Restaurant openings, artisans, new products, events and more
VEGETABLES ARE EXCITING, reckons chef Alex Davies. In 2017, this shouldn’t be a controversial statement, but opening a new restaurant with an entirely plant-focused menu is still a bold – and yes, exciting – move.
The dish above, for example, is smoked garlic and white beans with cos leaves, wasabi and cured egg yolk. “At face value it’s just a salad, but it’s got these smoky flavours, the richness from the egg yolk,” explains Alex, pictured left.
Gatherings began life as a fortnightly pop-up at Christchurch’s Space Academy, which made the odd special appearance at events like Dunedin’s International Food Design Conference. A year on, it’s found a permanent home in a restored art deco building on the edges of Christchurch city. “I was always looking for the right space – I wanted something with character and a bit of soul.”
The 31-year-old made his name at Shop Eight, where he earned praise for his bold and innovative approach. For the past year or so he’s been focusing on the Gatherings pop-ups as well as working at an organic vegetable farm in North Canterbury, something that has had a profound effect on him. “It’s really made me see vegetables in a completely new light,” he explains, “and it’s something I will keep up with because it’s really good for your soul, working on the land like that. Watching the way the seasons move, you can take that landscape and bring it into the restaurant.”
Gatherings will offer a $50 five-course set menu that will change depending on what’s available and at its best. In addition there will be a snack menu, for those who fancy just a glass of wine and a small dish or two, and a simpler daytime menu. Speaking of wine, the list is made up entirely of natural or “living” wines chosen for their food-pairing potential, and Alex and his team have been working with winemaker Theo Coles on a series of wines that will be released under the Gatherings label with each season – a cloudy orange wine that Alex likens to a hazy summer’s day, for example, and a spicy red for winter.
Gatherings will also be hosting monthly events that Alex’s partner, musician Bryony Matthews, will curate. “We’re going to open the space up to people and just watch it evolve,” says Alex. “It makes it more interesting, I think – it becomes more of a public space, something everything can use.”