Rotorua Weekender

The stars align for Ambrosia

First winner of Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge

- Shauni James

This winter the inaugural Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge saw 11 local eateries create dishes that highlighte­d the region’s food while celebratin­g Matariki — and the winner of the challenge was Ambrosia Bar & Restaurant.

The challenge, which ran for five weeks, allowed the public to taste their way around some of the town’s best eateries.

The region’s newest eateries made their mark on Rotorua’s culinary scene, including Ani’s Gin Bar with their Puha Pasta, and Poco with a beetroot cured warehou kumara brandade.

Peppers on the Point impressed with a fine dining entry while the Pullman’s Barrel and Co reinvented the classic boil up.

Casual eateries also shone with dishes like Fat Dog’s Matariki Eggs Bene to Eastwood’s manuka-infused lamb pizza.

The judges’ job was a tough one which Vanessa Wallace, business events manager from Rotoruanz, says is a testament to the high quality of the Rotorua food scene.

“It was a fiercely fought competitio­n and we were delighted with the innovative concepts that our local chefs brought to life to celebrate local produce and our indigenous Te Arawa culture.”

There can only be one winner though, and taking out the title of 2022 champion was Ambrosia Bar & Restaurant with their dish of Mamaku venison, Kākano harekeke and foraged Mamaku kawakawa pesto, celeriac puree, hāngi purple potato with Lux micro greens.

Ambrosia Bar & Restaurant owner Kris Beehre says it was very humbling to take out the title.

“It was awesome to find out all the hard work our kitchen and front-ofhouse staff has done has paid off. It’s a massive, humbling experience.”

He says the inspiratio­n for their dish was Matariki itself, and looking at the sisters in the star cluster.

Kris says the Matariki Dish Challenge gives a chance to help showcase a fantastic public holiday, and show that Rotorua is a place people can come and enjoy great dining alongside the likes of bike trails.

He wanted to say a big congratula­tions to their staff as a whole — both the kitchen and front-of-house.

Chief judge Kerry Tyack says this was a stunning entry.

“It had all the elements the judges were seeking. It was technicall­y very strong with every ingredient treated respectful­ly and carefully curated to ensure it contribute­d something essential and positive.

“Visually it ticked all the boxes with a standard of presentati­on as good as you will see anywhere in the country.

“But it was the provenance of the dish, and the expertly and sensitivel­y told story that linked it to Matariki that raised the entry to the top.

“We really appreciate­d the attention paid to the detail, including the menu presented in te reo and the unapologet­ic use of locally sourced ingredient­s. Ka pai!”

The judges weren’t the only ones to have their say, with the public being able to cast their votes too.

Taking out the 2022 People’s Choice award was River’s Catch with their dish of pickled New Zealand mussels, Treetops lodge manuka honey and eggplant hummus, Lux organics purple potatoes on rewana flat bread.

Event organiser Vicki RavlichHor­an says celebratin­g local and discoverin­g something new is at the heart of the challenge.

“As New Zealand develops our own unique food, storytelli­ng and provenance are key.

“The Matariki Dish Challenge is a wonderful chance for local eateries to start doing this and we were thrilled by the entries in this year’s challenge which spanned luxury resorts to fish n chip shops, all of which have helped highlight the depth and breadth of cuisine on offer in Rotorua.”

BOP Matariki Dish Challenge winners will be announced this Friday.

For a full list of participat­ing eateries go to www. matarikidi­shchalleng­e.co.nz or @matarikidi­shchalleng­e on Facebook and Instagram.

 ?? Photo / Supplied ?? (From left) Ambrosia chef Bruce Thomason, Te Arawa chef and competitio­n ambassador Pete Peeti, Ambrosia restaurant owner Kris Beehre, and general manager Tom Lindle.
Photo / Supplied (From left) Ambrosia chef Bruce Thomason, Te Arawa chef and competitio­n ambassador Pete Peeti, Ambrosia restaurant owner Kris Beehre, and general manager Tom Lindle.
 ?? Photo / Supplied ?? River’s Catch owner Isabel TalabisRon­quillo with Te Arawa chef and competitio­n ambassador Pete Peeti.
Photo / Supplied River’s Catch owner Isabel TalabisRon­quillo with Te Arawa chef and competitio­n ambassador Pete Peeti.

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