Apr 7, 2016 Cafes
Hip Group’s first retail store is as idyllic as its setting.
Photos and words by Alice Harbourne.
Oh to be one of the jammy individuals kicking around Kohimarama beach at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. How nice to be strolling the shore, laughing, catching the drips of sun-blasted ice creams instead of having to make peace with a paltry dose of daylight all but swallowed by the daily commute as an inner-city office worker.
It’s in the idyllic setting of Kohi beach that new farmers’ shop The Good Grocer has opened, the latest addition to The Hip Group’s expanding empire in the eastern suburbs. It’s a chance for the restaurant group to practice what it preaches, celebrating provenance, seasonality and high quality produce in a model local grocery store.
It almost seems too good to be true, as the following will elucidate:
- There’s a giant crate of rosy-red apples outside the store’s wide, welcoming entrance with a hand-drawn sign bearing the words “free apples”. You can take as many as you want, and no, they’re not rotten.
- Every single item bears a Paddington-esq luggage tag detailing provenance and serving suggestions. Of course nothing comes from Peru, everything is strictly from NZ. “No good story starts with a salad” is apparently an adage no longer true.
- There are about 5000 staff members ready to help you choose from an exquisite selection of artisan produce, including TV food personality and cookbook author Julie Le Clerc, on-hand as the store’s “food concierge”. In addition to sharing the stories behind the crops, Le Clerc suggests recipes and helps shoppers find NZ-grown substitutes for on-trend ingredients like freekeh (whole wheat grown in the South Island, cooked with a smoked mushroom mix has the same effect, if you’re interested).
- Macadamia nut milk can be dispensed to order into vintagey milk bottles.
- There’s a huge selection of housemade preserves, pickles and relishes; dried, organic pasta made to executive chef Jo Pearson’s recipe, freshly baked bread, homemade gelato in seasonal flavours and everything you require for the perfect NZ-sourced antipasto platter.
- There are $15 “ready meals” made fresh each day, with instructions on how to whip up an Andrew Hansen-worthy creation at home.
- The figs, the grapes, the feijoas – they’re all so perfectly voluptuous they could have leapt out of a Caravaggio still life.
- It’s only $5 for a dozen free-range eggs, and the fresh produce is equally reasonably priced.
I asked Andrew Brown (owner Scott’s brother, over from Sydney to assist with the launch) if there are any drawbacks to stocking only in-season produce, and the answer was inevitable: of course there will be times in the year when produce is unavailable, but that’s as things should be.
So is it all too good to be true? It probably comes back to the idyll of Kohi beach on a Wednesday afternoon. It’s so fantastic that Hip Group are going in an alternative direction to the traditional supply chain, and that locals can enjoy the bounty of their approach. But wouldn’t it be wonderful for pressure to build on the industry as a whole, so that on our commute home we can drop into a national supermarket and shop without fear of exploiting growers and producers.
It’s been hinted that there’s more Hip Group wholesomeness to come in the next few weeks, and of course we can’t wait, if only to immerse ourselves in a utopic bubble for a little while.
The Good Grocer
237 Tamaki Drive