Words and photos by Alice Harbourne.
In the space of just two weeks, Ponsonby's Street Food Collective has been transformed into Gypsy Caravan - a cosy pop-up restaurant for winter. Along with a new aesthetic and the temporary cessation of guest food trucks, a key point of difference with its previous incarnation is the introduction of table service, headed by experienced maitre d' Christine Viljoen.
Following a chat with Miss Moonshine's and Gypsy Caravan co-owner Annalise Clarke, Viljoen invited me to enjoy a staff meal with the newly formed team. It was more biblical feast than staff meal, the table heavy with Morrocan spiced lamb tagine with rose couscous; mushrooms baked in vineleaves with truffle, kumura and chia; pan-fried ouzo cheese with sourdough; pork belly with veg and scratching, and for dessert, caramelized pineapple with pine needle syrup and ice cream. Hats off to head chef Reginaldo Richard and sous chef Ryan Clapham: they were given an open brief to interpret the diverse cuisines of North Africa, Greece and Turkey in one concise, street food-inspired menu, and have done so with imagination and respect for the culinary traditions they're experimenting with.
The place has been refitted resourcefully; co-owner Ryan Clarke (Annalise's husband) roped in his cabinet-maker dad to create a winding banquette which - along with a huge awning - sections the outdoor courtyard off. It's unified the space, so too have hanging paper lanterns, chains of beads, floral table runners and cushions in vintage paisley patterns. Persian-style rugs and floral carpet insulate what could previously be a cold dining area in winter, and "Herbie the Bar" - a vintage caravan - has been repainted and adorned with dream-catchers. A new cocktail menu designed by bartender Alex complements the aesthetic, with herbaceous, floral concoctions that are alternately served in Morrocan tea pots and silver goblets.
With a menu that will change often, and plans for collaborations with other restaurants in the pipeline, Gyspy Caravan is designed to flex and evolve - a smart model for a business located in the heart of Ponsonby's newest precinct - "we want to keep things fresh, for us and diners," as Annalise puts it. She's keen to assure fans of The Street Food Collective that it may well return in summer, though, so if you want to experience Gypsy Caravan, (and we recommend you do!) be quick.
130 Ponsonby Rd