Restau­rant open­ings, ar­ti­sans, new prod­ucts, events and more

Cuisine - - CONTENTS - gath­er­ / ALICE NEVILLE

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.”

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