Restauranteurs Lesley He and Kevin Li and their Asian-fusion menus are taking over Featherston - much to the delight of their customers.
The couple have bought the vacated Goodstock vintage and retro shop on Fitzherbert St, planning to convert it into an artisan Chinese restaurant to open in the new year. Their new eatery will be two doors down from their successful Everest Cafe and Bistro, which has gained a strong client base since it opened in 2012.
Mrs He said Everest's patrons are eagerly anticipating the restaurant's opening - with "half the town" congratulating them on their new venture. "Kevin and I told maybe a couple of our regulars about the restaurant, and the news went around town within a few days", said Mrs He. "We had so many people showing up to congratulate us - they were saying things like, 'this is so good, it means you're not going anywhere.' I take that as a compliment."
While dishes such as citrus salmon and souffle with pear and blue cheese are popular at Everest, the couple plan to inject some of their own culture into the eatery. They are designing a menu which will include Asian-fusion meals, served in a tapas fashion. "It'll be Chinese cooking with style", said Mrs He. "It's great to have a nice Western meal, but people love Chinese food. It'll be something a bit different for Featherston.
And if the Featherston community's reaction to the couple's planned "Asian food night" at Everest is anything to go by, the restaurant could be a hit. "We've decided we'd have a night where we just served Chinese food - and we got 60 emails from people wanting to come. I thought, 'maybe we'll have to do this over two nights.'"
Mrs He and Mr Li, she a former banker and he a chef at restaurants such as The White House, Matterhorn and Dockside, arrived in Wairarapa in 2011 looking to start their own business.
Mrs He confessed it was never the plan to settle in Featherston - but while visiting on the way to Lake Ferry, the couple realised it was "where (they) wanted to be". "Something about Featherston just hit me - it was perfect", said Mrs He.
In the two years since Everest opened, the couple have been "overwhelmed" by the support of the residents - and are confident the town's younger imports will embrace the new restaurant. "Every week, I meet at least two young couples who have moved to Featherston. It's not at place full of old people, or people who don't have jobs. The town is growing and changing - and we think it needs a bit of a food revolution."
Source: Wairarapa Times-age, by Erin Kavanagh-Hall