Martinborough’s Michelin-star chef
A Michelin-star chef from Britain is the man behind the newly opened Union Square Bistro. Formerly the Martinborough Hotel, it’s the first place he worked when he arrived 20 years ago.
Originally from Cornwall, 52-year-old Adam Newell made the move to New Zealand in 1997. He did a three-month stint at the hotel while waiting for Te Papa to open, where he already had a chef job waiting. It felt like home, and being back is a ‘‘dream come true’’, he says.
Newell studied cooking at Portsmouth Polytechnic and graduated in 1983. In 1988, he took up the position of chef de partie at the five star Claridge’s Hotel, in the affluent district of Mayfair, London. He recalls that the experience really ‘‘opened his eyes’’.
‘‘There was no expense spared,’’ he says. ‘‘It was just phenomenal.’’
Two years later he moved down the road to the three Michelin-starred Le Gavroche, working under the now legendary Roux Brothers. After five years, Albert Roux offered Newell the opportunity to head up The Point, a resort on Saranac Lake, New York. Returning to London in 1995, he opened the Fulham Road Restaurant, and was awarded his own Michelin star.
A few years later, he would be headhunted by Le Cordon Bleu to work on a very unusual assignment; head chef at British Hills, a language and culture school set in a fake English village in Fukushima, Japan. It’s also where he met his future wife, Wellingtonian Nicola (43), who taught students how to make scones.
After opening Wildfire in Auckland, The couple established Zibibbo in 2000, and were married the same year. By 2014 they were settled in the Wairarapa, where they bought a vineyard from Nicola’s retired parents. The grapes made way for olives, to make oil for their own Gladstone brand.
‘‘Nearly killed me,’’ he laughs, ‘‘putting in three thousand odd trees.’’
‘‘But it was good for the soul. I just got away from it all. It was just a really good year-anda-half.’’ ‘‘People, they see all these things on TV, and they believe that they can replicate it in a kitchen. My suggestion would be to pick one [dish], and try and do that really well.
‘‘[Then] just try and master a repertoire of dishes that might be 12, instead of 100.
‘‘If you can master four entrees, four mains, and four desserts, that’s enough for people at home if they’re doing dinner parties. ‘‘It just takes practice. ‘‘[It’s about] picking the best quality chicken, the best quality bit of beef that you can afford; cooking it simply and cooking it well.’’
Adam Newell and wife Nicola are the new owners of Union Square Bistro, formerly the Martinborough Hotel. He says being back at the hotel is ‘‘a dream come true’’.