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Dragon Inn soon to open

Joanna and Mike Howard are opening the Dragon Inn, a Welsh tapas bar, in Featherston. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
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Joanna and Mike Howard are bringing a piece of their homeland to Featherston.
The South Wairarapa couple, who moved to New Zealand from Wales in 1988, are turning the old Gusto Cafe into a small Welsh tapas bar, called the Dragon Inn.
The new joint, which adjoins the SuperValue supermarket, will open in the afternoon and provide locals and visitors alike a place to hang out in the evenings.
Mr and Mrs Howard are not new to hospitality.
In 1993, they opened the only Welsh restaurant in the Southern Hemisphere at the time in Island Bay, Wellington.
They moved the restaurant, Scorpios, to what was once known as the Taj Mahal, in the middle of Cambridge Tce, in the city centre.
Due to the limited kitchen, the Howards turned the venue into the successful Welsh Dragon Bar, which is still going strong.
“It’s completely covered in flags from our home, we’ve got the best collection of rugby shirts probably in the world, there’s hundreds of them,” Mrs Howard said.
The couple’s Featherston bar would not be as heavily Welsh themed as their Wellington one, but would feature every Welshman’s favourite beer, Brains.
The menu of small plates will include many dishes with leek, a national emblem of Wales.
Irish Stew and other “traditional home cooking” would also be served up.
“I don’t want to make it too hard for myself, we used to do 60 meals a night in the restaurant and that got too hard.”
Mrs Howard said the South Wairarapa District Council had granted the business’ liquor licence on Tuesday, and from there things would be moving fast.
The Howards hope to open the Dragon Inn, which will seat about 40 people, early next month.
To start with, they will employ at least three local people, including a full-time manager.
“We’ve been looking for something for a long time and we’ve seen lots of old buildings for sale, but there’s so many restrictions these days.
“This is ready made and lovely, and we just have to change the decor.”
The Dragon Inn would have outdoor seating and complement other businesses in town, Mrs Howard said.
The couple moved to Wairarapa 12 years ago.
“We’ve had three houses in that time and now we’re in the country we never want to leave.”

The South Wairarapa couple own the Welsh Dragon Bar in Wellington city. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
The South Wairarapa couple own the Welsh Dragon Bar in Wellington city. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

9 COMMENTS

  1. Hi guys

    I was hoping to catch up with Mike at the pub next Tuesday I am in Wellington for a few nights.It looks like I am too late for the pub.My email address is the clue I haven’t seen Mike for more than 35yrs.Good luck Mike if we don’t catch up,

    Den

  2. I can’t wait to come and visit when I’m back in New Zealand. Good luck with your new venture, I’m really excited for you and the people of Featherston!!! Xx

  3. Well done Joanna and Mike.
    I remember the Island Bay retaraunt well and was one of the first to have a meal there.
    Good luck with the new venture and will definitely call in for a meal.

    • Well hi there- blast from the past!! Thank you for your kind comments- we look forward to catching up with you again one day!

  4. Great stuff, Mike and Jo are lovely people. I just know they’ll treat everyone who visits with traditional Welsh hwyl! I wish them all the best.

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