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Meet the Chef

Meet the Chef: Q&A with Chef Hamish Watt

Christchurch is in the enviable position of having some extraordinary options when it comes to eating out. The Crowne Plaza is one such spot in the figurative and literal heart of the city.


Metropol catches up with Crowne Plaza Executive Chef Hamish Watt to discuss his tips of the trade, the most exciting dish he’s turned his hand to recently and what’s up his culinary sleeve for 2019.


Meet the Chef


Are the same menu items popular across the globe? Are we in Christchurch, or the visitors to Christchurch, any different in our tastes than people in Surrey Hills Sydney, for instance, or in London?

As a rule, trends always lie in location – there’s usually a local element. In New Zealand whitebait often features, the UK features wild mushrooms and you’ll find a lot of rock oysters in Sydney.

Because of cooking shows like Masterchef, many food trends have gone global. For example, you now see a formula for plating in restaurants emerging: protein on puree, a side of veg and a sauce.


What does a chef eat in his/her time off? Do you ever fast? What’s your summer fave?

I love steamed Dim Sum! I purchase it from Church Corner in Christchurch – pork buns, prawn and chive dumplings… it’s my go to dinner when neither my wife nor I want to cook.

Fasting? No. But I do crave vegetables and drop meat from a couple of meals a week. In summer I love fresh fruit and vegetables, grilled asparagus or broccolini, roast figs and of course, lovely fresh fish!


It must be a high-stress, exacting sort of thing being an executive chef. What secret can you share to making cooking easier for the general population cooking dinner for the family?

Planning, planning, planning! You can never over-plan a dinner or a big event. The biggest trick is to get every dish as close to being ready as possible without spoiling the ingredients. For example, blanch and refresh your vegetables so they’re still crisp and only need two minutes to finish off.

Make all your sauces and dressings ahead of time so they just need to be heated. Finally, I learned the hard way to always make garnishes first because they are the first thing to suffer when something goes wrong (and it always does!)

Do you see any particular food or drink trends which are sweeping through the developed world? Or are you trying to create any? Buying directly from the farm is only getting more popular! We all love to know where our food comes from.


What is the most exciting dish you’ve been cooking lately? And who typically loves it?

Whitebait cakes with cauliflower puree and tarragon dressing. I wouldn’t call it ground-breaking but it’s a simple dish with great texture and flavour.

It’s a take on an English fish cake but using local, fresh New Zealand whitebait. Tourists always want to try whitebait and locals go nuts for it too!


What’s your pick of holiday destinations and holiday style, if money was no object?

I love travelling and exploring what gastronomy treasures a region or country has to offer. Sitting in one spot for a week would send me stir crazy!

Jumping in a camper and hitting the open road is my idea of heaven. Since being in New Zealand, my wife and I have clocked up a lot of kilometres exploring the South Island!


What’s your favourite dining destination anywhere in the world, the first place on the itinerary if you could be whisked there tomorrow?

Some of my most memorable meals were unforeseen! Europe in summer is just special; there’s a buzz in the air, sitting outside in a medieval courtyard in France or Italy eating local specialties. I once stumbled across a monastery in Austria with a hidden beer garden, serving only one beer and a grand array of local meats, cheeses pickles and breads.


What’s up your culinary sleeve for 2019?

We have a new menu coming out in March with a selection of dishes which feature ingredients all sourced from within 70 kilometres – talk about local!



High Tea at The Crowne Plaza Christchurch

A ‘high’ honour: treat mum this mother’s day to a High Tea at The Crowne Plaza Christchurch

You know your mum is a queen – so make sure you treat her like royalty this Mother’s Day with an indulgent high tea in Market Place Restaurant at Crowne Plaza Christchurch!

High Tea at The Crowne Plaza Christchurch

This Mother’s Day, the cosmopolitan Market Place Restaurant will be looking especially stylish, dressed with white tablecloths and filled with beautiful blooms from Bourbon Rose Florist. Music by resident pianist Peter Lewis will complete the superb ambience of the special day.
In addition to a range of sweet and savoury classics gorgeously presented on tiered stands, specialist stations around the restaurant will offer delicious treats including a selection from Cakes By Anna, affogato and iced coffee, a chocolate fountain and a range of T2 teas.
Hotel General Manager Reinier Eulink is upbeat about hosting the first Mother’s Day. “Since opening, Crowne Plaza has been popular with locals celebrating special occasions and we’re excited to add Mother’s Day to our calendar.”
For $49 per person you receive high tea, including a glass of bubbly on arrival, and unlimited coffee and T2 tea, making this deluxe experience the best gift you’ve given mum yet!
There are two afternoon options: 12-1:30pm, or 3-4:30pm and bookings are essential – email to secure your Mother’s Day spot.

The Crowne Plaza

Jewel in the city’s ‘Crowne’: Weir Architecture’s glam transformation of a 1980’s office block into The Crowne Plaza

Transforming a 1980’s office block into a code-compliant, sophisticated hotel contains hidden complexities that the lay-person would struggle to comprehend. However, Weir Architecture Director Robert Weir achieved this feat of design, consenting, construction and ingenuity within two years, converting the Forsythe Barr building into the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The Crowne PlazaTogether with a total reconfiguration, the structure had to be strengthened with engineers incorporating carbon fibre wrapping. Robert says the original architects had rotated the stair and lift shafts by 45 degrees. “Creating viable rooms out of interesting shaped spaces was challenging!”
Three lower levels are now conference rooms. Converting bars, restaurants and kitchens from car parks required a change to flat floors and working with lowered ceiling heights. One design challenge was concealing necessary additional services within the existing structure: there is a 50,000 litre water tank hidden beneath the café floor area to provide water in an emergency.
Originally the carpark wings were visually incorporated with the main tower block, but facade removal and the incorporation of a crisp white cladding now delineates them from the central tower, bringing the tower into sharp relief. Robert has brought human scale at street level with the use of multi-faceted canopies.
But Weir Architecture is also an award-winning house designer too. Robert enjoys the challenges of residential and loves working with his clients. Many clients have built three houses with him over 30 years, as their life stages changed. His modern style is softened with colour and sophisticated detailing; creating spaces that flow seamlessly is a trademark.