Aucklander Sunil Kumar is slowly falling in love with what is quickly becoming his second home in Whanganui.
Kumar, who has a spattering of properties and businesses across the central region, has spent the past three weeks in Whanganui due to the Covid-19 alert level 3 lockdown in Auckland. He has been working hard upgrading his main business in town, The Grand Hotel.
"We are upgrading all the rooms, changing all the beds, just upgrading across the board.
"We are doing good. Accommodation is a bit slow, but the restaurant and cafe are doing great. We are improving a lot here."
Kumar, who also bought the Bignell Street Motel, said he wants the park to be a long-term option for people, having sold all the caravans and upgrading the units.
Kumar said it has been tough operating with the border closures due to Covid-19, but he is excited for them to open because renovations will be done by then.
"For rooms we have been about 50 per cent down. But [when borders open] there is definitely going to be a big demand here."
Travelling back and forth from Auckland is Kumar's plan for the short-term future, as he looks to get his businesses up and running.
"People think it's a bad place. Very beautiful town. Good people around here as well."
Kumar first came to Whanganui three years ago after hearing The Grand Hotel was for sale, but it took 18 months for him to secure the deal.
His latest venture is the former Liffiton Castle, which he has leased from owner Neville Gorrie.
Castle Eatery, a fine dining Indian restaurant based on quality and authenticity, opens tonight.
Head of operations Aditya Sudan said he is nervous for opening night after a busy five weeks redesigning the interior and upgrading the establishment.
Sudan said the quality and processes they will be using are top of the shelf.
"We are using totally free-range meat, ethically sourced proteins.
"From a service point of view, a fine dining experience but a relaxed environment."
With 16 years in the hospitality sector in a variety of roles from head chef to mixologist, Sudan has big expectations for his restaurant.
It will have a range of traditional Indian dishes with a wide variety of cocktails and mocktails.
"Every dish, every drink has individual identity. To plating, from flavours to everything. Nothing is the same."
"I'm just passionate about this industry. I love this industry too much.
"Over the years, we have degraded our own cuisine. We have brought it to the perception of $10 curry specials.
"A lot of effort goes into this. There are dishes that take over 24 hours to prepare.
"This is all done how it was done the way it was done 500-600 years ago. Very authentic, very traditional."
Sudan said they have big expectations and dreams, which will include getting a Michelin Star chef to judge their food once New Zealand's borders open.
"We are aiming for one of the best in the country. I know it's a long way ahead, but the idea is everyone starts somewhere, we will start and build our way up."