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Manawatū chef leads golf club into the restaurant game

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Manawatū chef leads golf club into the restaurant game

The leading hand on a club taking a swing at fine dining is no stranger to the Manawatū restaurant scene.

Chef Grant Kitchen, whose namesake skills and passion for local produce have helped establish a number of popular venues in the region, is preparing the menu for the Feilding Golf Club’s foray into restaurant cuisine.

Eatery 1487 is to open to the public on Wednesday, although members have been treated to several Kitchen dishes over the past two months.

The venture, a partnership between Kitchen, his business partner John James, and the club, has been in the works for some time.

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Kitchen says he last played a round of golf when he was chef at the luxury retreat The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke's Bay.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Kitchen says he last played a round of golf when he was chef at the luxury retreat The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay.

A number of golf clubs had turned clubhouses into successful restaurants, and Kitchen was first approached as a consultant to gauge the feasibility of one at Feilding.

He said he only had to look at the view from the balcony, of the lush greens and fairways nestled against the Oroua River, to see the potential.

Eventually he grabbed the opportunity himself.

Stepping into the kitchen of a 50-year-old clubhouse at a century-old club was a different proposition for a chef known for starting from a clean slate.

He had been the first head chef at Brew Union, and a consultant for Provenance, which opened in 2021. He and James reinvigorated the reputation of Āpiti Tavern & Eatery, where the slow-cooked smoked meats have made it a bookings-only destination.

DAVID UNWIN

Grant Kitchen, head chef at the remote Āpiti Tavern in Manawatū, talks about the rising popularity of smoked meats.

The golf club only handled catering in the past. There was just a domestic oven, and no coffee machine. Members, who were more partial to a pint after 18 holes, were also used to sitting at the same chair at the same table.

“There have been some challenges. When you’re dealing with memberships, dealing with committees, there have been those tried traditions,” Kitchen said.

“But because the food we’ve been putting out the past couple months has been above what they’re used to, it’s also been different to what they had, but also a move in the right direction.”

Ge was conscious of the club’s history. Although he demanded autonomy at the start of the joint venture, he wanted to look after the members, acknowledging it was their home.

“People know that there is change coming. It’s not going to be that new to them, but we’re not changing a whole lot of things. A lot of these tables were donated by club members.”

The decor would be gradually updated over the next 12 months, while the kitchen’s needs – heat lamps and a full serving pass – were more immediate.

The decor at the clubhouse is to be updated over the next 12 months.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

The decor at the clubhouse is to be updated over the next 12 months.

Kitchen was buoyed by the engagement from members when ideas for restaurant’s name were called for. Ninety-seven entries were received, many of them humorous and heavy on golfing wordplay, such as “Putting for Grant’s Tee”, “Par For Course” and “The Lazy Caddy”.

While they decided to run with the golf club’s Waughs Rd postal address for the name, some suggestions may be salvaged for menu descriptions.

The restaurant would have a strong focus on sourcing seasonal produce from local suppliers. Brew Union beers were already on tap.

The menu would be fluid, based on seasonal availability, and include small plates, medium plates, and sharing dishes.

The latter included dukkah fish du jour, with scallops, prawn dog, creamy fennel and scallion linguine, confit herb and garlic tomato and parmesan, priced at $79.

There would also be golfers’ menu, of burgers and sandwiches, and breakfast and kids’ menus.

Eatery 1487 opens to the public on November 30, although golf club members have been enjoying Kitchen's dishes for the past two months.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Eatery 1487 opens to the public on November 30, although golf club members have been enjoying Kitchen’s dishes for the past two months.

Eatery 1487 could serve 100 to 120 diners a night.

Lisa Herbert is Feilding Golf Club’s first general manager. She took on the role in September after managing the pro shop for the past year.

She said she had previously worked at Manawatū Golf Club, understood its restaurant business model, and seen it grow and become successful.

Everyone was excited to have Kitchen involved. The members were loving his food, and the restaurant was a way to connect with the wider Feilding community, which was in need of a large function space.

“It creates an element of excitement to the club, and change is good, right?”

Feilding Golf Club was experiencing a surge in membership, up from 480 in mid 2021 to almost 600.

Herbert said a lot of people had turned to golf amid Covid, keen on exercise and competition that also allowed for social distancing.

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