A malfunction in a wine fridge is believed to have caused a fire that gutted Gibb's Vineyard Restaurant on Saturday.
Firefighters were unable to save the popular Jacksons Rd vineyard restaurant, west of Blenheim, which was well alight when brigades arrived just after 7am on Saturday.
Duty fire investigator Ross Bailey said he believed the fire started in a wine cooler, a big fridge behind the bar.
An electrical inspector would look over the site this week to confirm the cause, he said.
Fire damage in the dining room and kitchen was extensive, while the back of the restaurant also suffered bad smoke and heat damage, Mr Bailey said.
The building, which is insured, had no fire alarms or sprinkler systems, he said.
The restaurant and land is owned by the Allan Scott family trust, and is leased to Chris and Heidi Gibb. The business was also insured.
Mr Gibb, the restaurant's head chef, said the fire came during the busiest time of year when every night was fully booked.
On Saturday he had hopes of setting up dining outside on the lawn, or at an alternative venue, but those plans did not eventuate and the restaurant remained closed today.
"We hope to find some form of temporary location.
"It has to happen as fast as possible – it has to go on. That's the hard business reality," he said.
He and his wife were "both a bit tired and shattered" after the fire, he said.
Insurance assessors came on Saturday and Mr Gibb expected to hear from them this week.
Mr Scott's insurance assessors would arrive today.
Mr Gibb thanked the Marlborough community for their support.
"We have had people calling and emailing, and people dropping off wine – it's been really good."
Renwick Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief fire officer Alan Johnson said smoke was pouring from the doors and windows of the restaurant when firefighters arrived.
About 40 firefighters from the Blenheim and Renwick Volunteer Fire Brigades, the RNZAF Base Woodbourne brigade and the Blenheim Rural Fire Force attended the fire.
St John Ambulance and Blenheim police also attended.
The Gibbs opened the restaurant 11 years ago and developed it into one of the region's most popular eateries, specialising in European cuisine.
The couple had upgraded the restaurant including a new till, and a special brandy basket making machine.
"I've waited seven years for a machine, and now it's gone," Mr Gibb said.
CUSTOMERS HOPE FOR RE-OPENING
Regular customers of Gibb's Vineyard Restaurant hope owners Chris and Heidi Gibb will rebuild the fine-dining venue after a devastating fire at the weekend.
Warm wishes were flowing in for the couple and their business after a blaze believed to have been caused by an electrical malfunction in a wine cooler destroyed their business on Saturday morning.
The popular restaurant, in a vineyard west of Blenheim on Jacksons Rd, specialised in European cuisine.
Regular customer Malcolm Aitken was shocked when he heard the news.
"It's the best restaurant in town really. The hospitality and service from Heidi is unbelievably good and Chris is a brilliant chef."
Mr Aitken hoped they would rebuild.
Nautilus Estate office manager Dave Fernandez said the company regularly entertained clients at the restaurant and he was sad it had been damaged.
Restaurant regular Belinda Frazerhurst, of Renwick, said she was sure "Chris and Heidi will find a way of making things work again".
- The Marlborough Express