An iconic Wellington restaurant earmarked for closure is opening it's doors again, after a British chef's email inspires the owner to change his mind.

Hospitality mogul Nick Mills was planning on shutting the Hummingbird eatery when Ellis Robbins, who recently arrived in New Zealand, got in touch.

"She's a well-respected chef in England and she's worked in lots of different restaurants in high positions, and when she presented us with some menus and some tastings we said, wow, that's amazing and do you want to help open up Hummingbird and be the head chef."

Mills owns several hospitality joints in the Capital and told the Herald that the Covid-19 pandemic had been devastating for his businesses and the industry as a whole, but his latest culinary hire could help save the iconic restaurant.

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"It's an opportunity for Wellington to see something from an overseas chef for a while and have some fun while doing it," Mills said.

He said the building also needed strengthening, which on top of the financial burden Covid-19 meant that if they hadn't met Robbins or closed indefinitely, they might have shut for six to eight months.

Robbins, who had only just begun her New Zealand holiday, was planning on travelling around the country with her Kiwi partner and doing some temporary work here before returning to the UK.

But when Covid-19 struck, she was forced to reconsider her in-country travel plans, and put on her chef's hat instead.

"I'd seen Hummingbird, and how they had the business before, and I just thought that was something I'd really like to get involved with. I think it's such a beautiful space," She said.

The eatery will be serving up a new menu, with a focus on shared food, smaller plates and some twists on old favourites - including the ever-popular lamb shoulder.

"There's a lot more vegetarian dishes, a lot more food from around the world. It's going to be a really different menu but it's going to be really exciting for everybody," Robbins said.

The chef has worked in kitchens across the globe including in London, Leon, Taiwan, Spain and Portugal.

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"I've also done a lot of research, I've been travelling the world and been at different schools in the middle of nowhere so it's been quite fun."

Robbins said it's amazing he's reopening the business with her at the helm and she's looking forward to bringing a new style to Capital residents' taste buds.

The eatery is opening it's doors again on Thursday, and with their new chef, and menu, Mills is hoping locals take a bite to keep Wellington's cafe culture alive.


Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website