First look: Provenance Matua Valley
By Catherine McGregor. Photos by Ken Downie.
After a year that saw their Hip Group open four new eateries – Ortolana, Milse, St Heliers Bay Café & Bistro and The Store – you’d forgive Jackie Grant and Scott Brown for kicking back and taking it a little easier.
Not a chance. The powerhouse couple, who also own and run Takapuna Beach Café, Richmond Road Café, Café on Kohi and Rosehip, have just opened a new Auckland eatery and are gearing up to open yet another – their first out-of-town venture – before the end of the year.
Located on a west-facing spot on the road out of Huapai is Provenance Matua Valley, a café – and soon to be much, much more – where Scott and Jackie’s dedication to organic, free-range foods and local sourcing hold sway. What was the Bees Online café and store is now a daytime café (evening openings will start early in 2014) with an ingredient-led menu full of simple dishes designed to show off fresh produce sourced from their own farm and other local, small-scale suppliers.
On the day Metro visited, Provenance was so newly opened that the Bees Online roadside sign was still up. Scott and Jackie are taking this one a little slower than normal, making minimal changes to the cafe fit-out this side of Christmas: the tables and chairs are new, and so is the expanded fruit and vegetable garden outside the doors. “The day we were handed the keys we were out there planting,” Jackie says.
But the big changes won’t happen until March, when the place will be totally refurbished. As is usual with Jackie and Scott, they’re thinking big, with plans for an outdoor kitchen featuring a pizza oven and fire pit grill, “like at [Sydney’s] Porteno” where they’ll barbecue meat from their own butchery next door.
Oh yes, about that butchery: it’s just one of many projects Scott and Jackie have in mind for the derelict factory site above the café. The butchery will be open plan, they explain, so shop customers can see through to the cold store and watch the (organic, free-range) meat being butchered; below, there’s a room where they’ll air-dry hams. “Like in Spain, you’ll be able to buy a leg of ham and have it stored for 12, 24 or 36 months.”
They’ve retained a fulltime beekeeper from the Bees Online days and are planning to increase honey production to supply all their restaurants, and there’s cold-store space for the masses of local produce used by the Hip Group. This factory area was their original focus: “We approached the owner about taking over the back half of the site to run our operations out of, with Bees Online continuing to run the cafe,” says Scott. “After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, the owner said, ‘Screw it, take the whole thing.’ We really had no intention of opening another restaurant just now.”
So why so many openings, so fast? Provenance isn’t their only new project; they’re about to head down to Waihi Beach in the Bay of Plenty to add the finishing touches to the Waihi Beach Eatery and Store, a bistro plus food store due to open just before Christmas. And then there are more projects, including big changes to their Britomart eateries, in the pipeline for 2014.
Back at their Matua Valley home, five minutes’ drive from Provenance, Scott and Jackie explain their ambitious approach. “It’s not about empire-building, but scale. Opening multiple restaurants is our path to total self-sufficiency, which has been our dream for a long time.” Next year they plan to add an organic dairy operation to their Waihi holdings which will supply all their restaurants with milk, butter and cheese (currently Jo Pearson and her chefs make their own soft cheeses at the Over the Moon factory in Putaruru).
They’ll also use the Waihi creamery to make their gelato, the product which first started Scott and Jackie on their road to self-sufficiency. “We were opening the Takapuna Beach Café and thought, wouldn’t it be great to serve some really amazing gelato next door,” says Scott. “Our next thought was, let’s do it ourselves.”
And that’s what they’ve been doing at their Matua Rd smallholding ever since. Scott and Jackie live in a low-slung house built by Ross Spence, a winemaker who pioneered sauvignon blanc in New Zealand, surrounded by four hectares of fruit trees, gardens and grapevines.
This is where the oranges for Ortolana and Provenance’s juices come from. “We have 150 trees,” says Jackie, “but we’ve calculated we’d need 1500 to become self-sufficient. We start planting next year.” The grapes are made into the restaurants’ Matua Rd Farm Tannat Montepulciano red wine.
The day Metro visited, farm workers – Scott and Jackie employ eight, including Jackie’s brother Darryn – were planting pinot grigio vines, so they can serve their own white too. They grow pears, plums and 1.6 hectares of persimmons. “We inherited those. At one point persimmons were being touted as the next big export industry.” And there are vegetables of all sorts. Oh, and they raise sheep.
They say there’s a long way to go. “The goal is, and always has been, total self-sufficiency,” says Scott. “For us it’s about genuine authenticity. So many food companies just take something and slap the ‘authentic’ label on it. That’s not us.”
Provenance Matua Valley
791 State Highway 16
Ph: 09 411 7953