Former farmer Jim Murphy, owner of Element Cafe and Restaurant in Whanganui's Victoria Avenue, is selling the business after 10 years.

"I bought Element 10 years ago for my late wife Iolie who loved cooking and was a fantastic chef. She died a year ago and now it really is time to sell up and do something different."

Jim admits he's 'absolutely' not a cook, so works in the cafe as front of house.

He's hoping the business will sell quickly so he can can take some time off and think about what he will do next.


Before he goes, he's changing the grand, more formal evening dining atmosphere of crisp white table cloths and cutlery, and he is going back to casual dining.

"Most people in the evening still enjoy a casual, cafe atmosphere but with excellent meals on offer."

As well in-house dining, Element provides an out-catering service as well.

"We're always busy but really I'm still an accidental restaurateur."

Over the years he has watched the town fill up with visitors, businesses do well and demand for accommodation grow. And over the past two months, he has hosted Sunday evening recitals featuring former students of the Whanganui-based New Zealand Opera School.

Even though he's not a passionate opera lover, Jim is always keen to help the school and they have had the use of Element free of charge.

The two-week opera school has students from across New Zealand heading to Whanganui each January.,

"It is a excellent for Whanganui having so many people come in from all over the country," Jim says.

The first Element recital featured Bianca Andrew and the set-up was cafe-style with Jim supplying platters of finger food free.

The second event was a concert chamber recital with counter tenor Stephen Diaz and bass Tavis Gravitt thrilling the large audience.

Element is also one of the venues used for performances during the opera school - and students' shows are always a huge hit, he says.

"People need to book because it's very popular - last year I had 50 people on a waiting list but could only get two in after a last-minute cancellation," Jim said.