Alric Hansen, chef and co-owner of Highwater Eatery, has brought back his hospitality allegiance alongside his business partners, from the award-winning cafe Small Victories in Melbourne to our very own shores in Wellington.
Upon its opening in 2019, Highwater Eatery won the Best New Restaurant subsequently best restaurant two years in a row. The name is an epithet of the saying "come hell or high water", which denotes determination and a crafty reference to climate change.
Hansen's humble upbringing in rural New Zealand energised the prospect of entering the culinary world, and he has spent over two decades performing in top kitchens locally and overseas.
"I grew up in a family with self-sufficient principles; my parents had a large vegetable garden, goats, chickens, and beehives," Hansen described.
"My mother baked fresh bread daily and made most of our meals from the produce she grew and nurtured on the land."
It is among his mother's sincere approach to food that has fostered Hansen's understanding and appreciation of the labour and reward from sustainable, hands-on food production.
Highwater's menu inevitably reflects this holistic style of cooking. Like his mother's influence, the food is made entirely from scratch, allowing the restaurant to master the quality and flavours. The menu adapts to the season, with locally purchased ingredients. Their meat is free range, and their seafood is caught using eco methods from day boats, only catching sustainable seafood.
You can expect a refined core menu with extraneous ingredients, such as charcoal grilled 'White Hart' Korobuta pork chop, tangelo kosho honey and chilli pickled cucumber.
"Our biggest achievement and highlights continue to be when we have a great team, are busy, and when we see diners enjoying themselves… When people take the time to come to the kitchen bar and thank us or send us an email of appreciation, it really does make us feel good about what we are doing."
Even with all of Highwater's achievements and praises, the strain on business from Covid and the food industry's current challenges of staff shortages and increased production costs have caused significant provocation for businesses.
"Now is probably one of the hardest times, and we feel that we haven't had a government willing to acknowledge or address the issues that the hospitality industry is facing. We can only continue to try and pivot and advocate and hope things change."
Hansen's current chief goal is to grow, strengthen and empower his team to return to the restaurant's regular hours and balance work and personal life.
"Beyond that, we want to continue to be one of Wellington's best restaurants, and beyond that, if the industry becomes viable again, we may look at opening a more casual neighbourhood restaurant."