Bob Pollitt made a big move about eighteen months ago. He sold his five cafes in and around Bristol, England and moved with his teenagers and his wife all the way down to Matakana New Zealand.
Today he’s enjoying running the biggest and busiest restaurant in this town that’s a little like Essex Connecticut–except that instead of being full of New Yorkers, it’s full of city people who drive up from Auckland to enjoy one of the country’s best farmers markets every Saturday.
I met Bob on a busy Friday night at his Matakana Market Kitchen Restaurant, where he told me that New Zealanders love very complicated plates. They like lots of ingredients, lots of complex sauces and to really get their money’s worth when they eat out. He’s pleased to have some young chefs who create menus that scratch this itch–on my visit the special was Snapper Nicoise, a beautiful piece of fish from the local market in Leigh with a panko curry crust and green beans, olives, artichoke hearts and a fried poached egg. It was a heaping
plate of delicious and yes, as complicated as his customers like.
Bob said that he’s getting used to some other quirks about his local customers. They like to get up and pay, instead of being brought the check. And they nearly always like splitting the bill, precisely, and they rarely leave tips. That’s just the custom here, he explained.
Pollitt said that when he applied to live here full time, he was seriously grilled about his health, both financial and personal, and that the process was rigorous to say the least. Officials wanted to make sure that he couldn’t possibly be a burden on his fellow NZ taxpayers. So far his bet on this thriving restaurant has paid off well–they’re open seven days a week, right next to the Saturday farmer’s market and do very well for all three meals right up until 9.
That’s another funny thing Bob explained. He has to convince his cooks not to gripe if customers come in a wanting a late meal. They don’t like cooking after nine, and New Zealanders in these parts rarely eat that late anyway. So everyone is rested and ready for the big Saturday market, which fills the parking lot with a huge assortment of vendors and brings the Aucklanders up as well as people from around the region, all enjoying the strictly local vendors and the music.