Jul 13, 2016 Restaurants
Words by Alice Harbourne, photos by Ken Downie.
You saw the words “yoga” and “food” next to each other and you thought raw cheesecake, didn’t you? Well, you’re right, but you’re also in for a surprise. At Nic and Kelly Watt’s new wellness centre and all-day restaurant, the orthodoxy of the clean eating lifestyle is tempered by a healthy measure of indulgence.
Situated by the ocean at Tamaki Drive, True Food and Yoga’s premises were previously home to the Hammerheads restaurant, where Nic Watt worked as a chef some 25 years ago. In the time that has elapsed since, his has career rocketed. Watt has worked in the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants in London, acted as chief operating officer for critically-acclaimed international restaurant group Roka and, in Auckland, opened Metro Top 50 restaurant MASU by Nic Watt. The once glorious Hammerheads, on the other hand, reached the end of its lifecycle, the former-pump house walls in dire need of more than just a lick of paint.
With the guidance of architect Kit Lowe, Nic and his wife Kelly have divided the 550sqm space into restaurant True Food and wellness centre True Yoga, giving it a complete makeover in the process. The bright white, leafy and lofty wellness centre consists of a shop with on-the-go cabinet food and cold-pressed juices, a chiropractor and a beauty treatment room, two seafront yoga studios with floor to ceiling mirrors and a covered outdoor “break out room” for private functions. The whole place is wheelchair accessible: a priority for the Watts who believe yoga should be for everyone. That extends to the programme of classes which Kelly – a qualified yoga teacher and former chef herself – has designed: six classes a day during the week, from challenging barre classes to “broga” (yoga specifically tailored for men) and chair yoga for those with restricted movement. Classes can be attended on a one-off basis for $20 per session, while unlimited access is granted for a monthly membership fee of $110.
On the other side of the building is True Food, a seaside restaurant with terraced seating and a menu of “nutrient-dense”, organic, locally-sourced food designed by the husband and wife team, who met 18-years ago while working at Michelin-starred Nobu London. A lifetime of hospitality and international travel has inspired an eclectic menu that’s both tailored to specific dietary requirements and indulgent abandon. The lighter side of things – and Nic’s inescapable love of Japanese cuisine – is exemplified by the tiradito salad, a Peruvian, tossed sashimi specialty, made with kingfish, apple, chilli and grapefruit. Meanwhile the Tel Aviv, a rustic dish of caraway-roasted baby cauliflower with activated almond hummus, signifies the food the Watts love to cook at home, while reminding them of a dish the pair experienced on a past trip to Israel.
And yes, there’s raw cheesecake (flavoured with mango and turmeric) but there’s also a gloriously decadent, dairy-rich hot chocolate pudding with salted peanuts and milk ice cream. And – best of all – a list of 28 organic, biodynamic wines that are all available by the glass (thanks Coravin), and Garage Project’s Hapi Daze on tap (alongside Organic Mechanic’s kombucha, of course). Brunch is available on weekends-only, where buckwheat matcha hotcakes with fresh blueberries and passionfruit can be ordered alongside Nic’s entree-sized interpretation of mince on toast, served on ancient grain bread and dolled up with black garlic and oyster mushrooms. Organic All Press coffee is available all-day, too, (made by a machine chosen for its specific, posi-vibes shade of yellow) as well as turmeric and matcha lattes.
The words “based on a true story” greet both yoga class attendees (who are gracefully shielded from the gaze of diners, by the way) and restaurant-goers on entrance to the building. It’s a strap-line that Nic and Kelly stress. For them, True Food & Yoga isn’t about being trendy and “on the money”, but about turning their own lifestyle into a business, instilling it with a backstory that happily coincides with the history of the building itself. It’s a great foundation for longevity.
True Food & Yoga
19 Tamaki Drive
Opens Saturday 16th July.