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Balter Bar draws a rising star

Tript Dhillon and Guru Gill, the new co-owners of Balter Bar and Kitchen, who will also be running the whole operation, from cooking to coffees. PHOTOS/ARTHUR HAWKESGraphic artist Noah Tucker working on the unique designs for the interior.

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Chef Tript Dhillon, 27, really has done it all, despite being so young.

Having spent time at some of the most well-regarded restaurants in Auckland and Wellington, he has ascended the ranks to become a culinary talent in New Zealand, having moved here 12 years ago from India.

Restaurants such as Scouts, Hello Friends + Allies, Little Sister Cafe, and Woolfy’s might mean nothing to you, or they may resonate with those more familiar with our largest city’s dining scene. Either way, they regularly topped Metro Magazine’s top-50 lists, with Dhillon helming the gustatory output.

In 2018, he was head chef at Auckland’s The Lunchroom, where they were counted as one of the top five eateries in the country.

Since then, he’s made a move to Wellington, where he was head chef at Los Banditos, the popular Mexican restaurant, and Hummingbird on Courtenay Place.

For the next step in his career, though, he’s moved to greener pastures – specifically, Wairarapa.

He and business partner Guru Gill, 32, have bought Balter Bar and Kitchen in Carterton – not as a long-distance venture, nor as investors, but as co-owner-operators.

Dhillon said that the fact they’re going to own the eatery and work inside it will ensure the best quality and the highest passion for their culinary output.

“We found there was a need here for something eclectic and a bit funky.

“There are a few places like that, but everyone’s doing a similar kind of food, and they’re just the owners, but not working-owners – that’s where the biggest difference is going to be.”

In preparation for their life at Balter, the two have, as of three weeks ago, moved into a new place in Carterton. They said they were already loving life in Wairarapa, having grown up in rural India.

“If you need an honest answer, people are more humble and more friendly here – in the city, everyone’s in a rush, out here people have the time to smile and to talk.

“I really like places like this, when people know you by your face and your name.”

Dhillon will be head chef at Balter, with sous chef Karamvir Sarao, 25, assisting him.

Gill, a talented barista in his own right, will focus on coffees and drinks.

Dhillon said they’d been looking for a suitable place to start their first business for about four years.

“In all that time, this was the first place that really clicked,” Gill said.

Before purchasing Balter, they’d toured the entire country looking at potential venues, but found Carterton’s location, cultural status, and proximity to the capital made it the ideal venue.

The duo also wanted to thank former owner Kylie Mole, who they said had been “extremely helpful” with the changeover.

Everything they serve will be made from scratch and produced locally – not a single base, paste, or puree will be bought in. The aim will be to serve an eclectic mix of high-quality local ingredients.

The menu will change every three months but boasts a range of styles, cuisines, and flavours, all honed through Dhillon’s multifaceted career.

To call it a fusion restaurant wouldn’t be wholly true – the menu is familiar in terms of the dishes, but the components will aim to be new and exciting, and of no one single cuisine or school.

Dhillon lights up talking about some of his creations: a smoked mango cheesecake, and a flaming sheep’s cheese, similar to halloumi, ignited by the waiter.

“The style of the food is very eclectic, but will be rich in flavour, and presented really, really well.

“Nothing on the menu will be more than $29. We want something that’s affordable. We want to be a destination for people all over the region.”

Cocktails will also be a big feature of the establishment, with Wairarapa distilleries given preferential treatment – the locally-produced Lighthouse Gin will be the house choice.

Again, these won’t be priced to break the bank – they want people to feel like they’re getting something of excellent quality for an affordable price. The same goes for the food.

Their goal is to shy away from being too pretentious, and offer good hearty meals, from brunch through to dinner, but finessed and infused to a degree that only a chef like Dhillon would be able to.

“We want people to feel full, and satisfied, like they’ve had a good meal, but also that they’ve tried something totally new and unique.”

Graphic artist Noah Tucker working on the unique designs for the interior.

As we chat, Dhillon unboxes handmade plates in the small kitchen, wrapped in Japanese newspaper.

They’re from Kyoto, Japan, and have been ordered before the launch this week.

As well as showcasing great Wairarapa food, Dhillon wants Balter Bar to be an arts destination, with the designs regularly changing, along with the graphics on the walls.

The walls, along with the new coffee machine, are being decorated by graphic artist Noah Tucker.

After the closure of Cafe Mirabelle, which was renowned to those travelling over the hill, Balter Bar’s new takeover would be welcomed by Carterton residents keen on dining out – and would hopefully attract a wide clientele keen for good quality food and culinary experimentation.


  1. Great to see that Balter will continue on, especially as Carterton has so much untapped potential when it comes to places to catch up with friends and family to eat, drink or enjoy a good coffee – also will be good to see young break through artists being involved too.

  2. We will miss Kylie but it appears the new owners will fill the space admirably. Looking forward to dining there next week.

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