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Sharing the love of food in region

Ursula and Tony Murphy have entered 1860 Restaurant and The Top Pub into this year’s Wellington On A Plate. PHOTO/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

Sharing the love of food in region

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For publicans Ursula and Tony Murphy, it’s about sharing the love – of and around the region.

The pair have entered their two Greytown eateries, 1860 Restaurant and The Top Pub, into this year’s Wellington On A Plate.

It’s the fourth year the couple have entered the competition, having entered four burgers and one Dine dish since buying the Greytown Hotel in 2016.

1860 Restaurant

In 2019, 1860 entered Dine Wellington with a starter, Ursula said.

“It meant people could try a starter and then go somewhere else for a main. You have to work together out in the regions.”

Restaurant’s ‘Dolce di Mele Cotogne’, a quince ravioli. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Following similar reasoning, the establishment will be offering up a dessert as its Dine Wellington dish for 2021, its second year entering this portion of the event.

Head chef Michael Robitsch will be serving up ‘Dolce di Mele Cotogne’, a quince ravioli.

“Everybody has a part to play in a region like this,” Ursula says.

“Michael is Austrian, but he grew up on the Austrian-Italian border,” Ursula said, giving the reasoning behind creating a sweet pasta.

“We thought we’d do something different to encourage people to come over the hill … so we thought we might do the history of this region.

“I think the theme this year really celebrates the whole culture of New Zealand, which sometimes gets overlooked because we’re a new country.”

The house-made ravioli, served with brown butter, vanilla espuma [foam], and sour apple sorbet, was inspired by the history of Greytown – New Zealand’s first planned inland town, founded in 1854.

“For the early settlers, there wouldn’t have been the huge abundance of food,” Ursula said.

Dense bushland was broken in by the settlers who walked over from Wellington, wasting no food or supplies.

Head chef Michael Robitsch. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“The hero of our dish, quince, is a locally grown fruit traditionally used for stock feed, but instead, early settlers would slow cook this tough fruit bringing out its delicious sweet aroma and flavours. Our dish pays homage to the early settlers and their savvy use of homegrown food.”

This history has been combined with “something a bit unusual”.

“You’ve got to think about what’s going to be in season in August as well,” Ursula said, telling me the restaurant’s menu changed monthly and was based on seasonal produce.

“Whatever Pinehaven or Home Cottage Gardens have at the time, Michael will base our menu on it.”

This proved to be a bit of a struggle when planning the Dine dish in January, as Ursula said Michael wasn’t hugely familiar with quince.

“We were struggling to get it when we were trying to practise it.”

Still, the dish had since been perfected, including the pasta dough, which would need to be much thinner than normal.

Dolce di Mele Cotogne would be available as part of a five-course chef’s menu, but would also be available to order as a dish on its own.

“I’m really looking forward to the quince ravioli because it’s out there, it’s a bit different and seasonal,” Ursula said.

The Top Pub

The Top Pub’s ‘The Lechon’ burger. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Meanwhile, The Top Pub would be serving up ‘The Lechon’, which would have sliced roast pork belly and shoulder marinated in soy sauce, garlic, fresh ginger, lemongrass and Thai basil, paired with grilled Parkvale mushrooms, Philippine-style coleslaw and pork crackling.

Served in a Clareville Bakery Parkvale mushroom dust brioche bun, the burger would be plated with a roasted sweet potato skewer and salted caramel sauce.

The team behind the two creations is made up of a mix of cultures, Ursula said, her strong Irish accent having already given her background away. Kiwis, Chilean, and Austrian palates all add to the team’s tastes.

“We were looking for something different,” she said, explaining the process behind the pub’s 2021 burger.

“One of our really good friends is Filipino. When we come out of covid and all the talk of not being able to travel…”

After a mouthwatering discussion about how pork was slow-roasted in the Philippines, The Lechon came into being.

“Everything’s a team effort here,” Ursula said.

“I’m not normally a sweet and savoury person, but it’s delicious.”

The business is no stranger to Burger Wellington, having entered each year since 2017. Last year’s burger, El Toro, was sold about 500 times, and was the only one in Wairarapa to make it into the top 25, earning it the ‘best in region’ award.

“Hopefully, this year we’ll top it,” Ursula said, “People still come and get it.”

She loves the atmosphere, the anticipation and excitement, brought out by the festival.

“People were asking us about the burger before it was announced,” she said.

“It’s a whole different feel to the place because we get groups coming over. You have that great chit-chat, they tell you what they’ve come over to try.

“The burger definitely has a very festival feeling – you’ll get groups of people.

“The Dine is a more formal aspect. They tend to dress up, they make a whole night of it.”

And for the regulars who continue to visit before, during, and after August, WOAP gave them something “that nice bit extra”.

“Last year, I actually noticed people that usually commute, they weren’t commuting, but they still wanted to be involved so they came here.”

While being involved in the festival was a lot of work, and entering two establishments meant twice the hustle, for Ursula, it was all worthwhile.

“Every year we’ve got more popular, whether it’s the food, the reputation from the previous years, or the festival itself.

“It’ll be great for Wairarapa on the back of the Winter Festival, it’s straight into Wellington On A Plate.”

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