Home' Hospitality Business : HB DEC 2017 - JAN 2018 Contents GATHERINGS RESTAURANT
AND LIVING WINE BAR
Unit 5, Carlton Courts, 2 Papanui Road, Christchurch
Gatherings Restaurant and Living Wine Bar is a delightfully intimate
and uncontrived haven of sustainability where celebrating the
seasons is the sole focus. For Christchurch chef Alex Davies, and his
partner, singer songwriter Bryony Matthews, Gatherings is all about
subtly encouraging people to consider a more responsible lifestyle
by connecting them with great food that’s growing around them.
Gatherings’ delicious five-course, plant-based tasting menu
changes daily, depending on what produce is fresh and available
locally. “We’re not a vegetarian restaurant. It’s just part of our
sustainability ethos,” says Alex. “Vegetables are direct. They don’t
have any plastic packaging. We just want to show people that they
don’t need meat with every meal and can have a beautiful meal
and a really good time without it.” They want to “connect people
and food with the planet” and they’re doing it well, winning Best
New Metropolitan Restaurant at the Good Food Awards just a few
months after opening this year (2017). The idea was born when
Christchurch trained and British-born Alex returned from a stint
in his parents’ homeland – the UK – after the city’s earthquakes.
He joined a central city art project setting up a wood-fired pizza
oven in the central city, before partnering in Shop Eight
where the focus was on ‘nose to tail’ cookery -
using the whole animal.
That experience opened Alex’s eyes to
sustainable cooking. “While I was there
I realised if I was to be more expressive
and showcase Canterbury more as a
sustainable region that I needed to show
off its vegetables and use plants.” A
desire to learn more about sustainable
food systems led him to work for a while
on an organic vegetable farm in North
Canterbury where the idea for Gatherings
was birthed. Intimate and well-considered,
the 25-seater restaurant offers modern
bistro style food - organic wherever possible,
matched with naturally-fermented, living wines.
“Not having meat on our menu we have to come
up with clever ways of creating umami,” says Alex.
There’s a great steak on the menu, but it’s a wheat steak. “We
make a bread dough and wash the starches off until it resembles
the fibrous texture of meat, then braise it in Shitake mushroom
stock.” It’s then smoked and sliced into thin minute steaks,
pan-fried and glazed in more mushroom stock and red wine. “It’s
crazy what it does,” says Alex. “It’s more like chicken in texture
and has a really rich flavour.”
Cheese from Canterbury Cheesemongers is smoked on site and
teamed up with freshly-picked broad beans and young courgettes
braised in vegetable stock. The skins are dehydrated and turned
into a powder the rolled back through the courgettes. “It creates a
beautiful buttery flavour,” says Alex. “We’re trying to show people
that there are a million ways to cook a courgette or any vegetable.
You can do beautiful things with them and really celebrate plants.”
Cold, steamed asparagus is served with purslane - a citrusy-
flavoured, edible succulent - Nelson sheep’s yoghurt and dill.
Elderflower tart and rhubarb sorbet is a classical English pastry,
filled with custard that’s been infused with elderflowers, and
served with rhubarb sorbet. Produce is predominantly sourced
from Field to Feast and Spring Collective. “We use smaller local
growers. We’re trying to reduce our impact on the environment by
not using meat and working with organic growers.”
Even the light interiors are built using recycled timber. The décor
is simple and natural, just like the food. Picnic-style tables were
designed by a friend and a former sous chef of Alex’s created
the natural weaving artworks for the walls. A light box
in the corner, created by Bryony’s father changes
colour with the seasons, throwing a delightful hue
over the dimly, candle-lit bar at night.
“The living wine we serve is all natural. It’s
a style that’s coming back – almost the way
they produced it hundreds of years ago,”
says Alex. Organically and naturally-formed
grapes are good at preserving themselves
and each vintage a staff member from
Gatherings works alongside wine maker
Theo Coles creating season-specific wines,
exclusively for the restaurant.
Canterbury-produced The Hermit Ram
Wines, and other wines from around New
Zealand, with a few natural overseas labels
and interesting blends, are matched perfectly
with specific dishes.
A centre staged gathering!
Hospitality BUSINESS | December 2017 - January 2018 | 11
ON THE MENU:
• Young courgettes, smoked
cheese, broad beans, herbs.
• Wheat steak, mushrooms,
brined onions, duck egg,
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