Taste of the good life on Waiheke

By Colleen Thorpe

Just over 20 years ago Nick and Robyn Jones were sitting in their Epsom home living a very different life. Robyn was at university and Nick was an accountant. They decided to change direction ... and now are living the dream on Waiheke Island.

Robyn talks to Colleen Thorpe about the now-famous Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant they own and a book that is part-cookbook, part-homage to the beauty and appeal of life on Waiheke Island

You're living the kiwi dream, Robyn ... what is your biggest challenge?

Relationships. They must be nurtured constantly to keep them alive and functioning properly. This applies to my personal relationships, my children, my staff and my customers - its all about the people.

And what makes your heart smile?

Love. Loving what you do, loving who you are with, loving who you are. Love is the answer to everything I have realised! My loves are writing, walking and communicating with people.

Where did the name "Mudbrick" come from?

It came from our gardener, Mark Robinson, who, when we were deliberating about what to call our venture, he suggested the simple word Mudbrick, as that is what the building was made out of, and it grounded it to the land and spot where it sat.

Describe your business and passion in just 50 words.

Our business is about providing enjoyment to other people. It's a destination to come to and relax, talk, taste and enjoy.

Our vision was to create a beautiful environment that people could come to, enjoy sitting there, with the best New Zealand cuisine on offer, sourced from as close by as possible, and of the finest quality.

Similarly with the wines, the challenge was to make the finest we could make, and now we enjoy the fruits of our labours, and share them with others.

What are the three most important lessons you and Nick have learned from this venture?

People are everything.

You must sow before you can reap and you must show restraint.

Authenticity and honesty pay off every single time.

What came first... the wine or the food?

We planted the grapes first, so had the thought of the vineyard first, then we decided to open a restaurant. The first vintage and the opening of the restaurant was in the same year.

What's your favourite wine?

Syrah and botrytised reislings. At the risk of humiliating taunts at wine tastings from other more distinguished palettes, I head for the stickies!

And your favourite food?

Duck, I never tire of it. It has such a unique, independent flavour.

What is your first memory of food?

Porridge, brown sugar and cream. And so began my love of fat and carbohydrates mixed together.

Have you a guilty pleasure?

Crackling from the pork roast is a big guilty favourite. My willpower is not that strong, and its just too easy to wander down to Monica in desserts and ask to try this week's chocolate truffle flavour. It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

What three New Zealand foods are at the top of your list?

Lamb. Like duck, it has a unique flavour - so many meats can resemble beef - but lamb is distinct, rich and gorgeous.

Flounder. A deliciously delicate fish.

Baked kumara, butter, salt and sour cream. Fast food!

Tell us three things about yourself people may not know or may be surprised to learn.

I battle with fear. I want to do lots of things, but fear prevents me from doing them, sometimes for a long time.

Everytime I overcome my fear, it pays off - you would think I would have learnt my lesson by now!

I don't watch TV, instead preferring to read, write or Google all the things I'd like to be doing or researching,

I'm very spiritual - I love guided meditation, but above all I love to laugh with friends and be free.

A Life at Mudbrick

by Robyn Jones, Random House, $55

- Hamilton News

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