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First Table

First in first served: we talk to Mat Weir founder of (now international) table booking service with a twist First Table

The media is not always kind to millennials in this country, but the vision and expertise of Mat Weir of First Table will see them eating their words, as well as some very delicious dinners around the world.

First Table

This innovative and actually useful (because let’s face it, not all of them are) Kiwi start-up is now in three countries and both hemispheres, while working hard on opening in its fourth country this year.
The term win-win is overused, but the First Table concept is genuinely that. It’s like an awesome game of ping pong – the benefits just keep bouncing back between restaurant and diner.
It works like this: participating restaurants release bookable dates on the First Table website. Nabbing the actual first table in the restaurant for that date online enables diners in a party of two to four to eat for half price. The restaurant gets diners into the restaurant early; this encourages other diners into the restaurant.

First Table First Table diners usually get the window seats; the restaurant gets the visual advertising. First Table diners get unhurried service and the food as it should be; the restaurant receives a very positive review. The diner gets to try somewhere new in a cost-effective way; the restaurant is likely to get happy repeat customers paying full price at peak times.
Obtaining a login from the website in New Zealand means you can book First Tables throughout New Zealand, in Australia, London, Bristol and Bath and London in the UK, and Singapore restaurants are soon to be added. There is no membership fee, just an upfront $10 (in New Zealand) when you put your stamp on that First Table online. Mat has aimed for few restrictions, the main one being you can’t book the First Table in the same restaurant twice in row, to spread the opportunities a little wider.
A Queenstown local, Mat started with Queenstown restaurants, followed quickly by Christchurch, where there has been very enthusiastic sign-on both by restaurants and diners. A software developer by trade, he put the concept online himself, as well as doing the sales.

First Table There are now customer and restaurant support and business development managers in New Zealand and Australia and a creative writer in Wellington, plus Mat passed his software development duties onto a new team member. The company employs ten people in Australasia and a mix of locals and Kiwis in the UK.
The First Table philosophy is to be lean and smart: you’ll be smart to join in and lean over your First Table.
Visit www.firsttable.co.nz

The Monday Room (TMR)

High Street’s dining destination: The Monday Room is the perfect pre or post wedding venue

Down at 161 High Street there is something very special. The Monday Room is a destination for any food and beverage lover already, but if you’re looking for the perfect venue for your pre or post wedding event, then look no further.

The Monday Room (TMR)
For fancy home cooked sharing plates, ‘Trust the Chef’ is an amazing concept, where Chef Hannah has devised an amazing selection of plates to be shared for every type of palette for only $45 a head.
A banquet style from the centre of the table, what better way to celebrate together and create memories to last a lifetime? Great for groups, it offers traditional food with a modern twist, amongst convivial surroundings from the quality food, service and beverage offering that is The Monday Room.
Why not sit back with a quality cocktail or boutique wine and enjoy the company of your best and closest friends? The Monday Room; social dining at its finest.

Lemongrass

A unique family business: Lemongrass is a lovely little Thai restaurant in a hazelnut orchard (and how cool is that?!)

Everything about Lemongrass is unique. It’s a Thai restaurant, located off the beaten track, in a hazelnut orchard north of Rangiora.

Lemongrass
YOU MUST MAKE A BOOKING. IT’S SO RELAXED THAT IF THERE ARE NO BOOKINGS, IT PROBABLY WON’T BE OPEN.

It is the true definition of a family business. Sriamorn Reavill and husband Paul bought the Loburn property and house, later building the restaurant onto their home. At Lemongrass you are likely to be waited on by Aaron, 11, or be joined at your table by head chef Sriamorn for a chat.
The children play a part in the restaurant. It’s their business, too. Chelsy, 9, is usually in the kitchen helping mum. She cooks a mean stir fry and makes great spring rolls. Aaron and family friend, Liv, who is 15 and whose mum Shirley also works in the kitchen, often take care of front of house. They are confident and knowledgeable of food preparation, the menu and the foundations of good customer service. In addition to their schooling and sports achievements, they work together the create a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, amazing food and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Paul, too regularly chips in in the kitchen.

Lemongrass

There is al fresco dining, or between courses take a stroll in the orchard and relax in the country silence. The food is spectacular, everything you expect Thai cuisine to be – bold flavours, aromatic delights, contrasts of texture and colour, all with a spicy kick.
You must make a booking at Lemongrass. It’s so relaxed that if there are no bookings, it probably won’t be open. When it is, the drive is more than worth it. For bookings phone 03-310-3102.

The Villas braised beef cheeks

Braised beef cheeks in red wine: The Villas recipe series

When cooked slowly, beef cheeks are delicious paired with chunky, forked potato mash or with silky, smooth polenta. Look out for The Villas’ take on this delicious dish on its new dinner menu.

The Villas braised beef cheeks

Ingredients

  • 4 beef cheeks
    3 tbs seasoned flour
    2 stalks celery, 1 carrot, 1 onion, all finely diced
    3 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 bay leaves
    1 orange rind
    1 tsp ground cumin
    ½ tsp ground allspice
    1 cup red wine
    2 cups beef stock

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. Dust beef cheeks with seasoned flour and brown all sides. Put to side.
  3. Lower heat and cook veges until soft.
  4. Add garlic, bay leaves, rind and spices, cook for one minute.
  5. Place in slow-cooker with beef.
  6. Add red wine to pan, bring to the boil.
  7. Add stock, return to the boil then add to slow-cooker.
  8. Cook on high for 3-3 1/2 hours or low for 8 hrs.
Corianders

A delicious culinary crusade: we chat to Amar from Corianders about being a Bollywood actor and the road that took him to having an empire of successful Indian restaurants

“My dream was to be a famous Bollywood actor – yet somehow I have ended up in hospitality!” chuckles Amar Singh, owner of the Corianders restaurant group. Amar was indeed a Bollywood actor in India for a time, as well as a model and theatre actor.

Corianders

But with downtimes in the entertainment industry and the need to pay the rent, Amar began working in hotels. The rest, as they say, is history.
Amar moved up through hotel management ranks and, with his eventual move to New Zealand in 2000, learned more about the cuisine of his native Northern India. Christchurch diners will remember him from his time at Gloucester Street’s Little India and Merivale’s wonderful Leinster House.
Amar was almost lost to hospitality however, after Leinster House was ear-marked for demolition. He was about to take up real estate, but was saved by a finance broker acquaintance who persuaded him to set up his own restaurant. And so, Corianders was born, first of all in Rolleston.
Now Amar wants to pass on his knowledge and love of Indian food through a series of Master Classes at the St Asaph Street Corianders, once a month on Wednesdays from 3pm to 4.30pm, beginning on 2 May. The cost of $30 per person includes a glass of bubbles and all the ingredients to cook one of the succulent dishes on the Corianders’ menu. There are even aprons provided.
To book for Amar’s Master Class phone Miranda on 021 339 707. This will not only be informative, but also great fun.