Wanaka welcomes the reel deal

13 Feb 2019

New Hospitality New Zealand member Hook Wanaka opened its doors on Friday 8 February, bringing to Central Otago a unique dining experience that they are dubbing “lake to plate”. It offers guests the chance to catch their own salmon in the nearby lakes, which can then be prepared and served in Hook Wanaka’s restaurant. It is a unique take on an increasingly popular world-wide trend for “farm to table” dining, which places an emphasis on the providence of food served and on locally sourcing.

“Since supermarkets have become the norm, there has been a disconnect between people, and the food that they are eating. At Hook Wanaka, we are trying to bring people back in touch with the source of their food, and the whole cycle of life that is involved in it,” Hook Wanaka general manager Adam Ross tells Hospitality New Zealand.

The property features a wetland eco-system that has been carefully, and sustainably curated by Hook Wanaka. The wetland is connected to a network of seven adjoining lakes, which Hook Wanaka keeps stocked with Chinook salmon. On the fishing side of this experiential dining concept, once fully open, Hook Wanaka will offer experiences that allow novice right through to experienced anglers to set out and enjoy fishing for their own salmon, with the right guidance and equipment supplied by Hook Wanaka.

Alongside the fishing, Adam explains that the restaurant itself is also a significant part of the experience. He says that guests can and do come to Hook just to relax by the waterways and enjoy a good meal. Hook Wanaka’s restaurant menu (available with or without the fishing experience) includes the “salmon five ways” signature tasting platter, where the fish is prepared as poke, wonton, sautéed, cold smoked, and sashimi, and can also be paired with wine on request.

Crucially, the wetland environment around Hook Wanaka has been developed to operate in eco-friendly harmony. “We have made sure that we are improving the environment with what we are doing,” Adam tells us. Sustainability, he adds, is very important to Hook Wanaka and a key part of the concept.

The wetland habitat around Hook Wanaka has been planned to encourage local wildlife, and has already resulted in several bird sightings. Hook Wanaka are also keen to ensure that they leave the water cleaner than they found it, and conduct water testing to confirm that this is the case. In order to “clean” the water, they have introduced a selection of wetland plants which have what Adam dubs a “natural scrubbing” effect on the water. All fish-based and plant-based waste is composted using a bokashi waste system. This compost is then used to support the growth of positive nitrate-cleaning foliage around the wetland.

The venue also places emphasis on educational activities for local children and school groups. While Hook Wanaka has already welcomed a few tours from local school groups in the area, this educational arm of the business will see further development in future. Hook hopes to develop fun and informative tours around the wetland to teach children about the life-cycle of the fish, and also about the delicate wetland eco-system, consequently installing respect and knowledge for their environment.

So far, Adam tells us, the feedback on the concept has been “massively” positive. Some groups have come to enjoy the fishing, while others are coming to just relax, enjoy the views, and to let their children enjoy nature.

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