Wellington puts on hangi for Lions rugby tour followers
A long way from home, they'll be hanging out for bangers and mash, haggis, or cawl, but Wellington is offering hungry British and Irish Lions fans something they've probably never tried before.
A hangi pit has been dug in front of Te Wharewaka, the conference centre on Wellington's waterfront, to feed visitors when they arrive later this month to watch their team take on the Hurricanes and the All Blacks.
The pit, which can fit enough food to feed 500, has been tested a few times on locals already, to make sure the flavour is just right when the Lions arrive.
On Friday, as the sun rose over the capital, hot embers filled the pit and sparks flew as men shovelled them out to make way for the food, as the pit was tested for the third time.
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Having a hangi in central Wellington had already piqued the curiosity of passersby, said Wade Reweti, who was part of the whanau group putting down the hangi.
He said it was an important tradition in his family, and they wanted to extend their hospitality to the Lions and their fans.
"We thought we should feed them up with some proper nutrition, so they at least stand a chance."
Karaka Cafe owner and Te Wharewaka manager Paul Retimanu said being able to cook hangi on the steps leading down to the lagoon had been something he dreamed of for a while.
The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency had come to the party, as had Wellington City Council, in making it happen. The pit was permanent, and in summer visitors and locals could look forward to enjoying hangi once every one or two weeks.
The Lions fanzone was right behind Te Wharewaka, in Odlins Plaza, and waka and walking tours would also be offered to those from the British Isles who wanted to get an authentic experience, Retimanu said.
Lamb, chicken, and pork, complemented by kumara, potatoes, cabbage, stuffing, and steamed pudding would be available.
People could buy hangi online by going on the Karaka Cafe website – and 250 meals had already been sold, Retimanu said.
He had watched plenty of people try hangi for the first time, and when they did he reckoned there was a 80 to 90 per cent satisfaction rate.
"People are really satisfied by it, it's quite unique, so they're not sure what to compare it to."