SHUCK AND ROLL

Talk about per­fect part­ner­ing – Ana Sch­warz and Ge­off Tip­pett have cre­ated a duo of culi­nary won­der­ment with their oys­ter bar and con­joined gela­te­ria on Auck­land’s water­front.

Dish - Everyday Dish - - Con­tents - Story — VANESSA MAR­SHALL / Pho­tog­ra­phy — LARNIE NICOL­SON

An oys­ter bar and gela­te­ria on Auck­land’s water­front is a per­fect part­ner­ship in more ways than one.

Oys­ters and gelato may not seem like an ob­vi­ous pair­ing. Un­less, of course, you’re the clever cou­ple be­hind Is­land Gelato, and open­ing an in­ter­con­nected eatery at Auck­land’s down­town wharf is a rare chance to flex your culi­nary cre­ativ­ity.

Be­cause it was bound to hap­pen. In the three years since Ge­off Tip­pett and Masterchef New Zea­land 2012 run­ner-up Ana Sch­warz started craft­ing and selling gelato, from a small but per­fectly formed con­tainer on Wai­heke Is­land, the queues for their gourmet cones have be­come the stuff of leg­end. An ex­pan­sion city-side was in­evitable so when a space in the his­toric ferry build­ing came up for lease, it seemed like the stars were aligned. The fact it was big enough to ac­com­mo­date two en­ter­prises side-by-side made it even more op­por­tune to grow the busi­ness in a new and ex­cit­ing di­rec­tion.

“I’d had my eye on this space for years,” says Ge­off, who jumped at the chance to re­alise his vi­sion. “It’s a beau­ti­ful build­ing right on the water­front where we are able to show­case our in­cred­i­ble prod­uct. It has a nice link to our roots, our spir­i­tual home­land.” For Ana, the lo­ca­tion was a clincher. “Our con­cept is to keep it tight and ef­fi­cient with a very small foot­print. The ferry build­ing be­ing so close to Wai­heke works.”

Lovers of good de­sign – Ana’s par­ents are de­sign­ers, while back in 1950’s Hawke’s Bay Ge­off’s par­ents opened In­ter­mezzo, the area’s first fresh cof­fee joint in, as fate would have it, another iconic build­ing – they en­listed Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Ar­chi­tects to over­see the fit-out. “Shucker Broth­ers was Nat’s con­cept but Is­land Gelato was a col­lab­o­ra­tion,”

be­cause, as Ge­off ex­plains, the brand story felt very per­sonal. “It needed more of an ur­ban lift from the beachy feel of Wai­heke and to make it some­thing re­ally cu­ri­ous and interesting.” This idea of cre­at­ing a mag­i­cal cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence beats at the heart of ev­ery­thing their busi­ness stands for and in the case of Is­land Gelato, Ge­off’s pas­sion for lift­ing the en­tire gelato scene in New Zea­land verges, at times, on the the­atri­cal.

“We feel gelato is the whole ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s lovers and grand­par­ents and chil­dren all com­ing to­gether feel­ing ‘whoa – what a beau­ti­ful space’. As op­posed to ice cream from the dairy, gelato is all cu­rios­ity and fas­ci­na­tion. The ex­pe­ri­ence of peo­ple en­ter­ing and see­ing 30 fresh flavours that have been made the day of, or the day be­fore, all look­ing amaz­ing – it is quite fan­tas­ti­cal.”

This com­bi­na­tion of de­sign nous, foodie en­trepreneuri­al­ism and laid-back salty folk­lore is con­tin­ued next door at The Shucker Broth­ers. “I love the pass through from the gelato store into the oys­ter bar. One side is so grounded and real while the other is a won­der­land,” says Ge­off. He had an idea for a beach-side dock bar where an oys­ter ship would pull in and serve oys­ters straight from the boat or un­load into bas­kets tied along the wharf rail­ings. While not en­tirely pos­si­ble in a busy trans­port hub with fer­ries to-ing and fro-ing, the sea­side eatery takes its cues from the his­tory of the build­ing, old fish­er­men and their sto­ries, but as Ge­off chuck­les, “with a nig­gly lit­tle spin”. The Mediter­ranean tapasstyle menu fea­tures a bounty of fresh seafood and a raw bar serv­ing Te Matuku oys­ters along with oys­ters from all over the coun­try, when cur­rently in sea­son.

“We want to start a con­ver­sa­tion around what is es­sen­tially a shuck. That it’s all alive and fresh and shucked right in front of you. The menu, like the gelato, will change sea­son­ally,” says Ge­off, while Ana adds, “We want to serve peo­ple quickly. With lots of com­muters go­ing back and for­ward to Devon­port and Wai­heke we plan to change the menu so it’s al­ways in­no­va­tive and ex­cit­ing.”

In­no­va­tion, it would seem, drives ev­ery­thing this tal­ented pair cre­ate in both work-life and fam­ily ex­is­tence. “I’m very rest­less so I can’t stick with the sta­tus quo,” Ana con­firms. “After two or three weeks of the same flavours I start to fes­ter. The ideas come from ev­ery­where but I have to work with them and de­velop them and it’s quite a long process. I have to trust my­self to get cre­ative and go with it. About 90 per cent of the time I’m right but there have been a few flops,” she laughs.

Us­ing or­ganic milk and sugar in the gelato, they have teamed up with Jersey Girl Or­gan­ics in Mata­mata and are con­stantly ex­pand­ing their co­conut, dairy-free and ve­gan op­tions. “The team are ev­ery­thing,” says Ana, and by team she means, staff, fam­ily and green­fin­gered friends. Her kids pitch in to scoop and serve and lo­cals help out drop­ping off fruit – black-boy peaches and is­land plums are abun­dant – which fits in with Ana’s ethos to “work with great peo­ple who do great things” so the prod­uct can be the best it can be.

“She’s amaz­ingly bril­liant with those flavours – I think it’s re­ally spe­cial,” Ge­off gushes, clearly Ana’s num­ber one fan. “She’s the Queen of Cool. Her juici­ness comes out in the food.”

“We’re a great lit­tle duo. It makes it fun for us,” says Ana, re­turn­ing the favour. “It would seem like a job if I was do­ing it by my­self but with Ge­off it feels part of our life.”

So can they de­scribe them­selves as a flavour? “Salty,” of­fers Ge­off after a pause, while Ana doesn’t hes­i­tate: “Peachy, aro­matic, ex­citable and all plea­sure”.

OP­PO­SITE PAGE: Ge­off Tip­pett and “the queen of cool” Ana Sch­warz at their hip down­town eatery, the Shucker Broth­ers. ABOVE: Head chef Mark Ni­chol­son ready to shuck a se­lec­tion of Wai­heke’s Te Matuku oys­ters at the raw bar.

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