Peckish punters pack pocket park

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 08:00 04/04/2014
Pocket Park on Bridge Street
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

MENU MEN: Food cart chefs Amir Mina, left Arnel Lisondra and Michael McMeeken at the Pocket Park on Bridge Street.

Pocket Park on Bridge Street
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
EATING AL FRESCO: Diners enjoy lunch in the sunshine at the Streat Kitchen cart.
pocket park graphic
Rachel Dodd and Michael McMeeken
BIG PLANS: A concept drawing shows how the pocket park might look in the future.

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Nelson's Bridge St pop-up park has passed its trial and will stick around for the winter, says Streat Kitchen chef Michael McMeeken.

It started as a pilot project from December 23 on a vacant site after a building was demolished, with the idea of creating a place for people to eat and adding some vitality to the central city.

McMeeken set up his food cart serving restaurant-style lunch meals and sliders, and was later joined by two others, Amir Mina selling souvlaki, and Glory and Arnel Lisondra offering Filipino food.

They daily set up makeshift tables of empty cable reels with tables and umbrellas, removing them in the afternoon.

McMeeken said that, hopefully with some community support, they would set it up for winter.

The project has support from the Nelson Civic Trust, and top garden designer James Wheatley has drawn up concept plans for the pocket park incorporating landscaping with the carts and seating as well a small entertainment stage.

They hope the community will donate goods and services. McMeeken said they hoped people could supply materials they could build things out of, such as timber and scaffolding to make industrial-style tables, and established trees to go into planter boxes.

They also hope to arrange solar lighting so they can try staying open on Friday nights until 8pm. The site has no electricity supply and they will also need a water supply for plants. They want to create wind breaks to make the site a comfortable friendly environment in winter.

Feedback from the public had been good, he said.

"People like the concept and comment on what a smart use of the space it is. It's been really well received and a lot of people are asking about progress, what's happening next."

The Streat Kitchen's business, serving 30 to 50 people daily, has been strong enough to give him confidence to continue.

The three food carts are all family businesses. "We just want to be able to survive the winter," said McMeeken.

"A lot of people have commented on how Nelson needs more of this going on and this suits the Nelson scene."

It worked as a semi food court, which Nelson did not have, and hopefully it complemented other street food carts in the central city, he said.

"We have people coming here with their coffees and food from cafes to eat on site which they are welcome to do, it's a public area."

He plans to have a couple more carts join them. "Coffee is an idea and there is talk of possibly a pizza oven on Friday nights to create an environment and buzz going on."

The weather was their biggest enemy, he said.

"At the start of the year it seemed to rain every day but from the end of January and February we have had a good stretch so far.

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"In the winter with rainy days I'd like to do a phone-in order system or delivery system so people don't have to venture out but still want the food."

As a professional chef more accustomed to working in top restaurant kitchens, it has been a change for McMeeken but the lower overheads have proved to be a good business startup option and he is enjoying more creative freedom.

He also taken his cart to events ranging from serving a five-course dinner to 10 guests, to serving hundreds at Opera in the Park.

Anyone interesting in helping donate goods or services to the park can contact streatkitchen@yahoo.co.nz

- Nelson

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