GOLOCAL

When Covid-19 hit the owners of Windy Ridge Function Centre in Ōhaupō were nearly forced to close their doors with all their upcoming weddings and functions for the rest of the year being cancelled or postponed.

But Tracey and Wayne Mooney, who have owned the business for four years, say closing was not an option. So they came up with a new idea to save their business and their staff's jobs.

Tomorrow night marks the grand opening for their new Tapas Bar and Eatery, an idea that will open their business up to more local people and fill a void in Ōhaupō as, up until now, there has been nowhere to dine or get a drink.

It has also allowed them to expand their staff team. They have taken on an additional chef and a number of casual floor staff.

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Windy Ridge's Cellar Room is being used as the area for the Tapas Bar and Eatery. Photo / Caitlan Johnston
Windy Ridge's Cellar Room is being used as the area for the Tapas Bar and Eatery. Photo / Caitlan Johnston

"In some ways, the timing is perfect. Covid-19 came and so it was a matter of we have to do it or else we will have to close our doors. We had to be creative and come up with something that was going to work and we thought well we have the venue, we have a really good team of staff and we have the location," says Tracey.

They have transformed the Cellar Room into the restaurant and they will be able to seat up to 63 people with the one metre distancing required in play.

The area also features a couch and bar leaners around a fire and the bar.

The dishes on the menu include garlic tiger prawns, beer battered cauliflower with dukkah, house hot sauce and dipping sauces, sirloin with chimichurri and pecorino, crispy buttermilk chicken with chipotle aioli as well as a number of other tapas dishes and desserts.

They are also offering a cocktail menu and each week they will have a specialty cocktail special. Guests are welcome to visit the restaurant just to have a drink, but under Alert Level 2 rules they will be required to be seated.

One of the tapas dishes on the menu is beer battered cauliflower with dukkah, house hot sauce and dipping sauces. Photo / Supplied.
One of the tapas dishes on the menu is beer battered cauliflower with dukkah, house hot sauce and dipping sauces. Photo / Supplied.

"The food complements the conversation, you're there for the conversation, the friendship and the camaraderie opposed to just being there for the food which is why that tapas style appeals to me," says Tracey.

Tracey says ingredients in the dishes will predominantly be locally sourced from places such as Pirongia Mountain Vegetables, Quality Mushrooms, Ōhaupō Olives and Manuka Coffee.

"Because we usually just do functions, the menus can be kind of the same so it's quite nice to be able to come up with some new ideas and have a play around," says Tracey.

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With the new restaurant, Tracey says they will still be able to take wedding and function bookings.

Some of their bookings that had to be cancelled have been pushed to a later date during the spring and on some occasions the Tapas Bar and Eatery will have to close to allow the Cellar Room space for a booked wedding or function.

With everything that has happened due to Covid-19 Tracey is remaining optimistic and says that the new Tapas Bar and Eatery could be the best decision they ever make.

Windy Ridge chef Robin Rai cooking up dishes from the tapas menu ahead of Friday's grand opening. Photo / Caitlan Johnston
Windy Ridge chef Robin Rai cooking up dishes from the tapas menu ahead of Friday's grand opening. Photo / Caitlan Johnston

"It's not the end of the world and maybe it'll end up being the best thing we ever did, it's just how you look at it right? We are so lucky to be able to be in the position to even be able to do this," says Tracey.

The Tapas Bar and Eatery and is open from 5pm to late on Wednesday's through to Fridays and from 12pm to late on Saturday and Sunday. The kitchen closes at 9pm on each open day.

Call 07 823 6951 or visit windyridge.co.nz/tapas to make a reservation.
They are also inviting people to join their Windy Ridge Tapas Bar and Eatery VIPs Facebook group where they will be doing daily draws and posting updates about the new restaurant.