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Union fare is anything but square

Union Square restaurant manager Anh Le. PHOTOS/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

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One Martinborough eatery will be keeping itself busy come August, when it hosts four of Wairarapa’s 10 Wellington On A Plate festival events.

Restaurant manager Anh Le said it would be Union Square’s fourth time taking part in the festival, after its rebranding three years ago.

Each year the team, which included owner and Michelin-star chef Adam Newell, tried to incorporate a cooking class, degustation, and an element of collaboration into its offerings.

“We try to showcase local food and ingredients,” Le said.

“It’s a farming land, it’s vines, there’s so many farmers. It’s a small community and why not support each other and look after each other?”

The festivities and feasting would begin on the first day of the month when Newell would host the first of two cooking classes.

After learning how to prepare a three-course meal, attendees would enjoy lunching on the dishes, matched with a glass of Martinborough wine.

“Cooking is also about sharing, sharing the recipe, and you can bring the whole restaurant experience to your home,” Le said.

“A chef working in the industry long enough wants to share the experience, share the cooking class.”

Soon after, it would host ‘Wagyu Supreme!’ in collaboration with farmers.

This five-course degustation dinner would explore the different cuts and cooking techniques, matched with Palliser Estate wines.

Newell would be joined by fifth-generation farmer Duncan Didsbury to discuss the beef from both sides of the skillet.

Perhaps the most anticipated event, which had already sold out, was the wild food degustation dinner, a fireside mid-winter game meal at Martinborough Hotel

Guests would dine on venison, rabbit and pheasant, which would, of course, be matched with Martinborough wines.

The event would be co-hosted by John Porter of Porters Wines Martinborough.

Union Bistro’s fourth event would also involve Porter, who Le said was a friend of Newall, and his wife and co-owner, Nicola.

“Again, it’s about local, about friends,” Le said.

“We want to show people the quality is here, you don’t have to go travel around the world to taste the best food.”

The ‘Tree to Table, Vine to Glass’ event would also allow punters to go behind-the-scenes with Helen and John Meehan at the oldest commercial olive grove in Wairarapa, Olivo.

The oil would be used in a three-course meal, with each course matched to a Porters wine.

Le described the bar and bistro as a step away from fine dining, focusing on friendly service.

“People come here and feel like it’s home.”

Last year saw about 70 per cent of the establishment’s WOAP attendees come from outside Wairarapa, she said.

“When people think about Martinborough these days, they don’t just think of a small village anymore.”

The events gave regulars and visitors something new to experience, with the region’s diversity of food and wine being a big drawcard, Le said.

“If they’ve been here quite a lot, they might have done the wine tastings and want to do something different.”

On top of this, the restaurant would also be taking part in Burger Wellington, with its ‘Wagyu Beef Binge’ – a Didsbury Farm Wagyu beef filling with beer-battered onion rings, Remutaka Pass Creamery chilli havarti, watercress and tamarillo chutney in a white buttermilk bun, served with triple-cooked fries.

While it probably wasn’t much when compared with the volumes sold in Wellington, Le said the burger was always extremely popular.

“Last year, we sold almost a thousand burgers … here, it’s quite a good figure.”

She had spent four years in the restaurant industry, three of which were in Wellington, so the festival was close to her heart.

“You can see the enthusiasm that people have,” she said, saying how the hospitality industry banded together and businesses supported one another.

“It’s not about the rating, it’s about how creative we can be,” Le said.

“It’s more about what we can do together and what we can do with the industry.”

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