A new Whangārei water-top restaurant set to open in a historically-significant building this weekend is already proving popular with locals, with the seafood-themed menu getting the thumbs-up from its one-year-old "big boss man".
Tide is the name of the new restaurant within the former Tide Gauge building at Port Nikau. It is part of the new development by Tony and Clare Davies-Colley and, when partners and chefs Paige Cowie and Brad Revell heard about the opportunity to start a restaurant earlier this year, they leapt at the chance.
"We heard about this opportunity in the 'best location in Whangārei' so we went down to have a look," Cowie said.
"It's a one-of-a-kind location and, when we went there, we were blown away. It's beautiful," said Revell, who began washing dishes at the age of 12 and has worked his way up through the industry since.
Previously known as Fertiliser Wharf or Mains 3, the location was recently renamed Arataki Wharf as part of the Port Nikau development. The wharf was built by the Northland Harbour Board in the 1960s to support local industry.
The Tide Gauge building was added to provide facilities for the Northland Harbour Board and waterside workers. It also housed a tide gauge machine with a float beneath the building, resting on the water's surface to chart and record the harbour's tide levels. The machine, which is no longer used, has been kept in the building and will take centre stage in the restaurant, though it will remain idle.
"After several months going backwards and forwards with names, we settled on Tide and kept it simple," explained Revell.
Both keen on fishing, Cowie and Revell will have a seafood-focused menu, though they will incorporate other meats as well as vegan options.
"We're trying to cater for everybody, as well as vegan and other meats, but most things will be accompanied by some sort of seafood element," said Revell.
"I have worked quite a bit with fish as sous chef at Zane Grey's (in Paihia), and in Scotland I worked at a game hotel. We're trying to bring something new while testing all the elements and playing with flavour and textures. There's been endless hours of research and sleepless nights over the last six months-plus."
The couple said their 16-month-old son Kyran is the real boss and not your usual fussy-eating toddler. "He likes some pretty weird stuff for a kid and he's been liking our recipes. He's the big boss!"
Open from 6am weekdays and 8am weekends, Tide will serve as both a café and restaurant offering breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, as well as coffee.
"We'll also have a small cabinet for the port workers down there so they can come in and get their morning fix."
The restaurant is on the water, in the hub of the Whangārei fishing fleet homebase and central to a new marina development.
"People can also rock up on their boats. We are aiming for that casual vibe so that people can come in straight off the boat in their jandals and sit down for a really nice meal."
Tide will employ up to 20 staff and seats 75 diners. The restaurant will be housed within the bottom floor of the building, which was refurbished last year with the top storey fitted out for the Port Nikau office.
The opening of Tide at 325 Port Rd signifies the first step of the future town centre for the Port Nikau development area, a new harbourside residential suburb within 5km of Whangārei.
Starting a hospitality business during a year of multiple lockdowns was a risk, observed the owners, but their philosophy is, "No risk, no reward".
"That was definitely our thinking and we wouldn't be where we are without the help of Clare and Tony and (their son and project manager) Mark. We're obviously feeling a bit nervous with Covid but we're also very excited."
Saturday's opening is almost fully-booked.