Prime Minister Bill English has helped swell the Act Party's election year war chest by about $70,000 at a fundraiser held at one of John Key's favourite restaurants.
The event at Antoine's in Auckland's Parnell was attended by about 20 people last night, and English was the special guest.
Antoine's, opened in 1973 and a mainstay of Auckland's fine-dining scene, has previously hosted fundraisers for the National Party. Key regularly dines there in a personal capacity as well.
Act leader David Seymour said Tony Astle, Antoine's owner and executive chef, offered to host the fundraiser.
"I've got to know Tony, he is one of the more colourful characters in the Epsom community and he is also just a great guy, a legend for the restaurant business he has built up over 40 years and he basically just said, 'look, I've done this for John Key in the past, but I want to help you'.
"It was great. No matter who the Prime Minister is, having them there always raises the profile of an event and makes people more interested in coming along. It helped us raise some good money; everyone is trying to raise money at this time. And people were pretty impressed with Bill."
Seymour asked English if he would attend about three months ago and he agreed. About 20 people attended last night and roughly half of the money raised was from new donors.
Seymour would not say who attended and took the chance to have a crack at other parties when asked what was on the menu, texting: "several opposition politicians including a well pickled populist, whom the chef apologised for after discovering the dish was past his used by date. There was also a Little bit of 1970s unionist, accompanied by bland Greens that most guests left on the side plate".
Antoine's donated $60,000 to the National Party in 2011, and $105,000 in 2010. The latter was the total proceeds of a dinner with Key, which guests paid $5000 each to attend. Key faced questions about that arrangement in 2014 after he demanded that then Labour leader David Cunliffe name donors to his trust.
Astle was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2013 New Year Honours, for services as a chef.
In 2014 Astle claimed to have banned Kim Dotcom from his restaurant, saying he cancelled a booking when he realised it was for the internet entrepreneur.