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Tohi gin joint adds up

The most recent addition to Martinborough’s culinary scene is an artful cocktail of old and new with a dash of history.

Tohi is Martinborough’s newest gin tasting room, the brainchild of local owners Karen-Anne Frost, Dudley and Murray Hill, and Dan Murphy.

Located in the recently refurbished former BNZ building in Memorial Square, Tohi is right behind its sister hostelry – wine bar and restaurant Karahui, which opened in December 2021.

The tasting room opened just last month and features three gins produced in Martinborough as part of an extensive menu of 32 varieties.

Focussing on traditional gin and tonic, as well as gin-tasting flights and other cocktails, the menu highlights a range derived from natural botanicals, which almost sound like herbal teas. A hand-foraged Macedonian juniper sits alongside lime from Hawkes Bay, rosemary from Marlborough, and lemon verbena from Canterbury. There is also thyme and bay leaf from Marlborough and a locally produced lavender option.

Frost said the reception has been very encouraging.

“It’s been going wonderfully. People just go ‘wow’, it’s been great,” she said.

“For all of us, it’s been amazing. It’s better than we expected it would be, and every day has been different,” she said.

She described how the building had gradually morphed from a grand old banking arcade and offices, with the manager’s accommodation behind, to the stylish, multifunctional bar and restaurant complex it is today.

“If you see the backyard, they even had horses there in the old days,” she said, pointing to a paved area that’s now a garden bar.

Some current patrons have memories of the building in its previous incarnation, with one even living there as a child when her father was the
local bank manager.

“Sometimes locals come in and say, ‘I used to sit over there when I was 18’, and now they are 70.”

The building is full of historical artefacts from the district, with adding machines and other items from the bank donated by Martinborough museum. An old, partly completed ledger can still be seen in one of the typewriters.

“We are telling a story. We don’t want people to forget what it is and the history it’s had,” Frost said.

There are two kitchens on site, one responsible for the extensive menu at Karahui while a smaller one services the gin bar. Local chef Jawl makes Thai specialities designed to complement the gin offerings.

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