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FishHead Magazine shoot: Matterhorn Business Profile. Friday 30 August 2013. Photo by Mark Tantrum |

FishHead Magazine shoot: Matterhorn Business Profile. Friday 30 August 2013. Photo by Mark Tantrum | FishHead Magazine shoot: Matterhorn Business Profile. Friday 30 August 2013. Photo by Mark Tantrum |
This Wel­ling­ton institution’s 50-year his­tory, loc­a­tion and diverse cli­en­tele situ­ate it in the heart of Cuba Street. The Mat­ter­horn was first opened in 1963 by two Swiss broth­ers mak­ing fon­due, strogan­off and pastries served by wait­resses in Swiss maid out­fits: the trade­mark long cor­ridor ended in the nar­row café and counter area. It was tiny, but that didn’t stop Louis Arm­strong spend­ing a whole night eat­ing and drink­ing there in 1967, an event cap­tured by legendary Wel­ling­ton pho­to­graph­er Peter Bush.

I have been told that the place has always had an air of some­thing European, or cos­mo­pol­it­an,” says mar­ket­ing man­ager Amy Fitzger­ald. Later turned into a cock­tail bar in the 1990s, the res­taur­ant and cur­rent court­yard were added in an early 2000s refurbishment.

In 2008, Matterhorn’s kit­chen won Cuisine Res­taur­ant of the Year. Cur­rent head chef James Pask, recently awar­ded Out­stand­ing Emer­ging Chef in the Cap­it­al Awards, calls Matterhorn’s style “homely, rus­tic food. Everything is served in cast-iron pots and on wooden boards. For this year’s Visa Wel­ling­ton on a Plate, we pro­duced a vari­ation on the cot­tage pie. It was a big success.”

Pask is intro­du­cing Wel­ling­to­ni­ans to a new kind of shared din­ing. “The shared plate is a glob­al trend at the moment, in Lon­don and Europe in par­tic­u­lar,” he says, the idea being to enable couples and groups to receive value for money in shar­ing. “Instead of small por­tions and tapas, with a lot of plates, we do more table d’hôte. You can order a rack of pork, and between four people it’s just $15 a head. You get the inter­ac­tion at the table, with the carving, and you build your own meal.”

Pask has worked at Mich­elin-starred Club Gas­con in Lon­don, where he also ran a veget­ari­an res­taur­ant. “If you look at our veget­able selec­tion,” he says, “a lot of these dishes could stand alone as a dish.”

The bar reg­u­larly holds staff cock­tail com­pet­i­tions, and the bar­tenders are con­stantly revamp­ing the cur­rently 42-strong cock­tail list with fresh loc­al and homemade ingredients.

Ex-bar man­agers Jac­ob Bri­ars and Riki Carter are the brains behind many trade­mark Mat­ter­horn cock­tails. Bri­ars, with pre­vi­ous own­er Chris­ti­an McCabe, inven­ted the fam­ous Fall­ing Water, a blend of Ch’i, 42 Below fei­joa vodka and cucum­ber. “That blew up, every­one came here for those!” says Fitzger­ald, adding that it is still one of the bar’s biggest sellers.

In addi­tion to its cock­tails and shared din­ing, Mat­ter­horn has been long revered for top-notch live gigs. In 2001, Fat Freddy’s Drop recor­ded their plat­in­um album Live at the Mat­ter­horn there. Myele Man­zanza plays the monthly jazz jam ‘The Ses­sion’, a gig developed for jazz school stu­dents. “We wanted to give them a space to jam with more not­able musi­cians, in a space with repu­ta­tion and ambi­ence,” Fitzger­ald says. “On oth­er nights we have any­thing from Lat­in, funk, soul, acous­tic, blues or afrobeat. Last year, The Black Keys and Mum­ford & Sons were in town for their gigs and after­wards came to the bar for a jam, with Dan from The Black Keys DJ’ing all night long. What a party that was!”

Every last Sat­urday of the month The Eggs draw a large crowd, and their ten-year res­id­ency is per­haps the longest run­ning in the coun­try. The Eggs will be one of the high­lights of the Matterhorn’s 50th birth­day cel­eb­ra­tions hos­ted through­out Octo­ber and November.

Oth­er cel­eb­rat­ory events include a stel­lar line-up of Mat­ter­horn DJs past, and live music includ­ing Anna Cod­ding­ton, Iva Lamkum, Lat­inA­otearoa, The Mantarays, Funkom­munity, and Raiza Biza. The Eggs’ live show will be huge, with spe­cial guests, “old school DJs” and a theme: “just to make it more of a party”. Octo­ber will also see a tick­eted Emerson’s beer and food event, and the return of old clas­sic dishes and court­yard bowls as well as favour­ite cock­tails for the occasion.

It’s a way of telling the story of the Mat­ter­horn. It’s about cel­eb­rat­ing any­one that’s been through the door, all the hands that have man­aged it through its many lives, all those that have been part of the fab­ric over the years,” says Fitzgerald.



106 Cuba Street, Wellington
(04) 384 3359



FishHead Magazine shoot: Matterhorn Business Profile. Friday 30 August 2013. Photo by Mark Tantrum |

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