Approachability and a relaxed atmosphere are the keys to the success of Northland's top hospitality business for 2020, the owner says.
Russell outdoor eatery Hōne's Garden took out the supreme title in this year's Northland Hospitality Awards, which saw prizes awarded for everything from best barista to best food and beverage producer.
Hōne's was founded in 2009 by Nicholas Loosley, who also owns the adjoining Gables restaurant and ran both until 2014. Since then he's been studying, selling wine and running a charity called Everybody Eats, which works to combat food waste, food poverty and social isolation.
Hōne's Garden, on York St, specialises in wood-fired pizzas ranging from the classics to a broccoli and blue cheese number and even a Nutella and hazelnut dessert pizza.
Loosley said the win — and even the fact Hōne's was in the running — came as a surprise.
That may have been due to Covid-19 restrictions which affected the way the competition operated this year, and meant The Hits radio presenter Charmaine Soljak had to announce the results online instead of at a gala evening.
''I think we've established a pretty good proposition for people to have an approachable, relaxed time,'' Loosley said.
''I've been very lucky to retain really strong staff who are exceptionally good at creating that relaxed atmosphere. I think the award is largely to do with that.''
Given Hōne's location, a large proportion of customers were tourists but locals were also supportive, Loosley said.
''Hōne's is something for everyone. If people come to Russell they tend to go there at least once.''
If Hōne's was in a big city Loosley would expect an immediate influx of people curious to check out the winner. That was unlikely in Russell but it could still help put the restaurant on the map and encourage Northlanders to take a day trip and try it out.
The other 16 awards were spread across the district with Whangārei, the Town Basin especially, picking up a large share of the titles. Waipū punched above its weight by picking up two awards while Paihia businesses picked up three, including the coveted best barista title.
The annual competition is run by the Restaurant Association of New Zealand.
Anyone working in the hospitality industry is able to nominate a business or individual; a list of finalists is drawn up based on the number of nominations, then industry members vote online to decide the winners.
The exception is People's Choice which, as the name suggests, is decided by public votes.
And the winners are ...
Outstanding barista: Tom Richardson, Third Wheel Coffee Co. (Paihia)
Outstanding bartender: Sam Tarrant, The Butter Factory (Whangārei)
Outstanding front of house team: The Quay (Whangārei)
Emerging chef: Temarie Beirne, Jolt Café (Maunu)
Outstanding chef: Marcus Berndt, Terra Restaurant (Paihia)
Outstanding café: Helena Bay Café (Helena Bay)
Outstanding bar: Tipsy Oyster (Paihia)
Outstanding casual dining/street food: Biggie Bagels (Whangārei)
Outstanding ambience and design: No. 8 (Whangārei)
Outstanding local establishment: Hōne's Garden (Russell)
Outstanding ethnic restaurant: Mean's Vietnamese Café (Whangārei)
Outstanding restaurant: Sage, Paroa Bay Winery (Russell)
Outstanding sales rep: Rebecca Neill, Bidfood (Whangārei)
Outstanding food and beverage producer: McLeod's Brewery (Waipū)
Outstanding supplier: Omak Meats (Kamo)
People's choice: The Cove Café (Waipū)
Supreme Award: Hōne's Garden (Russell)