scorching Bay attraction for 10 years, is to reopen on October 5 in the 122-year-old Submarine Mining Depot Barracks at the former air force base in Shelly Bay.
OLDEN DAYS: The barracks in about 1892.

The Chocolate Fish cafe is reopening in Wellington after nearly two years - but this time it will serve barbecued seafood from a Shelly Bay building.

The cafe - a Scorching Bay attraction for 10 years - is expected to open on October 5 in the 122-year-old Submarine Mining Depot Barracks at the former Shelly Bay air force defence base.

The Government recently transferred ownership of the base to the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust as part of its Treaty settlement.

Cafe co-owner John Pennington revealed the barracks building had no kitchen. "So we are going to give people a real piece of Kiwiana in the form of a barbecue. We'll call it the Chocolate Fish kaimoana. It is going to be barbecued fish, scallops, whitebait, paua, corn fritters ... between two pieces of bread."

The grilled treats will be provided no matter the weather.

"On inclement days we will come inside and leave the cook to use the barbecue in the rain."

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Everything served in the cafe, which has seating for 90 indoor and 40 outdoor diners, will be available to take away, with barbecued food served on environmentally friendly bamboo plates.

Coffee, soft drinks and icecreams will also be available. A courtyard at the rear of the building will be used as a play area.

The original Chocolate Fish was opened at Scorching Bay by Mr Pennington, wife Penny, and business partners Mat and Sarah Wright. It became the cafe of choice for stars and crew from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

It closed after 10 years in December 2007 and was replaced with the Scorch-O-Rama cafe.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the Chocolate Fish was iconic and had been used by Positively Wellington Tourism to promote the city. "To see it opening again and hopefully attracting not only its old clientele but new clients too is fantastic."

Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love said the cafe had a two-year lease and did not signal the start of a major redevelopment of the Shelly Bay base. "Basically we are not going into long-term commitments. It would be irresponsible to do that when we don't know what could be done in the future.

"There are no [impending] grand plans or big announcements ... and no hidden agendas."

The defence base buildings, used by small businesses and as artists' studios, are not registered with the Historic Places Trust but considered historically significant by the council.

The Dominion Post