Living the dream at Koura Bay
A couple who had their sights set on Kaikoura for some time are now well and truly established in the area and looking forward to building a life long-term for themselves and their daughter.
Viv and Shannon van den Bosch made the move in July last year to take on the challenge of establishing the Koura Bay Restaurant, which opened its doors in November. They had been living in Little River, near Akaroa, Viv working as head chef in an Akaroa restaurant and Shannon working at the Little River Gallery for six years. Shannon also worked as a wedding photographer, something she is keen to pursue in Kaikoura.
With plans to set up their own restaurant, the pair found their opportunities in terms of available rental too limited in Akaroa. There was also the issue of suitable childcare facilities for daughter Izzy, now 2 .
Viv recalls being introduced to Geoff Harmon by a friend, and they got to talking about his newly-built Koura Bay property.
"I like the ocean - I grew up in Diamond Harbour . . . Kaikoura was on our hit list because it is near the sea. We had been looking at places here for about a year before we met Geoff. When we first walked in [to the restaurant] I was like ‘wow'. It was definitely a good starting point, good venue, great view."
Since they agreed to take on the venture, Viv says Geoff and his wife, Kath, have both been extremely helpful to them and have a great, positive vision for the future, both for Koura Bay and the wider community.
The resource consent had not been finalised for the restaurant when they moved in, and the kitchen needed to be converted from domestic to commercial. A few minor touches have also been made to transform the space into the restaurant they wanted, including the addition of photographs, taken by a friend, of some of Kaikoura's more unusual landmarks.
While the inside looks sophisticated, it is not pretentious - the emphasis is on making people feel at home.
"We want people to be able to just kick their gumboots off at the door, come in and walk around and feel comfortable," says Viv. "Relaxed, like Kaikoura people are."
The menu is a relaxed affair too, changing daily to accommodate seasonal produce and available seafood. Viv has worked in some pretty high-class establishments in Australia and dabbles in lots of different cuisines as a result. Having worked with an Italian family he knows a lot about fresh pasta, which, along with bread, he makes daily. He has also worked in some small, boutique restaurants.
"I really liked that because I became polished, it brought my game right up with things like sauces."
He and Shannon are high-school sweethearts who went their separate ways after school, reuniting 10 years later. While Viv was pursuing a career as a chef in Australia, Shannon studied photography in Christchurch before working in the field as a wedding photographer.
"I learned heaps there, and at the same time pushed my photography, which I am also really keen to push here."
In the restaurant Shannon works the front of house, as well as managing the green tees at the Koura Bay golf course, and two bed-and-breakfast rooms. There is the potential to expand this, as well as grow the restaurant business, and Viv and Shannon are excited about future ideas including events, weddings and other functions.
But for now they intend to concentrate on building up a local clientele by providing good quality food with plenty of variety. Over the winter months they plan to hold theme nights with an Asian, Indian or Italian flavour to get people coming along for some fun.
"This is our dream really," says Shannon. "We would love to be here long-term, we are really committed to it."