Pop-up dining heads to Auckland ferry

By Ben Chapman-Smith

POPdining founder Benjamin Barton serves black snapper in wraps at an event in Auckland. Photo / Supplied
POPdining founder Benjamin Barton serves black snapper in wraps at an event in Auckland. Photo / Supplied

A group of commuters leaving downtown Auckland tonight will spend their short ferry journey enjoying seafood soup and white wine at a pop-up restaurant.

Chefs Andreas Eggmann and Benjamin Barton, who run POPdining, are holding their latest dining event on the 7pm ferry to Devonport in an attempt to get more people using public transport.

The pair founded the business two years ago as a vehicle for challenging attitudes towards food waste, the dining experience and other social issues.

Eggmann said the premise of tonight's event was to get people engaged with public transport and create a positive experience for the dining commuters.

"The idea is to bring more awareness to the public transport issue in New Zealand.

"By making it imperative that you must use public transport to be part of this experience, we hope to get people used to, and encouraged by, the idea of public transport."

It also provided the opportunity for people to explore different parts of the city, he said.

"It should be a pretty interesting experiment. It's a bit of a flash mob dining experience."

Thirty-two diners will be seated at four tables during the short journey, eating their entree and sipping a glass of wine.

Upon their arrival at Devonport, they will walk a few metres to The Esplanade Bar & Grill for their main meal and dessert.

Eggmann, 33, said he and Barton were heading down to the Auckland Fish Market today on the hunt for black snapper or kahawai to feature in the seafood soup entree.

"We've been quite interested in black snapper as an under-appreciated fish," Eggmann said.

POPdining's events, typically held at disused cafes in the evenings, often feature dishes created using by-catch, which are unwanted fish caught in nets by commercial fisherman.

Other times, diners enjoy a "nose-to-tail" menu featuring all parts of an animal, such a pig's head, trotters, offal and ears.

Eggmann said the pair had "a bit of a battle" convincing ferry operators Fullers to permit tonight's event but had eventually managed to sell their vision.

They hoped to "get the ball rolling" tonight and then use it to leverage the support of Auckland Transport to hold future events.

"From this we plan to hold following events using the trains, buses, and biking lanes," Eggmann said.

Another event could start at Britomart train station, with a course served on the train en route to a dining experience at a station somewhere in the surrounding city, he said.

POPdining events are multi-course dinners, usually for 60-70 people, served at large communal tables, with each course served on large shared plates.

Tickets for tonight's three-course ferry meal cost $50 but it has already sold out.

To see a short video of the POPdining guys cooking one-pan black snapper and chips, go here.

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