You’d be forgiven for not knowing there is a restaurant hidden inside the Gisborne RSA but, if you keep your eyes peeled to the corner of Derby Street and Childers Road around 5pm between Wednesdays and Sundays, you may just notice a crowd starting to gather.
Smokey Joe’s is a smokehouse buffet style eatery, which serves up “good, clean local food with local people in mind” says owner Joe Hutley.
Joe’s passion for food really began after travelling the world and tasting all the delights on offer. Bringing his love of food home, Joe established Spitfire, a full service catering business based on kai over charcoal. Using this as his base Joe and his team have catered numerous events including weddings, unveilings, and corporate events. His 6 metre Camo food trailer has become a staple in Gisborne’s food scene over the past few years.
You might have enjoyed one of Joe’s Spitfire burgers on a Sunday afternoon at Smash Palace, or perhaps more recently as we emerged out of lockdown into Level 3 and Joe set up his Spitfire gear on his front lawn on Ormond Road with a takeaway service. His burgers and whanau meals were flying out faster than he could make them.
It doesn’t get more Gizzy than that! Except, perhaps a restaurant in an institution like the ‘Razza’..
One Saturday night after a few quiets, the opportunity to build a restaurant within the RSA presented itself, and Joe jumped at it. Not only was Joe stoked about the great location but, after serving in the forces himself, it offered him the chance to give a little something back to an institution that has been struggling to survive for years across the country.
So with kids in tow, Joe set about clearing the rooms of forgotten treasures, painting, making furniture, and reinstating some of the original cabinetry to ensure that some of the choicest treasures might be displayed and able to be appreciated for years to come.
When Covid19 changed our world and lockdown hit the Spitfire team went to work to help the coastal community. Using his own resources, Joe and his team put 11,000kms on the clock with his chiller truck, ute and trailers over six weeks. They delivered 45 tonne of kai, chilled and dry goods and bins of fruit from different food providers, to various community groups, from Tolaga to Hicks Bay, who then distributed that food to whanau in need.
These days though you can find Joe back in the kitchen, serving up evening feasts of smoked meats and seafood, not to mention multiple vegetarian offerings to the happy masses. “I wanted to offer something different to our customers, something no one else is doing. I have taken my buffet-style of catering from Spitfire and put it into a restaurant. We offer 22 different options each night on our buffet and nothing is deep fried. No chips, nuggets or hotdogs for kids – they eat what the parents eat. It’s a change but it seems to be working”
You can find and book a table for Smokey Joes on Facebook Smokey Joe’s
Or of course at 184 Childers Rd in The RSA. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 5 – 9pm. Call on 867 7047
If you’ve braved it into the shops post-lockdown you will have noticed that lots of place have had to reconfigure their spaces to fit with the physical distancing requirements of the day.
For many, this initially involved a table across the entrance, for some it’s been the opportunistic ‘window-servery’, and for Dave Whitfield and Amy Campbell of Frank & Albie’s, this involved putting their entire set up, kitchen and all on wheels, and moving it around in some kind of heavy-duty Tetris game until it was fit for purpose.
The other thing they did was to commission Hiria Philip Barbara to do a painting for the fresh food outlet, which has become the centrepiece and the backdrop for the newly-reconfigured space.
Hiria’s sister Livvy is a part of the Frank & Albie’s crew (as was her brother before her) and Hiria had already painted a smaller piece for the sandwich and salad joint before lock down featuring bees; nature’s own essential workers.
In conceptualising this larger piece Hiria says it was a continuation of that theme of celebrating nature; as the Frank & Albie’s crew were the ones who would be around it the most she wanted to create something that would make them happy. So she worked hard to incorporate people’s favourite foliage as well as the real-life indoor plants that already live in the space, such as the Rubber Plant and Peace Lily.
Adding in a Tī Kōuka at her mum Glenis’s request, a tangle of Jasmine for sister Livvy, and a Monarch chrysalis in reference to the life they’d been watching unfold on the swan plants at home during lock down, Hiria’s painting provides this lovely sense of indoor-outdoor flow.
While Hiria has spent periods of her life in both artistic and education spaces, as a Kohanga Reo teacher, a Nanny and coaching Waka Ama, she has found herself moving more and more into her art space since returning home to Tūranga Gisborne.
In the past Hiria’s focus has been on photography, and last year her final piece for Toihoukura took the shape of a soundscape, but right now she is returning to her earliest days, when she remembers helping her Aunty Huhana (contemporary Māori artist and head of Massey University’s Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Huhana Smith) prep her canvases, mix her colours and paint the edges of her canvases for her.
Hiria has started thinking about what she’d like to paint next. Keep a look out for her work around town, and her special way of signing it. If you spot a small bee somewhere in an artwork – you may be looking at a piece of Hiria’s work.
You might say that ‘The Royal’ is a scene unfolding out Matawhero ways these days, in the premises formerly known as The Jolly Stockman. A scene indicated by a black sign with a crest and the words ‘THE ROYAL’.
Such a name and grandeur of signage might give the impression that someone is harbouring aspirations of an aristocratic nature, that a very ritzy kind of scene awaits beyond the sprawling carpark..
But five minutes of talking to Nate Skelton, who has been casually pulling this scenario together over the past few months, it is clear that to the contrary, The Royal is less about ritz, and all about relax; not at all about aristocracy, but all about the people.
The name ‘The Royal’ is a nod to Matawhero’s first public house, the Royal Oak Hotel, built in 1872 and sold for demolition in 1955. And while ‘heritage’ is a word that comes up often in relation to this project, Nate seems intent on creating a new kind of place in which for community to gather and spend time, a starkly different kind of space to the Public Houses of old.
Out here Nate (who many of you might know from Raglan Roast on Wainui Road) is blurring lines, opening doors, lengthening tables, and basically refusing to be tied down to doing any one thing in particular. The guiding principal behind The Royal is to create a space where anyone feels comfortable and relaxed whether you’ve got a tie around your neck, are in your high vis or straight off the farm. The spaces are all set up for the collision of humans (in a metaphorical manner). All of the tables are long and the seats are of the bench variety so you’ll often end up sitting or standing next to people you may not know, at least not very well – by design. If Nate has his way, and he certainly seems to have achieved this at Raglan Roast in Kaiti, you’ll end up having a yarn to the person who’s parked up next to you.
‘Hub’ is another word Nate uses often, although he doesn’t want to and wishes aloud for a better word every time it slips out. The Royal isn’t a pub, though there’ll be alcohol of course. The Royal isn’t just for coffee, though there’s a plenty of that. The Royal opens early in the morning, and it will be open throughout the day and into the night. You can grab a meal, and there will be barbeque, and there will be music, and ‘good music’ at that, and it will be a place to take your families, and there will be markets, and there are fourteen rooms for accommodation in the offing.. but Nate is quick to point out that the focus isn’t on any specific one of these things.
There’s something quite lovely about Nate and his wife Georg knocking about out here in this solid 1950’s build and all its out houses hanging on around the edge. There’s a great circularity of narrative with Nate and Georg’s own story having started at the Pool Table at The Rivers, where Georg, Gizzy-born and bred, was spending an evening with her family. Nate was hanging with a friend and keen to claim the pool table for a few rounds for themselves. That plan was scuttled when Georg beat Nate (as the story goes) and well, the rest is a small history since then. Now they live just down the hall from another pool table, and while Georg hasn’t beaten him since, there might be more time for that once the renovations are done and The Royal has settled into its new skin.
As these two set about creating a space which brings together heritage, a bit of nostalgia, some of what’s gone before, with the values of these times, they’re also infusing the place with some of themselves. Nate’s great grandmother he is told, used to live above a shop that sat on the opposite side of the intersection, and now Nate has set up a barre in the suitcase room where he does private tutoring in dance, passing on skills he acquired in his 10 years dancing and choreographing for the world’s largest touring ballet company, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and his years teaching outreach with underprivileged kids in the UK.
The pair are enamoured with certain ‘groovy’ aspects of the building itself. Georg has much appreciation for the glorious green bathroom tiles in the accommodation wing of the main building, and of course the secret Narnia closet that came complete with fur coats and an old fashioned key. When she’s not outside laughing with the customers and giving a bit of cheek, she’s inside studying for her Bachelor’s in Teaching.
Things are feeling pretty upbeat out here in Matawhero. Nate and Georg move in and out of conversation with the many different peeps coming and going and it feels very much like things are on target with that overarching vision of a place for the people. It will be great to see what evolves over time but for now this special little something is surely a very welcome addition to life out here on the fringe.