Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Raising the bar: a market place

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My latest idle suggestion is not a bar as such, though a bar would definitely be an important component. I think Wellington should have a high-quality permanent food market, selling nothing but the best of local produce, and that it should include a restaurant and bar with a menu that changes daily based upon seasonal availability.

Suggested geographic range of produce for a Wellington market placeWhen I say "local" produce, I don't mean just within the Wellington region, as that would be too restrictive, but within central New Zealand: approximately from Napier to Kaikoura. That takes in Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, the Kapiti Coast, Nelson and Marlborough, each of which has its own distinctive range of food and beverages. Selling exclusively local produce not only promotes our producers and reduces food miles, it contributes to our unique sense of place.

I envisage something like a cross between Moore Wilson Fresh and the Martinborough Wine Centre, but with a restaurant and bar attached. In fact Moore Wilson could be the ideal company to run such a place, and this wouldn't compete with their existing shop (which is hardly struggling for customers anyway) since it wouldn't stock non-local ingredients or as wide a selection of bulk fresh produce. The Martinborough Wine Centre concept involves tasting stalls for individual producers, giving the sense of a permanent indoor wine festival. Local wine and boutique beer are obvious choices for the bar, but there could be some very creative cocktails made from local spirits and fresh ingredients. It's common in Europe for food markets to include a restaurant, and in this case it could either be a fine-dining venue or more of a casual deli. The complex as a whole would bring together many related aspects of food and drink in a celebration of local and seasonal ingredients.

The Odlins building seen from Taranaki WharfThere are many potential locations for such a market, but one stands out for me. The Odlin Building is part of Taranaki St Wharf, which acts as a "hinge" between the north-south oriented downtown waterfront and the east-west orientation from here to Oriental Bay. It gets a lot of foot and cycle traffic at rush hour, so it would be a good place for people to pop in and grab something fresh to take home for dinner. Office workers in this and the adjoining buildings could grab a sandwich from the deli and sit by the lagoon to eat it. Its unique focus on local ingredients would make it a tourist attraction, with maps and displays for each producer so that visitors could find out how to visit a winery that takes their fancy. At night, the restaurant and bar would complement the existing and upcoming venues in the vicinity. And the "wharf timber garden" in front could even provide supports for a canvas roof, hosting an outdoor farmers' market at weekends.

The ground floor space here has been empty since its completion, but I gather that it has been leased by Lion Breweries with the intent of sub-letting it. They're not in any hurry to find a tenant, though, since they're mostly keen on preventing their competitor DB from moving in here, next to the Lion-owned Mac's Brewery Bar next door. Also, tenants may be wary of opening here until the Taranaki St Wharf developments are complete, creating a critical mass of activity to reduce the risk. But I think that the market bar concept could combine a practical service with a unique destination appeal, thus making it an attractor in its own right.


At 12:18 pm, May 10, 2006, Blogger Martha Craig said...

I've been thinking exactly the same thing - although more a cross between a food court and Moore Wilsons. Somewhere great to get a quality lunch (great salads etc), and also be able to get some groceries.

A friend has a beautiful bakery here


and there is also a coffee roaster, fish monger, greengrocer, deli etc. My vision isn't necessarily completely local (ie coffee beans), but not a million miles from what you're thinking.

Plus I need somewhere to open my dream bakery.

At 2:05 pm, May 10, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Martha: yes, it could be a bit foodcourtish, but preferably not the usual sort of dodgy nachos-and-chowmein foodcourt that you get in overlit malls around the world. Maybe a sandwich stall, a pizza oven (keep those Bresolin boys busy!) and a salad bar.

Also, the "exclusively local" thing is pretty hard to pin down, and I'd lean towards including locally-processed items using imported ingredients, if there's no credible alternative. For instance, a Wellington venue without coffee is unthinkable, so locally roasted beans would be okay. On the other hand, the lack of locally grown sugarcane might make certain recipes difficult, but a creative cook might explore the use of local honey as an alternative.

Maximus: I hadn't heard of a specifically "Farmers'" Market at Waitangi Park, but the Area 2 section in the transition to Te Papa was always intended to continue to house the existing market. There's a long story about what's happening there, but that's for another post...

I've tried mentally playing around with the Victoria/Vivian/Willis site, as it would be a pity to lose the (admittedly dodgy, but popular) vege market there. I can envisage something like a European or English covered market (e.g. Borough Market or Old Spitalfields), with permanent shops around the outside and a wide roofed space in the centre. Apartment towers could go up above the peripheral shops, and while that might not deliver the maximum lettable area, the site's too deep to just build one giant apartment block there anyway.

Oh, and there was an exciting headline in today's Capital Times: "Farmer's (sic) market for the city". Where in the city? Kenepuru Drive, Porirua. Oh, that city.

At 2:33 pm, May 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a good model to follow would be the Melbourne Market, except without all the two-dollar-shop crap they sell under the main awnings. I thought the food market part of that complex was brilliant. Anyway, having a dedicated market area somwhere in town would be fantastic; with delis and cafes for the lunchtime crowd, and a weekend vege market. I agree, it would be a great attraction both for residents and tourists.

C'mon Tom, make it happen :-)

At 6:12 pm, May 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wot Nick said. I always felt that the big lack that Wellington has is a gourmet food/farmer's market/artisan food place like the Borough Market in London.

I think a more flexible view might be that the finished product is locally-produced. So, locally roasted coffee. Locally baked goods with local organic flour, if possible, but who cares about the sugar? It would be in the interests of the vendor to maximise and highlight the local compents of the goods, if that's a stated aim (like the pork vendors in the Borough Market - specially imported Spanish jamon is a premium product, but so is the Sussex "Wild Boar" - and you can even talk to the farmer in the latter example).

I like the Vivian St market too, but something a bit more gourmet would be fantastic.

At 8:16 am, May 11, 2006, Blogger Hadyn said...

Tom, what's going on?
Another great city-improving post but with a sinister little addition...a link to the Prenzel website?!?!?!

Will your next Martini be made with Blenheim Bay gin? (formerlly Waterloo gin)

At 2:00 pm, May 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great idea. i've been looking for someplace to source local ingredients, especially things like decent meats.

a few of those new indigenous flavours could be good as well.

the suggestion for the melbourne style market is right on the money. but, they did include a lot of imported foods to supplement the local stuff.

the thing to note though is that many stores sold exactly the same stuff. but, personalities meant customers would always go to a particular store. a local market would likely be substantially smaller than the melbourne one.

but, it would be great to be able to buy local hog belly, local herbs, local GARLIC, and then make my own pork roll.

if i have to garnish with a little shaved parmigiana reggiano ($50p/kg), so be it.

At 5:51 pm, July 18, 2007, Blogger Unknown said...

Your absolutely right Hawke's Bay Farmers Market is an excellent example. Fresh produce every week and of the highest quality, how fab would it be if this was available here right in Wellington. I think it would be a lot harder to attain but definitely achievable.

What an exciting proposal and I know it would go off like a bang if it started.


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