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Cracking top 100

CAPTION: Pinocchio owners Elly and Paul with their daughter Ilaria at their restaurant in Martinborough PHOTO/SUPPLIED

By Beckie Wilson

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On the first day they met, Paul and Elly Ansell knew they wanted to own a restaurant together.

But they never thought that just three years after serving fine-dining dishes at their Martinborough restaurant, Pinocchio, that they would be nationally recognised for it.

This week, Pinocchio was the only Wairarapa restaurant named in Cuisine magazine’s top 100 New Zealand restaurants for 2017.

The couple took over the restaurant from Cool Change owners Jimmy McKinnel and Karina Hailwood in July 2014.

The Ansells “pretty much have lived our whole life together” since meeting about seven years ago at the Logan Brown restaurant in Wellington where they both worked.

He was a sous chef at Logan Brown and she was front-of-house when they met.

Mr Ansell worked at three fine-dining Wellington restaurants including Martin Bosley’s and White House restaurant.

CAPTION: slow roasted pulled lamb, pea purée, baby carrots, goats cheese, cauliflower and black olive PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Mrs Ansell is a wine connoisseur having studied and worked in various vineyards, and as a wedding coordinator before they headed off on an overseas holiday.

“We have worked in restaurants that have been in the top 100 category before, but never thought we would be in one ourselves,” Mr Ansell said.

Mrs Ansell runs front of house, while he runs the kitchen side of things.

“It works really well and we don’t get in each other’s way,” Mr Ansell said.

“To be in the top 100 restaurants in the country is a dream come true.”

The judging was anonymous which Mr Ansell said is the beauty of the food awards.

“That’s one of the great things about it, money can’t buy you into it, it’s all anonymous.

“[The judges] must have been in a few times . . . we had no idea, it was just business as usual for those people.”

Mrs Ansell likes to change the wine list weekly, sometimes more.

“A lot of our clientele are winemakers from around here, so they don’t like to go out and just have Martinborough wines, they like to try something new.”

The couple moved to Martinborough for two reasons.

To be closer to their families, and to follow the dream of starting a family in a “friendly community”.

“Now we have a 2-1/2-year-old and a baby girl on the way.”

Every year the New Zealand Cuisine Good Food Awards identify and celebrate the very best dining experiences the country has to offer.

The 2017 restaurants named is the start of the judging process. The next step for the judges will be the awarding a rating system of 1, 2 or 3.

Cuisine chief judge Kerry Tyack said the regional restaurants seem to be more in tune with the trend set by urban restaurants.

This is reflected in the top 100 list, with Wairarapa’s Pinocchio as a new addition.

“What we typically see on offer in urban areas we are now seeing appear in regional areas too. Restaurants are popping up to meet that demand,” he said.

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